Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Case of the Vanishing Full-Time Professor on U.S. campuses

It's most unlikely that a part-time teacher will be able to accumulate the research experience that a full-time professor has the time to accumulate. And without research involvment, a university is little more than a trade-school. It is research involvement that keeps people at the cutting edge of knowledge and getting to the cutting edge of knowledge is what a university is all about

If you’ve written a few five-figure tuition checks or taken on 10 years’ of debt, you probably think you’re paying to be taught by full-time professors. But it’s entirely possible that most of your teachers are freelancers.

In 1960, 75 percent of college instructors were full-time tenured or tenure-track professors; today only 27 percent are. The rest are graduate students or adjunct and contingent faculty — instructors employed on a per-course or yearly contract basis, usually without benefits and earning a third or less of what their tenured colleagues make. The recession means their numbers are growing.

“When a tenure-track position is empty,” says Gwendolyn Bradley, director of communications at the American Association of University Professors, “institutions are choosing to hire three part-timers to save money.”

While many adjuncts are talented teachers with the same degrees as tenured professors, they’re treated as second-class citizens on most campuses, and that affects students. It’s sometimes harder to track down adjuncts outside of class, because they rarely have offices or even their own departmental mailboxes.

Many patch together jobs at different colleges to make ends meet, and with commuting, there’s less time to confer with students or prepare for class. It’s not unusual for adjuncts to be hired at the last minute to teach courses they’ve never taught. And with no job security, they may consider it advantageous to tailor classes for student approval.

Colleges tend to play down the increasingly central role of adjuncts. This fall, the American Federation of Teachers complained that some top-ranked universities exaggerated the percentage of full-time faculty to U.S. News & World Report for its rankings. U.S. News declined to investigate. Another source is the “Compare Higher Education Institutions” search tool at A.F.T.’s Higher Education Data Center ( These are the stats that colleges report to the federal government.

Ask admissions officers point-blank: what percentage of classes and discussion sections are taught by part-timers and graduate assistants, and are they required to hold office hours?

For entry-level classes — the ones tenured faculty famously don’t want to teach — the squeaky wheel often gets a full-time professor, says Harlan Cohen, author of “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College.” “If you’re not thrilled with your adjunct professor,” he says, “go to the head of the department and see what options are available. They may put you in a different section.”


'Bureaucracy' is driving talented teachers out of British schools, Tories claim

Hundreds of thousands of qualified teachers have left state schools or never even taught a lesson, the Tories claim today. More than 400,000 teachers are working in other professions, at independent schools, are unemployed or have taken early retirement. About 25,000 people who qualified as teachers in the past ten years never entered the classroom, according to figures released by the Conservatives. They claim that bureaucracy is driving talented teachers out of schools.

Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said: “This is a tragic waste of talent that is costing taxpayers millions of pounds every year. “The Government must take responsibility for driving so many experienced professionals out of the classroom by tying their hands in red tape and watering down their powers to keep order.” Mr Gove said that the Conservatives would give head teachers the final say over whether or not a child should be excluded. He added: “These measures, coupled with raising the status of teaching by making the entry requirements more rigorous and allowing good teachers to be paid more, could start to attract highly skilled teachers back to the classroom.”

The Tories recently announced plans to improve standards in the profession if they win power in the general election this year. No one with a third-class degree would be allowed to train as a teacher and they would end the practice of trainee teachers resitting numeracy and literacy tests until they passed.

The Conservatives would also scrap tuition fees for science and maths graduates who embarked on a career in teaching.


Pupils failed by 'shameful' education system, British Industry leader warns

Britain should be "ashamed” of the extent of academic underachievement among schoolchildren, Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, has said in a withering attack on the state education system. Mr Lambert said that despite the Government pumping millions of pounds into education, its constant “messing around” had left a generation of pupils without the relevant skills to succeed in business.

He sympathised with head teachers who he claimed have had to grapple with a “kaleidoscope” of “very complicated” changes to the education system in recent years. As a result, youngsters’ education has suffered, meaning that Britain is now lumbered with one of the highest proportions of Neets (people not in employment, education or training) in the world, he warned.

Children from poor backgrounds are being particularly failed, Mr Lambert said.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Lambert said: “If you look at all the data you see as a country we spend a lot on educating kids, but the outcomes aren't great. “There's a very long tail of under-performance. I think this is more than an educational issue, it's a social and cultural issue as well. “Part of the story is the correlation between deprivation and poor academic outcomes, which are more marked in this country than we ought to be able to contemplate. We ought to be ashamed of the numbers.”

Earlier this month a breakdown of GCSE results suggested Britain has enjoyed sustained improvements over the past three years. However, figures released by the Tories last month disclosed that just one-in-10 children in the most deprived communities leaves school with good GCSEs. A study by Reform, the think tank, also warned that pupils in England are lagging behind those from other countries after being failed by an "intellectually deficient'' education system.

Mr Lambert said he believes that the problems are rooted in a “culture of low aspiration” that has pervaded over the past five decades. He said he felt compelled to raise his concerns because employers are struggling to recruit people with the right skills, despite greater competition for jobs amid the recession. Some employers have been forced to provide remedial classes to bring staff up to speed in the 3Rs, he said.

Mr Lambert added: "The OECD ((Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures show we have more drunkenness in students than any other country in the OECD. "We have the fourth highest cohort of Neets after Turkey, Italy and Mexico, that can't be something we can be proud of.

“I would be critical of the government in the way that policy has seemed like a bit of a kaleidoscope. There are lots of initiatives, quite complex initiatives like the diplomas programme. Very, very complicated. “I would hate to be a head teacher having to handle diplomas and GCSEs and A-levels and not quite knowing the extent to which they are going to be sustained or not sustained. I do think there has been a lot of messing around."

Ed Balls, the schools secretary, denied the claims saying that English schools were now performing well compared with those in other developed countries, in maths and sciences. He said: "We have seen unprecedented steady and consistent improvement at all ages in the last 12 years after decades of stagnation. “Yes, this has cost money but the entire school estate needed redeveloping to replace the tens of thousands of temporary classrooms with new, modern learning environments; teachers needed fair pay rises following years of low salaries and teacher shortages; and class sizes were too big for proper learning. "I understand producer concerns about initiatives. But public sector reform is vital to ensure every school is a good school, every child is supported to learn and businesses get the skills they need."


No comments: