Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Destroying Academic Standards

 10/5/21 Inside Higher Ed:

Truckee Meadows Community College wants to terminate a tenured instructor of math for “insubordination.” The professor, Lars Jensen, says the college wants to get rid of him because he’s telling inconvenient truths about how the college is lowering math standards.

“Let it be clear that this hearing is not about deliberation of two unsatisfactory annual performance ratings that I have earned, but rather about two unsatisfactory annual performance ratings that have been pinned on me in retaliation for speaking out on academic matters,” Jensen said in his opening statement for his termination hearing before a faculty panel last week. “This case is about whether a faculty member at TMCC is permitted to use his or her academic freedom to speak on academic matters and matters of public concern. We will show today that the insubordination charges against me are unsubstantiated and incompatible with an open and free academic environment.”...

Jensen says that math standards have been eroding nationwide for some time, but that things took a turn for the worse at Truckee Meadows after the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents voted in 2019 to ditch traditional remedial math and English courses in favor of a new, “corequisite support” program.

“By redesigning first-year math and English classes, adding additional instruction time to these college-level courses, and requiring mandatory tutoring for students who need the support, we have seen very promising data across the nation that students are more successful,” Thom Reilly, system chancellor, said at the time. “This approach allows students to kill two birds with one stone by completing the college-level work while also receiving needed remedial support designed to ensure greater success.”

Jensen said there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, and many student success advocates say that forcing students to take remedial noncollege courses before they begin actual college coursework only hurts their chances of ever getting a degree. But Jensen said that in adopting the corequisite support program at TMCC, the college aggressively pressured the math department to remove content from its required courses, specifically the core algebra content that had always been included in the college’s math requirement for liberal arts-oriented students. (Jensen says that math requirements for students who wish to pursue math and the natural sciences have been less affected.)

Hey, how important is math, anyway?  

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