Wednesday, December 23, 2015

DtB’s Year in Review, Part 2: the fall of the house of Beno (obscuring the deeper issue)

     In mid-February, 2015, we issued our brief “SOCCCD dismal truisms” series. (See here and here.) We offered two such truisms:
  • SOCCCD dismal truism #1: [SOCCCD has gone] from board micromanagement to board inaction
  • SOCCCD dismal truism #2: to the consternation of thinking people everywhere, the district embraces the illiterate and dunderheaded evaluative architectonic of the Accreditors (and, more generally, of the "education"* crowd), thus busying administrators and faculty with endless committee work that produces mostly nonsense that, ahem, "guides" the district and its planners.
     Truism #1 was explained thus:
     Owing to its history of overreach and loutishness..., the board is particularly concerned that it not be accused of “micromanagement.” Unfortunately, the board has settled into a routine of erring in the other extreme—inveterately refusing to investigate or address complaints and objections about officials' conduct and policies.
     This has been particularly disastrous for Irvine Valley College, which has suffered under Glenn Roquemore’s embarrassing, anti-intellectualist, sub-collegiate leadership—poor hires, poor management, general obliviousness, failure to communicate or to sustain community, tolerance of incompetence and worse—for over a dozen years, allowing the institution to sink ever further into mediocrity and its employees ever deeper into resigned acquiescence.
     I illustrated Truism #2 by taking a gander at SOCCCD’s embarrassing “district-wide goals.” Have you read them? Good grief.

* * *

     But why am I referring to the ACCJC as "dunderheads"?
     At the start of the millennium, our accreditor, the ACCJC, adopted the theoretical assumptions of a movement—the measurable “student learning outcomes” (MSLO) movement—despite an absence of empirical support for the efficacy of the movement's approach.
     Think about that. It’s a serious problem. It should be a show-stopper.
     Well, you'll be pleased to learn that, back then, some noticed the problem and attempted to stop the show. That led, in 2002, to the State Academic Senate’s (ASCCC) challenge to the ACCJC’s embrace of MSLOs:
Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)

     Actually, the State Senate issued a series of related ACCJC-challenging resolutions, including this one:
Whereas, The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) adopted new Standards for accreditation over the objections of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges as well as those of the American Association of University Professors [AAUP] and the Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers among others;
• Whereas, The ACCJC has not responded to repeated requests to provide the Academic Senate the background materials and research upon which it based its decision to restructure the Standards around the continuous monitoring of student learning outcomes; and
• Whereas, The ACCJC has not responded to repeated requests to provide the Academic Senate with evidence or research to support the contention that such an approach in fact leads to improvements in the quality of undergraduate education or enhances student achievement;
• Resolved, That the Academic Senate continue to request the background evidence and supporting research that would justify recent radical restructuring of the Accrediting Standards by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC); and
• Resolved, That the Academic Senate publicize in relevant educational and public venues its concerns regarding the secrecy and lack of substantive evidence provided by ACCJC to support these costly new accreditation requirements.
     Ever high-handed, the ACCJC simply ignored the ASCCC’s resolutions, and that was that. (See Systematic rational failures and SLOs, part II: the ACCJC gets dogmatic & dictatorial all over Cal community colleges.)
     I did some research, and, as far as I could tell, in the years since the 2002 challenge, evidence for the efficacy of the MSLO approach has not materialized.
     And so the problem remains. And that's absurd.
     Last Spring, I decided to raise the issue anew. I wrote about the problem here on DtB and that led to a sympathetic discussion of the matter on the floor of the IVC Academic Senate. Our senate then approved a resolution that amounted to a new but essentially similar "evidential" challenge to the ACCJC. It was brought to the ASCCC's April Plenary for general adoption:
• Whereas, In the last 15 years, new attempts to track the success of school systems around the world (e.g., Program International Student Assessment) have achieved impressive bodies of data useful in measuring the effectiveness of education approaches;
• Whereas, These data indicate that the more successful countries do not embrace the notion of “measurable student learning outcomes” that are central to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ (ACCJC) existing standards for evaluating and reviewing institutions and the philosophy that emphasizes that tool; and
• Whereas, It continues to be the case that research fails clearly to establish that continuous monitoring of course-level student learning outcomes (SLOs) results in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution but does engender frustration that continues to characterize community colleges’ attempts to implement the SLO approach;
• Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges request no later than July 1, 2015 that ACCJC justify its continued implementation of SLOs and explain why it does not opt for approaches more consistent with the approaches of successful countries in educating their students.
     Well, as you know, the State Senate is largely a vast cluster of gasbags, and so the resolution failed to gain sufficient support. IVC Senate Prez Schmeidler reported that it went down owing, evidently, to minor issues, such as the desirability of explicitly identifying the empirical evidence, such as existing meta-analyses.
     I wrote about all this here:
Systematic rational failures and SLOs, part III: why don’t we do something? See also DISSENT! Contra anti-intellectualism
     In the Fall, our senate made yet another effort to sponsor a new and improved resolution, and, again, the effort failed. (This time, our Senate Prez seemed even more disgusted by the apparent reasons for the resolution’s failure.)

* * *

     IN THE MEANTIME, as you know, for years, there's been much Sturm und Drang about the ACCJC's action of pulling City College of San Francisco's ticket and, more generally, about its notoriously high-handed ways: alleged bias, failures to heed process, alleged unprofessionalism, etc. The State Chancellor’s Office eventually created a task force to examine these complaints. That task force ultimately (June) issued harsh recommendations, including abandoning the ACCJC as the state CC’s accrediting body.
     Then, in mid-November (2015), the system's Board of Governors voted to dump the ACCJC (See).
     Wow. According to the San Francisco Chronicle,
...the Board of Governors voted 14-0 to direct state Chancellor Brice Harris to create a plan to replace the commission and come up with a timeline by its March meeting. State officials say any new accreditor would be phased in, a process that could take years because each of the state’s 113 colleges is reviewed for accreditation every six years. A shift to a new accreditor will also require a lengthy approval process by the U.S. Department of Education….

     Then, in December, the DoE spanked the ACCJC:
     The embattled accrediting organization that oversees California’s community colleges should lose some of its existing authority and not be allowed to expand its jurisdiction, the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation unit has recommended.
     In a report published Wednesday, department staff recommended that the department revoke the accreditor’s existing federal authority to approve some four-year degree programs at California’s community colleges.
     The staff also recommended that the accreditor—the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, known as the ACCJC—have its request for broader authority to approve bachelor’s degree programs denied.... (Inside Higher Ed, Dec 10)
     This is all very nice. But you should be aware that our colleges’ two presidents—Burnett and Roquemore—have expressed unhappiness with the BoG decision to replace the ACCJC, evidently joining other CEOs in preferring to reform the organization.
     That's some leadership, that SOCCCD leadership.

* * *

     So, is our effort to challenge the ACCJC’s embrace of MSLOs now moot?
     Don’t think so. There’s no guarantee that future accred standards will eschew dubious MSLO assumptions, since the aforementioned "City College"-related controversy made no reference to that can o' worms. This whole noisy chapter about ACCJC bias and impropriety has had nothing to do with the evident fact that there is no empirical support for the presumed efficacy of focusing on SLOs as an approach to bringing about learning.
     (Denizens of B200: I'm sayin' that we're on this ship, see, and everybody's hopping mad about the shitty navigation and crummy maps; meanwhile, there's this huge hole in the hull, and we're bound to sink. An' nobody's yammerin' about that. Got it?)


Anonymous said...

" This is all very nice. But you should be aware that our colleges’ two presidents—Burnett and Roquemore—have expressed unhappiness with the BoG decision to replace the ACCJC, evidently joining other CEOs in preferring to reform the organization."

I thought you might tie this to the machinations of one of our former fave Trustees - Junket Master Williams. As the two college presidents love to travel to other colleges on the ACCJC's dime in an ill-fated attempt to look "leaderly", they can't afford for this lousy organization to go under for fear they will have no other opportunity to pad their resume. Padding, one can presume, designed to get them into the Chancellor's chair should Gary ever actually retire.

While everyone on the planet was excited to see the state take the first steps to removing the current accreds (granted, this could take years), the two CEOs wanted status quo. "Nice leadership", indeed.

Anonymous said...

I support the fall of the house of Beno. I hope it falls down completely and in a grandiose manner.

Anonymous said...

Board of Trustees listening sessions? Yeah right, certainly seems that the intent of them is to only have another box checked off for accreditation so they can say that they are seriously considering the thoughts of the faculty and staff. This Board of Trustees has been informed so many times of the dismal moral due to the juvenile and retaliatory leadership at IVC. They have been informed many times in many ways by many people over many years, yet ..., nothing, not a thing has been done.

Oh, what IVC could become with an enlightened, intellectual, visionary leadership that does not use militaristic terminology such as "chain of command". Newsflash: Its a College Glenn, - not the Army.