Monday, March 1, 2010

What's the Goal?

An interesting report in Newsweek finds that while colleges are recruiting more minority students, the graduation rates for minorities is staying relatively low. For instance, at Bowdoin College, they nearly doubled the number of minority students entering the school. However, while neaerly 90% of white students graduate, only 70% of minority students do. At the University of Northern Iowa, 67% of white students graduate while only 39% of black students do.

The article goes into a couple of possible explanations for why these figures are what they are and I'm sure you have a few theories of your own. To my way of thinking, though, the problem is that we've confused our means and ends again.

This seems to happen a lot in schools. We want to make sure all students are learning so we decide we should test kids to find out if they're learning. Then, the tests become the end-all be-all and we lose sight of whether the kids are learning real things or learning how to game/pass tests.

Same thing here, we decided that we wanted more minority students in college. We seem to have forgotten that getting students into college is only a means toward the end of graduating and getting good jobs afterwards. So Bowdoin boosts its minority admission and declares victory and, oops, forgets that there's a little more to the picture than that.

That's not to say that the efforts of Bowdoin and others aren't useful or worthwhile. They are, in fact, necessary steps. But they are not sufficient steps if we want to ensure that we're fully educating our population.

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