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From the New York Times:

As Other Districts Grapple With Segregation, This One Makes Integration Work
By KYLE SPENCER DEC. 12, 2016

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — The 5,226-student district is one of the few in the country created through such a merger as part of a court-ordered integration effort, and one of even fewer that still endure. Even as communities around the country have been debating how to address school segregation, with some proposals for integration meeting fierce opposition, a new report from the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, calls Morris a model of “diversity and togetherness.”

… The Morris district is notable in that it has long been committed to diversity, even as the composition of its student body has changed. Meanwhile, schools nearby and in New York City have remained deeply segregated.

It’s worth noting that according to the Stanford Education Data Archive of school test scores, which I wrote about for Taki’s Magazine last spring, Morris has the 94th worst white-black test score gap out of more than 2000 school districts nationwide. Morris’s white-Hispanic test score gap is even more of a chasm: Morris comes in 29th worst in the entire country.

Generally speaking, liberal and wealthy districts suffer the worst racial disparities in school achievement. For example, the most gaping white-black disparity in the entire United States is found in Berkeley, CA.

The most impressive combinations of diversity, high average test scores, and modest racial gaps tend to be found in Texas exurbs, such as Frisco, the new home of the Dallas Cowboys.

… Paul Tractenberg, a professor emeritus at Rutgers Law School and the president of the Center for Diversity and Equality in Education, who co-wrote the Century Foundation report, says the [Morris, NJ] district has a “remarkable can-do attitude” that has allowed officials to continuously “rejigger what they are doing to accommodate the demands of the moment.”

The word “rejigger” strikes me as potentially problematic. I suspect that professors younger than emeritus would automatically shy away from saying “rejigger” to the New York Times.

You think you are a widely admired senior statesman in the war on white racism, but you don’t notice all the hungry eyes staring resentfully at your corner office from their cubicles. To them, you are just another Privileged Old White Man who is racistly and sexistly hogging one of the good jobs in the Social Justice Industry. Sure, maybe you’ll get away with using “rejigger” in 2016, but in 2017 you might be quoted on NPR using, say, the word “denigrate,” and a quick Twitterstorm later, you’ll be carrying a cardboard box of your personal effects down the elevator while a younger, nimbler SJW measures the drapes in your old office, little realizing that years later xe will in turn be fired for saying the word “doggerel,” not realizing the outrage that will ensue among CRISPR-enhanced Canine-Americans.

It’s the SJW Circle of Life:

 
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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.

 
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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.

 
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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.

THE GROWING CORRELATION BETWEEN RACE AND SAT SCORES: NEW FINDINGS FROM CALIFORNIA
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.

 
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Screenshot 2015-09-12 04.39.15

As we all know by now, Germany has pulled off a massive economic coup by importing a brilliant new workforce from Syria (and also from random places where you can buy fake Syrian IDs, but who’s checking?). Soon you’ll be buying flying BMWs designed by genius Merkel Youth. The newcomers are going to work until they drop in 60 years and will gladly pay every rightful Euro in income tax to the German government to support Teutonic oldsters.

In contrast, Hungary is condemned to backwardness.

But what do we see if we look at the 2007 TIMSS test of 8th graders in mathematics. An awful lot of the tired, the poor, the huddled masses showing up in Germany look like they were 8th graders about 8 years ago.

Back in 2007, Hungarian 8th graders scored the highest in Europe, with 10% reaching the Advanced, 36% the High, 61% the Intermediate, and 91% at least achieving the low benchmark.

In contrast, among Syrian 8th graders in peaceful 2007, 0% scored Advanced, 3% High, 17% intermediate, and 47% low.

So, in the top two levels of math skill, Hungarians outnumber Syrians 12 to 1.

At the bottom, only 9% of Hungarians fail to achieve the minimum Low benchmark vs. 53% of Syrians.

Results were fairly similar in 2011.

 
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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.

 
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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.

 
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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.

 
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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)
 
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Over the years, I’ve given Michael Bloomberg a hard time. Why? Well, the billionaire New York City mayor who likes to claim that he has “the seventh-largest army in the world” seems like a worthy foe.
One of Bloomberg’s boasts has been that, based on rising test scores, he had fixed the New York City public schools: a few years ago, 82% of NYC students scored proficient or advanced in math!
This braggadocio contributed to his political foes in Albany deciding to toughen the tests, with predictable results. From the NYT:

At their peak, in 2009, 69 percent of city students were deemed proficient in English, and 82 percent in math, under less stringent exams. After concluding the tests had become too easy, the state made them harder to pass in 2010, resulting in score drops statewide. … Last year, … 47 percent of city students passed in English, and 60 percent in math.

This year, New York State revamped the tests even more radically. …

In New York City, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the state exams in English, and 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Education Department.

Kevin Drum points out that on the federal NAEP test, NYC is down slightly relative to the average big city over the last few years.

Statewide, 16 percent of black students and 18 percent of Hispanic students passed English exams, compared with 40 percent of white students and 50 percent of Asians.

There must be something uniquely peculiar about New York since the test score hierarchy turned out to be Asian: white: Hispanic: black. Who has ever seen that ranking before?

The exams were some of the first in the nation to be aligned with a more rigorous set of standards known as Common Core, which emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving. …

By the way, does anybody have an informed opinion on Common Core tests, which are currently slated to go into operation in another 44 states?
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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Something I noticed last year when looking at 2009 PISA school achievement scores is the virtual non-existence of Mexico’s intellectual elite. Mexico’s average scores on this school achievement test of 15-year-olds were mediocre, but the lack of high end scores was startling, compared to a similar scoring country like Turkey, where there is a definite class of very smart Turks. Obviously, there is a stunning shortage of very high-achieving Mexican Americans in the U.S., but I had tended to assume that the really smart guys who run things in Mexico were just foisting off their mediocre people on the U.S. Yet, it’s hard to find test score evidence that there are many really smart guys in Mexico at all. This is not to say the average Mexican is all that uneducated by global standards, just that the far right end of the bell curve in Mexico is a lot thinner than you’d expect.
Perhaps this is just an illusion because all the schools in Mexico with smart students refuse to participate in international tests? The public school teachers union in Mexico is hilariously awful: many teaching jobs are hereditary, and if your heirs don’t want your teaching job after you die, they can auction it off to the highest bidder. But the overall performance of Mexican students on the PISA isn’t terrible (it’s a lot worse than the performance of Hispanics in the U.S. on the PISA, but not miserable by Latin American standards). 
Yet, here’s a 2008 paper on the same subject that takes the lack of cognitive superstars in Mexico seriously:

Producing superstars for the economic Mundial: The Mexican Predicament with quality of education 

Lant Pritchett and Martina Viarengo
Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
November 19, 2008 

Abstract.   The question of how to build the capabilities to both initiate a resurgence of growth and facilitate Mexico’s transition into a broader set of growth enhancing industries and activities is pressing.  In this regard it seems important to understand the quality of the skills of the labor force.  Moreover, in increasingly knowledge based economies it is not just the skills of the typical worker than matter, but also the skills of the most highly skilled.  While everyone is aware of the lagging performance of Mexico on internationally comparable examinations like the PISA, what has been less explored is the consequence of that for the absolute number of very highly skilled.  We examine  how many students Mexico produces per year above the “high international benchmark” of the PISA in mathematics.  While the calculations are somewhat crude and only indicative, our estimates are that Mexico produces only between 3,500 and 6,000 students per year above the high international benchmark (of a cohort of roughly 2 million [which is about half America's cohort of around 4 million]).  In spite of educational performance that is widely lamented within the USA, it produces a quarter of a million, Korea 125,000 and even India, who in general has much worse performance on average, produces over 100,000 high performance in math students per year.  The issue is not about math per se, this is just an illustration and we feel similar findings would hold in other domains.  The consequences of the dearth of globally competitive human capital are explored, with an emphasis on the rise of  super star phenomena in labor markets (best documented in the USA).  Finally, we explore the educational policies that one might consider to focus on the upper tail of performance, which are at odds with much of the “quality” focus of typical educational policies which are often remedial and focused on the lower, not upper tail of performance.

I don’t know what the full story is here. Perhaps Mexican elites are just lazy, and they set a bad example for the Mexican masses?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Mexico, PISA, Tests 
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The conventional wisdom expressed in Obama Administration speeches and the like is that American students get crushed by kids in China and India on international tests of school achievement. But the evidence for this is not as abundant as you might assume … especially not for India. While the city of Shanghai shot the lights out on the 2009 PISA, test scores haven’t been released for other parts of China. 
But, Westerners going back to Marco Polo have generally assumed the Chinese have a lot on the ball, so they are likely to do pretty well. 
What about India, the other giga-country? I first noticed in early 1981 that there were a lot of smart Indians in the U.S., and over the decades this has become a cliche.

But, what about India itself? India has never participated as a country in broad-based international tests.

The future of India is A) an intrinsically interesting subject; B) one that could make or lose you a lot of money; C) could make or lose the whole world a lot of money (just as the widespread assumption that the population of the Sand States could pay back those big mortgages proved costly for everyone, so could an unrealistic assumption down the road that the Indian masses are ready for big loans could spark a future global bubble and bust).  

Last year, I pointed out in VDARE that TIMSS had been given unofficially in two Indian states, Orissa and Rajasthan, and both had done badly.
Now the OECD has released 2009 PISA test scores for 15-year-olds for ten more places, two of them Indian states. The new news is that the Indian states, Tamil Nadu in the southeast (east of Bangalore, the technology center) and Himachal Pradesh, a Hindu state in the Deep North, did miserably, fighting it out with Kyrgyzstan for last place out of 74 countries or regions on all three tests: reading, math, and science. (Not surprisingly, the southern state beat the northern state on all three tests.) 
And there isn’t much inequality in the Indian scores: it’s not like some geniuses in these states score high but the places are dragged down by illiterates. There are a lot of illiterates, of course, but almost nobody scores at the top level, at least not in the schools where these tests were given. (Allow me to insert here my usual caveat about testing, which is that an 80/20 rule applies to methodology: it’s pretty easy to get a crudely accurate picture, but really hard to get a highly accurate one. For example, how representative were the tested students in India? Beats me.)
Here’s the 13 meg PDF.
India ought to be able to do better than score at sub-Saharan levels. Indians in other countries do better. For example, this same report has Mauritius, a mixed race country in the middle of the Indian Ocean where 52% of the population is Hindu, scoring like a Latin American country rather than a sub-Saharan African country. 
But, India itself has a long way to go. It’s likely to take 1-2 generations to get India up to speed, and we don’t really know what up to speed for India means yet.

In other news from this report by Australians on the additional ten marginal places to take the test, Costa Rica does pretty good for a Latin American country (as stereotypes of Costa Rica as a nice place would suggest), Malta does okay, the rich United Arab Emirates do pretty good for an Arab place, and Moldova and Georgia do very bad for white countries. 

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The traditional concept of college admissions was that the goal was to predict applicants’ future achievement (which could be measured in terms of first year in college grades or money donated 50 years later or whatever). The most obvious way to predict future achievement was past achievement: e.g., high school grades. Presumably, past achievement had two main components: hard work and aptitude.
But there were some obvious problems with relying solely on high school grades, such as different levels  of grade inflation at high schools. If you were getting most of your applicants from St. Paul’s and Dalton, well, you could keep in mind the differences, augmented with letters of recommendation from headmasters you had known for years. 
But once the Ivy Leagues started trying to find the most promising non-upper class kids from the rest of the country, they needed something more objective about individuals than just grades. Another issue is that high school grades have certain inherent shortcomings. The future Nobelist in physics might not care about his social studies class and thus wind up with a lower overall GPA than the well-adjusted grind. Plus, grades have a ceiling. Even an A+ in physics doesn’t really tell you that much. Moreover, lots of future successes are alienated in high school. Some people who get all As in high school might not have the upside to continue to do so in college. Incentives toward grade inflation at the high school are built in. And so forth … Top colleges kept asking for recommendation letters, but their value (and, thus, importance) dropped as they increasingly came in from random teachers in random places like Burbank, CA.
So, for various reasons like this, the Scholastic Aptitude Test was created and spread. The idea was to have an objective, national test of academic intelligence. Overall, the SAT would appear to have been a huge success. American colleges are the most fashionable and richest in the world today. 
However, there have long been complaints about the SAT. The most fashionable involved The Gap. Whites averaged higher scores than blacks. This posed a major PR problem for the academic establishment. The SAT (and ACT) is essential for their continued thriving, but saying that blacks are less intelligent than whites on average is The Worst Thing in the Whole World. But that’s what the SAT says. And the SAT is the cornerstone of academic elitism, which has made American academia globally the envy of the academic world.
Thus, over the last half century or so, there have been anguished discussions between the front men for the academic world and the psychometricians at ETS about how to Close the Gap, without throwing the baby of predictive power out with the bathwater.

One change was purely PR: the SAT doesn’t stand for Scholastic Aptitude Test anymore. It just stands for SAT these days. Under the hood, there have been a host of tweaks intended to narrow the gap without trashing the predictive powers of the SAT too much.

For example, the upper range of the Verbal (now Critical Reading) test has been capped. Before 1995, it was very, very hard to get an 800 on the Verbal test. I came fairly close the first time I took the test in 1975, so I gave it another try, got a little closer, but gave up and didn’t take it a third time because the two scores seemed quite accurate: I’m very good at verbal logic, and have a certain gift for insights that other people wouldn’t come up with, but I’m not a meticulous thinker. I make lots of mistakes. I’m more of a let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes thinker. In contrast, say, Charles Murray’s brain works like a BMW V-12: powerful and precise. Mine’s a jalopy that might surprise you and win the race or might break down on the starting line and go nowhere. So, there didn’t seem like much point in me doing a lot of test prep to try to score 800 on the verbal — I’d still make a mistake or two or they throw a really hard question at me.

But now, an 800 is well within reach of a lot of well-drilled students.

So, before scores were inflated in 1995, the SAT-V was an excellent test of high end verbal brainpower. In contrast, the SAT-M was widely recognized to need more headroom. It wasn’t uncommon at Rice in the 1970s to hear good but not great Sci-Eng majors say, “Well, sure, I got an 800, but I’m not a real 800 like Joe is.”

An obvious reform would have been to make scoring of SAT-M more like scoring of SAT-V. Instead, College Board – ETS did the opposite in 1995. One reason was that all that headroom on the Verbal modestly increased The Gap. The V test was made much easier to score 800 upon in 1995. A 730 old style became an 800 new style.

Lots of other tweaks were made, but as far as we can tell, anything that raises black average scores just encourages harder scraping of the bottom of the barrel by society, so the white-black The Gap remains remarkably stable over the generations. For example, The Gap on SAT-Critical Reading dropped about a half decade ago, perhaps because of the changes on the test, such as deep-sixing analogies. But that apparently just encouraged the College Board to troll for more black test-takers with free tests, so The Gap is now even bigger. (I may be overinterpreting a few squiggles on the trend graph.)
But white parents still tend to assume that SAT stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test. It’s not an achievement test in their heads. The College Board says there is no point in studying extra hard for the SAT, and why would a prestigious not-for-profit institution spin the truth? If you can’t trust the College Board, who can you trust? And signing your child up for intensive test prepping would be unfair to poor blacks who can’t afford all that tutoring and drilling. Plus, prepping for years would be a lot of work for little Taylor, so just let him have his fun.
Meanwhile, lots of people from Fujian are showing up in America whose merchant ancestors ascended to mandarin status by spending their mercantile profits at Confucian literature cram schools for their sons. The assumptions about the SAT flitting around in white people’s heads would never occur to them. “Test prep is unfair to poor blacks? Huh? You crack me up! I like you! You are very funny!”
Not surprisingly, we see vast amounts of white upper middle class rage directed at Amy Chua. 
Now, is devoting hundreds of hours to prepping for the SAT a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? Well, let me try to reframe that question more productively and think about SAT test prep’s opportunity cost.
It could be that SAT test prep has long term benefits other than getting into a fancier college. Could be … I dunno. I haven’t seen any evidence one way or another. But, it seems more like a zero sum game. SAT test prep seems kind of a sterile form of studying compared to studying an actual subject like Physics or French or Music Theory or World History or Microeconomics.

The return on investment for the colossal number of hours devoted in recent decades to SAT cram schooling is modest. The test is designed t
o be hard to prep for, so it’s taken gigantic efforts for gains measured in fractions of a standard deviation. 

It seems to me that it would be better for everybody if more test prepping energy was invested instead into positive sum games, such as studying for achievement tests rather than for aptitude tests. Fortunately, we currently have a quite good set of national achievement tests: the College Board’s Advanced Placement tests. They are not subject to the incentives for high schools to inflate their grades: the AP tests provide objective national grades that do a good job of predicting what the high school student would score on a 101-102 level course as a freshman in college.

In contrast, AP tests are intended to be ones you can study for, so the ROI on test prep effort tends to be quite a bit higher than on the SAT. Far more students are passing AP tests than a decade ago, and that’s a good thing. Why have young people waste their time studying for something that’s built to be hard to study for when they can instead study subjects that are intrinsically worth studying?

Unfortunately, the current college admissions system gives little weight to AP test scores. Instead, perversely, it gives too much weight to taking AP classes in high school, even if you then do bad on the AP test. The University of California, for example, in calculating high school GPA adds a full point to classes designated Advanced Placement. Thus the average high school GPA of UC Berkeley freshmen is a wacky 4.39. An internal study by UC showed that cutting the bonus for an AP course down to 0.5 would better predict freshmen grades. I don’t believe the UC system counts AP test scores  in the admission’s process, or doesn’t count them much.

As Mitch has pointed out, this system is doubly rigged in favor of the more goody-two-shoes high school students. Typically, you need high grades in earlier classes to get into high school AP classes, where you are then given a full extra point for your GPA — even if your AP score shows you didn’t actually learn much.

So, the ideal system would be for college admissions to be retooled from mostly a two legged stool of grades and SAT scores to a three legged stool of grades, AP Test scores, and SAT scores. The SAT could then be redesigned to be more purely an aptitude test that would be less easy to game. Moreover, test takers would have less incentive to devote hundreds of hours to gaming the SAT because they were being encouraged to spend hundreds of hours mastering AP Chemistry or AP European History. 
The AP tests should be reformed to make them better for college admissions. They are currently scored on a 1 to 5 scale with a 5 equating to an A in the average college’s freshman year introductory course in that subject, a 4 equal to a B, and so forth. A weird aspect of this is that all 5s are not created equal. For example, to get a 5 on the AP Chemistry test, you have to get a little over 60% right. So, people getting 98% right don’t get a higher score than people getting 68% right. Test scoring should be kept the same at the lower levels — a 3 would still be a C — but the maximum score extended from 5 out to 7, which would be like an A at Caltech. Meanwhile, the GPA boost from taking an AP course would be eliminated, at least before senior year.

The initial winners from this changeover would, of course, tend to be Asians, who currently take a lot of AP tests. But good for them. Whites in heavily Asian areas, who have already started to adapt to the Asian challenge, would do okay. Whites in flyover regions would be challenged to get on the ball with AP. My guess is that it would be good for them and that they would eventually respond well to the challenge.

Overall, my plan looks like it would be better overall for society. There’s a huge amount of energy out there looking to get an advantage in the college admissions process, so why not direct it in some positive sum direction?

Yes, sure, obviously it’s a win-win, but, does it solve America’s most overwhelming problem: Closing The Gap? Will blacks come closer to whites in scores under my system?

I dunno. I haven’t thought about it. In fact, not worrying about Closing The Gap has allowed me to put forward a novel reform suggestion that might be better overall, which is not something you see too often these days.

In America today, 98% of the thinking devoted to college admissions goes to figuring out how your own kid can claw his way to the top, and the other 2% goes to airy handwaving theorizing about Closing The Gap. That leaves 0% devoted to thinking about improving the system overall.

Now, if I were truly, fanatically public-spirited, I would devote a lot of energy to dreaming up some bogus but persuasive-sounding theory about how my reform would Close The Gap, which would make it a lot more likely to be adapted. But, I’m not saintly enough to make up an elaborate lie.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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The Unsilenced Silence blog has a good graph of Asian v. white SAT scores from 1996 to 2010 in terms of gaps in standard deviations:
So, like most things involving test scores, the gap was stable in the  later 1990s. However, Asians improved through much of the 2000s, especially on the Writing test, a new section of the SAT that strikes me as easier to game because it uses subjective (but very quick) grading. 
One possibility is that globalization of American colleges has led to more Asian-in-Asia elites having their kids take the SAT, which could be increasing the pool of smart Asians taking the test. I’m also concerned about test security, however, when the test is administered in Asia. The Graduate Record Exam has been plagued by instances of cheating in Asia. Also, the new Writing test is rather like the tests that the Chinese Empire conducted for millennia to pick mandarins. 
Another possibility is that the legal immigration system is working in bringing in smart Asians, who are becoming a larger fraction of the Asian-American population over time. But what about regression toward the mean? Amy Chua is very smart, for example, but she’s nowhere near as smart as her father, the conceptualizer of the memristor.
The take home lesson for Americans would seem to me to be that Americans shouldn’t credulously trust assertions by the College Board / ETS / ACT that their tests can’t really be gamed through test prep or other means. The SAT and ACT are, relatively speaking, very good tests, but we live in a highly competitive, globalized world full of people who are smart, hard-working, and less trusting and less believing in Fair Play than naive Americans.
Now, here’s his graph of the white-black SAT gap, which has been widening:
The sharp decline on The Gap in  2006 on the Verbal test (renamed Critical Reading) may have something to do with changes in that test, perhaps intended to make it easier on blacks. But, the general trend has been for The Gap to get worse, especially since the early 1990s. Yet, since the early 1990s (the Crack Years) were not a halcyon period for young blacks, the widening of the gap probably reflects concerted efforts since then by the Great and the Good to get more blacks to take the SAT (scraping the bottom of the barrel harder). 
The process might work like this: the University of California, prevented from using racial quotas by Prop. 209) demands changes in the SAT Verbal that it hopes will boost black and Hispanic scores. A small amount of initial success in narrowing The Gap, however, leads elites to then over-confidently subsidize more black test-takers. Scraping the bottom of the barrel harder drives The Gap in Verbal back up, and increases The Gap in the other two sections to new heights. (Or I may be over-interpreting this.)
Also, it’s likely that as test prep and gaming of the SAT has increased, that whites have benefited more from this than blacks. My mental model of who is doing more and more effectual test prep is Asians > whites > blacks and/or Mexicans > Other Hispanics (many of whom just arrived from Guatemala and are pretty clueless about the kinds of things that lead to higher scores that seem obvious to, say, a Hong Kong Chinese family in San Marino, CA).
Anyway, the White-Black gap graph shows the stability in gaps that is the overwhelming main lesson of generations of test score studies. Despite intense efforts by society since the mid-1960s, we still see about a one standard deviation gap between whites and blacks on a host of tests of cognitive ability (La Griffe du Lion’s Fundamental Constant of American Sociology). But, that makes the recent change in Asian v. white scores even more interesting and more deserving of study.
Unsilenced Science also has informative graphs showing trends by year in SAT scores (i.e., not standard deviations).

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The oldest SAT score report on the College Board website is from 1996, right after the “recentering” in 1995 that raised scores about 100 points on a 400 to 1600 scale. Over the last 15 years, the average overall score on the original two-part Verbal + Math SAT (i.e., ignoring the new-fangled Writing section of the test introduced in the last decade) fell a grand total of two points, from 1013 to 1011. (See what I mean about baseball statistics being more volatile?)
1996 v. 2011 College-Bound Seniors Avg SAT Scores
Total (V+M) Verbal Math
1996 2011 Chg 1996 2011 Chg 1996 2011 Chg
ALL 1013 1011 (2) 505 497 (8) 508 514 6
Female 995 995 0 503 495 (8) 492 500 8
Male 1034 1031 (3) 507 500 (7) 527 531 4
Asian 1054 1112 58 496 517 21 558 595 37
White 1049 1063 14 526 528 2 523 535 12
Black 856 855 (1) 434 428 (6) 422 427 5
AmerIndian 960 972 12 483 484 1 477 488 11
Mexican 914 917 3 455 451 (4) 459 466 7
PR 897 904 7 452 452 0 445 452 7
Other Hisp 931 913 (18) 465 451 (14) 466 462 (4)
You’ll note that the average white score went up 14 points form 1049 to 1063. Did white people get smarter over that period? I don’t know. The SAT changed a lot over those 15 years, with analogies being dropped and some Verbal multiple choice questions being exiled to Writing. Also, kids appear to have cared more about prepping in 2011, although the College Board doesn’t like to talk about this.

Asians went up 58 points, which is pretty striking. Everybody else fell farther behind whites, which wasn’t supposed to happen.

Now, it could be that scores actually did pretty well over this 15 year stretch, because the College Board scraped the bottom of the barrel harder. In 1996, 1,085,000 college-bound seniors took the SAT. In 2011, there were 1,647,000 senior SAT-takers. Just
between 2006 and 2011, the College Board let an incremental 150,000 students take the SAT free or at reduced cost.

On the other hand, my impression is that it became a lot more common for students to take both the SAT and ACT over that 15-year stretch, so some of the increase in the number of test-takers comes from people who would only have taken the ACT in 1996. It used to be that East and West Coasters took the SAT and Midwesterners the ACT, but by 2011, lots of students try both to see which one they’ll do better on. These kids who take both tests probably tend to be fairly ambitious ones who are looking to game the system by taking both tests, then submitting only the test score they did better upon. So, double-dippers likely scored reasonably well (although, of course, not so 2400 / 36 outstanding that they wouldn’t bother taking any test again).
(Has anybody recently done an authoritative study of the trend in overall SAT scores considering all the factors driving scores up or down?)
Between 1996 and 2011, everybody except Other Hispanics got a little better in Math. (I suspect that Other Hispanics used to be mostly Cubans and random fairly well-to-do South Americans, but now it includes a lot of Central Americans.) But Asians got a lot better: 37 points, from 558 to 595.
Verbal scores stagnated or declined slightly, except for Asians, who went up 21 points from 496 to 517. 
Now, let’s look at scores relative to the white scores in 1996 and 2011. A decade and a half ago, the overall score for everybody was 36 points lower than the white score. Today, it’s 52 points lower. Most of that 16 points of relative decline is due to the demographic composition of America’s SAT-takers changing for the worse.
Difference v. whites
Total (V+M)
1996 2011 Chg
ALL 36 52 (16)
Female 54 68 (14)
Male 15 32 (17)
Asian 5 49 44
White 0 0 0
Black 193 208 (15)
AmerIndian 89 91 (2)
Mexican 135 146 (11)
PR 152 159 (7)
Other Hisp 118 150 (32)
The Gap got worse for most of the minority groups that the press gets worked up over. Blacks fell from 193 points behind whites to 208 points (a 15 point relative decline, or a point per year). Mexicans fell from 135 lower to 146 lower. Other Hispanics fell the most, from 118 behind to 150 behind.
These declines are probably mostly due to society (especially the College Board) scraping the bottom of the barrel harder in 2011. What with the recession and all, everybody is convinced that they must go to college, so they try the SAT. The number of people who scored below 400 on Verbal grew from 179,000 to 302,000 and on Math from 172,000 to 251,000.

The number who scored 700 or higher also shot upwards, but that might be due in part to kids taking the SAT more times or taking both the SAT and ACT to see if they can shoot the moon. The number scoring 700 or higher on Verbal went up from 47,000 to 77,000 and on Math from 58,000 to 112,000. High scorers are presumably the most likely to do a lot of test prep and otherwise try to game the system.

In contrast to all other ethnic groups, who fell farther behind whites over the last 15 years, Asians had a 5 point advantage over whites in 1996, which blossomed to a 49 point lead by 2011, a relative cha
nge of 44 points.That’s a big change, relative to the near-stasis on everything else.

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From FairTest:
2011 College-Bound Seniors Avg SAT Scores
W/score changes from 2006
READING MATH WRITING TOTAL
ALL 497 (-6) 514 (-4) 489 (-8) 1500 (-18)
Female 495 (-7) 500 (-2) 496 (-6) 1491 (-15)
Male 500 (-5) 531 (-5) 482 (-9) 1513 (-19)
Asian 517 (+7) 595 (+17) 528 (+16) 1640 (+40)
White 528 (+1) 535 (-1) 516 (-3) 1579 (-3)
Black 428 (-6) 427 (-2) 417 (-11) 1272 (-19)
AmerIndian 484 (-3) 488 (-6) 465 (-9) 1437 (-18)
Mexican 451 (-3) 466 (+1) 445 (-7) 1362 (-9)
PR 452 (-7) 452 (-4) 442 (-6) 1346 (-17)
Other Hisp 451 (-7) 462 (-1) 444 (-6) 1357 (-14)
I’ve been following baseball statistics since 1965 and educational test scores since 1972. Test scores are vastly more important for understanding how the world works, but they aren’t as diverting because they seldom change. For example, in the above, whites are just treading water, down 1% of a standard deviation over half a decade. Boring. NAM scores are down, probably mostly because the College Board has been subsidizing more NAMs to take the SAT for free as a publicity move. In other words, it’s probably not a real change.

But, wow, as I pointed out last year in writing about PSAT National Merit Semifinalists, Asians have just been pulling away from everybody else in the last few years.

Is the same trend true on low stakes tests, like most school achievement tests that are used to grade schools rather than students?

This is a big story and it deserves more research. Is the innate intelligence of Asians going up? Or does this prove that Tiger Mothering works? Is the SAT being unfairly gamed? There are a lot of questions here.

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From the Boston Globe:

A lesson in Advanced mis-Placement 

By Junia Yearwood 

THE AP English test in May, 2009 marked the end of a tortuous journey. We teachers served breakfast, gave a rousing pep talk, and the students trooped into the English High School auditorium to battle the exam. 

“What the hell am I doing in AP?’’ Veronica (all students’ names have been changed) cried the next day when the class reconvened. 

The outburst shattered the stillness of my 12th grade classroom, and all heads turned in Veronica’s direction at the back of the class. Her eyes blazing red and her face taut with anger, she continued to vent her frustration at her forced retention in an assigned Advanced Placement class despite her repeated requests for a transfer. … 

Nevertheless, the majority voiced varying degrees of Veronica’s anger. She railed against the injustice of being denied a transfer from the class and her total lack of preparation for the academically rigorous course. She believed that the D for English on her last report card in 11th grade was a clear indication of her ongoing struggle to achieve proficiency in standard English. Haitian Creole was her first language. 

For the four years I taught the AP English and composition course at English High, many of my students were victims of the AP mania that had invaded the system. Suddenly, officials had recognized the dearth of faces of color in AP classes and the drive to augment the AP minority population went into high gear. 

The College Board and sympathetic philanthropic rescuers rushed in to solve the problem by dangling the carrot of grant money, and the feeding frenzy was on. AP classes sprouted and multiplied across all disciplines. AP scouts scoured students’ report cards hunting for qualifying scores; teacher recommendations were solicited for students with the “potential’’ to do AP work, and the nominees were summarily conscripted. 

Even though students had marked deficiencies in basic reading and writing skills, and little desire to work hard, and even though they made repeated requests for transfers, the dragooning of students into my AP course persisted. 

… I often wondered what parents would say if they knew that many of my AP graduates were placed in no-credit, remedial reading and writing courses their freshman year in college, and that, in spite of our school’s “underperforming status,’’ as designated by the state Department of Education, our AP enrollment was second only to our city’s prestigious exam schools. 

I wonder if an impartial jury would hold me, the teacher, solely responsible for my students’ failure to conquer the AP test and side with one of my colleagues who said that, if my students were not performing well in my course and on the test, then I needed to check my classroom practice. 

But mostly I worry about Veronica’s rage at being used in an AP numbers game. 

Junia Yearwood is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. 

I looked into AP trends a couple of years ago in VDARE. Among Asians, 64% scored 3 (out of 5) or higher on 2008 AP tests. Among whites, 62%. Among Hispanics (excluding the Spanish AP test), 35%. Among blacks, 26%. (Hmmmhhmm, Asians > whites > Hispanics > blacks … where have we seen that pattern before?)
But Asians take almost three times as many AP tests as whites. Judging from the regional differences in white AP test-taking, I suspect whites could double the number of tests they take and still stay above 50% passing.
My general impression is that in Red States where there aren’t many Asians to get the AP ball rolling, more whites should take more AP tests. And Red States haven’t hit complete diminishing returns among Non-Asian Minorities yet, either.

Advanced Placement tests are College Board product. Not surprisingly, they are more popular where the College Board’s SAT college entrance test is more popular than the ACT college entrance test, a gap that matches up pretty well with the Blue and Red states. But there’s no ACT competitor for the APs, so Red State kids are simply less likely to take AP tests.

On the other hand, in Boston, of all places, pretty much everybody who could pass an AP test has heard all about AP by now, so these kind of programs to shove even more NAMs into AP classes and tests are predictably just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

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John Deasy, formerly of the Gates Foundation, took command yesterday as Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The LA Daily News reports on today’s front page:

Speeding from one campus to another on Friday, Deasy peppered teachers and principals with questions about their strategies to improve academic programs, taking breaks between classroom stops to check his iPhone – admittedly his one addiction. 

At Castelar Elementary in Chinatown, Deasy congratulated administrators on their high state test scores and their clean campus. Then he questioned staff on how they were addressing the achievement of Latino students on campus, who are underperforming compared to their Asian peers. “I read the data before coming … tell me what you’re doing about it,” he asked. 

Castelar’s school coordinator, Sal Sandoval, said he appreciated the tough questions. “Of course it’s a little intimidating, I mean he is our boss, but it’s great to see how much he knows about our school,” Sandoval said.

I’m as stumped as John Deasy is. Whoever heard of a school where Asians outscore Latinos on average? Clearly, it can’t have anything to do with, say, the Latino students’ parents. As we read in that new bestseller, Battle Hymn of the Jaguar Mother by Harvard Law professor Amy Chavez, Latino parents are notorious for relentlessly pushing their children to study.
At first, I was going to recommend that Superintendent Deasy drop everything else to investigate the Castelar Conundrum. But, on second thought, perhaps some mysteries are not meant for human minds to unravel. This school’s unique results could even be the result of a sinister conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, a plot far too deep and dangerous for John Deasy to probe.
Forget it, Jack. It’s Chinatown.
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Measuring teachers by how much value they add to their students’ tests scores is an idea that I advocated back in the last millennium, and has since become the state of the art conventional wisdom, and, now, it is being implemented into universal law in Colorado, all without anybody actually showing it does a whole lot of good. Dana Goldstein has a funny article in the American Prospect, “The Test Generation,” about what that actually means in the classroom:

On exam day in Sabina Trombetta’s Colorado Springs first-grade art class, the 6-year-olds were shown a slide of Picasso’s “Weeping Woman,” a 1937 cubist portrait of the artist’s lover, Dora Maar, with tears streaming down her face. It is painted in vibrant — almost neon — greens, bluish purples, and yellows. … 

The test asked the first-graders to look at “Weeping Woman” and “write three colors Picasso used to show feeling or emotion.” (Acceptable answers: blue, green, purple, and yellow.) Another question asked, “In each box below, draw three different shapes that Picasso used to show feeling or emotion.” (Acceptable drawings: triangles, ovals, and rectangles.) A separate section of the exam asked students to write a full paragraph about a Matisse painting. 

Trombetta, 38, a 10-year teaching veteran and winner of distinguished teaching awards from both her school district, Harrison District 2, and Pikes Peak County, would have rather been handing out glue sticks and finger paints. The kids would have preferred that, too. But the test wasn’t really about them. It was about their teacher. 

Trombetta and her students, 87 percent of whom come from poor families, are part of one of the most aggressive education-reform experiments in the country: a soon-to-be state-mandated attempt to evaluate all teachers — even those in art, music, and physical education — according to how much they “grow” student achievement. In order to assess Trombetta, the district will require her Chamberlin Elementary School first-graders to sit for seven pencil-and-paper tests in art this school year. To prepare them for those exams, Trombetta lectures her students on art elements such as color, line, and shape — bullet points on Colorado’s new fine-art curriculum standards.

Studies prove that Yale graduates with high-paying jobs tend to have stronger opinions on the merits of Picasso v. Matisse than do high school dropouts in prison, so, logically, that proves that we can’t start lecturing children too young on Matisse and Picasso, because if they don’t go to Yale, they’re bound to go to jail.
Anyway, the question I have about measuring public school teachers through value-added testing is this: How many private schools do that? We have thousands of private schools in America, but I can’t recall ever hearing of one that regularly uses these now fashionable value-added assessments to measure teachers. Why not?
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The more the conventional wisdom denounces standardized testing, the more money there is to be made in standardized testing. For example, the whole world decided about a decade ago that filling in ovals with a Number 2 pencil couldn’t possibly be a good test of Critical Thinking skills, so essays were added to many tests, such as the SAT and GRE. 
This increased the cost (and slowed down the grading) considerably. Today, thousands of people, typically temps, are employed each year grading the essay portion of standardized tests. This article by Jessica Lussenhop of the Minneapolis City Pages takes you behind the scenes of essay grading. It’s not a particularly edifying scene (although not all that dismal). 
The take home lesson I get is that you should make sure your first sentence is sterling. Graders don’t have time to read your essay carefully, so you want to make a good first impression.

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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

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


PastClassics
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
A simple remedy for income stagnation