The Sciences

One test to rule them all

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJun 23, 2012 3:16 AM

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Educational Realist elaborates on some of the concerns I have had with Chris Hayes' ballyhooed piece on the failure of elites:

Hayes is correct about one thing, though: the elites are locking out the hoi polloi from highest-level institutions. But it takes a real ignorance to pretend that the rich are doing this because of over-reliance on test scores or test prep, as opposed to buying their way in, using their powerful networks to only hire from the “right” schools, and the fuzzy math of the “holistic” evaluation process. Give me test scores any day.

ER also observes that in fact minorities, and in particular Asians, make use of test prep: Use of Test-Prep Courses and Gains, by Race and Ethnicity

When I was in kindergarten I scored in the bottom 5 percent on an IQ test in the first week. At the end of the year I scored in the top 5 percent. I didn't know English very well at the beginning of the year, and full immersion helped me catch up by year's end (my English converged to nearly 100% fluency by 1st grade). Additionally, I might add that until I was in about 12 I assumed that my generally good standardized test cores and academic performance was due to my own work ethic, and that the vast majority of children who scored lower than me were just lazy (that is what my parents told me; a teacher had to explain to me that it was obvious I actually spent less time on schoolwork than some of my peers, whose realized performance was weaker). One thing that immediately struck me about Hayes' focus on high-stakes testing in the New York City public school system is that while it is true that investment in cram schools and test-prep can allow some students to "game" the system, this is far easier for lower and lower-middle class parents to afford than the polish, grace, and breeding, which only the upper and upper class have access to by virtue of their connections and the rich well-rounded experience of comfort. In other news, Why Family Income Differences Don't Explain the Racial Gap in SAT Scores:

Group% Taking Test-Prep CoursePost-Course Gain in Points on SAT

East Asian American30%68.8

Other Asian15%23.8

White10%12.3

Black16%14.9

Hispanic11%24.6

Here, the first point made is that for black and white students from families with incomes between $80,000 and $100,000 in 1997, there still remains a huge 141-point gap in SAT scores. Second and most difficult to explain is the fact that in 1997 black students from families with incomes between $80,000 and $100,000 did in fact score lower on the SAT test than did students from white families with incomes of less than $10,000.

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