Bravo to The Mountain Echo, Mount St Mary College’s student newspaper, for publishing an account of their newly appointed college President’s plan to increase the college’s retention rate by pre-emptively culling out students likely to drop out before they counted as part of the statistical baseline. Applying logic that, from all accounts, works well in the private sector, newly appointed college President Simon Newman devised a plan to identify likely failures as soon as possible and counsel them out of school quickly. Here’s an overview of the plan Mr. Newman devised and the purpose for it:
By a certain time into the first semester, the federal government requires colleges to issue a report on the number of students enrolled. This number is the baseline used to calculate drop out rates. For Mt. St. Mary’s that date was September 25.
In an effort to lower that baseline figure by 20-25 students, Mr. Newman developed and administered a survey that all newly enrolled students would take. The students and teachers were told this survey was “…developed by a leadership team here at The Mount, and it is based on some of the leading thinking in the area of personal motivation and key factors that determine motivation, success, and happiness. We will ask you some questions about yourself that we would like you to answer as honestly as possible. There are no wrong answers.” What the teachers weren’t told initially was that these survey results would be used to help identify students at risk of dropping out of college. In a subsequent email to President, the college Dean, after learning the true purpose of the survey posed this question:
“If this is not an anonymous survey, nor even a confidential personality test, but a highly intrusive, and misleadingly framed administrative tool, can we proceed without disclosing to our students’ what’s at stake?”
The Dean was not the only administrator who questioned the plan. There was strong opposition from most of the cabinet once they found out the true purpose of the test. One of the strongest opponents of this was Dr. Greg Murry, who headed a program for incoming freshman. Hurry was even more appalled when President Newman asked him to compile a list of freshmen whom professors in his program “…had determined were not likely to complete their freshman year successfully.”
This pushback led to a meeting with three of those officials and the President, a meeting that included this exchange and sequence of events:
According to Murry, during the course of the conversation, Newman said, “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”
Economics professor Dr. John Larrivee was also present and confirmed Murry’s account of the conversation with Newman.
Sources close to the president’s culling plan also confirm that the Mount Cares Committee was asked to provide names of freshmen to be dismissed.
Ultimately, the president’s plan was thwarted as no names were provided by the extended Oct. 2 deadline. “We simply ran out the clock,” Murry said.
A banker who came from an industry that heartlessly issued bogus mortgages to unsuspecting homeowners might not view students as “cuddly bunnies” and might be willing to “put a Glock to their heads” in order to get better numbers for US News and World Report, but fortunately for the students at Mt. St. Mary’s their administrative team defied the edict from the president.
This whole sequence of events is a good metaphor for the way charters cook their numbers… they intimidate and repeatedly suspend students who can’t “meet their standards” and build up their graduation rates by leaving a trail of “voluntary transfers” behind. Fortunately for our country, public school teachers still think of their students as cuddly bunnies.
h/t to Diane Ravitch and Peter Greene