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Old September 14th, 2011, 04:37 PM
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This just in. . .

Scores on the latest verbal SAT tests are the lowest in history.

Math scores? Lowest since the mid-90s.

The "good news" according to some: more people took the test than ever.

So we are to conclude what?. . .that the scores were brought down because a lot more unqualified people took the test?

Veteran teachers I know tell me that the answer is simple: high school curricula have been dumbed down to an alarming degree, so that huge swaths of kids are not prepared for college, even if they do "well" in high school and aspire to higher education. They have been led down the yellow brick road of simplistic curricula, coddling, inadequate time in class, and low expectations on the part of both parents and teachers.

There was a rerun of a Saturday Night Live show this past weekend. During the Weekend Update fake news segment, this item. . .

"On Wednesday at noon, school children all over the country simultaneously sang a song of togetherness and friendship. Meanwhile in China, two million school children were doing math."

Indeed.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 04:57 PM
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Keep letting kids use calculators for everyday math. I see it all the time kids don't have to think anymore. When you think about it todayís kids have had all of their thinking done for them.
From the time their toddlers their play dates are set for them then we go to organized sports where the games are more important to the coaches and parents then to the kids, they just want to play and have fun while doing it, they donít got out and play and be creative and then comes the electronics. We have a bunch non thinkers unable to problem solve because they never had to!

Look at the kids in the Little Rascals they were 4, 5 and6 years old, todayís parent donít think kids are capable of doing so many thing that generations were capable of doing at young ages. Ice trays, handheld can openers they look at it like itís from another world. Itís the dumbing down of society.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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This just in. . .

Scores on the latest verbal SAT tests are the lowest in history.

Math scores? Lowest since the mid-90s.

The "good news" according to some: more people took the test than ever.

So we are to conclude what?. . .that the scores were brought down because a lot more unqualified people took the test?

Veteran teachers I know tell me that the answer is simple: high school curricula have been dumbed down to an alarming degree, so that huge swaths of kids are not prepared for college, even if they do "well" in high school and aspire to higher education. They have been led down the yellow brick road of simplistic curricula, coddling, inadequate time in class, and low expectations on the part of both parents and teachers.

There was a rerun of a Saturday Night Live show this past weekend. During the Weekend Update fake news segment, this item. . .

"On Wednesday at noon, school children all over the country simultaneously sang a song of togetherness and friendship. Meanwhile in China, two million school children were doing math."

Indeed.
My combined SAT scores were less than 700 . I graduated from Brooklyn College with a GPA of 3.59 . I had a perfect score on the GRE exam.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 06:22 PM
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AR,

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Originally Posted by You View Post
Scores on the latest verbal SAT tests are the lowest in history.

Math scores? Lowest since the mid-90s.

The "good news" according to some: more people took the test than ever.

So we are to conclude what?. . .that the scores were brought down because a lot more unqualified people took the test?
It is true that a larger percentage of the population taking the test will encomass more of the bell-shaped curve of intelligence of the general population, thus resulting in lower statistics (mean, median, quartiles, deciles, or whatever).

Quote:
Originally Posted by You
Veteran teachers I know tell me that the answer is simple: high school curricula have been dumbed down to an alarming degree, so that huge swaths of kids are not prepared for college, even if they do "well" in high school and aspire to higher education. They have been led down the yellow brick road of simplistic curricula, coddling, inadequate time in class, and low expectations on the part of both parents and teachers.

There was a rerun of a Saturday Night Live show this past weekend. During the Weekend Update fake news segment, this item. . .

"On Wednesday at noon, school children all over the country simultaneously sang a song of togetherness and friendship. Meanwhile in China, two million school children were doing math."
Most of our children spend plenty of time in school to attain the education that a high school diploma should represent. The biggest problem seems to be what is happening during the school day, which this Saturday Night Live segment lampooned pretty well.

The question is how best to fix the problem. I do have a few suggestions.

>> 1. Institute a firm, but fair, standard of decorum and conduct in every school and back it up by disciplining students who fail to conform in order to create an environment in which students can learn. Schools also should insist that students learn and display good manners toward one another and toward all adults including teachers, administrators and consellors, chaperones on school trips and at school events, visitors, and anybody else who may be present in the school or at a school activity.

>> 2. Get rid of the distractions and focus on core subjects during the school day. The school is not a place to fix every social ill known to man.

>> 3. Institute standard tests in all core subjects at the end of every academic year, if not more frequently, to identify students, classes, and teachers that are underperforming.

>> 4. Get rid of socual promotion. Students who fail to master the material in any grade should be placed in compulsary summer remedial programs to ensure that they are prepared for the next grade or, in extreme cases, made to repeat the grade so that they move on to the next grade with an adequate foundation, as students who move on without that foundation will either hold the rest of the class back or continue to fail.

>> 5. Set up a process to weed out teachers who underperform. Teachers who fail to teach the material effectively are doing a gross disservice to their students.

>> 6. Raise salaries and improve working conditions for teachers to a level that will draw the best and brightest people into the field. This may best be achieved by tying compenation to performance, measured in part by standard tests.

*****

That said, the widely reported failure of many our schools is far from universal. Here in Massachusetts, "inner city" schools tend to underperform but many of the public schools in suburban and rural areas are extraordinarily good. Many of the applicants whom I interview for admission to my <i> alma mater </i> will have completed six to eight "advanced placement" (AP) courses in high school, for which most colleges will give full academic credit if they attain a satisfactory score on the respective exams administered by the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). If some of these students were to go to Harvard, they would walk in the door with enough academic credits to be juniors -- and many of these students come from "blue collar" and poor families, so it is not unattainable even in the inner city.

Norm.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 06:37 PM
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I can give one reason for this to happen in FL. The FCAT, teachers have to spend so much time teaching this test that they don't have the time to teach what is needed. If they would put together a full curriculum and have standard tests for it then students could learn.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 06:49 PM
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My combined SAT scores were less than 700 . I graduated from Brooklyn College with a GPA of 3.59 . I had a perfect score on the GRE exam.
Well, on the "old" SAT test model, you got a combined 400 points for showing up and writing down your name. Don't know if your score was evenly split between verbal and math, but if it was, 350 in each test would have put you roughly in the 6th percentile.

With a score like that it's not only remarkable that you did OK in college, it's remarkable that you got in.

Notwithstanding that, is it your position that SAT scores, or more precisely, trends in SAT scores, have no meaning, or are you just throwing out more food for thought?
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Old September 14th, 2011, 07:22 PM
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I think s BIG part of the problem is 'helicopter parents". This would include my own children. My DIL, whom I love dearly, spends most of her time driving the kids somewhere, picking up the kids, calling other parents to see what the kids are doing, arranging their social schedule, signing them up for everything and continually "hovering". On top of that, I don't think more than 2 hours go by that she's not in contact with them via cell phone. The children are bright clever kids but they have been programmed not to think, resulting in lower marks on all testing. I don't think North American parents will EVER be willing to impose a study and learning routine anywhere near the level of the Chinese and other Asian countries.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 07:41 PM
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Norm--

I agree with every single point you made, including your 6-step recipe for improvement. I really do.

And of course it is true that there are lots of good schools--public and private-- that run rings around most of the rest of the country. Many of them are in the suburbs of the great cities, and although there is certainly a correlation, there's no fixed rule that says that only "rich kids" go to them.

My impression is that one of the biggest predictors of school success is parental involvement in the school community, which is a reflection of parents' attitudes about education. As in Massachusetts, we're fortunate here in suburban DC to have public schools that do an excellent job of preparing students for the future. We put both kids through our public school system. In addition to their coursework they were both heavily involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. They both proved that they were amply ready for the next level, they breezed through very good colleges, got excellent jobs, and are kids that any parent would be proud of, as are many of their schoolmates, whose exploits we hear about at block parties and other community gatherings with the neighbors.

But I remember very well that during their days in high school when we would have casual conversations with relatives and friends elsewhere about what courses were being taken and what sorts of things were going on in high school here, they'd be shocked. It was clear to us that our schools were the exceptions and not the rule.

The kids here tend to think big and go for the gusto. When our youngest was graduating from high school, his good pal Bob the class president was in charge of getting a speaker for what used to be called the "baccalaureate" Sunday--a pretty informal get-together for the graduates and their families the week before graduation. They couldn't call it "baccalaureate" anymore because of the religious overtones, so they called it something else--I forget what. So Bob the class president (not his real name) called the Supreme Court and asked if Chief Justice Rehnquist would come speak at the event. He pointed out that hizzoner lived just up the street from the school, so it was his "home" school, and it would be great if he'd come and talk. A quick reply back. . ."He'd be delighted."

When Bob introduced Rehnquist on the day, he sounded like nothing so much as Kermit the Frog. . ."The Chief Justice of the United States!! Yaaaay!" Renhquist gave a wonderful talk, the madrigal singers madrigaled, and the CJ stayed around for ages drinking coffee, eating brownies and talking with the kids. Oh, and Bob? He's now an Assistant US Attorney.

I get it. Not every school is up the street from the CJ's house. But the point is that there's a bright-eyed sense of drive in the kids who go to good schools. It's palpable. You feel it at the school, you feel it in the neighborhood. And where the kids have that kind of "can-do" attitude, good things happen.

A couple weeks ago there was a flyer stuck in the door asking us to leave some canned food on the porch the following Saturday for the local food bank. It said, "Nothing formal. We're just six Yorktown kids trying to make a difference." Everybody put food out, and the joke around the neighborhood was that it was probably court-ordered community service. But nobody really believed that. Just some good kids.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 07:52 PM
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Since I am a very "academic" kind of person, this is a little against type; BUT: I think that a large part of the problem with kids today is that they are not taught enough practical skills. Those, I think, would actually help them improve their academics. Our current society gives kids too few reference points on the road to maturity. I got around that with my own children, and have encouraged them to to the same with theirs, by establishing early ages at which they would be entitled to certain perks. At 5, you start getting an allowance and simultaneously incur certain family obligations. At 10 they can learn to drive the tractor. At 12 girls can get their ears pierced (ONCE!) and either boys or girls can get a dirt bike. 16, of course, is a driver's license. There were some others that I don't right now remember.

It must have worked: the kids are now a biophysicist and a medical doctor.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 08:16 PM
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Don't know where to begin as there are so many reasons and variables. I probably shouldn't even weigh in on this thread simply because I never went to college. Nevertheless, I shall.

This problem is not current and has been coming a long time. I use this as just one example of one of a thousand issues. Back in the late seventies, Fran and I were having dinner at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck (that was back in the day before they went "new wave" with the cuisine and then had the best cream of mushroom soup and excellent prime rib) with a very close friend who was supremely educated. Our friend ran into a casual acquaintance and had a brief conversation. After the other individual left, she said, "And that was a High School Teacher!" I was thunderstruck, their diction was abominable, the person didn't even talk in complete sentences, etc. I replied, "I don't care if the individual taught "Shop," the lack of basic skills was disgusting." Our friend continued, "Todd, you don't know the half of it.....that individual teaches High School English!"

Now, for the record, I have always believed that an excellent teacher is worth their weight in gold and should be highly remunerated. But I quickly found out when I held office that if one ever made any derogatory remark whatsoever about educational deficiencies you were instantly labeled by the New York State Teacher's Union as "anti-education" if in fact, your remarks didn't include a call for more money for teachers.

And for God's sake, get back to the BASICS! By that I mean real "History" that is not politically influenced by either side, basic math and science skills, Geography and basic Social Studies. How many high school students today take Geometry, Trig or Calculus? I remember watching on TV some ten years ago a bunch of college students who were handed a stick pin. On the wall was a map of the world. Each were then instructed to place a pin in the approximate area of a major city or in some cases country. Boy did I get an education! I never knew that New York City was on the Korean Penninsula, nor that Atlanta was in the mountains of Idaho or even that France was actually in Spain. You think it isn't worse today? Get aside a college student and ask them who we fought during the war of 1812. Where did Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg address? When was Pearl Harbor bombed? Better yet, ask them in what state Pearl Harbor is located.

In the late seventies, some colleges in New York were giving Bachelor Degrees to people who literally could not properly complete an employee application! That's not crap folks, I personally dealt with that on a daily basis!

And finally, remember this. Those people today have children and in many cases grandchildren. How in the world could these people help their own kids and grandkids with their studies? Are these un or underedcated adults in the majority? Of course not. But there are still millions of them and things are quickly becoming exponentially worse.

How do we fix it? Sorry, but that's way beyond my pay grade. Remember, I only have a high school education.

Todd
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Old September 14th, 2011, 08:22 PM
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Well, on the "old" SAT test model, you got a combined 400 points for showing up and writing down your name. Don't know if your score was evenly split between verbal and math, but if it was, 350 in each test would have put you roughly in the 6th percentile.

With a score like that it's not only remarkable that you did OK in college, it's remarkable that you got in.

Notwithstanding that, is it your position that SAT scores, or more precisely, trends in SAT scores, have no meaning, or are you just throwing out more food for thought?
I am saying that just because one does not do well on an SAT does not mean that one will not do well in college .
I began my college education in a junior college .
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Old September 14th, 2011, 08:32 PM
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I don't recall problems in my high school years with academics, but that was years ago in a university town. My grown kids did well in school, but there was a nightly reading session from toddlers and on. My youngest even got kicked out of kindergarden, but after testing, skipped a full grade. I don't think my oldest was challenged at her high school, though made who's who.

Today, she makes her living tutoring high school students to take their SATS or whatever Mass. calls them. These kids are fortunate in the fact their parents can afford these tutoring sessions, she has to turn some away as she can't see all of them, too many. It's unfortunate these kids even needed to be tutored, they all come from non poverty level income homes.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 08:47 PM
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I am saying that just because one does not do well on an SAT does not mean that one will not do well in college .
I began my college education in a junior college .
All your situation demonstrates is that there are exceptions to everything. This we know. We also know that over the years there have allegedly been all sorts of biases built into the SAT. . .racial, socioeconomic, you name it. It is not now nor has it ever been a perfect test.

But in the long, slow curve, colleges must believe that there is some predictive value to this test and others like it. Otherwise they would not factor the results into their admission decisions and the ETS would go out of business.

What's more, as I tried to point out, for the purposes of this discussion I'm far more interested in trends than in individual experiences. The fact that the trend is going in the wrong direction is what's disturbing.
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Old September 14th, 2011, 10:41 PM
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I believe that SAT's and equivalent tests should be done away with .
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Old September 14th, 2011, 11:21 PM
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I am saying that just because one does not do well on an SAT does not mean that one will not do well in college .
I began my college education in a junior college .
Your right! Some people don't test well at all but are very smart.
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Old September 15th, 2011, 11:53 AM
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I believe that SAT's and equivalent tests should be done away with .
Two questions:

1. Exactly who would "do away" with these standardized tests? Should the government outlaw them? I thought we were supposed to keep the government out of our lives. Should colleges refuse to consider them? Colleges could ignore them any time they like, but they have chosen to factor them in to acceptance decisions. Are they wrong? Do you not think that there have been exhaustive studies done on the predictive value of these tests? I'm at a loss to see how you do away with these tests absent the discrediting of them by those who use them.

2. Assuming the tests were banned, what would replace them? Grades alone? You've got to be kidding. Do you think there's any correlation at all between an "A" in a school that specializes in--as Norm put it--"social promotion" and an "A" in a tough, no-nonsense, academically oriented school? If there were no standardized tests, what indicator should colleges use to help level the playing field? Or should they just take their chances?
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Old September 15th, 2011, 01:01 PM
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Two questions:

1. Exactly who would "do away" with these standardized tests? Should the government outlaw them? I thought we were supposed to keep the government out of our lives. Should colleges refuse to consider them? Colleges could ignore them any time they like, but they have chosen to factor them in to acceptance decisions. Are they wrong? Do you not think that there have been exhaustive studies done on the predictive value of these tests? I'm at a loss to see how you do away with these tests absent the discrediting of them by those who use them.

2. Assuming the tests were banned, what would replace them? Grades alone? You've got to be kidding. Do you think there's any correlation at all between an "A" in a school that specializes in--as Norm put it--"social promotion" and an "A" in a tough, no-nonsense, academically oriented school? If there were no standardized tests, what indicator should colleges use to help level the playing field? Or should they just take their chances?
I recently reconnected with a guy that I went to elementary school with .He was such a poor student that his parents were told that a trade school was his best bet . This guy is currently a professor at Duke University .
I was a miserable student in HS .My SAT scores were as I posted previously .I perservered after getting into college and graduated with a dual major of Psychology and Sociology and a minor in English Literature .
Yes ,these two cited cases are not the norm ,I readily agree .

I would not allow any person entrance into a college solely to play sports .
I would replace the SAT's with a comprehensive exam incorporating more than just math and english questions .
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Old September 15th, 2011, 02:46 PM
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Exclamation The meaning of SATs

Do away with the SAT? Why?

Standardized testing is a very difficult thing for most people to comprehend. We are used to looking at people (and at ourselves) on an individualized basis. We all know it is true that some people have trouble filling in bubbles and that there are people who test badly but are still bright and academically capable. We also know some people who don't seem to have the sense to get out of bed, but do very well on standardized testing.

THE THING IS that standardized testing does not deal with individuals, it deals with statistical universes and takes the big view. Any experienced teacher can tell you that a low-testing student may do well in school, and a high-testing student may do poorly. BUT any experienced teacher can also tell you that a classroom full of high testing students is a very different place than a classroom of low testing students, and that AS A WHOLE will achieve to a much higher level. Standardized testing can't see the trees, but has a very good view of the forest as a whole.

Schools that choose to take the approach of admitting mostly high scoring students will be different places than those that use other criteria. Whether they are better schools remains for the students and the community to decide. But there is no question they will be different. That is what standardized testing is all about, for good or ill.

In America we have this grand idea that every student should get an education that prepares them for a PhD. Of course, as more and more students take the tests, more and more of the "normal" curve is included in the statistical sample, and scores are going to tend to fall. The great answer, IMNSHO, is to give up on preparing EVERYBODY for college, and let the academically talented continue their education and those whose abilities and talents are in other directions pursue those directions. I would love to be able to find an auto mechanic as well qualified in his field as my cardiologist is in his.
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Old September 15th, 2011, 02:51 PM
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I recently reconnected with a guy that I went to elementary school with .He was such a poor student that his parents were told that a trade school was his best bet . This guy is currently a professor at Duke University .
I was a miserable student in HS .My SAT scores were as I posted previously .I perservered after getting into college and graduated with a dual major of Psychology and Sociology and a minor in English Literature .
Yes ,these two cited cases are not the norm ,I readily agree .

I would not allow any person entrance into a college solely to play sports .
I would replace the SAT's with a comprehensive exam incorporating more than just math and english questions .
Right. And there are profoundly mentally disabled people who are concert pianists. You and your professor friend are brilliant. You overcame significant odds to succeed academically. Great.

But that doesn't mean that you can invalidate something by citing exceptions. I know science is a dirty word among many who post here, but scientifically valid studies have shown the tests to be valuable. Not perfect. Just valuable. Again, if colleges didn't agree that they're helpful, they wouldn't use them. There would be no reason to.

Beyond that, and I'll just say it one more time, the trend line is down on the same test over time. That's really the only point to be made here. Our nation's high school students, as a whole, are not doing as well as they once did. The point isn't that Henry got to be brilliant despite low scores, or that his professor friend didn't listen to some guidance doofus. The thing this test has is a huge sample size that has been benchmarked over decades. This makes for a reasonably valid trend line, despite the acknowledged anomalies in the test that have been more or less consistent over time.

As far as testing "other" things besides verbal and math skills, the teachers around here can comment on whether it still works this way, but back when the earth was cooling we had to take three additional tests besides the core verbal and math exams. I forget what they were, but I know they were part of the SAT, and we had to go in on a different day to take them. They were required by the places I applied to. But verbal and math skills are the key to everything. If you don't have those, you're done for. The three R's are the three R's, and there's a reason for that.

Admissions solely for sports? You're absolutely correct. The NCAA is a criminal enterprise in my opinion, the colleges are complicit in the name of the almighty dollar, and it is a national disgrace. Student athletes are thing of the past except in club sports and maybe occasionally in Division 3. The rest of it is the work of the Devil. I boycott all big college sports, in person and on television.
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Old September 15th, 2011, 04:41 PM
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Well actually some university’s now give the option to either submit your SAT or ACT scores or write a short response to essay questions.
http://www.suntimes.com/7404500-417/...l-seniors.html
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Old September 15th, 2011, 05:43 PM
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Nancy,

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I can give one reason for this to happen in FL. The FCAT, teachers have to spend so much time teaching this test that they don't have the time to teach what is needed. If they would put together a full curriculum and have standard tests for it then students could learn.
One would hope that "put[ting] together a full curriculum and then hav[ing] standard tests for it" is precisely what Florida's Department of Education did, and that the FCAT is the test that came out of such a process.

Here in Massachusetts, the State Department of Education did develop a model curriculum and then developed a series of standard tests called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) based thereupon. Ever since its institution, all the teachers' unions have done is bellyache about needing to teach to the test, allegedly at the expense of real learning. The MCAS does have one major flaw, though -- its tests occur only at the end of fourth grade, eighth grade, and tenth grade, with passing scores on the tenth grade test being officially required for graduation with a "diploma" rather than a "certificate of attendance" (but not without exceptions). The problem here is that if a class of students do poorly on one of the MCAS exams, there's no way to tell where that class fell behind and which teacher to hold accountable -- which is why I believe the tests need to occur at the end of every school year.

But backing up a step, doesn't a properly structured test assess the students' mastery of the material in the model curriculum that's the basis for the test? So how does one "teach to" a properly structured test without teaching the material?

If one wishes to make the case that the FCAT or the MCAS is not structured properly, please do so -- but so far, the teachers' unions here have not advanced such an argument. They have only complained about having to teach to a test, which apparently means simply that the teachers have to do what we pay them to do.

Norm.
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Old September 15th, 2011, 06:57 PM
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AR,

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I agree with every single point you made, including your 6-step recipe for improvement. I really do.
Actually, I have one more suggestion: institute policies whereby the top academic achievers and members of the National Honor Society with good attendance and disciplinary records get perks that make such status highly desirable to the whole student body. Some possibilities include invitations to various special events (which could be anything from an "honor roll party" for students who make the honor roll at the end of each adacemic term to dinners or seminars with prominent individuals from the local community, a separate dining room with more "upscale" furnishings than the main area of the cafeteria, permanent hall passes, "early dismissal" whenever they have study hall at the end of the school day, "open campus" privileges in junior and senior year, and use of a preferred section of the student parking lot. The objectives of this program are (1) to put a progression of these perks within reach of all of the students, thus providing incentive for all students to do their best and to realize their potential, and (2) to create a culture supportive of academic excellence by giving the status of "Big Man on Campus" (BMOC) and "Big Woman on Campus" (BWOC) to the academic high achievers rather than to the star atheletes and the prettiest cheerleaders.

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And of course it is true that there are lots of good schools--public and private-- that run rings around most of the rest of the country. Many of them are in the suburbs of the great cities, and although there is certainly a correlation, there's no fixed rule that says that only "rich kids" go to them.
Yes, that's true. The community that I described in a previous post where I'm interviewing students with six to eight AP courses for my alma mater is anything but a rich community. In fact, it's just the opposite. Many of the applicants are from seriously "disadvantaged" backgrounds. When I conduct information sessions at the schools in this suburban city, the guidence counsellors who monitor these sessions usually advise the students that those who receive free lunches typically qualify for waivers of the application fee, and go on to explain how to get the waiver paperwork. Many of these applicants from this community are from so-called "single parent" situations, and there are also many immigrant families with both parents working full time to make ends meet. I have had to comfort students who broke down in tears as they described the loss of a parent to cancer or other unfortunate circumstances or, worse yet, the surviving parent being diagnosed with cancer after the other parent had died of cancer. I also have had several applicants from this community who have come through the Questbridge program, which seeks to match qualified students from disadvantaged backgrounds with our most prestigious academic institutions. Surprisingly, I get considerably more applicants per capita from this community than from any other, and all of those applicants are very well qualified to attend our most predigious institutions.

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My impression is that one of the biggest predictors of school success is parental involvement in the school community, which is a reflection of parents' attitudes about education. As in Massachusetts, we're fortunate here in suburban DC to have public schools that do an excellent job of preparing students for the future. We put both kids through our public school system. In addition to their coursework they were both heavily involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. They both proved that they were amply ready for the next level, they breezed through very good colleges, got excellent jobs, and are kids that any parent would be proud of, as are many of their schoolmates, whose exploits we hear about at block parties and other community gatherings with the neighbors.
Well, parental encouragement and support are certainly key factors, to be sure. There's probably a relatively strong correlation between that encouragement and support and parental involvement in the school in families that have fairly comforatble lifestyles, but I have interviewed many highly successful students whose parents simply don't have time to be involved in their schools and extracurricular activities.

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But I remember very well that during their days in high school when we would have casual conversations with relatives and friends elsewhere about what courses were being taken and what sorts of things were going on in high school here, they'd be shocked. It was clear to us that our schools were the exceptions and not the rule.
I remember quite a few of those conversations when I was in high school, too, but the other side of that coin is that the students who were not taking the same classes that I took in a given grade typically were on a college track rather than an AP track. Thus, it was never an "apples to apples" comparison.

When my Godson, then living in Golden, Colorado, reached high school age, he decided that he wanted to go to Littleton High School rather than Golden High School. What I did not realize until then was that the school disctricts in that state are strictly by county (Denver has its own, but only because it is legally incorporated as "The City and County of Denver" and the building that would be known as "city hall" anywhere else is therefore "the city and county building"), and students living anywhere in the county could apply to any of its high schools. The reason for his choice was that Littleton High School was very academically oriented, offering an "International Baccalaureate" (IB) program that he wanted to pursue, whereas Golden High School was more of a typical high school with its school spirit centered on athletics. I later learned that a third of the student body at Littleton High School was the IB program and another third consisted of other advanced placement (AP) students -- and this is a public high school!

No, our schools here in Boston's 'burbs cannot match that, and I would not be surprised if school districts in many rural areas have a similar set-up that tends to collect the "talented and gifted" (T&G) students in one place.

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A couple weeks ago there was a flyer stuck in the door asking us to leave some canned food on the porch the following Saturday for the local food bank. It said, "Nothing formal. We're just six Yorktown kids trying to make a difference." Everybody put food out, and the joke around the neighborhood was that it was probably court-ordered community service. But nobody really believed that. Just some good kids.
Yes, much is possible -- but let's not forget that our school teachers and other youth leaders can inspire our young people to think along these lines. Even a parent of one of the youngsters in the neighborhood can make such a difference!

Norm.
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  #23 (permalink)  
Old September 15th, 2011, 07:23 PM
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AR,

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Beyond that, and I'll just say it one more time, the trend line is down on the same test over time. That's really the only point to be made here. Our nation's high school students, as a whole, are not doing as well as they once did.
Unless the test is consistently given to the same cross section of students chosen in the same manner year to year, you really cannot draw the conclusioon that you are trying to draw. If you assume a normal ("bell-shaped") distribution of academic ability, the you'll see a lower mean if the top half of the students take the test than if only the top third of the students take the test because you are including students who are less gifted in your statistics. It does not show that the students who are equally gifted are achieving lower scores. The same is true of any other statistic -- median, quartiles, deciles, etc. -- that depends upon how much of the distribution you sample.

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The point isn't that Henry got to be brilliant despite low scores, or that his professor friend didn't listen to some guidance doofus. The thing this test has is a huge sample size that has been benchmarked over decades. This makes for a reasonably valid trend line, despite the acknowledged anomalies in the test that have been more or less consistent over time.
But, again, this trend line reflects the fact that there has been a marked increase in the percentage of students who take the test. If you were to see that trend in a standard test administered to the entire student population year after year, the conclusion that students of similar ability are less academically prepared would be legitimate.

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Admissions solely for sports? You're absolutely correct. The NCAA is a criminal enterprise in my opinion, the colleges are complicit in the name of the almighty dollar, and it is a national disgrace. Student athletes are thing of the past except in club sports and maybe occasionally in Division 3. The rest of it is the work of the Devil. I boycott all big college sports, in person and on television.
I have two modest proposals.

>> 1. The NFL and the NBA should set up their own minor leagues, much as Major League Baseball and the NHL have their own minor leagues, to develop players who are not "college material."

>> 2. The NCAA should change its eligibility requirements such that (1) colleges would be forbidden from setting lower academic standards for admission for student athletes than for other students and from awarding scholarships based on athletic ability and (2) each student athlete would have one year of athletic eligibility as a freshman, one year of eligibility as a sophomore, one year of eligibility as a junior, and one year of eligibility as a senior, with an explicit requirement that the student athlete would have to meet the same academic requirements as any other student to obtain the respective standing for each year of eligibility.

I think that these actions would do much to clean up college sports.

Norm.
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Old September 15th, 2011, 07:42 PM
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Default College sports

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Right. And there are profoundly mentally disabled people who are concert pianists. You and your professor friend are brilliant. You overcame significant odds to succeed academically. Great.

But that doesn't mean that you can invalidate something by citing exceptions. I know science is a dirty word among many who post here, but scientifically valid studies have shown the tests to be valuable. Not perfect. Just valuable. Again, if colleges didn't agree that they're helpful, they wouldn't use them. There would be no reason to.

Beyond that, and I'll just say it one more time, the trend line is down on the same test over time. That's really the only point to be made here. Our nation's high school students, as a whole, are not doing as well as they once did. The point isn't that Henry got to be brilliant despite low scores, or that his professor friend didn't listen to some guidance doofus. The thing this test has is a huge sample size that has been benchmarked over decades. This makes for a reasonably valid trend line, despite the acknowledged anomalies in the test that have been more or less consistent over time.

As far as testing "other" things besides verbal and math skills, the teachers around here can comment on whether it still works this way, but back when the earth was cooling we had to take three additional tests besides the core verbal and math exams. I forget what they were, but I know they were part of the SAT, and we had to go in on a different day to take them. They were required by the places I applied to. But verbal and math skills are the key to everything. If you don't have those, you're done for. The three R's are the three R's, and there's a reason for that.

Admissions solely for sports? You're absolutely correct. The NCAA is a criminal enterprise in my opinion, the colleges are complicit in the name of the almighty dollar, and it is a national disgrace. Student athletes are thing of the past except in club sports and maybe occasionally in Division 3. The rest of it is the work of the Devil. I boycott all big college sports, in person and on television.
I tend to root fo teams from the Ivy League schools .
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Old September 16th, 2011, 09:32 AM
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Norm--

On the notion of increased numbers of test-takers bringing down the scores, I understand the point, but left to chance wouldn't the increase in people be roughly evenly distributed across intelligence/achievement, thereby making it a wash? Seems to me the thing that would significantly skew it would be if students who hadn't done well and/or were not on a college track were encouraged to take the test in disproportionate numbers.

I'm not fundamentally a stat guy, but it's hard to see how increased numbers alone would introduce a signficant change in trend unless those people were "recruited" in a way that's different from the past.
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Old September 16th, 2011, 02:55 PM
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I tend to root fo teams from the Ivy League schools .

HMMM, you enjoy supporting the underdogs, huh?

Fight Fiercely, Hahvad ...

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Old September 16th, 2011, 03:03 PM
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Exclamation Demographics skewed

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Norm--

On the notion of increased numbers of test-takers bringing down the scores, I understand the point, but left to chance wouldn't the increase in people be roughly evenly distributed across intelligence/achievement, thereby making it a wash? Seems to me the thing that would significantly skew it would be if students who hadn't done well and/or were not on a college track were encouraged to take the test in disproportionate numbers.
Which is exactly what is happening, Norm. In my generation (long long ago) you only took the SAT if you were applying for a top tier school. I think probably 10% of my high school class took the SAT, and that was the top 10%. The "normal" curve thus generated was clearly skewed. Today so many more schools are requiring the test, and so many more students are being encouraged to take the test, that the demographics have changed. I venture that about 50% of the typical high school student body takes the test. If you are testing the top 50% instead of the top 10%, of course that changes the curve considerably.

But the question remains whether current students are truly failing in basic skills. Probably the answer is yes. IMNSHO educators as a group came up with too many strange theories and failed to provide that basic education. The net result, in Florida, in California, and so many other places, is the High School Exit Exams, imposed by a state legislature which knows essentially nothing about education and goes to a knee jerk test which measures some unknown quantities. The sad thing is that it is working! The unqualified legislature is actually producing better educated students than the highly trained educators were! Sort of spotlights a problem, doesn't it?
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Old September 16th, 2011, 03:44 PM
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HMMM, you enjoy supporting the underdogs, huh?

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I played on a company basketball team . In the summer of 1963 we played and defeated a team comprised of NBA players.
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Old September 16th, 2011, 05:26 PM
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AR,

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On the notion of increased numbers of test-takers bringing down the scores, I understand the point, but left to chance wouldn't the increase in people be roughly evenly distributed across intelligence/achievement, thereby making it a wash?
No. Most schools push their better students into college tracks and their weaker students into vocational tracks. It's only the students in the college track who are going to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is solely part of the college admission process.

Now, there are two scenarios.

>> 1. If the increase in students taking SAT's is solely due to a larger student population, with no change in the threshold between college track and vocational track, the test scores should remain about the same.

>> 2. But where there's an increase in the percentage of students taking the SAT's, it's because a larger percentage of students are now in the college track, indicating a lowering of the threshold. In this scenario, the additional percentage of students are a group that is less capable, and thus that achieves lower scores.

In fact, the second of these scenarios is what is being reported.

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Seems to me the thing that would significantly skew it would be if students who hadn't done well and/or were not on a college track were encouraged to take the test in disproportionate numbers.
Yes, and that's exactly what has happened.

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Originally Posted by You
I'm not fundamentally a stat guy, but it's hard to see how increased numbers alone would introduce a signficant change in trend unless those people were "recruited" in a way that's different from the past.
Yes, and again that's exactly what has happened.

Norm.
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Old September 16th, 2011, 06:05 PM
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Mike,

[QUOTE=You;1392771]
[quote=AR]Norm--

On the notion of increased numbers of test-takers bringing down the scores, I understand the point, but left to chance wouldn't the increase in people be roughly evenly distributed across intelligence/achievement, thereby making it a wash? Seems to me the thing that would significantly skew it would be if students who hadn't done well and/or were not on a college track were encouraged to take the test in disproportionate numbers.
Quote:
Which is exactly what is happening, Norm.
Ah, did you really intend this reply for AR? He wrote the post to which you responded, addressing his comments to me as the author of the post to which he responded.

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Originally Posted by You
In my generation (long long ago) you only took the SAT if you were applying for a top tier school. I think probably 10% of my high school class took the SAT, and that was the top 10%. The "normal" curve thus generated was clearly skewed. Today so many more schools are requiring the test, and so many more students are being encouraged to take the test, that the demographics have changed. I venture that about 50% of the typical high school student body takes the test. If you are testing the top 50% instead of the top 10%, of course that changes the curve considerably.
I'm not persuaded that the caliber of colleges that require SAT (or ACT) scores is much different than it was a couple generations ago, but the student capacity of standard four-year colleges has expanded much faster than the population through a combination of growth of existing schools and development of new schools. Of course, another facet of this phenomenon is that many fields historically learned through apprenticeship or post-high school programs now have college degree programs. Years ago, a nursing schools and cullinary schools awarded professional certificates rather than a college degrees, and those who went into the fine arts and performing arts did so through apprenticeships or mentorships rather than through college degree programs.

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But the question remains whether current students are truly failing in basic skills. Probably the answer is yes.
Here, I think the answer is anything but uniform. Many school districts are providing their students with outstanding education, but many other school districts are failing miserably.

Having said that, the administration at my alma mater conducted some "focus group" sessions at an "alumni leadership" conference several years ago concerning some proposals to restructure the academic curriculum that had come out of a faculty committee. One of the proposals was to redefine the degrees such that a master's degree, rather than a bachelor's degree, would be regarded as the minimum standard of professional competence. They gave two reasons for proposing this change, the first being that some academic majors left the students with very few free electives and the second being that some percentage of the student body required some remedial courses before embarking on the normal freshman curriculum. We, the alumni, gave a resounding answer that diluting academic standards was absolutely the wrong thing to do, and further responded to each of the rationales. With regard to the first, we pointed out that some students like a very structured curriculum and that we did not see the lack of free electives in some majors as a serious problem, but we additionally suggested that the departments in question might review their course structure to see of some of the required courses might have contain significant amounts of non-core material, and if it might be possible to rearrange the real core material into fewer required courses. And as to students whose academic preparation in high school was lacking, we fully supported the idea of providing remedial courses but stated emphatically that such remedial courses should not count toward the credits required for a degree.

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IMNSHO educators as a group came up with too many strange theories and failed to provide that basic education. The net result, in Florida, in California, and so many other places, is the High School Exit Exams, imposed by a state legislature which knows essentially nothing about education and goes to a knee jerk test which measures some unknown quantities. The sad thing is that it is working! The unqualified legislature is actually producing better educated students than the highly trained educators were! Sort of spotlights a problem, doesn't it?
Well, it's a bit more complex than that. The legislatures have responded to the educational deficiencies identified in some school districts in their states by enacting laws requiring the state's Department of Education to develop standard tests and requiring students to pass those tests to receive a "diploma" rather than a "certificate of attendance." But it's actually the respective state's Department of Education, presumably staffed by people with some competence, that have produced the actual curricula and the state-wide standard tests.

Having said that, I would actually say that our federal constitution actually grants the responsibility to establish uniform standards for education to our federal government. Thus, the responsibility to establish and administer standard tests of academic achievement rightfully should rest with the National Bureau of Standards.

Norm.
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