Daily Archives: July 20, 2010

New Harvard survey offers insights into higher ed faculty

The Harvard School of Education has published a report on their COACHE survey. The report’s introduction states:

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) provides academic leaders with in-depth peer data to monitor and improve work satisfaction among full-time, tenure-track faculty…

The core element of COACHE is the Tenure-Track Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey, a validated survey instrument developed, tested, and continually improved with assistance from the Ford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and participating institutions. We now have job satisfaction data on nearly ten thousand pre-tenure faculty nationwide.

The COACHE Survey assesses faculty experiences in several areas deemed critical to early-career faculty success:

  • Tenure practices
  • Clarity of institutional expectations for tenure
  • Reasonableness of institutional expectations for tenure
  • Nature of work – Overall
  • Nature of work – Teaching
  • Nature of work – Research
  • Work and home
  • Climate, culture, and collegiality
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Global satisfaction

A case study of ‘school turnaround’ from the NY Times

The NY Times profiles Joyce Irvine, a school principal in Burlington, VT who has been fired so that her district could collect millions of dollars of federal funds:

Ms. Irvine wasn’t removed by anyone who had seen her work (often 80-hour weeks) at a school where 37 of 39 fifth graders were either refugees or special-ed children and where, much to Mr. Mudasigana’s delight, his daughter Evangeline learned to play the violin.

Ms. Irvine was removed because the Burlington School District wanted to qualify for up to $3 million in federal stimulus money for its dozen schools.

And under the Obama administration rules, for a district to qualify, schools with very low test scores, like Wheeler, must do one of the following: close down; be replaced by a charter (Vermont does not have charters); remove the principal and half the staff; or remove the principal and transform the school.

And since Ms. Irvine had already “worked tirelessly,” as her evaluation said, to “successfully” transform the school last fall to an arts magnet, even she understood her removal was the least disruptive option.

“Joyce Irvine versus millions,” Ms. Irvine said. “You can buy a lot of help for children with that money.”

Are tenured professors an endangered species?

This recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the future of tenure in American higher education has received much attention from the mainstream media and the blogosphere.

Some time this fall, the U.S. Education Department will publish a report that documents the death of tenure.

Innocuously titled “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009,” the report won’t say it’s about the demise of tenure. But that’s what it will show.

Over just three decades, the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track plummeted: from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The new report is expected to show that that proportion fell below 30 percent in 2009. If you add graduate teaching assistants to the mix, those with some kind of tenure status represent a mere quarter of all instructors.

Today, the New York Times has published this set of five op-ed pieces that asks: “What will happen to American higher education if tenure disappears?”

Critics of the system, which provides job security, say that it promotes mediocrity and sloth among an aging academy, blocking opportunities for young scholars, and encourages useless research as tenure candidates vie to be published in jargon-filled journals that no one reads. Tenure’s defenders say that professors who have it are better able to challenge students by risking unpopularity, and to express opinions without fear of retribution.