In a new piece at the John William Pope Center, former WSSU instructor Shira Hedgepeth claims that she was witness to an academic scandal.

H/t to George Leef of National Review.

Academic Scandal at Winston-Salem State

I worked at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) for more than four years, rising to the post of director of academic technology in the school’s Information Technology Department. My first position at the school was that of instructional designer in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which had been formed to address growing concern over student failure rates.

My job was to assist faculty in the implementation of technology into their pedagogy to provide a better learning experience for the students.

Although all instructors were granted the opportunity to attend training and receive assistance, courses with high drop, fail, and withdrawal (DFW) rates were specifically targeted. Most schools track this information. Trends in this data provide the administration the opportunity improve course outcomes and increase instructor and student successes.

Although there can be many reasons why some courses have high DFW rates, it usually comes down to the difficulty of the course, the instructor’s ability to teach the material, or the students’ ability to learn the material presented. High DFW rates are most often seen in math, science, and health science based courses.

During my first year at WSSU (which is one of five historically black colleges and universities in the UNC system), several troubling issues became apparent.

Many of the entering students were not prepared for college and required remediation before they were able to take regular college courses. Thus, many of these students were unable to make it through to graduation and that put pressure on the university and faculty to increase success rates. The university’s four-year graduation rate for the university was a mere 14 percent.  Since funding from the state is based on graduation rates and a school’s accreditation can be jeopardized by low rates, campus officials were extremely concerned.

Because of WSSU’s low graduation rate, school officials had to decide whether to change its admission standards and move to attract a higher quality of student, or to lower course standards to make it appear that students were more successful.