by AndrewMc | 9/18/2009 12:01:00 PM
Nobody at my university thinks our system of student evaluations is in any way accurate. One question on the form is "Does your instructor treat you fairly with regard to race." I [white guy] have had classes with not a single non-white student in them where I've pulled an 75-80% "Strongly Agree" or "Agree" rating.

I show up early for class every single day, with all my stuff ready to go. I pull 80-90% "strongly agree" on "My instructor shows up on time and prepared."

The whole evaluation tool is deeply flawed--all faculty unanimously agree on it. And yet the university uses it as its main basis for tenure and promotion. And the faculty voted not to change to a new instrument, largely because of fear of the unknown.

Still this is worth reading. [subscription required, sorry]

Follow me . . . .

This article [registration required] reminded me of stories I'd hear about rural school districts here in the "48." A few months before testing time administrators would identify kids likely to perform really badly on state assessment tests. They'd bring the parents in and "recommend" that the kids be homeschooled. Then they'd bring the kids back after testing at some point. I've heard this from enough disparate districts--where the teachers say it happened in their schools--to think this isn't entirely legend.

The steady progress of socialism
. I'm torn on this one. I'm glad the government is working to increase funding. And I was not comfortable with the subsidies for private lenders [hell, let them sink or swim on their own, right?]. But if student-loan funding comes to be dominated by the government, then there's always the chance that some unnamed, capricious political party could vote to end funding. And that'd be it.

This article comes on the heels of a vote, in my town, to reject a proposal to add a $6/year tax to every $100,000 in value on a home in order to help fund the school system. Given property values here, there are very few people who would see their property tax increase more than $18 per year. Yeah, $18 per year. But no! Taxes are anti-American. Like education.

Here's a fun game: ask your university's IT person how much of a hassle this would be.

Don't read this until after you've had a stiff drink. Or two.

Speaking of drinks, it's Friday! Beer Of The Week is Stone's Vertical Epic. They release one each year, on the numbers [2/2/02, 3/3/03, &c &c]. This year's 9/9/09 just came out last week, and I haven't been able to find it so far here. If you've had it, let us know how it is.

Just a reminder that people should use the open threads for random ramblings instead of hijacking a topical thread for something. There's an open thread every week. All discussions are welcome, except for holocaust denial and "truther" stuff. If people don't like those two restrictions, find another blog. Seriously.

Sorry, but that's life. If people want to discuss why these rules are in effect, have at it [but don't assume that the regular contributors will participate]. But the simple reason is that Holocaust denial is intellectually fetid. "Trutherism," is rarely subject to intellectual discourse, but instead is characterized by footstomping, breath-holding, and special pleading. If those two rules aren't to your liking, there are plenty of places for you to shout and dance around. I hate to be blunt like that, but I've been dealing with Holocaust deniers on the Internet since 1989, when I first got on. Nothing's changed, and the "Truthers" aren't much different in terms of content.

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Blogger Ahistoricality on 9/18/2009 1:06 PM:

Education funding: Every piece of research I've seen says that each dollar of education spending produces multiple dollars in economic growth and tax revenue in the medium and long term. Cutting funding is stupid.

Student Evaluations of Teaching: I do read the feedback my students give me. Always have: as the article says, they're an important tool for teachers who want to improve. What I don't understand is how my colleagues -- who read the same kinds of evals I do -- can possibly take these seriously as an evaluative tool. Sometimes they say that "they catch the really bad ones" but that's not true, and they know it, too. I don't get it.


Blogger AndrewMc on 9/18/2009 3:05 PM:

"Education funding: Every piece of research I've seen says that each dollar of education spending produces multiple dollars in economic growth and tax revenue in the medium and long term. Cutting funding is stupid."

In order for this to mean anything, you have to care about the future, instead of focusing on the present.

Evals: All I read are the comments, and I tell my students that I deeply appreciate them taking the time to fill those out. I want them to comment--it's the only valuable thing we get.


Blogger idiosynchronic on 9/21/2009 3:05 PM:

The evaluations are a problem - I fill them out but so many of the traditional students treat them with contempt or indifferent apathy. But I'm without any ideas on how to offer something more substantive

As for the name changes - it's no big deal provided you have an IT person worth anything. With planning and foresight, it's cool.


Blogger AndrewMc on 9/21/2009 3:32 PM:

Name changes--at one university I know, it took them a year to ferret out all the places where the had to be changed to It caused a delay in getting a semester started, and cost more than a million dollars. All because their president wanted to changed their url. I think it was Bellevue U.