Sunday, April 03, 2011

News Roundup

From the Seattle Times news about Garfield Athletics and a story about UW admissions.

During a meeting at Garfield High School Thursday, it was announced the playoff restriction placed on the Bulldogs football team for the 2011 season has been lifted.

The school asked the KingCo Conference to review self-imposed penalties levied against the program, stemming from the use of ineligible players during a win over Sammamish Sept. 10, 2010.

The other sanctions placed on the program remain in place. Those included the resignation of the head coach Anthony Allen and assistant coach Anthony Kelley. 
There is still an ongoing investigation, which could provide more answers than have been given to this point. From the start, there has been more confusion than answers. The other interesting news to come out of last week's meeting was the announcement that the school is expected to name a football coach this week. 

Another huge article (with 455 comments already) is the story about UW cutting back on the number of incoming in-state freshman.  It is sad on many levels.   One issue is that high-achieving students are not getting the best information they should.  The story includes an interview with a top student at Chief Sealth who did more academy work than IB work; he was not admitted to UW.  I wonder if his counselor warned him about UW becoming very competitive and that he should have done the highest rigor possible.  

Soon after the University of Washington's acceptance letters for undergraduate admission went out in the mail last month, the rumors started flying at local high schools.

High-school seniors with top test scores didn't get in.
Students who got into more prestigious schools were wait-listed at the UW.
Valedictorians with straight-A's were denied admission, while out-of-state students with lower grades were accepted.

Turns out all those rumors are true.

There were hundreds fewer spots open to Washington state students than out-of-state residents.  It is so desperate that a few Washington parents asked if they could pay out-of-state tuition to allow their student in (the answer is no).   A UW spokesperson had this to say:

For Ballinger, who has had to respond to the frustrations of countless families, the challenge has been explaining that if the UW didn't admit more out-of-state and international students, it would have had to cut the number of in-state students even more.

"People think they're taking the place of resident students; they're not," he said. "They're subsidizing resident students ... . I don't think people understand that."

Interesting info here:

Out-of-state students tend to have slightly lower GPAs, but that's because many come from top public and private schools where there's less grade inflation. And their SAT scores are usually higher.

International students often have math SAT scores that outpace all U.S. students — scoring 700 points or more out of 800 — and many get a perfect score.

Do Washington state high schools have a reputation for grade inflation?  Notfor the good high schools in Washington state.  (UW knows which schools deliver students who are better prepared.)

What about other Washington state schools?

Washington State University boosted the number of in-state freshmen it admitted this year by about 13 percent, expecting to enroll about 400 more freshmen in fall 2011 than it did last year, said John Fraire, vice president of enrollment management.

Western Washington University saw a decrease in the number of students who applied this year, perhaps because the school cut its recruitment efforts as a cost-saving measure. It expects to enroll fewer freshmen as a result.

What can be done?

In Washington, more high-school graduates leave this state for college and other postsecondary study than come here from out-of-state as freshmen, said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.

That net out-migration, as it's termed, is the fifth-highest nationally among the states, and is a concern among policymakers, who fear the state's failure to grow its higher-education system will have long-term economic consequences.

Washington is one of the few states where the Legislature sets tuition, and how high it should go is a matter of debate.  

Carlyle is sponsoring a bill, HB 1795, that aims to change the funding equation. It would give the state's four-year schools unlimited tuition-setting authority for four years, encouraging them to set different prices on different degrees.

For example, the UW might charge more for an engineering degree than a history degree because engineering students must take many expensive lab classes and usually earn more when they graduate.
The bill would also raise the level at which a family becomes eligible for financial aid, helping more middle-class families qualify, Carlyle said.


Dorothy Neville said...

UW already charges more for some classes. Science and engineering classes have a course fee. Physics has a charge to access the computer program one needs to do homework.

kprugman said...

Why not come right out and say: UW recognizes incoming Freshmen from Washington probably aren't as well prepared for college as they say they are. Test scores show they perform lower than their grades indicate. Subsidizing in-state residents with out-of-state tuition is nonsense. This is a public university funded in part by the state. Why put students in math and science classes at the UW when they probably aren't prepared anyway? That's space that could be used by better qualified students. Why offer remedial math at the UW?

The failure to educate our society is our government's failure, not the people's.

Anonymous said...

Amen kprugman,
The university should charge tuition based on its needs, and not give special admissions breaks to out of state students. They might try economizing on the very generous workloads of professors while they're at it. If they wish to weight SAT scores higher, then they should say so. Washington State high school students had the highest SAT scores in the nation, so the claim about SAT scores being better elsewhere rings hollow. Public universities need to serve the students in their own states, otherwise, why should states subsidize them.

concerned parent

abc said...

concerned parent --

The problem is that the state is subsidizing the public universities less and less. If you want a university of comparable quality, there are only so many efficiencies you can find in the face of continual budget cutbacks. Please take a sec to look at the plot on the second page of the PDF here.

Imagine you're running a publicly-subsidized restaurant, where the state gives you X dollars per meal, and charges the patrons some small amount. If X keeps dropping and dropping, your options are (1) serve fewer patrons for the same total funding or bring in full-paying patrons; (2) charge the patrons more; or (3) start serving rice and beans nightly, instead of varied interesting meals. The students at the flagship universities voted and said their number one priority was maintaining the quality of their education, which means the universities are stuck largely with (1) and (2) as options. The universities have tinkered plenty with (3) to absorb the past decades of cutbacks (smaller portions, chicken instead of steak, etc), but at some point, it's hard to keep it looking like the same restaurant.

The same cutbacks are affecting the community college system as well, so even if you think that WA state students should only have access to subsidized rice-and-beans (nutritious, tasty, and filling, but the only kind of basic meal the state should be in the business of offering), these critical parts of the state's higher education system are suffering just as badly.

Dorothy Neville said...

One element of the article was surprise -- and others saying that this should not have been a surprise because it has been widely publicized that acceptance to UW has gotten and will get harder. I remember this publicity. I am not surprised.

And yes, cuts have been happening at UW and they most definitely affect the students. Classes are larger and TAs are fewer. Fewer office hours for help, fewer comments on homework, less homework graded (such comments and grades can help students self-assess their understanding and prepare for exams). Science classes cut labs. IIRC, Chemistry used to have 8 labs a quarter and cut that back to 4.

I don't get the line about Washington high schools having uniquely high grade inflation. I also don't buy that Washington high school students are uniquely unprepared in math. The math wars are a national phenomena.

Anonymous said...

OK Abc,

We all get it. The UW is getting fewer state dollars. What should they do about that? Hmmm.

1) How about require teachers teach more than 1 or 2 classes per day?
2) How about cut very generous, and expensive, sabbaticals? No other job category has this perk.
3) How about make teaching a 12 month job, like the rest of us have?
4) How about shift the focus to education and away from research? Selectively done, of course.
5) How about eliminate or vastly reduce tenure?
6) How about reduce faculty and administrative salaries? Some of those are incredibly generous.
7) How about raise in-state tuition to around 10 or 12 thousand?

These suggested cost savings do not reduce our quality university education to "rice and beans". These universities have been operating with the gravy-train mentality for years. We simply can not afford it. Citizens of the state are paying for this, and our kids deserve a public post-secondary education. UW isn't Harvard, and shouldn't become Harvard. I can't see the tax payers objecting to any of the above.

concerned parent

abc said...

concerned parent --

A fair bit of what you just described is in place in the state's (very good) community college system. The model of the flagship public universities is that state's students can get a "private quality" education for a fraction of the price of the privates. You claim that UW isn't Harvard, and it isn't in terms of personal service or class sizes, but it is in terms of access to comparable educational and research quality. If the flagships become larger versions of the cc's, that model changes. Now, one may disagree with that model, of course.

In terms of other points, not sure how cutting tenure automatically increases educational quality or decreases costs, but there may be other reasons to do so. As for going to a 12 month salary, you're either advocating for an across the board 25% pay cut (many faculty bring in research money to pay their salary during the 3 months of summer), or a 33% pay increase. In that case, why not ask for a 25% across the board pay cut up front. However, you'll have to accept that this will further increase the ongoing brain drain as faculty flee for the privates. Many of these same faculty are actually net sources of money for the university, because of grants they bring in (of which the university gets a very substantial share). Many of these federal grants fund labs which employ talented undergrads, grad students and technical staff, and who subcontract and purchase from local businesses, and who spend money and pay taxes locally, and who graduate and start local businesses. So, the apparent savings will not all be recaptured by the state (though I have no idea in what fraction, or if the net winds up in the red or black).

I'm not trying to take a blindly "University Uber Alles" stand, and have no problem with the entire higher-educational system in the state continuing to seek cost efficiencies, as they have been doing for the past decade. I'm just trying to point out that proposed solutions have consequences that we should be clear about. Do we want to have something more than the community colleges to offer the many talented students in our state? Do we want to have a local engine of high-skills development and subsequent spending and entrepreneurialism? You and the state may well decide "no" on both of those counts.

Patrick said...

Concerned Parent, UW is a research university. If you have a research university, you must give your faculty time to do research. Research brings in money to UW and to the state.

The teaching structure you're describing would be more appropriate for a community college.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned parent, I think you have named some issues but also don't have the fullest picture. (Full disclosure, my husband works for UW.)

If we do not have research done at university, we are at the mercy of business to do whatever research THEY want to do for their interests. In addition, the research done is paid for by money that departments/professors have to go out and raise. The amount of money brought into UW by professors is huge.

Salaries incredibly generous? That could be debated. You get what you pay for and if you want to pay less, you will not get the best minds. Also, the staff gets raises as allowed by the legislature and so no raises for the last 3 years. Not that they should in this economic climate but it's not like they get paid at industry rates.

UW would like to have control over tuition rates to avoid what is happening. As the article says, Rep. Carlyle is interested in this issue and working on a bill. Until then, the Legislature - not UW - sets tuition rates.

Also, I would agree with sabbaticals trimmed or ended. But, just to note, many professors never take their sabbaticals or they take them and work at a company/government entity within their field.

Anonymous said...

What does "not give special admissions breaks to out of state students" mean?

After weighting test scores vs. grades as they see fit, I assume the entry bar for out-of-state students is still much higher than for in-state students?

--Former OOS student who stayed

anne said...

Here's an interesting document I found a while back on the web about grade inflation of WA highschools. The student they profiled that didn't get in with a 4.0 came from Sealth HS. It ranks 210/231 schools for grade inflation, so I don't consider that a good example. A 4.0 student that didn't take any AP classes may not really be that competitive against a 3.7 from a school with very low grade inflation and lots of AP/challenging classes.


The UW is definitely getting more competitive, but I don't think you have to have a 4.0 to get in.

JvA said...

I don't know if this is the same student who was denied entry to UW, but this commenter signed that name and indicated he was a student in West Seattle a couple years ago. I know it's just a blog comment, but the errors in style, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation indicate that he may not have performed well on the writing portion of the application.


SP said...

(argh---the blog ate my post!)
Anne, UW still tracks the GPA grade inflation ratings, which used to be published each year in the Seattle Times School Guide. When they stopped, I was told by UW that the Seattle schools asked them to stop publishing the ratings as SPS was getting a lot of push back from parents comparing high schools (imagine that!) but UW still was sending their GPA inflation rankings out to each school every year individually (which is why we probably haven't seen them for the past 5 years or so).

The 2004 report that Anne links is as I remembered it- the top 3 Seattle HS (Ballard, Roosevelt & Garfield, in that order) ranked 61st- 97th out of 231 high schools state wide for grade inflation, Hale, Franklin & Ingraham 112th- 157th, then comes a surprise with RBHS & Cleveland at 188th-193rd with the clear bottom rankers of Sealth & WSHS (210th-212th out of 231 total).

JvA said...

Thanks, Anne and SP. It hadn't occurred to me they'd be tracking success of students from different high schools this way, but of course that makes sense. The Seattle Times story would have made better sense of it had provided this context. It's too bad SPS asked to hide this information from parents. But if it's one state agency providing info to another, then the missing years of data should be easily attained through a public disclosure request. I've always wanted to file one...

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Times used to put out the figures on which Seattle public high schools had the best retention rate at UW after freshman year. Back around 2000-2001, it was Hale, Roosevelt and Garfield. I haven't seen that stat in a long time.

SP said...

Melissa- Retention rates ("Persistance rates") are available online at collegetracking.com, broken down by each high school, and by demographics also. Very cool interactive graphs.

Jva- if you are asking for a public records request, please consider also asking for the current college remediation rates for each HS (for both community college and also for 4-yr colleges) which are a requirement annually by law to be reported to each school and each district.
I have a report from 2006 (for the 4-yr colleges) with the district's ave. at 6.11% remediation rate (it's more like 50% for community college in math as I recall). Sealth came in at a high 26%, and the usual lows 4% or under at G/R/B/H.

Anonymous said...

Again ABC, Melissa,

All the other Uof's are all in the same boat. I come from a Uof faculty family too. Its a gravy train, no doubt about it. From top to bottom. And, these univerisities know it. Decreasing salaries wouldn't mean these university staff would have a big opportunity somewhere else. Every state is facing the same pressure on its higher ed budget. There's no free lunch at other universities either. So let's leave that competitive notion at home. At the end of the day, all the Uof's have got to end the gravy train. And, they all will, sooner or later.

Cutting tenure absolutely does cut costs. Those professors (they are all about the research right?) have got to continue bringing in the grants or they're out, at least they should be. As it is now, tenure allows faculty to coast after they've received tenure. Let's end that practice. You want to do research? You want to stay? You need to prove it each and every year. You need to keep getting grants with your high quality research. No coasting.

The salaries might not be particularly generous, but the bennies, retirement, tenure, etc are more than terrific, and not always for the creme de la creme.

concerned parent.