Academic Quality Question

Discussion in 'Merchant Marine Academy - USMMA' started by Packer, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. Packer

    Packer Member

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    As I read through the threads on the USMMA forum, I notice quite a few dedicated to difficult classes (Economics, Physics) that have a "bad" professor slant. There also seems to be a lack of support for students that are actually trying in the forms of professor office hours, tutors, study labs, etc. Hard does not necessarilly equal good and easy does not necessarily equal bad. I had instructors in college that were very hard but I learned the material and I would consider them good. I also had instructors that were hard and even though I got through I didn't feel like I really learned the material. I also had instructors that were easy but I didn't really learn much. The ones that I didn't learn much from are the ones I would consider "bad" irregardlesss of my grade in the class (assuming a high percentage of my classmates also didn't learn a lot). When instructors are failing 30-50% of the class, I tend to believe that is a instructor problem. It is hard to believe that 50% of the students are not trying or are not "smart" enough to understand the material.

    I am not picking up the same tone from the other academies forums. I also have heard hard but good from students and faculty that I know at one of the other academies.

    My question: Is the academic quality at KP equal to the quality at the other service academies?
     
  2. Crossroads

    Crossroads New Member

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    Good question.....my experience with KP is over a decade long. A certain "Professor," on the first day of class, is known to tell his students - right out of the gate - "many of you will not pass this class." As some of us have analyzed this 'problem' we see that some of the KP instructors are just clock punchers, it would seem. The kids we know learned, in spite of the teachers. That is not to say there aren't some GREAT professors there. There are. But without accountability on BOTH sides of the teaching equation, things won't ever change. And teachers with tenure have nothing to worry about. We are associated with all of the other academies as well, and a constant theme is how dedicated the teaching staff elsewhere is to the student population. Many mids/cadets have expressed to us how they can call their instructors at almost any time for help, how their instructors have been known to come back to school for an all night study session - just overall supreme dedication to the act of teaching and LEARNING. That just has not been the case at USMMA. When you understand that any student who can get into KP had to jump some decent-sized hurdles, you know that they are generally bright/studious kids, but to see the failure rates of many of the courses - you are correct - there is apparently a TEACHING element that is less than desired! That many kids not succeeding is wrong! I think it would be very revealing to post the grades of all classes each tri, and see just how successful each teacher was in imparting the knowledge for a given course, and how successful each student was in putting that knowledge to test. There definitely needs to be some sort of review of the teaching staff so that the failure rates come under control - that's for sure! It would be most helpful if there were to be a review board made of mids/parents/admin from whom all experiences are related. When ALL are accountable, there can be no complaints. I know far too many (otherwise smart/successful) students
    who have been hanging on by a thread.
     
  3. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Crossroads: Thank you for your input. The lack of dedication you refer to is disappointing but fits the picture I am forming in my mind that I am hoping is wrong. Is there other support beyond the instructor available for any classes?

    Hopefully others will weigh in here.
     
  4. kpskilegac

    kpskilegac Member

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    ACE

    Students having academic difficulty have the option and are encouraged to use the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE). There are some professional tutors available, although not sure what subjects they teach and there is usually a list of peer tutors available. Each student is also assigned a mentor that should be able to guide them through any issues. The students at KP graduate with approx. 173 credits which are essentially completed in 3 years on campus. The average college and the other academies are closer to 130 credits in four years on campus. The trimester system compresses instructional time yet the volume of material is not less; so out of the gate things are tougher than the other academies based on course load and curriculum. This is not an excuse for bad teachers. They're everywhere - but it is important for students that are having trouble to seek help right away from the prof, the ACE, their mentor, and their peers.
     
  5. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    I've thought quite a while about how to respond to this and don't think I'll really be able to express my opinion that well, but I'll put it out there.

    The simple answer: Yes, absolutely the academic quality is on par.

    There are many differences between KP and the other Academies. In my experience there as a midshipmen I never felt that I was not getting the attention I needed from the professors. Some I had were better than others, but I graduated feeling that I was one of the best prepared newly minted Third Mates out there. In the end that is the goal, to graduate Mariners, and the school and its professor's do a great job of that.

    One thing that people who haven't gone to school there (or similar institutions) don't realize is the thing that Midshipmen are the best at is complaining. It was mentioned above that one professor likes to say "many of you will not pass this class" guess what, it's BS. May there be several failures, yes, but that isn't necessarily out of the norm. Is that worse than the Admiral on my first day of KP telling me to look to my left and look to my right and that at least one, if not two, of the three of us wouldn't be there in four years?

    As someone who has gone on to an even higher level of education I would say my professors at KP were as good, if not better than most of my professors in medical school. I would also say they were overall better than the professors I had at a local university I attended for a year (and all of them had PhD's).
     
  6. hopeful2016

    hopeful2016 Member

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    Great question Packer, this is something I've come across too. One specific thing that made me wonder was what I found in the Princeton Review. I understand that this is in no way entirely accuate nor is it indicative of the general opinion, but it was startling.

    USMMA placed second of 368 for worst teachers, fifteenth for least smoothly run schools, third for worst food, and first for least happy students.

    Also, USMMA didn't rank along with USNA, USMA, USAFA, and sometimes USCGA in other categories like best classroom experience, lots to do on campus, and most accessible professors.

    Now don't get me wrong, I don't put a lot of stock in these rankings and I certainly won't be making any decisions based on them, but they had to come from somewhere, right?
     
  7. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Okay so I've been associated with USMMA since 1977 and I'll put my two cents here - you're right these things come from somewhere actually I think two somewheres in particular:
    1) Since going to the Trimester System the truth is the pace of the academics is basically blistering and makes it hard for both Professors and students. To cover the required material Professors often have to adopt a "take no prisoners" attitude vice a "no child left behind" perspective. This is even harder to deal with during classes the first two years when students from lower ranked school districts have yet to catch up with those who entered USMMA better prepared.
    2) Quite bluntly, since USMMA is NOT a military academy "people" especially the student body are far less reticent about holding back from expressing negative criticism about the institution. In other words, I'm suggesting that the other Academies ratings are inflated, while USMMA's is likely depressed making the contrast more stark than it might really be.

    Of course maybe I'm wrong. For Prospective Candidates I always recommend if it's at all possible, you should go on an overnight visit and attend classes and using that to collect your own data and make your own informed decision.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2011
  8. KP13Mom

    KP13Mom Member

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    Best sentence of the thread.

    Sometimes it's hard for mids to ask for help especially if they 'coasted' through high school but sooner is better.
     
  9. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    Good point. I don't really remember studying in high school; but I sure did at KP.
     
  10. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Jasperdog:
    "2) Quite bluntly, since USMMA is NOT a military academy "people" especially the student body are far less reticent about holding back from expressing negative criticism about the institution. In other words, I'm suggesting that the other Academies ratings are inflated, while USMMA's is likely depressed making the contrast more stark than it might really be."

    The holding back of criticism at the military academies is something I had not considered and may have some merit. My first thought was that the negative threads were just whining and complaining but there are quite a few of them and I noted that the other academies didn't seem to have the same kind of threads. Also some contacts at one of the other academies tell me how difficult it is but also how much help is available. I am glad to here that there is some help available even if it isn't at the level of the other academies.

    I have also seen the Princeton Review ratings. I do take them with a grain of salt but as Hopeful indicates they do come from somewhere.

    I have heard the "look to my left and look to my right and that at least one, if not two, of the three of us wouldn't be there" and "many of you will not pass this class" before as well and could really not care less about those statements. Profs in the so called weed out classes everywhere say those things. There is usually some element of truth to them but I agree they are mostly BS. What matters is what things look like at the end of the class. There is some weeding out that occurs but I would think there would be minimal "weeding" that needed to be done when the standards to get into KP are relatively high when compared to the typical state school. These are not your average college students.

    Are the instructors dedicated to helping the students succeed or are they "clock punchers" as Crossroads suggests?
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2011
  11. KPDADTX57

    KPDADTX57 Member

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    Well I believe the "look to your left and right - one of you will not be here in four years" statement does not come from the professors but from the regiment. There are a lot of cogs and wheels turning here and academics are not the sole determinant of who makes it through and who does not. My DS now sees the end of the tunnel - it has been a grind. The Mids may complain - but get three of them together and it is clear that their ethos and esprit de corps is incredibly strong - just like any of the other academies; one reason for this is the fact that one in three do not make it through - this statistic will hold true for the class of 2011. They take pride in their claim that KP is the hardest academy to get out of...
     
  12. Crossroads

    Crossroads New Member

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    :wink:I think the best answers to your questions might come from more recently graduated KPr's - and from cadets/mids from other academies as well - all of which we've known for the past 10+ yrs. We listen to their experiences and see what they've gone through and can only attest to what they've passed on to us. The differences between USMMA and, say USCGA are enormous, when it comes to the teaching staff - as we have experienced. Perhaps you have read the thread on Econ - and have seen the frustration with that professor and his teaching "style." One of the parents among these subject matters/threads put forth the concept that true teaching involved more than just giving out grades. Perhaps that's what's lacking among those certain professors at KP - the passion to TEACH. Again - this is not a blanket statement of all KP teaching staff - there are some really excellent ones who care about the students actually LEARNING the material and not just memorizing it for a time, regurgitating it for a test, then forgetting it entirely. As a former instructor for a major airline, I probably see this from an entirely different perspective, and possibly from a few different perspectives. It has been expressed to us by some admin at KP that because other academies employ military personnel as instructors/profs. and USMMA employs civilians - that therein lie the differences, but if we zero in on the TEACHING aspect of your questions - there is work to be done. In no way is this an attempt to bash any instructor, but rather an honest discourse of what we've seen/experienced........now can we talk about MORALE ISSUES????:wink:
     
  13. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Thanks everyone for your input. If there are any current or recently graduated KPr's out there I would like to here your opinions.

    So far as morale I think that in most situations a person can choose to be happy or miserable.

    I have not heard KP grad say they wish they had not went to KP.
     
  14. Sea Faring Moose Mom

    Sea Faring Moose Mom Member

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    As Sayings Go

    Comment heard often:

    KP is a hell of a place to be.......but a hell of a place to be from.....


    :biggrin:
     
  15. 2013Parent

    2013Parent Member

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    One of the best things I have seen posted here.

    Caused me to pause and reflect, given the subject of this thread about something.....Surely it cannot be lost on the powers that be, at KP, who the better/easier professors are. Attrition has to happen. Would it be blasphemy to suggest some midshipman that continually find themselves with the hardest,weakest,highest failure rate professors, by are not always there by accident or by luck?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011
  16. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    Academics and professors aside, there is no real control over what kind of Captain, mate or engineer that they have to deal with during sea year, either. I sailed with some engineers that looked upon the cadet as a burden, other that looked upon them as extra hands and others that understood the this was an opportunity to shape the future of the business. I can say as personal experience, a positive attitude at sea, as in the classroom, makes a whole lot of difference.

    One engineer in particular had me in his sights from the time I signed on, and it was personal. Not a lot I could do about it but deal with him. By the time I signed off the ship 60 days later, I certainly gained his grudging respect and actually got a very positive review from him.

    THAT is real life experience, and can never really be taught or experienced in the classroom. A "bad" professor causing a cadet to leave the Academy is the least of a one's worries.
     
  17. El Bombero Jr.

    El Bombero Jr. Member

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    Because I'm too lazy to make a separate thread, I'll ask my question on this one. Are you assigned roommates at KP?
     
  18. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    Yes, during Plebe year. Subsequent years we had a choice, but for the life of me, I can't remeber how it was decided. I believe that you were assigned to a company and then could choose from those others also in that company.
     
  19. Packer

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    Dealing with difficult instructors, difficult captains, engineers etc. is good experience because all through life you will probably have to work with people that you find difficult. A difficult personality does not necessarily mean that an instructor is a poor teacher.

    The students at KP are held to a higher standard than those at typical colleges. I would like to think that the instructors are held to higher standards as well.
     
  20. 2013Parent

    2013Parent Member

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    Let me clarify this. Would love to have feedback from the active knowledgeable folks here;

    1- Does attrition HAVE to happen? By that, with the historical rate of washouts being very close to the same percentage year after year, it would almost be reasonable to say the academy could not support a "perfect" class because there would not be enough staff or facilities to do so.

    2- IF (and it's a huge if) attrition has to happen, would it be possible that some mids are not in the tougher,harder,weaker, more difficult etc.etc. professor's classes by sheer accident or luck of the draw? (it would be hard to believe, the powers that be, do not know who those profs are)

    Thanks and please don't shoot me, I just had these thoughts after hearing over and over about certain profs.
     

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