Think, Know, Prove: More Stats, More Questions

Think, Know, Prove is an occasional Friday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

Yes, yes, I know I promised a look at the college by college numbers last week, and I meant it. But in the interim, I was contacted by somebody with a request to include the system-wide completion numbers from 2015 as soon as possible, numbers I didn’t have, but which the person provided for me (with assurances of their accuracy and the suggestion that they could be confirmed through Open Book). If you watched Chancellor Hyman’s speech to the Civic Club of Chicago, you saw a preview of these, but not the breakout by degrees (a breakout, which our Chancellor told us is just a tangle of “alphabet soup,” a rather flippant dismissal of one of our concerns, especially since it comes  RIGHT AFTER her telling the story about how her own AGS degree turned out not to have prepared her well for transfer! Amazing, again!! But I digress).

Suffice it to say that the numbers were interesting enough that I decided to delay my college-by-college account of changes in degree granting for a week (or two–I have a couple posts on “Merit Pay” that I’ve wanted to do for awhile now) to give another look at the system-wide completion numbers with our most recent year included. Here they are (click on the chart to make it bigger):

Degrees--System (2015)The numbers are astonishing. AA degrees increased almost 40% last year alone, while AS degrees more than doubled! AGS degrees are still much larger than they used to be, but down 17.4% from last year. So what happened? Something must be working…I don’t see how it could be the Pathways since they’re minimally rolled out at this point. Can’t be “Campus Solutions” Course Planner, since that just rolled out last spring. So…what the hell? I know I’m supposed to just clap and say, “Good job, everybody!” but it seems rather strange, doesn’t it? I mean, it feels kind of “Enron-y” doesn’t it? What am I missing?

I would be curious to see how many of these graduations were of students who were enrolled in 2014-2015 (and how many were students whose completion was a function of having completion credits reverse transferred from the school they transferred to. I wish I could take a survey of the recipients and find out how many were surprised to find out that they’d earned a CCC degree. Maybe none. Maybe lots?

And, per Anthony’s point (in the comments on my last week’s post) the increase probably has something to do with the huge enrollment spike we had during and over the couple years following the Great Recession of 2008. I also wonder how many of these students benefited from the relaxation of the home campus requirement to just 15 hours (when was that changed, 2014? I’m too lazy to look). But even with all of that, 575 AS degrees? I didn’t see that coming. It’ll be interesting to see what the school to school breakout is on those.

Anyway, there it is–a surprising set of numbers. What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

8 thoughts on “Think, Know, Prove: More Stats, More Questions

  1. Why all the secrecy, Philodave? Is it because this request came from someone at District? (It can only be one person, and we all know who that person is. Why can’t he simply respond on the Lounge instead of skulking around?) Unfortunately, I have yet to see any data that comes from the District Office that is in any way accurate or reliable. Over the past 6 years the data that has been presented to the Child Development Faculty has simply been wrong. I challenge any faculty member who has full access to Open Books to try and recreate this data.
    Yeah, there is no way that these numbers reflect graduation rates of students who were current in the system. The reverse degree numbers are incredibly misleading to the public.

    • I have heard from multiple people (other than the source in question) that there is a prohibition at 226 about posting on the Lounge, so maybe that’s why. Not sure, though. In any case, I didn’t mean to be secretive. I figured that anyone interested in the who would have a good guess (as you suggest) and anyone not interested in the who would not need a name to go with it. I would check it on Open Book if I knew how, but I missed the trainings and whenever I try to run reports for myself it always comes up saying, “You are not authorized for this report” or something like that so I have given up. If anybody out there meets the challenge, definitely let me/us know what you find.

      (Sidenote: I like the idea of giving this person a Code Name (a la “Deep Throat”), and hereby open the contest!

      And, agreed on your last point–one true thing about Reinvention has been the willingness of its cheerleaders/architects to mislead with data. And for the record, I consider presenting a partially true picture as the full picture to be a willful misleading, also known as a “lie.” For example, the “article” in the National Journal “written by” Ronald Brownstein (and, it seems, the CCC PR department) contains this paragraph which is, by the criteria just mentioned, a lie:

      “But even by those dis­pir­it­ing stand­ards, the res­ults in the Chica­go sys­tem were es­pe­cially dis­mal. In 2010, only 7 per­cent of the sys­tem’s full-time first-time stu­dents com­pleted a de­gree with­in three years; ex­tend­ing the time frame to six years in­creased the num­ber to just 13 per­cent. And while about one-in-six stu­dents ul­ti­mately trans­ferred to a four-year in­sti­tu­tion, less than one-third of them fin­ished a bach­el­or’s de­gree with­in six years. That meant no more than one-in-20 stu­dents en­ter­ing City Col­leges ob­tained a four-year de­gree with­in that time frame.”

      While true, as far as it goes, there’s an important omission–namely that this paragraph accurately describes about 38% of the students we served back then. Were their numbers better? Worse? The same? No one knows, but the fact that 62% of our credit students are not represented in these stats at all is notable. Who is served by an omission of a qualifying fact like that one? Not the readers; not the public.

      And, as you suggest, the examples are legion, going back to the initial Reinvention data and running right through . But Kathryn Hayes is going to keep putting that paragraph out there, and reporters are going to keep find it and repeating it (even if they don’t get it from her). It certainly makes for a good, and easy to understand, story.

      • #1 Can you imagine working for an organization that prohibits free speech?
        #2 I’ve also heard from some people at 226 that they call them “gag orders” given by she who can’t be named.
        #3 In a world where data drives everything, they had to reverse the paradigm so that is everything is driven by data. When the data doesn’t fit the narrative that they are telling, they just change the data, or spin it forwards and backwards and inside out, until it does. R

        Reminds me of Wag the Dog.

  2. I stated in conversation to this particular administrator, “I’ve heard that administrators are not allowed to post on the Harold Lounge…” in reference to finding better ways to open communication, but s/he responded that s/he wasn’t aware of any such prohibition.

  3. Thinking about the increase in AS degrees, the requirements for the AS did apparently change if one compares the 2012-2014 catalog versus the 2014-2015 catalog. The general education core has been changed from a minimum of 39 credit hours to 37; this is probably due to the GE math class was previously required to be a minimum 5 credit hour course that had to be Math 207 or above. The current catalog just specifies any math course with a minimum of 3 credit hours. I can’t imagine that this truly means ANY math course of 3+ credit hours, but if there is a more specific requirement for the GE math course, I can’t find it in the catalog (which does specify pathways for, say a high school biology teacher, that do not contain any math courses beyond Math 143).

    Also, the physical/life sciences requirement in the older catalog was very specific in that those 7 credit hours had to be fulfilled with one life science course and one physical science course, one of which had to be a lab course. The 2014-2015 catalog only specifies this GE requirement can be fulfilled with two courses that together have a minimum of 7-8 credit hours. The current (2015-2016) catalog describes a requirement that is more in line with the 2012-2014 specifications (i.e. 2 science courses, 1 each in life and physical sciences, 1 must be a lab), but were the more lenient requirements in place for 2014-2015? I don’t really know.

    As for the remaining credit hour requirements, both the 2012-2014 catalog and the 2014-2015 catalog do describe that 14 of the remaining 25 credit hours for the degree have to be in math and/or science, but again, the old catalog is very specific about the math courses that count toward the AS degree (basically Math 208 or above) while the 2014-2015 catalog simply states “a minimum of 14 credit hours in math and/or life/physical science, etc.” Even the most recent catalog (i.e. 2015-2016) mentions that these additional courses in math and science can be fulfilled with Math 118 or above, which actually does suggest that any college level math course that is 3+ credit hours would fulfill the GE math requirement for an AS degree.

    In short, at the very least, it seems to me that the math requirement for the AS has been relaxed in both the 2014-2015 and the most recent catalog (both in terms of the number of credit hours and in the types of courses) and the Physical/Life sciences requirement in the 2014-2015 was not as specific as both the older and current catalog about the types of science courses that would fulfill this requirement. Could this be responsible for some of the increase in AS degrees? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Yeah, I think those changes have to be a huge part of the jump. So I guess a BS doesn’t typically include Calc? or require Physics?

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