Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Culture of Low Standards and Significant Grade Inflation for America's College Education Majors



In a new AEI Education Outlook “Grade Inflation for Education Majors and Low Standards for Teachers: When Everyone Makes the Grade,” University of Missouri economist Cory Koedel finds that grades awarded to education students at America’s universities are considerably higher than grades in every other academic discipline.  As I wrote on The Enterprise Blog today, what makes those findings especially striking is that education majors score significantly lower on standardized college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT than students majoring in other academic areas like science, business, social sciences and humanities.  In other words, it’s a case of the least academically qualified college students on campus getting the highest grades and GPAs. 

Professor Koedel presents evidence of significantly lower grading standards and inflated grades for education majors by comparing grade distributions for 12 academic departments at Indiana University-Bloomington, see chart above (education is the solid line, math and science departments are dashed lines, social sciences are xs, and humanities are the circles). 

According to Koedel, "The outlying grade distribution in each figure belongs to the education department. The other distributions are cluttered, but this is largely the point: while all other university departments work in one space, education departments work in another."  Talk about an outlier - education grades are "off the charts" compared to every other academic department!? OMG!!

The grade distribution shown above for Indiana is not at all unique but found elsewhere including at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Miami University (in another paper by Koedel).   In a larger sample of large public universities, Professor Koedel finds that the average course-level GPA for education departments is 3.66. I presented evidence recently of significant grade inflation for the education department at Cornell University compared to other departments.  

Assuming that it can be documented that there's a nationwide culture of low academic standards and inflated grades for college students majoring in education, what does it mean?

Here's Professor's Koedel's conclusion:

"Low grading standards in university education departments are part of a larger culture of low standards for educators, and they precede the low evaluation standards by which teachers are judged in K–12 schools. The culture of low standards for educators is problematic because it creates a disconnect between teachers’ perceptions of acceptable performance and the perceptions of everyone else. 

Society resists change, and resistance to change is particularly acute in education. But there is no rational reason for the low grading standards in education departments. Rather than asking why these grading standards should be changed, perhaps the more reasonable question is why they shouldn’t be changed. Put differently, if we were to start over with university education and could choose the grade distributions in each discipline, would we choose the currently observed discrepancy between education departments and all other academic departments?"

33 Comments:

At 8/24/2011 2:44 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

In a word - they're giving the customer what he wants....

right?

in a true free market - you as a consumer would get the lowest price and the best grades....for your money.

eh?

:-)

 
At 8/24/2011 3:08 PM, Blogger NC said...

The customers in the Big University are the professors and the growing administrative staff.

The self-esteem movement, manufactured results and the need for happy, paying students leads to grade inflation.

The University bubble is about to burst. Baby boomer kids are all growing up. Cash will be needed from the foreign students. Price pressure around the corner.

 
At 8/24/2011 3:29 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

There are three possible reasons for this grade disparity: education curricula are really easy, education profs don't like to give out anything less than an A regardless of performance, or education majors are smarter than the average college student. I almost didn't think of that third possibility because if you have ever been around an education major, you know that's impossible, ;) as the standardized testing cited above backs up. So what's essentially happening is that those either less capable or less motivated get an education degree and are shunted off to the reservation of public schools to babysit the kids, then they unionize and strike when any threat to their subsidized life emerges.

Their problem now is that the internet isn't just some concerned parents they can organize against and pay off some politicians to overrule, it's an entirely new way of delivering information that's about to decimate their ranks. But that's what happens when you sit fat and lazy and protected from competition for decades, you're completely unable to compete when a genuinely new competitive threat materializes, just ask the newspapers. :)

 
At 8/24/2011 3:36 PM, Blogger Stone Glasgow said...

Maybe students are improving in only one area... how would we know?

 
At 8/24/2011 3:37 PM, Blogger Matt C said...

This could possibly be my bias, but is it possible that education is merely easier than the other studies? Getting your education degree isn't about knowing what you are suppose to be teaching, but being able to teach. Yes, being a good teacher is hard, but the curriculum for teaching people usually pretty much fluff.

My mother taught for years and she basically said that any new teachers out of college were worthless because some professor wrote a book about how to teach without ever having actually doing it outside of the collegiate setting. She always told the new teachers to forget what they were taught on how to teach and be flexible in your style based on the make-up of the class.

Schools also require a teaching degree or a certification in order to teach in a class room. That doesn't mean you actually know the subject. My sister received her degree in Math and she tried to teach, but she had to take courses before she could. She was probably more qualified to teach math than someone who got a degree in education with a minor in Math. It's the certification requirement that provides colleges and universities with the ability to offer a cash cow department. Let's also throw in the fact that if you get a masters in education you make more money, not your actual ability to teach. That's what happens in a monopolistic market.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:02 PM, Blogger NormanB said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:04 PM, Blogger NormanB said...

I've come to the sorry conclusion that teachers are near the bottom of my list of admired professions. I couple this with the dastardly union protection of bad teachers which kills the potential for achievement for our most disadvantaged people. One bad teacher along the way can make it impossible for a student to catch up. The Democrats are being paid off by the unions to keep this atrocity going. Teachers and Democrats: UGH.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:16 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

so what is the purpose of a teacher in a virtual education world anyhow?

what is the teacher doing that can't be done by a student with online access to the content he needs?

 
At 8/24/2011 4:21 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"so what is the purpose of a teacher in a virtual education world anyhow?"

Same as the old purpose--motivating students to learn.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:25 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

is "motivating" the primary use and purpose of teachers in a world where content is easily available without the teacher?

I'm just asking an open question here because it appears to me that motivated people will learn if they can get the content and don't really need a teacher per se....

or do they?

 
At 8/24/2011 4:27 PM, Blogger AIG said...

There is one MAJOR flaw in this analysis. It assumes that the people reading these grades are unable to differentiate between a 4.0 in Education, and a 4.0 in Engineering.

Thats like assuming 1 dollar = 1 yen. If this assumption is not met...none of this makes sense.

Then we're not looking at "grade inflation", just a relatively easy major with people who are overqualified to be taking those classes. That fits with my experience, at least.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:32 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hu sez stenderds r faling?

 
At 8/24/2011 4:46 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Larry G

You are correct. All learning is self learning even with a teacher. When we can attach students' brains to a computer and download information, that will change but not until then. Some teachers are better at getting students to realize their inherent abilities.

 
At 8/24/2011 4:53 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

the value of teachers in K-6 is critical in the schools that test the kids to determine their weaknesses and then get those kids to teachers who specialize in the area that they are weak...

Kids in K-6 who don't get that help usually have a very difficult time later on.

But once you get to the higher grades, there are studies that show that some kids actually learn quicker, easier, better with online content.

And it's the kids you'd think that need teachers the most - the economically disadvantaged (who do not have good parents" and the minorities who have cultural mismatches with many teachers.

both these groups - as well as gifted kids seem to do well in virtual learning environments.

so that's what led to my question about what is the purpose of a teacher....

is it to motivate the lazy?

 
At 8/24/2011 5:08 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Tiger Woods, even in his heyday, had a coach. Sometimes you need an outside perspective to elevate and expedite your learning even with a highly motivated individual. Your reductionist theory of laziness as it applies to the learning process is way oversimplified.

 
At 8/24/2011 5:13 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

fair enough but a coach is something you willingly want and are often willing to pay for.... and usually for sports not academics.

for academics they usually call that a tutor ...

right?

you can hire a tutor or go to Huntington or Sylvan....

so what's a public school classroom teacher's purpose in front of a class and not as a coach or tutor of individuals?

 
At 8/24/2011 5:28 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Coach, teacher, tutor, paid, unpaid, willing, unwilling, physical, mental--all the same thing. Someone wants or needs to learn something and someone else helps that happen.

Sometimes the best thing for a teacher to do is back off and let the student learn on their own. The really good teachers know when and not when to do that.

 
At 8/24/2011 5:35 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Walt - have you heard the phrase "Hybrid schooling"?

 
At 8/24/2011 5:51 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Yes, I teach a hybrid college class (bachelor degree level), a completely online class (associate degree level), and a traditional setting class (both levels). All the classes have their strengths and weaknesses/challenges just as the students do (and instructor).

 
At 8/24/2011 5:55 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

are you familiar with the Common Core standards and virtual learning?

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/01/12/15edtech_standards.h30.html

 
At 8/24/2011 6:16 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Yes, I am familiar with that concept. A quick look seems to be what I am doing for our program curriculum to standardize it across numerous campuses of the same parent college in our state. A set of four classes that leads to a national test must be seamless between the campuses enough so that a student could take the classes at four different locations from four different instructors without any redundancy or omissions.

The performance measurement will be that 75% of the students pass all the sections of the test with a 70% or better score. Instructors will not be able to adjust the class to what they wish to do because if they leave something out, it will not be taught elsewhere, and if they add something in, they will run out of time.

There's a lot of necessary rigidity built into this educational delivery model, and it might not be for everybody. Education is like shoes—one size does not fit all.

 
At 8/24/2011 6:27 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

perhaps but without a standardized curriculum.. and a way to access achievement... it's hard to evaluate accomplishment and mastery of the subject.

Even colleges have entrance tests...

and so does the military and the military test actually determines what kind of a job(s) you are suited for and what kind of further training you receive.

have you seen this:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/collections/e-learning-2011-specialpopulations/index.html?intc=EW-EL0811-EM

or this:

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG11-03_GloballyChallenged.pdf

...realizing that you teach above these levels...

just asking...

 
At 8/24/2011 8:11 PM, Blogger mike k said...

Walt G teaches a class online? Before I was amused now I'm frightened.

 
At 8/24/2011 8:19 PM, Blogger mike k said...

Walt, sorry but a teachers job is not to motivate, but rather to impart information, knowledge and wisdom to those who come prepared to learn. Too many of my children's teachers have wasted time trying to motivate kids who had no business in the classroom while my kids were denied a world class education. I have two sister-in-laws who teach junior/senior high and I can attest they heave no business in any classroom as well. I know it's harsh, but the time for complacency is past. Paying educators based on their level of educational attainment rather than on their results is a joke.

 
At 8/24/2011 8:42 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

mike k,

Maybe you should try teaching to get a different perspective. A teacher’s job is to teach to ALL of the students using everything in his or her arsenal of teaching experience. You don’t get to pick and choose who you think you should teach at any age level.

 
At 8/24/2011 9:03 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Mr. Mike apparently thinks that kids who fail to get a good education don't grow up needing entitlements.

the goal of public schools - is not to teach your precious snot nose kid a world class education.. but to produce an educated and employable workforce that can pay for their own food and shelter and not need "assistance".

the more we educate to a workforce standard - the less entitlements we pay.

the truly motivated kid - like our forefathers - once they learned how to read and write just needed access to books to learn....

the same is true today if you think about it.

Nothing prevents a motivated person from learning.... and now days.. the ways that person can live are many....

If your kid is so smart - why does he need a teacher?

 
At 8/24/2011 9:39 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Larry, I'll answer that, there is no purpose to a teacher in online learning. However, if you narrow the question to merely what role is there for ongoing human involvement in the learning process, there will always be some. You'll still need someone to grade the essay you email them or instant-message you interactively when you're having particular trouble with some concept. The rich might even pay for private tutors over video-conference, just like they pay for in-person tutoring now. But the upshot is that you'll be able to decide exactly what and who you want to pay for during your learning process, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach forced on too many students today. Best of all, because of automation and online delivery, you'll be able to get a much better education at a fraction of the cost: I'm talking a tenth or a hundredth of what it costs today. This is what happens when the govt artificially pumps up prices so much in a sector that it is completely unable to compete when new, cheap, and competitive technology emerges. :)

 
At 8/24/2011 9:55 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

I'm not denigrating the role of a teacher especially in the K-6 realm but I am purposely asking what is the role of a _classroom_ teacher (as opposed to a one-on-one coach/tutor in a world where anyone with a normal IQ and motivation can access an entire library of information and learn... much

if a kid is motivated - he/she can literally get his own world-class education if he is truly motivated and so I did ask.. what the purpose of a teacher is - in that context.

 
At 8/25/2011 12:26 AM, Blogger henry said...

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At 8/25/2011 5:54 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Larry G,

Asking a leading question like that does not add to the discussion. You made your point that you think teachers do not provide any or much value in the present educational system. I replied there are lots of different ways to educate and to learn with different methods working for different students. I guess we can leave it at that.

 
At 8/25/2011 6:04 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

Walt - I think teachers are critical at the elementary grades especially for the NCLB subgroups.

but I do think the way we learn is changing and thus so is the role of the teacher.... in a world where the content is readily available to anyone so motivated.

thank you for the conversation.

 
At 8/25/2011 6:26 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

interesting article in NYT this morning:

Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/education/25future.html?_r=1&hp

 
At 8/29/2011 1:29 AM, Blogger henry said...

These pictures are so impressive. I am sure my peers will enjoy these too.Best MBA Campus

 

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