HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Wisconsin won’t admit it, but its new egalitarian policy leads to grading quotas.
In fall 2009, the College of Letters and Science pushed further with a study of grading practices in five introductory courses. Its title was revealing: “Grade Gap/Future Gap: Addressing Racial Disparities in L&S [Letters & Science] Introductory Courses.” Departments were instructed to implement strategic action plans to “eliminate racial grade gaps by 2014.”
This targeted five introductory courses: Chemistry 103, Communication Arts 100, English 100, Mathematics 112, and Psychology 202.
Putting an even sharper point on the administration’s desires, the report explained, “. . . these courses have something in common, sharp disparities in grade outcomes by race. In all courses targeted minority students achieve lower grades than non-targeted students at similar preparation levels. In each course, targeted minority students receive more of the low grades and fewer of the high grades.”
No, that doesn’t explicitly demand grade quotas, but the unsubtle point can’t be missed.
Furthermore, to ensure “steady annual improvements,” the dean would create incentives and an accountability system.
The people who teach those introductory courses, mostly teaching assistants and instructional academic staff, are quite vulnerable to administrative pressure because they are on limited-term contracts. They are apt to decide that giving each individual the grade he or she earned is less important than assigning grades so that there is little or no gap between groups.
Rather than adjusting grades, however, the university suggests that faculty members who teach those courses should “discover pedagogical strategies that reach targeted and non-targeted students with equal effectiveness” to reduce the achievement gap.
Resorting to faddish education-speak, the university suggests that the faculty use “proactive multicultural competence” to make their teaching more effective for the targeted students.
Efforts to eliminate the grade gap are being intensified under UW-Madison’s “Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence” plan. Its Recommendation 1.5 calls for a “reduction in the achievement gap.”
I’m sure this will build confidence in the entire enterprise.