The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

 TeasersiSteve Blog

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

NAEP 2015 Asian White Gaps

Here are the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for Asians (orange) and whites (blue). I took a simple average of four scores: Reading and Math for both 4th and 8th grades. The overall sample size for the whole country is about 280,000, which is a lot, although I wouldn’t put too much faith in any one state’s scores, such as Colorado’s outlier score for Asians.

One observation I’d make is that Hawaii suggests the long term price of importing farm workers: Hawaii brought in a lot of Japanese and Chinese many generations ago, and in 2015 they’re still not scoring impressively.

🔊 Listen RSS

Screenshot 2015-10-28 05.27.50

Here are the brand new 2015 federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests scores sorted in order of the size of the White-Black Gap on 8th grade math. The color reflects whether the state went for Obama (blue) or Romney (red) in 2012.

A few comments:

- Although it’s often assumed that The Gap is due to racism, it tends to be bigger in blue Democratic states.

- Gentrifying Washington DC now has enough white children to get a white NAEP score. Sure enough, The Gap in very liberal Washington DC is bigger than in all the states, due to a very high white score in DC and a slightly below average black score.

- German-Americans and Nordic-Americans don’t seem to know how to deal with African-Americans. As I’ve often pointed out, the biggest Gap is in Wisconsin, but in this table Nebraska, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania have the next widest Gaps. (Any relationship between this and Merkel’s Boner is probably not coincidental.)

- The highest black scores are in Dept. of Defense schools (DODEA), followed by military intensive states like Arizona and Alaska and well-educated liberals states like New Jersey and Massachusetts that also have high white scores.

- The smallest Gap is in West Virginia, which has, by far, the lowest white scores.

🔊 Listen RSS

Screenshot 2015-10-27 20.06.18

It’s widely believed that racial gaps in test scores are just class gaps. And, if that’s not true, then it’s assumed that race is fading away in importance relative to class. But an important study shows that in multiracial California, race is becoming more influential in recent years.

October 2015
Saul Geiser
Center for Studies in Higher Education
University of California, Berkeley

This paper presents new and surprising findings on the relationship between race and SAT scores. The findings are based on the population of California residents who applied for admission to the University of California from 1994 through 2011, a sample of over 1.1 million students. The UC data show that socioeconomic background factors – family income, parental education, and race/ethnicity – account for a large and growing share of the variance in students’ SAT scores over the past twenty years. More than a third of the variance in SAT scores can now be predicted by factors known at students’ birth, up from a quarter of the variance in 1994. Of those factors, moreover, race has become the strongest predictor. Rather than declining in salience, race and ethnicity are now more important than either family income or parental education in accounting for test score differences. It must be cautioned that these findings are preliminary, and more research is needed to determine whether the California data reflect a broader national trend. But if these findings are representative, they have important implications for the ongoing debate over both affirmative action and standardized testing in college admissions.

… The regression results show a marked increase since 1994 in the proportion of variance in SAT scores that can be predicted from socioeconomic background factors largely determined at students’ birth. After falling slightly from 25% to 21% between 1994 and 1998, the proportion of explained variance increased each year thereafter, growing to 35% by 2011, the last year for which the author has obtained data. Remarkably, more than a third of the variance in SAT scores among UC applicants can now be predicted by family income, education, and race/ethnicity. This result contrasts sharply with that for high school GPA: Socioeconomic background factors accounted for only 7% of the variance in HSGPA in 1994 and 8% in 2011. …

Nevertheless, even without being able to observe those intermediating experiences directly, regression analysis enables one to assess the relative importance of different socioeconomic factors in predicting test performance. Figure 2 provides standardized regression coefficients, or “beta weights,” for predicting SAT scores conditional on family income, parents’ education, and race/ethnicity. The coefficients show the predictive weight of each factor after controlling for the effects of the other two, thereby providing a measure of the unique contribution of each factor to the prediction.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 20.09.47

In 1994, at the beginning of the period covered in this analysis, parental education was the strongest of the three socioeconomic predictors of test performance. (The standardized regression coefficient of 0.27 in that year means that, for each one standard deviation increase in parental education, SAT scores increased by 0.27 of a standard deviation, when income and underrepresented minority status were held constant.) The predictive weight for parental education has remained about the same since then. The weight for family income has shown a small but steady increase from 0.13 in 1998 to 0.18 in 2011. But the most important change has been the growing salience of race/ethnicity. By 2011, the predictive weight for underrepresented minority status, 0.29, was greater than that for either family income or parental education. When the regression results for the UC sample are pooled across applicant cohorts, race/ethnicity is the strongest predictor of SAT scores over the last four years.

A key implication of this finding is that racial and ethnic group differences in SAT scores are not simply reducible to differences in family income and parental education. At least for the UC sample, there remains a large and growing residual effect of race/ethnicity after those factors are taken into account.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 20.14.46

As shown in Figure 8, the test score gap in California is greatest between black and white SAT takers but has oscillated up and down and shows no consistent trend since 1998. If one were to draw inferences about racial and ethnic differences from the black-white gap alone, one might conclude that there has been little change in this respect.

But that conclusion would be wrong. For all other racial/ethnic comparisons, test score gaps between underrepresented minority and other students have been growing. The Black-Asian, Latino-White, and Latino-Asian test score gaps have increased almost every year since 1998.

🔊 Listen RSS

For years, Audacious Epigone and myself have been pointing out that Texas public school kids do surprisingly well on the federal NAEP exam within each ethnic group. Now, the NYT finally figures that out, too:

Surprise: Florida and Texas Excel in Math and Reading Scores
OCT. 26, 2015

David Leonhardt

When the Education Department releases its biennial scorecard of reading and math scores for all 50 states this week, Florida and Texas are likely to look pretty mediocre. In 2013, the last time that scores were released, Florida ranked 30th on the tests, which are given to fourth and eighth graders, and Texas ranked 32nd.

But these raw scores, which receive widespread attention, almost certainly present a misleading picture — and one that gives short shrift to both Florida and Texas. In truth, schools in both states appear to be well above average at teaching their students math and reading. Florida and Texas look worse than they deserve to because they’re educating a more disadvantaged group of students than most states are.

A report released Monday by the Urban Institute has adjusted the raw scores for each state to account for student demographics, including poverty, race, native language and the share of students in special education. The central idea behind the adjustments is that not all students arrive at school equally prepared, and states should not be judged as if students did.

“Making these demographic adjustments,” said Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the report’s author, “gives us a much better picture of how students are doing.”

With the adjustments, Texas jumps all the way to third in the 2013 state ranking, and Florida to fourth. Massachusetts, which also ranks first with unadjusted scores, remains in the top spot; although the state is relatively affluent, its students perform even better than its demographics would predict. New Jersey ranks second.

Other states with a less extreme version of the Florida and Texas story — that is, their schools are performing better than is often understood — include Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada and New York.

The new results will no doubt offer fodder for the continuing debate over education. Florida and Texas are mostly Republican-run states, where teacher unions are relatively weak and policy makers have tried to introduce more competition and accountability. At the same time, some states with a strong union presence, including New Jersey and New York, also perform well.

The results do seem to offer another vote of confidence for rigorous, common standards — an idea that took off with the Common Core, but has since come under harsh political attack. Massachusetts helped pioneer the idea of such standards in 1993, with ambitious goals, clear assessments and increased school funding.

States with less impressive results in the Urban Institute analysis, where favorable demographics are disguising mediocre performance, include Connecticut, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Iowa. And while New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington are still above average, their scores are not as impressive as the unadjusted numbers suggest.

Many of these states are affluent or predominantly white — if not both. The new analysis suggests that many of their school systems have better reputations than they deserve. They enroll a lot of students who come to school well prepared and thus excel on tests. But the schools themselves are not doing as good a job as their test scores suggest.

This won’t come as a surprise to long-time readers of the Steveosphere.

But, while it’s journalistic custom to refer to the NAEP as “the gold standard” of testing, how much can we really trust the NAEP for making these kind of subtle state by state comparisons?

Specifically, the NAEP are low stakes tests to the kids, and in some states, the adults administering the NAEP treat them as low stakes for them too. On the other hand, there is some evidence that Texas administrators cares about their schools scoring better on the NAEP. For example, Texas excuses 10% of its sample of 4th graders from taking the NAEP while California only excuses 3% of its sample.

In contrast, the SAT and ACT college admissions tests taken by juniors and seniors in high school are clearly high stakes tests on which students have an incentive to try hard.

But comparing SAT and ACT average scores are tricky because in most states not everybody takes even one of the tests because they aren’t interested in applying to a competitive college.

And there are regional differences in whether a state is traditionally an ACT state (e.g, Iowa) or an SAT state (e.g., New Jersey) that influence average scores. For example, a few decades ago, Iowa usually led the county in average SAT scores because the only Iowa students who took the SAT were brainiacs interested in applying to the exclusive coastal colleges.

On the other hand, the regional differences are blurring as, especially, the ACT aggressively pushed into SAT states. Now it’s becoming common for ambitious students to take both tests to see which one they do better upon.

In general, the smarter people are, the more likely they are to take a college entrance exam. So, the lower the percentage of kids taking an exam in a state, the more inflated that state’s average score tends to be relative to the whole population of kids in the state, which is the figure I’d like to roughly estimate.

So, I’m going to present the 2014 SAT and ACT numbers for the two biggest states, Texas and California, both average scores and percent of the cohort taking each exam.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember who provided me with these numbers of SAT and ACT scores from 2006 through 2014, both set on the old-fashioned SAT 400 to 1600 scale (i.e., leaving out the doomed Writing subtest; the ACT is a 3 part exam with a maximum score of 36 but the ACT people publish tables for how to convert ACT scores to SAT scores). So, I don’t know if these data are reliable. But they don’t seem too implausible either. Also, I found the 2010 Census data for 13 year olds by race in each state as a proxy for 17 year olds in 2014. (For some reason, I couldn’t find Asians by age in Texas in 2010, so I’ll just stick to the Big Three racial/ethnic groups.)

Screenshot 2015-10-26 19.30.38

Let’s start off by looking at the white scores. In California, the total number of SAT tests said to be taken by whites in 2014 was equal to 47% of the number of white 13-year-olds in 2010 on the Census. In Texas, the percentage of SAT takers among whites was 49%, so we can compare the average SAT scores pretty directly, with just a reminder that this comparison is slightly biased in favor of California: California white kids score 1099, which is 36 points higher than Texas’s average white SAT score. The standard deviation on the 400 to 1600 scale was supposed to be 200 (although it’s gotten larger over time), so that would suggest California kids score about 0.18 standard deviations higher on the SAT, which is not a large gap, but not vanishingly small either.

On the ACT, California white high school students average 1144 and Texas white kids 1078, for a 64 point or .32 s.d. gap. But only 21% of white kids in California take the ACT, suggesting it’s kind of a boutique test in California for strivers. In contrast, 32% of Texas whites take the test, suggesting there the ACT in Texas falls in between a boutique test and a meat and potatoes test. So, it’s hard to compare the ACT scores for whites directly.

But my general impression is that whites in California, at least among the college curious, score a little better on college admissions tests than whites in Texas.

(One methodological quibble to keep in mind is that I don’t know how the data treats an individual student retaking the same test in one year. Do they enter all the scores or just the highest? And is the likelihood of retaking the same test greater in one state or the other?)

The difference is pretty small, but it’s in the opposite direction of the difference reported by the NAEP.

Among blacks, the California advantage appears to be quite similar to what’s seen among whites: small but not insignificant.

On the other hand, among Hispanics, California’s advantages in test scores are smaller than among among whites and blacks, and Texas Hispanics are somewhat more likely to take both the SAT and ACT. I’m not at all confident that California Hispanics would do better overall than Texas Hispanics if everybody in both states took a college admissions test.

So, my best guess would be: modest advantages for the white and black populations of Californians over white and black Texans, respectively, but Hispanics in Texas overall are no lower scoring and might actually be a few points higher.

By the way, Texas Asians score 16 points higher on the SAT and 17 points higher on the ACT than California Asians. I would include them in the table if I could find the 2010 Census figures for the number of 13-year-old Asians in Texas.

🔊 Listen RSS
Screenshot 2015-08-29 20.15.45

Federal NAEP reading scores 12th graders 2013

A general assumption of the moderate conventional wisdom over the last half century is that average black performance is dragged down by specific impediments, such as poverty, crime, culture of poverty, parental taciturnity, lead paint, or whatever. One would therefore expect blacks without those impediments to score equal with whites.

But a close inspection of the social science data suggests that the world doesn’t really look like that. For example, above is the 2013 federal National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for 12th graders in Reading. Blacks who are the children of college graduates average 274, which is the same as whites who are the children of high school dropouts.

The Math Gap is the same:

Screenshot 2015-08-29 20.34.33

At the high school dropout level, The Gap in math is 16 points, but at the college graduate level, The Gap is twice as large: 32 points. That’s the opposite of what the conventional wisdom would imply.

So, basically, there are two theories left to account for this. How do we choose between them?

In the past, Western civilization tried to follow Occam’s Razor, which implies the Bell Curve theory of regression toward different means would be most likely.

But the term “Western civilization” is exclusionary and makes people feel bad. These days, we know that the highest form of thought is not using Occam’s Razor but shouting “Occam’s racist!”

So the only viable explanation is the Conspiracy Theory Theory of Pervasive Racism: people who think they are white are constantly destroying black bodies by saying words like “field” and “swing.” Or something. It doesn’t really matter what the specifics of the Conspiracy Theory Theory are since the more unfalsifiable the better.

Because Science.

🔊 Listen RSS

Screenshot 2015-07-01 16.54.40

Paul Krugman argues today that Puerto Rico is kind of like West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama:

Put it this way: if a region of the United States turns out to be a relatively bad location for production, we don’t expect the population to maintain itself by competing via ultra-low wages; we expect working-age residents to leave for more favorable places. That’s what you see in poor mainland states like West Virginia, which actually looks a fair bit like Puerto Rico in terms of low labor force participation, albeit not quite so much so. (Mississippi and Alabama also have low participation.) … There is much discussion of what’s wrong with Puerto Rico, but maybe we should, at least some of the time, just think of Puerto Rico as an ordinary region of the U.S. …

Okay, but there’s a huge difference in test scores.

The federal government has been administering a special Puerto Rico-customized version of its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam in Spanish to Puerto Rican public school students, and the results have been jaw-droppingly bad.

For example, among Puerto Rican 8th graders tested in mathematics in 2013, 95% scored Below Basic, 5% scored Basic, and (to the limits of rounding) 0% scored Proficient, and 0% scored Advanced. These results were the same in 2011.

In contrast, among American public school students poor enough to be eligible for subsidized school lunches (“NSLP” in the graph above), only 39% scored Below Basic, 41% scored Basic, 17% scored Proficient, and 3% scored Advanced.

Puerto Rico’s test scores are just shamefully low, suggesting that Puerto Rican schools are completely dropping the ball. By way of contrast, in the U.S., among black 8th graders, 38% score Basic, 13% score Proficient, and 2% score Advanced. In the U.S. among Hispanic 8th graders, 41% reach Basic, 18% Proficient, and 3% Advanced.

In Krugman’s bete noire of West Virginia, 42% are Basic, 20% are Proficient, and 3% are Advanced. In Mississippi, 40% are Basic, 18% Proficient, and 3% are Advanced. In Alabama, 40% are Basic, 16% are Proficient, and 3% are Advanced. (Unmentioned by Krugman, the lowest scores among public school students are in liberal Washington D.C.: 35% Basic, 15% Proficient, and 4% Advanced.)

Let me repeat, in Puerto Rico in Spanish, 5% are Basic, and zero zip zilch are Proficient, much less Advanced.

Am I misinterpreting something? I thought I must be, but here’s a press release from the Feds confirming what I just said:

The 2013 Spanish-language mathematics assessment marks the first time that Puerto Rico has been able to use NAEP results to establish a valid comparison to the last assessment in 2011. Prior to 2011, the assessment was carefully redesigned to ensure an accurate assessment of students in Puerto Rico. Results from assessments in Puerto Rico in 2003, 2005 and 2007 cannot be compared, in part because of the larger-than-expected number of questions that students either didn’t answer or answered incorrectly, making it difficult to precisely measure student knowledge and skills. The National Center for Education Statistics, which conducts NAEP, administered the NAEP mathematics assessment in 2011. But those results have not been available until now, as it was necessary to replicate the assessment in 2013 to ensure that valid comparisons could be made.

“The ability to accurately measure student performance is essential for improving education,” said Terry Mazany, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP. “With the support and encouragement of education officials in Puerto Rico, this assessment achieves that goal. This is a great accomplishment and an important step forward for Puerto Rico’s schools and students.”

NAEP assessments report performance using average scores and percentages of students at or above three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient and Advanced. The 2013 assessment results showed that 11 percent of fourth-graders in Puerto Rico and 5 percent of eighth-graders in public schools performed at or above the Basic level; conversely, 89 percent of fourth-graders and 95 percent of eighth-graders scored below that level. The Basic level denotes partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for grade-appropriate work. One percent or fewer of students in either grade scored at or above the Proficient level, which denotes solid academic performance. Only a few students scored at the Advanced level.

The sample size for 8th graders was 5,200 students at 120 public schools in the Territory.

UPDATE: I’ve now discovered Puerto Rico’s scores on the 2012 international PISA test. Puerto Rico came in behind Jordan in math.

Results this abysmal can’t solely be an HBD problem (although it’s an interesting data point in any discussion of hybrid vigor); this has to also be due to a corrupt and incompetent education system in Puerto Rico.

New York Times’ comments aren’t generally very useful for finding out information, but Krugman’s piece did get this comment:

KO’R New York, NY 4 hours ago

My husband and I have had a house in PR for 24 years. For two of those years we taught English and ESL at Interamericana, the second largest PR university. Our neighbors have children in the public grade schools. In a nutshell: the educational system in PR is a joke!!! Bureaucratic and corrupt. Five examples: (1) In the elementary schools near us if a teacher is sick or absent for any reason, there is no class that day. (2) Trying to get a textbook changed at Interamericana requires about a year or more of bureaucratic shinnanigans (3) A colleague at Interamericana told us that he’d taught in Africa (don’t remember where) for a few years and PR was much worse in terms of bureaucracy and politics. ( (4) The teaching method in PR is for the teacher to stand in front of the class, read from the textbook verbatim, and have the students repeat what he or she read. And I’m not speaking just about English – this goes for all subjects. 5) Interamericana is supposed to be a bi-lingual iniversity. In practice, this means the textbooks are in English, the professor reads the Spanish translation aloud, and the usually minimal discussion is in Spanish. …

Public school spending in Puerto Rico is $7,429 per student versus $10,658 per student in the U.S. Puerto Rico spends more per student than Utah and Idaho and slightly less than Oklahoma.

Puerto Rico spends less than half as much as the U.S. average on Instruction: $3,082 in Puerto Rico vs. $6,520 in America, significantly less than any American state. But Puerto Rico spends more than the U.S. average on Total Support Services ($3,757 vs. $3,700). Puerto Rico is especially lavish when it comes to the shifty-sounding subcategories of General Administration ($699 in PR vs. $212 in America) and Other Support Services ($644 vs. $347). PR spends more per student on General Administration than any state in America, trailing only the notorious District of Columbia school system, and more even than DC and all 50 states on the nebulous Other Support Services.

Being a schoolteacher apparently doesn’t pay well in PR, but it looks like a job cooking the books somewhere in the K-12 bureaucracy could be lucrative.

The NAEP scores for Puerto Rico and the U.S. are for just public school students.

A higher percentage of young people in Puerto Rico attend private schools than in the U.S. The NAEP reported:

In Puerto Rico, about 23 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grade attended private schools as of the 2011-2012 school year, compared with 10 percent in the United States. Puerto Rico results are not part of the results reported for the NAEP national sample.

So that accounts for part of the gap. But, still, public schools cover 77% of Puerto Ricans v. 90% of Americans, so the overall picture doesn’t change much: the vast majority of Puerto Rican 8th graders are Below Basic in math.

Another contributing factor is likely that quite a few Puerto Ricans summer in America and winter in Puerto Rico and yank their kids back and forth, which is disruptive to their education.

It’s clear that Puerto Ricans consider their own public schools to be terrible and that anybody who can afford private school should get out. The NAEP press release mentions that 100% of Puerto Rican public school students are eligible for subsidized school lunches versus about 50% in the U.S. Heck, Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro’s lawyer father didn’t just send him to private school, they sent him to a boarding school in Pennsylvania.

Still, these Puerto Rican public school scores are so catastrophic that I also wouldn’t rule out active sabotage by teachers, such as giving students an anti-pep talk, for some local labor reason. For example, a PISA score from Austria was low a couple of tests ago because the teacher’s union told teachers to tell students not to bother working hard on the test. But the diminishment of the Austrian PISA score wasn’t anywhere near this bad. And Puerto Rico students got exactly the same scores in 2011 and 2013.

And here’s Jason Malloy’s meta-analysis of studies of Puerto Rican cognitive performance over the last 90 years.

🔊 Listen RSS

One of the older, more nagging conundrums for anybody interested in education and demographics is the lack of readily available meaningful data on how high school students do by state and by race on high stakes tests such as the SAT and ACT college admissions tests.

The federal government invests a lot of money in the NAEP test, but that is a low stakes test for students, so it’s more easily manipulable by those states that care about the results. For example, Texas usually manages to have a larger percentage of its less academically inclined students not take the NAEP than does Iowa, which helps contribute to Texas’s sterling NAEP scores.

Or maybe Texas really has figured out an effective, economical system of educating students of all ethnic groups. It’s hard to say, but it’s an important question that deserves study.

A high stakes test, in contrast, is one in which students have motivations for doing their best, which is why I’ve always wanted to look at SAT and ACT scores by state. After all, the NAEP isn’t important in the big picture, while the SAT and ACT are.

But, the percent of 17-year-olds taking one or both college admissions tests vary by state. This, however, is not an insuperable problem since estimates of what nontakers might have scored can be modeled demographically by looking at the variation in usage rates.

Another difficult problem, but one I believe can be modeled, is that the two tests started out regionally, with the ACT dominating states near its headquarters in Iowa City and the SAT near its headquarters in Princeton and on the West Coast.

In the upper Midwest, traditionally, the only students who took the SAT were ambitious one looking for admission to national universities on the East or West coasts. This led to Iowa and Illinois students taking the SAT averaging much higher scores than in the East and West.

In recent years, both tests have become less regional, with ACT-taking spreading to the coasts.

That evolution should help an ambitious analyst come up with a reasonable model for estimating the best guess for the combined SAT/ACT scores by state by race.

An iSteve reader (whose identity I have lost in the shuffle) kindly posted average SAT and ACT scores and number taking by state by race each year from 2006-2014 here. He converted the ACT scores into SAT score equivalents, although I don’t know which methodology he used.

Combine this trove of data with the 2010 Census data on the number of 17 year olds by race in each state and you have the raw materials for building a model that will get around the traditional problems that have bogged everybody down.

Me, personally, I’m not going to do all this work, but if somebody out there has the skills and is looking for a topic, this is an important one.

I don’t have the sources for this data, but if you are interested in working with this, post questions in the comments and the person who posted the numbers might respond.

🔊 Listen RSS


This graph displays the mean of the Math, Science, and Reading test scores from the OECD’s 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment. American scores are red, white countries are blue, East Asians countries are yellow, Muslim countries are green, and Latin American countries are brown.So, Asian Americans outscored all large Asian countries (with the exception of three rich cities); white Americans outperformed most, but not all, traditionally white countries; and Latino Americans did better than all Latin American countries. African Americans almost certainly scored higher than any black majority country would have performed.

Bear in mind that many countries did not take part in PISA, such as India, which dropped out after a trial run in two states produced average scores below any seen on this chart. For a broader sampling of Third World scores, see the 2011 TIMSS Math and Science scores.

The reality is that there is not much difference in PISA or TIMSS scores within major racial blocs of countries. The Northeast Asians all tend to score well, the European and white Anglosphere countries tend to score fairly well, the Latin American countries tend to score fair to middling, and on down from there. The rank order of continents is very much like the rank order of racial/ethnic groups on NAEP or SAT or CST tests. Newcomers to the topic like Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World, get excited about minor differences in PISA scores within continents, but those often are statistical noise.

For more on how to think about PISA scores, see here. And all my postings on PISA are here.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
🔊 Listen RSS
Texas public school students usually score pretty well in the federal government’s NAEP school achievement tests, at least when adjusted for ethnicity. I’ve always wondered how they do it. It would seem like the kind of thing worth checking into.
One way, it turns out, is by excluding more students from having to take the NAEP than other states do. Texas excuses 10% of its 4th graders versus 4% nationwide and only 3% in California. (See p. 5 of this new report on the NAEP performance of the 5 biggest states.) So, Texas has simply made a large fraction of Below Basic scorers vanish. That’s a nice little running start for Texas.
If Texas has figured out how to fiddle with that parameter, I wonder what else they’ve figured out?
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
🔊 Listen RSS
From the Telegraph of London, an account of a student in Australia: “who attended an elite private girls’ school in Sydney, said she had a wrist problem, suffered discrimination and her mark should have been 100. Her result, a university entrance score, meant she beat 99.95 per cent of other students – but she believed she would have received the top mark if treated fairly.”
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
The NYT has an article on the gaokao, the national college admissions exam in China:

Each year, cheating scandals become the talk of China. One common tactic was for students to give their identification cards to look-alikes hired to take the test; later, many provinces installed fingerprint scanners at test centers.

Do even the Chinese find that other Chinese rather look alike?

In 2008, three girls in Jiangsu Province were caught with mini-cameras inside their bras; their aim was to transmit images of the exam to people outside the classroom who would then provide answers. This year, the big scandal involved students in Huanggang, Hubei Province, famous in the past decade for churning out students with high scores; several dozen students were caught there last month for using small monitors costing nearly $2,500 that resembled erasers and that allowed the students to receive electronic messages with test answers.

• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
Chris Hayes argues in his new book Why Elites Fail the real reason that blacks and Hispanics are making so little progress over the generations at qualifying on their own merit for selective academic institutions is because rich whites are hogging all the test prep.

Education Realist, who is in the test prep business, has a post linking to various recent studies of the popularity and effectiveness of prepping for admissions test by race. Here’s one table (with score increases out of 1600, not 2400):

Use of Test-Prep Courses and Gains, by Race and Ethnicity
Group % Taking
Test-Prep Course
Post-Course Gain
in Points on SAT  
East Asian Am.
Other Asian
So, unsurprisingly, East Asians try the hardest at and get the most benefit from test prep, while whites, who are more likely to have heard and believed ETS’s propaganda that test prepping is insignificant, try the least hard and get the least benefit. In the middle, blacks and Hispanics benefit from all the racial uplift programs for them.

This doesn’t disprove Chris Hayes’ assumption that Upper East Side whites are benefitting from test prep. My guess is that the big losers in this game are naive flyover folks. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
From The Nation

Why Elites Fail 

Christopher Hayes | June 6, 2012

This article is adapted from Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy[1], © 2012 by Christopher Hayes and published by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House Inc.

In 1990, at the age of 11, I stood in a line of sixth graders outside an imposing converted armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, nervously anticipating a test that would change my life. I was hoping to gain entrance to Hunter College High School, a public magnet school that runs from grades seven through twelve and admits students from all five boroughs. Each year, between 3,000 and 4,000 students citywide score high enough on their fifth-grade standardized tests to qualify to take Hunter’s entrance exam in the sixth grade; ultimately, only 185 will be offered admission.  … 

But the problem with my alma mater is that over time, the mechanisms of meritocracy have broken down. In 1995, when I was a student at Hunter, the student body was 12 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. Not coincidentally, there was no test-prep industry for the Hunter entrance exam. That’s no longer the case. Now, so-called cram schools like Elite Academy in Queens can charge thousands of dollars for after-school and weekend courses where sixth graders memorize vocabulary words and learn advanced math. Meanwhile, in the wealthier precincts of Manhattan, parents can hire $90-an-hour private tutors for one-on-one sessions with their children. 

By 2009, Hunter’s demographics were radically different—just 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic, according to the New York Times. With the rise of a sophisticated and expensive test-preparation industry, the means of selecting entrants to Hunter has grown less independent of the social and economic hierarchies in New York at large. The pyramid of merit has come to mirror the pyramid of wealth and cultural capital. 

… But this ideal, appealing as it may be, runs up against the reality of what I’ll call the Iron Law of Meritocracy. The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.” 

Consider, for example, the next “meritocracy” that graduates of Hunter encounter. American universities are the central institution of the modern meritocracy, and yet, as Daniel Golden documents in his devastating book The Price of Admission, atop the ostensibly meritocratic architecture of SATs and high school grades is built an entire tower of preference and subsidy for the privileged: 

At least one third of the students at elite universities, and at least half at liberal arts colleges, are flagged for preferential treatment in the admissions process. While minorities make up 10 to 15 percent of a typical student body, affluent whites dominate other preferred groups: recruited athletes (10 to 25 percent of students); alumni children, also known as “legacies” (10 to 25 percent); development cases (2 to 5 percent); children of celebrities and politicians (1 to 2 percent); and children of faculty members (1 to 3 percent). 

This doesn’t even count the advantages that wealthy children have in terms of private tutors, test prep, and access to expensive private high schools and college counselors. All together, this layered system of preferences for the children of the privileged amounts to, in Golden’s words, “affirmative action for rich white people.” 

Okay, but shouldn’t Hayes’ article mention the single most important word in the demographic transition of Hunter College High School over the last 20 years: “Asians”? Here’s a school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the largest concentration of rich white people in America, and there are now more Asians than whites attending it. The New York Times article Hayes cites, but doesn’t quote, makes this clear:

As has happened at other prestigious city high schools that use only a test for admission, the black and Hispanic population at Hunter has fallen in recent years. In 1995, the entering seventh-grade class was 12 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic, according to state data. This past year, it was 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic; the balance was 47 percent Asian and 41 percent white, with the other 8 percent of students identifying themselves as multiracial. The public school system as a whole is 70 percent black and Hispanic.

It’s fun to talk about test prep as “affirmative action for rich white people,” but the test prep freight train is being driven by Asians (who have been test prepping for over a thousand years, by the way), which is a fact that the media ought to get around to acknowledging.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
Greg Cochran brings up a topic that seems like it has disappeared over the last generation: reading speed. In the old days, the immense velocity at which Democratic Presidents like JFK and Jimmy Carter could read was part of political lore. Skeptics like Woody Allen joked that he had speed-read War and Peace: “It was about Russia.” 

Has reading faster simply failed? Or has America just lost interest?

Cochran also asks whether different languages are read faster and slower: e.g., Mandarin versus Spanish? When I was a kid there was still some remnant of interest in the early 20th Century movement to reform the English language to make it more efficient. A century ago, for example, George Bernard Shaw, the dominant cultural intellectual of the time, campaigned hard for radical spelling reform. (Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady reflects some of GBS’s numerous concerns about the English language and social equality.) The first time I ever won a prize in a Speech tournament was around 1970 for an original oratory making fun of the complexities of English grammar. Is anybody still amused by that kind of thing?

In a comment, Education Realist brings up an interesting point: based on SAT and GRE scores, 21st Century, white Americans appear to be better at Math than at Verbal relative to mid-20th Century white Americans. When the SAT was started before WWII, it was normalized based on Eastern Seaboard preppies with 500 as average for both the Verbal and the Math tests. As it expanded to a broader market of students, average Math SAT scores dropped dropped only slightly, but Verbal scores fell substantially. In 1995, the SAT was renormed to make 500 the means again, but the same process is visible again, with Math scores now notably higher than Verbal scores. (The Asian impact obviously affects this gap, but this trend is visible just among whites.)

The Graduate Record Exam has never been renormed, and today white men average 593 on the quantitative part and 508 on the verbal part of the GRE. Education Realist, who is a teacher and test tutor, then raises a number of interesting points:

Why do we appear to have fewer high verbal achievers than math achievers? I think Murray and Herrnstein were correct when they wrote that “a politically compromised curriculum is less likely to sharpen the verbal skills of students than one that hews to standards of intellectual rigor and quality” annd that “when parents demanded higher standards, their schools introduced higher standards in the math curriculum that really were higher, and higher standards in the humanities and social sciences that really were not”. (Bell Curve, page 432-433) Without question, we have lost a couple generations of cognitively able students who weren’t given the opportunity to really achieve to their fullest capability, and we stand to lose a few more. 

But I also wonder if verbal intelligence is less understood and consequently less valued. If one is “good at math”, there’s a logical progression of courses to take, problems to solve (or spend a lifetime trying to), and increasingly difficult subjects to tackle–and plenty of careers that want them. But if one has a high verbal intelligence without good spatial aptitude (which seems to be necessary for higher math) it is often described as “good at reading”, a woefully inaccurate characterization of high verbal intelligence—and then what? Apart from law, there aren’t nearly as many clearly defined career paths with a wide range of opportunities for all temperaments and interests. Most of the ones I can think of involve luck and driving ambition just to get started (journalism, tenured academia, political consultant). 

For a good twenty years or so, people with high verbal skills who were indifferent at high-level math went into technology. It’s hard to remember now in the age of Google and after the heyday of corporate computing, but IBM and mainframe shops were filled with bright people who had degrees in history and English and humanities who just “didn’t like math” but were excellent programmers. I routinely worked in shops where all the expert techies making six figures came from non-STEM majors. But that time appears to be over. 

Of course, doing anything about this lack of clearly defined career paths for smart folks with less spatial aptitude would involve acknowledging it’s a problem, and I might be the only one who thinks it’s a problem.

As Education Realist points out, we have lots of prestigious national science and math fairs for high school students (which are now dominated by Asians), but little of the same fame for the reading and writing set. Everybody who is anybody in America seems far more obsessed with cultivating Math and Science than with raising our verbal ability. Yet, a native command of English would appear to be a prime asset of Americans in a future globalized (and, thus, English-speaking) economy.

Presumably, it’s easier to raise math test scores in school than reading test scores, since reading scores depend heavily on how much reading the students do out of school. Still, nobody seems all that interested in trying to figure out how to improve our children’s advantages in English. It’s almost like we think it’s unfair to the rest of the world that we speak English, so we should have our children bash their heads in to compete with Asians on the culturally level playing field of math. That strikes me as a noble but stupid response.

But I want to go in a different direction with this topic and ask if there is any objective test evidence to support this idea I’ve had ever since I took American Literature in high school: historically, Americans are not as good with words on average as the British. Somehow, the Brits seem to inculcate better command of English than we Americans do. Perhaps that’s not true up and down the social scale, but it would seem to me that, traditionally, Oxbridge graduates, say, had better vocabularies and better prose styles than Ivy League grads.

This notion first dawned on me in the 1980s when I noticed a London-based firm called WPP, run by a former Saatchi & Saatchi executive named Martin Sorrell, started buying up advertising agencies and other marketing services firms. While Britain seemed economically down and out back then, it struck me that they still were better at English than we were, and that had to be worth something in an increasingly English-speaking world.. Today, WPP employs 158,000 white collar workers around the world and even owns a large fraction of all the lobbying firms in Washington D.C., Democrat and Republican.

Throughout the 18th and 19th Century, American writing just wasn’t very good compared to what the Brits were doing at the same time. Compare, say, The Federalist Papers or the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Life of Johnson, or even The Wealth of Nations. Compare American stinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson to his British contemporaries. Granted, we had people who were geniuses in their own way, like Poe and Lincoln and Twain, but they didn’t come from a culture that was as good with words as the Brits. 

Even in the 20th Century, when Americans were catching up, the home team still seemed awkward compared to the visitors. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a fine book, but compared to the seemingly effortless clarity and fluency of Evelyn Waugh’s early novels of just a few years later, its prose seems provincial and striving. 

I recently re-read Great Contemporaries, a collection of articles for Sunday newspapers that Winston Churchill wrote (or, to be precise, dictated) in the 1930s about celebrities he’d known. Allow me to express in my own crude, tongue-tied American way my reaction to the command of the English language exhibited in Churchill’s commercial journalism: Holy cow! For mastery of English, for vast and precise vocabulary, I can’t imagine any major American politician of the last century coming close. Teddy Roosevelt had comparable mental energy, but few read his books for fun these days. Henry Kissinger is a very smart man who writes well in his second language, but he is more functional in style. 

Churchill was recognized as exceptional in his own day, but, still, other British politicians were pretty handy with words, too. In Britain, Churchill was the champ but compared to American politicians, he’s in a league of his own. (By the way, I have a vague hunch that, from the perspective of the 21st Century, the 1930s was the peak era for English prose: it’s not so far in the past that it’s difficult to decipher, but it’s far enough away that its superiority is noticeable.)

Another anecdote about the superiority of the English: A number of years ago, I dropped in on John Derbyshire and family in Long Island. We went to a Blockbuster to pick out a movie for everybody to watch that evening, so I suggested the documentary about the Scripps-Howard national spelling bee, Spellbound, which had been a big hit in my household. 

Now, I’d always figured that while John is obviously my superior in math and computer programming, we’re fairly equal in verbal skills. But, when I watched Spellbound for the second time (with the closed captions off), I discovered that John could not only outspell me on words I’d already seen the first time I watched the movie, but he also knew the definitions of almost all the absurd words in the competition. 

I attribute this to his having the unfair advantage of being born English.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
From the New York Times, an article on the annual Chinese college admissions test madness, the gao kao, and how Chinese test culture is spilling over to the U.S.:

With more and more Chinese students applying to foreign universities, the emphasis on the rote memorization required for the gao kao has come under criticism from some U.S. educators. Another cause for concern, they say, are the methods being used to study for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or Toefl, which most U.S. schools require for admission. 

In a story done jointly by The Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Patricia J. Parker, assistant director of admissions at Iowa State University, which enrolls more than 1,200 Chinese undergraduates, said “students have proudly told her about memorizing thousands of vocabulary words, studying scripted responses to verbal questions and learning shortcuts that help them guess correct answers.” 

The story’s reporters, Tom Bartlett and Karin Fischer, wrote that Ms. Parker “has seen conditionally admitted students increase their Toefl scores by 30 or 40 points, out of a possible 120, after a summer break, despite no significant improvement in their ability to speak English. Her students, she says, don’t see this intense test-prepping as problematic: ‘They think the goal is to pass the test. They’re studying for the test, not studying English.’ ” 

Zinch China, a consulting company that advises American colleges and universities about China, published a report last year that found cheating on college applications to be “pervasive in China, driven by hyper-competitive parents and aggressive agents.’’ 

An excerpt from the Zinch report: 

The result? Fake achievements, often concocted by agents. Based on our interviews, this happens on about 10 percent of applications. Sometimes a student’s silver medal is turned to gold, and sometimes a student lists an award for an activity he or she never completed. At a top Beijing high school this year, ten students claimed to be Class President!

Most Chinese parents now understand that American schools are looking for “well-rounded” students who combine strong test scores, transcripts, and extra-curricular achievement. The problem is that most Chinese students don’t have time to participate in many extra-curricular activities — they are too busy studying for and taking tests. In fact, many Chinese parents see extra-curricular activities as a dangerous distraction from studying.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
Anatoly Karlin, who is making himself the go-to guy on analyzing the investment implications of international school test scores (a potentially lucrative niche), has a long, fascinating write-up of PISA scores adjusted by immigration status:

One thing that immediately leaps out from above is that just as US scores leap upwards (from 496 to about 525, in line with Australia and Canada) once only whites are considered, so do scores in many European states when only natives are considered (e.g. Germany from 510 to 533; Switzerland from 517 to 542; the Netherlands from 519 to 533). In fact, the Germanic nations equalize with Japan’s 529, Taiwan’s 534, and South Korea’s 541 (the natives of these developed East Asian societies also score a lot higher than their immigrants, but the overall effect on the national average is modest because migrant children are such a small percentage of their school-age populations). In other words, in the worst affected European countries, immigrants are lowering the mean national IQ (converted from PISA scores) by as much as 3 points. 

This might not seem like much, but it is highly significant when bearing in mind the extremely close correlation between national IQ and prosperity. Furthermore, since immigrant population tend to be highly variant – for instance, Britain has a lot of Poles, who are essentially equal to the natives in cognitive capacity (maybe even superior, once you adjust for the fact that it is better-educated Poles who tend to emigrate), and a lot of Pakistanis, who are far below them. This is a good explanation for the general sense of dereliction one sees (and the crime one is likely to experience) when entering Pakistani ghettos in the UK. 

Also note from the graph that there is typically a very high degree of overlap between 1st and 2nd generation immigrant children. The 2nd generation children DO typically perform better, presumably because 1st generation immigrants may frequently have language difficulties and problems with adjusting to a new culture. But the degree of convergence of 2nd generation children to the native mean is modest, despite their transferal to typically far more advanced educational environments. Convergence is almost inconsequential in most European countries like Germany, France, Benelux, Norway, and actually negative in the US (i.e. American 2nd generation immigrant children do worse than the 1st generation).

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Immigration, IQ, PISA, Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
From the NYT:

Pre-Med’s New Priorities: Heart and Soul and Social Science 


… In addition to the hard-science and math questions that have for decades defined this rite of passage into the medical profession, nearly half of the new MCAT will focus on squishier topics in two new sections: one covering social and behavioral sciences and another on critical analysis and reading that will require students to analyze passages covering areas like ethics and cross-cultural studies. 

The Medical College Admission Test is, of course, much more than a test. A good score is crucial for entry into a profession that is perennially oversubscribed. Last year, nearly 44,000 people applied for about 19,000 places at medical schools in the United States. So the overhaul of the test, which was announced last year and approved in February, could fundamentally change the kind of student who will succeed in that process. It alters the raw material that medical schools receive to mold into the nation’s future doctors. 

Which is exactly what the A.A.M.C. has in mind. In surveys, “the public had great confidence in doctors’ knowledge but much less in their bedside manner,” said Darrell G. Kirch, president of the association, in announcing the change. “The goal is to improve the medical admissions process to find the people who you and I would want as our doctors. Being a good doctor isn’t just about understanding science, it’s about understanding people.”

The public are idiots. I want Dr. House to diagnose me. I almost died in the 1990s because my nice guy doctor told me that the lump in my armpit, my night sweats, and my loss of energy was probably just a muscle pull. The cancer doctor who saved my life had a lousy bedside manner, but he had access to Rituxan years before everybody else did because he knew more about non-Hodgkins lymphoma than anybody else in the upper Midwest.

The adoption of the new test, which will be first administered in 2015, is part of a decade-long effort by medical educators to restore a bit of good old-fashioned healing and bedside patient skills into a profession that has come to be dominated by technology and laboratory testing. More medical schools are requiring students to take classes on interviewing and communication techniques. To help create a more holistic admissions process, one that goes beyond scientific knowledge, admissions committees are presenting candidates with ethical dilemmas to see if their people skills match their A+ in organic chemistry. …

Where will students find time to take in the extra material? How to prepare pre-med students long primed to answer questions like “Where are the serotonin receptors 5-HT2A and 5-HT2B mostly likely to be located in hepatocytes” to tackle more ambiguous challenges, like: “Which of the following explanations describes why the Identity vs. Role Confusion stage likely affects views about voting and being a voter?”

… “With the growth in scientific knowledge, we were focused on making sure doctors had a good foundation in hard science,” Dr. Kirch said. Indeed, from 1942 to 1976, the MCAT had included a broad-based knowledge section called “Understanding Modern Society.” Liberal arts questions were eliminated in 1977. …

Some experts have long identified the MCAT as a stumbling block in the often-failed quest to produce more caring, attentive doctors. It is a test that selects more for calculation skills than empathy. … 

And so the Association of American Medical Colleges began three years ago to redesign the MCAT, surveying thousands of medical school faculty members and students to come up with a test tailored to the needs and desires of the 21st century. In addition to more emphasis on humanistic skills, the new test had to take into account important new values in medicine like diversity, with greater focus on health care for the underserved, Dr. McGaghie said. 

As a result, there will be questions about gender and cultural influences on expression, poverty and social mobility, as well as how people process emotion and stress. …

The mere fact that psychology, sociology and critical thinking will be on the MCAT is likely to change priorities, prompting science majors to think harder about topics like the perception of pain, informed consent, community awareness and the ethics of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. 

Okay, let me toss out a guess: The current American medical establishment wants more of their own children and grandchildren to make it as doctors, which, mathematically, means fewer Asians. So they are making it sound like they are changing the test to get more blacks and Hispanics, but they are small change: it’s really a plan to cut down on the Asians.

And here’s a prediction: it won’t much work. Whatever they put on the test, within a few years, the Asians will memorize it and spit it back. 

Another possibility is that this is all part of a plan to liberalize Asians, to turn them into Nice White People, before they completely take over the world. That’s not necessarily a bad idea. But of course the Nice White People couldn’t imagine directly confronting Asians over their various bad habits, like, say, the caste system. Instead, the NWPs are attempting another classic triple bankshot by telling the Asians that Yes, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Will Be on the Test.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
If you are ever feeling in the need for a laugh, just look up the latest news from New York City on the Kindergarten Admissions Wars. Year after year, it’s pure comedy gold. Amazingly, this NYT reporter, Anna M. Phillips, appears to be starting to get the joke:

After Number of Gifted Soars, a Fight for Kindergarten Slots 


Nearly 5,000 children qualified for gifted and talented kindergarten seats in New York City public schools in the fall, 22 percent more than last year and more than double the number four years ago, setting off a fierce competition for the most sought-after programs in the system. 

On their face, the results, released on Friday by the Education Department, paint a portrait of a city in which some neighborhoods appear to be entirely above average. In Districts 2 and 3, which encompass most of Manhattan below 110th Street, more students scored at or above the 90th percentile on the entrance exam, the cutoff point, than scored below it. 

But experts pointed to several possible reasons for the large increase. For one, more middle-class and wealthy parents are staying in the city and choosing to send their children to public schools, rather than moving to the suburbs or pursuing increasingly expensive private schools. And the switch to a test-based admissions system four years ago has given rise to test-preparation services, from booklets costing a few dollars to courses costing hundreds or more, raising concerns that the test’s results were being skewed. …

Of the children who scored high enough on the entrance exam to be eligible for a gifted program, more than half — 2,656 — qualified for the five most selective schools by scoring at or above the 97th percentile. But those schools — three in Manhattan and one each in Brooklyn and Queens — have only about 400 kindergarten seats. The rest of the 4,912 children qualified for one of the dozens of gifted programs spread throughout the five boroughs. 

A.K.A., the Loser Gifted Programs for Loser Children of Loser Parents who Don’t Love Their Children Enough to Figure Out How to Get Them into the Golden 400.

Gifted programs generally offer an accelerated curriculum, as well as the opportunity to be around other high-performing children.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about high-performing kindergarteners here.

The city did not provide a racial breakdown of students who qualified, but as in years past, the more affluent districts — 2 and 3 in Manhattan, in neighborhoods west and south of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and in northeastern Queens — had the most students qualify. In District 2, 949 children qualified for a gifted program, far more than in any other district.

District 2 starts at about 96th St. on the Upper East Side and includes all of Manhattan south of Central Park, except, amazingly enough, Alphabet City on the Lower East Side. (And even that’s gentrifying.)

In District 3, 505 children qualified. By contrast, in District 7, in the South Bronx, only six children qualified for gifted placements and none for the five most exclusive schools.

Two orders of magnitude difference.

Every year since 2008, when the city put the current testing program into effect and 2,230 students qualified for seats in gifted and talented kindergarten classes, the number of children scoring at or above the 90th percentile has steadily grown. The chancellor in 2008, Joel I. Klein, made the change to standardize the admissions process, replacing a system in which each district set its own standards for entry, a process that drew criticism from parents who said favoritism sometimes played a role.

When school supremo Joel Klein made the switch to pure test-based admissions, using tests would obviously have a huge disparate impact effect. But, Klein didn’t know or didn’t care, because kindergarten admissions is serious stuff where testing is too crucial to be sacrificed on the altar of racial equality. This isn’t something trivial like saving people from burning skyscrapers, this is NYC kindergarten admissions, and don’t you forget it. Different rules apply.

But the new process has come under scrutiny for its complete reliance on the test — actually two exams, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, a knowledge test. 

In January, the city awarded Pearson a three-year contract for roughly $5.5 million to replace the Bracken exam with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, which city education officials contend will better measure ability.

Isn’t it weird that this is a golden age for the psychometric industry? Standardized tests are constantly denounced, yet governments keep shoveling more money to testing firms to create new tests that will Finally Get It Right. These firms have achieved the perfect marketing equilibrium.

The contract places restrictions on Pearson’s ability to sell its test materials to anyone outside the Education Department, to make it harder for test-preparation companies to get their hands on them.

Oh, well, that will stop New York City test prep firms dead in their tracks.

… Always on the alert for changes to admissions policies, some tutoring companies, true to the nature of their profession, are prepared for it. 

One of the companies, Aristotle Circle, already offers a $300 “test preparation and enrichment kit” designed for the Naglieri and similar exams. 

“You can build a better mousetrap, it doesn’t matter,” said Suzanne Rheault, one of Aristotle’s founders. “There’s no way you can stop it because now the idea of preparing for the kindergarten test is totally the norm. The stakes are so high.”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS

In “The Geography of Russian Talent,” Da Russophile has 2009 PISA school achievement scores for Russia’s many republics. (Small sample sizes are of concern, of course.) Green is good, red is bad, gray is unknown. Some of his findings.

(2) Moscow pupils performed very well[546], at the level of the highest scoring OECD countries like Finland, Taiwan, and Korea. This is especially impressive considering the significant numbers of immigrants in that city from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, who come from poorly-scoring countries and rarely have good Russian. 

(3) St.-Petersburg and Tyumen oblast [western Siberia] performed above the OECD average, while a few other regions performed at or only slightly below the OECD average. 

(4) Among ethnic Russian republics, Siberian regions performed well, while the Urals and southern regions performed badly.  

(5) Performance in ethnic minority republics differs dramatically. Many of the Turkic and Finno-Ugric regions, such as Tatarstan, Komi, Chuvashia, and Karelia did well; however, Mari El is a big exception. The Buddhist peoples of Asia, such as Chita oblast (now merged into Zabaykalsky Krai) and the Sakha Republic, performed relatively poorly, as did the Muslim North Caucasus region of Dagestan. Extrapolating from Dagestan, Chechnya would probably score around 400, i.e. like Brazil. 

Bear these figures in mind when considering long-term investments into Russia alongside with their business climate, corruption levels, etc.

Western Russia doesn’t do that well, and neither do the ex-Soviet Republics to the west of contemporary Russia. I wonder what the dysgenic effects of Leninism, Stalinism and Hitlerism were, especially on Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and western Russia? Many of the wealthy and middle class fled the Bolsheviks, then Stalin starved the kulaks, then murdered or imprisoned many people of above average talents, then the SS came through and shot the local leaders loyal to Stalin.

Also, here is a graph of Italian provinces with PISA scores on the horizontal axis and per capita GDP on the vertical axis. 
The positive outlier above the line is Rome, the capital. The other positive outlier at the top of the chart is South Tyrol, which is a heavily German speaking area that Italy got carved out of Austria at the end of the Great War. The negative outlier is Apulia, in the southeastern heel of Italy, home to Brindisi and Lecce. I spent a day in those beat-up looking towns in 1980 and I recall a vague impression of the locals as seeming clever but anti-social, as cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face types.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: PISA, Testing 
🔊 Listen RSS
The NYT has a long article, To Be Black at Stuyvesant High, on a young heroine of diversity, Rudi-Ann Miller, who practically singlehandedly has kept multiculturalism alive at Stuyvesant H.S. by being one of only 40 African-American students out of 3200 at NYC’s premiere exam-only public science and math school.

She has also had enough of the grumbling at Stuyvesant that black students do better in the college-admissions game because of their skin color.

Rudi will have to assuage her hurt feelings next year at Yale. 
Hey, wait a minute, what kind of African-American girl born in the 1990s is named Rudi anyway? Isn’t there some foreign country where “Rudie” is close to being the national nickname?

If you followed the complaints of Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier about how Harvard’s affirmative action slots tend to go to students who are not the descendants of American slaves (i.e., to Barack rather than Michelle Obama), you won’t be surprised to find out from later on in the article that Rudi attended through seventh grade Campion College in Jamaica, a Jesuit school that her father, a Jamaican accounting executive recently relocated to the New York area, calls the finest in that country. (Campion College’s website boasts that 14 of its graduates have gone on to win Rhodes Scholarships.)

A commenter notes:

As a Stuy alum who had many Black friends, I find it disappointing that the article didn’t inquire further into the community of Black students who do make it to Stuy. While there is of course diversity within the Black community, I can testify that most are either the children of immigrants or products of inter-racial relationships. This is relevant because it shows that many are either of higher socio-economic status, or similar to the potpourri of second-generation immigrants who dominate the school. The real issue is why there are so few from the entrenched black communities, in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx who aspire to attend Stuy.

One reason is offered in the article:

Sometimes, Mr. Blumm said, blacks and Latinos who do well enough on the entrance exam to get into Stuyvesant are lured away by prestigious private high schools, which offer them full scholarships and none of the issues that even elite public schools have to contend with, like tight budgets and overcrowding. 

By the way, is this the first statistical graph to be published in this century where blacks are represented by the color black? I thought there was some sort of Rule of Randomizing colors where one one graph blacks are, say, white, and whites are brown, and Chinese are green, and Mexicans are red, and then on the next graph blacks are blue, whites yellow, Asians purple, and Latinos white? I dunno, this graph could be setting a dangerous precedent by making it easier for readers to make sense out of racial data.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Education, Testing 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?