Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Want the Least Education For the Money dot com

In the past on this blog, I've supported the web site, even though my ratings there aren't the best. What I cannot support is a school's being *required* to provide grade distributions, by class, to a for-profit (or non-profit, for that matter) web site.

The for-profit company prevailed recently in a public-records lawsuit
against the University of California, Davis, that was seen as a test case in
California. (The school initially refused to hand over the letter-grade
information, then backed down and paid Pick-A-Prof $15,000 in legal fees.)

Now the company is seeking the distribution of grades at other University of California schools, the California State University system and the state's community colleges -- to the ire of faculty members who say students will shop for easy classes...

Los Rios Chancellor Brice Harris agrees, but said in a letter to faculty
and staff that it wasn't worth losing a legal fight after UC lawyers determined that the aggregate letter-grade data amount to a public record that can be given to anyone who asks for it.

This isn't a positive development.


allen said...

This isn't a positive development.

Why? Making public information more accessible doesn't seem like a bad idea to me so tell me the down-side.

Darren said...

I myself don't consider grades and grade distributions to be "public information", but apparently UC Davis felt they wouldn't win in court with that argument.

As for the down-side, please note the title of the post.

allen said...

Well, the various UCs are publicly supported so if there isn't a privacy issue then there has to be some other, compelling reason to keep the information private. If the public's paying for it, the public has a right to know how well their - our - money is being spent.

As to "the ire of faculty members who say students will shop for easy classes", the rating service provides the obvious solution. If students can locate the easy-grading instructors using these sites then the department heads/administration/board can as well with a somewhat different purpose in mind.

A department head who might be inclined to protect a lousy but popular instructor, there being no objective evidence of instructional quality to rely on, might have their hand forced by clear evidence that the instructor is considered an easy grader. A college president might be inclined to avoid confrontations with the academic senate unless there was pretty clear evidence requiring a confrontation that forced his hand. A reporter might feel it was in the public's interest to read about the differences between easy grading and tough grading instructors and how each fares in the various UC schools.

It might be an interesting and potentially fun project, and not too difficult as well, to shop such a story idea around to reporters on the education beat.

Anonymous said...

The reverse argument of this is that students will be able to avoid an incompetent professor. (every school has them) is a great tool for finding more information about this since students give comments about the class and professor. There are certainly classes where there is a poor overall GPA because the professor failed miserably, not the students.