I just got back from a conference of local community colleges. It was pretty small, but had some really good sessions concerning assessment at the individual course, program, and college level. Half of the sessions dealt with assessment in some fashion and the other half seemed to center on our student’s culture. There were sessions dealing with the rise of the helicopter parent. If you do not recognize the term, count yourself lucky. The day before I left I had gotten a long phone call from the mother of one of my advisees who wanted to discuss what “they” had decided that “they” were going to take – and no, she is not enrolled in any classes herself. There was also a good session on “the millennials.” Most of these tend to just talk about differences – this one focused on learning needs and adaptive strategies.
We ended with a final session on change. The presenter was more entertaining than informative, but that was okay. He then felt it necessary to subject us to a powerpoint he had done for some students years before on the guard unit at the tomb of the unknown soldier. It ran the entire length of Lee Greenwood’s overplayed paean to mindless patriotism “God Bless the USA”. By then I was ready to leave.
Assessment has been the center of big conversations for us of late – how do we assess student progress in a way that we can demonstrate to accrediting bodies and to the government? The Spellings Report really showed the future. We are coming to the end of the time when those agencies are going to continue to nod at us and say “Yes, oh wise ones, your assurance that students are doing well by your criteria is enough for us. Have a few more billion dollars.”
Some other stuff I learned:
Out of the total amount this state spends on education, K through 20, the entire community college system here gets 8%. Out of this we have to find money for preparatory needs for 44% of our students.
In terms of faculty pay for community colleges, we rank 41st in the nation (the current president of our system has been fighting this for years – we used to be 47th.) This despite the fact that our system is generally regarded as very good – enough that we get sitting Presidents (Clinton and Bush the Younger) and Presidential candidates (Hillary once and Barak twice) who come to our community colleges to talk about how swell they are.
The conference was held on the coast, so I got to go out for a couple of very good seafood dinners. I also spent a fair amount of time drinking beer in the evenings with my associate dean – which was both pleasant and informative.
I also got to spend just a couple of hours sitting looking out at the bay with my window open. I read a book and watched seabirds and a couple of dolphins while I enjoyed the breeze.
I think that might have been enough to get me through the rest of the semester.