Credential Inflation-How Reforming Higher Ed With Learner Outcomes Can Damage All Degrees

A few days ago I got linked in a conversation on Rampant Credentialism. Readers frustrated that the degree they had paid good money to obtain didn’t really provide the knowledge or skills anyone seemed to want to pay for. Another reader complained that he had been a craftsman for many years and was now being told he had to get a certificate proving his Competency. He had paid for the program and finished it so he could keep making a living with his experience and skills. But that the coursework of the program itself added nothing. If that certificate was all someone without experience had, it would barely be worth the paper it was written on. Yet it was now required to open the door to future employment. Ensuring a nice stream of income for some credentialing institution.  And what if the next degree is just more of the same?

Remember the cliche about the thousand mile journey still requiring that first step? Well the first step in using education as a means for trying to obtain a different utopian tomorrow redesigned around Sustainability and planned and managed through the advances in computer technology needed that first step somewhere. The somewhere has been higher ed. Going on for more than twenty years now. But nobody told the students or parents or taxpayers.

College used to be where you could go and encounter greatness. Great Minds. Great Books. Great Ideas to Build On. And if you weren’t terribly good at negotiating those encounters and felt more shocked than invigorated, you changed your major or muddled along or learned to cultivate different important character traits besides the intellect. The world truly does need all kinds of knowledge and skills. The science nerd capable of invention needs the people person to help her sell it.

We have talked about Outcomes Based Education in the K-12 classroom. Did you know the Regional Accreditors have pushed Learning Outcomes in higher ed? Major by Major? How about new means of measuring progress and activities so that students from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities and genders and races can all obtain degrees and credentials at rates reflecting their percentage of the population? Did you realize that colleges and universities not willing to go along with the Regional Accreditors vision for transforming American education can lose the right to participate in the federal student loan program? Did you realize the vision of education credentials for all is tied to a political vision for a different kind of society and economy that’s not in place yet? And if it ever does occur, we are looking at drastic reductions in economic prosperity for everyone but the politically connected? Does anyone think the typical employee or exec with a Regional Accreditor has any idea what makes an economy grow? Or a recognition from history that degreed, socially reengineered Human Capital without useful knowledge or skills is a path to disaster?

Did you know that other countries pushing Outcomes Based Education in K-12 and higher ed also adopt Qualifications Frameworks to try to force private businesses to accept these credentials? Which means even more regulation and expensive compliance measures from would-be employers? Money that could have gone towards hiring more employees or developing new desired products and services? That Qualifications Frameworks are expensive, controversial, and a quick trip to a dirigiste economy?

This already revised nature of higher ed is integral to the Common Core’s definition of College Ready. Many changes are already in place and more are coming. All assume preparation for a reimagined future. A dangerous act of widespread social engineering largely going on outside the public eye or awareness. Even many insiders know something is changing but not precisely what it is or what is driving it.

With the current use of the term P-20 meaning Preschool through College, Masters, and Doctorate programs based on generic Competency, Common Core is not just about the attitudes, values, emotions, and interpersonal skill shifts we have  been talking about now in post after post. No the student’s job is also to keep showing up year after year to obtain needed credentials that enrich everyone tied into what is the 2nd largest industry in the world after retail.

Students exist so that administrators can have well-paying jobs.  It’s true in K-12 and it’s especially true on campus. When you reorganize undergraduate education around “Improving Student Engagement, Experience, And Learning Outcomes” or “Learning within a Campus Culture of Diversity,” it takes a great deal of administrative monitoring and meddling to ensure professors do not revert to testing on facts and a body of knowledge. That’s not equally accessible to all students. DING goes the not-to-be permitted gong.

Assessment (one of the listed Big A’s in changing higher ed) for all is to be “multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time.” That should get more students to the finish line of getting a degree. It may also be propelling us towards a world where that credential leaves its holder unprepared for anything but waiting tables. Even worse, some of those with the paper credentials had the creativity and imagination and skills with abstract ideas and sequential logic that were never cultivated. The policies and practices of Education for All in too much of their K-12 and then higher ed means that potential is lost. We are all poorer when we restrict our best minds to basic nutrition needed by anyone.

I mentioned in the July 16 post that if the Earth was not moving toward critical environmental tipping points, the proposed Common Core education theories and practices were a fast train to economic catastrophe. Transforming P-20 to Learner Outcomes accessible for all is an expensive fast train to economic catastrophe. And this train has already left the station and is picking up speed. The accreditors seem to want to keep an ongoing relationship now instead of periodic ten-year reviews.

So the push for transformative change is now virtually constant. Just what you did not want to hear before you wrote that tuition check or took out that loan. But we need better recognition of what is wrong if there’s to be any chance that next year’s tuition is not to be purchasing an even more manipulated degree program. I don’t think we can rely on Accreditation (the 2nd Big A) to recognize what is wrong with the map they are using to direct the higher ed train. You see, there is no one forcing Accountability (the 3rd Big A to Transformation) on the Accreditors. Nice gig if you qualify.

3 thoughts on “Credential Inflation-How Reforming Higher Ed With Learner Outcomes Can Damage All Degrees

  1. Robin: I found your web site shortly before the end of this school year and I promised myself that I would read all of what you have written to get myself up to speed on Common Core. I am a K-12 music teacher and work at five different schools – two elementary, two middle and one high school. I travel from school to school and teach harp. I also recently got my third degree in library science. I was hoping to transition to a library and get out of the educational quagmire that I find myself in. Anyway, I can truthfully say that this degree has gotten me nowhere fast. I have great credentials to land a volunteer job but that is about it. I started thinking about my educational experience and noticed that my final grade point average with my first degree was around 3.4 and my final grade point average with this degree was 4.0. Did I get smarter or did the courses just get easier? This last degree was almost entirely online. Also I noticed that our students at the high school level who graduated with honors all had a grade point average above 4.0. The valedictorian had somewhere around a 6.5 grade point average. One further observation: we have an assistant principal at the high school who has a doctorate but can’t give good directions in a coherent manner over the loudspeaker. He is a black man, but doesn’t sound like other educated black people. I see the teachers rolling their eyes when they hear him talk. I have often wondered how this guy got a doctorate. Reading your blog, I think I know. I think my degree and his are probably pretty worthless outside of education. And that makes me ashamed that I spent so much time and effort getting something that will not help me in the long run.

    • I took a look recently at the Doctorates and you can now get them online with promises about “only needing to come on campus twice.” They are designed to get people to defer to the credential holder as an authoritative expert. But there is little accurate knowledge that would trigger a recognition that there’s a problem with these theories.

      And I too came to look into the nature of Ed Doctorates after one too many simultaneously made both their ignorance and arrogance vitally clear. Who gets into the programs. Who has to actually pay. And whether there is a dissertation involved do appear to be race related.

      The white principals who have finished their doctoral coursework are expected to write a dissertation.

      Vanderbilt’s Ed Leadership Doctorate gives out the credential based on Group Projects. The one I looked into after the Assistant Principal was managing to work full time in Atlanta and demonstrating she knew nothing amounted to sending out a survey to private schools on what they value in hiring. Writing up the results and then sending an additional letter to private schools on why they should value ed degrees. It was supposed to be a minimum of 50 pages but all 3 got their credential even though it clocked in at 40 including graphs. The Assistant Principal had claimed she was getting a PhD but it was an EdD of once a month day and a half work. She then got a Principal’s job at a middle school at dropped the reference to Educational Leadership and told the parents she had a Doctorate of Education. I think she had spent two years in the classroom.

      Another Edu Doctorate in Math Education had a dissertation that claimed traditional mathematics is a racist and sexist construct and comes from a desire to foster Social Darwinism. Of course she is in charge of Math Education in the local school district. Six figure salary.

      Credentialed to destroy futures is an apt way to describe it.

      I know too many talented people of every hue of the rainbow not to be sad that there is a racial and ethnic component. Overall there is a cultivated creation of deliberate conflicts in education so that there is no other opportunity for a comparable living except implementation of desired policies with fidelity. Which means that abject stupidity can be a useful thing in education administration these days.

      And so demoralizing to the teachers.

  2. Agreed that it is demoralizing to teachers. We have five assistant principals at the high school level. I don’t know why we need so many assistant principals. And the new evaluation system is so demoralizing to me – it seems like the target keeps moving everytime I have an evaluation. Last year I got an “accomplished” on keep student records and this year I got a progressing. I don’t know why. I hate the new evaluation system and the feeling that I have absolutely no private thoughts at school or anywhere for that matter. It keeps you a little on the paranoid side. Also, I noticed that my county is pushing college for everyone. They have banners outside the school asking kids what middle school they will go to that will prepare them for college. So many confusing things happening in education. Thank you for your research. It helps me make some sense of what is happening.

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