Berkeley CSUA MOTD:Entry 37402
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2005/4/28-30 [Academia/GradSchool] UID:37402 Activity:insanely high
4/28    Why is there so much opposition from liberals to a high school exit
        exam? Supposedly, 83% of kids have passed it. I know it is bad for
        self-esteem when a kid is a fuckup, but maybe failing the exam
        will help that lower fifth realize they need to work harder. The
        funniest comment I heard was the exit exams will hurt graduation
        rates. Yeah, I guess they will. If a kid can't pass an easy exam
        they have been preparing 3 years for then maybe they shouldn't
        graduate until they do. Why are these people teaching our children?!
        \_ Uhm, why would you need an exit exam in the first place?
           Instead of making kids pass an exit exam before graduation, we
           should just make the classes harder. We don't need an
           exit exam to get a degree from Berkeley, we just need to
           pass all of our classes. -moderate
           \_ Lots of universities do have exit exams.
              \_ Interesting, which ones? What do they test on?
                 \_ Well, for example, UC Santa Cruz. It's a
                    department-level requirement rather than a university
                    one. The exam covers general knowledge, but a list of
                    study materials is provided ahead of time.
           \_ How do you enforce that all classes meet a certain threshold of
              quality and grading levels are meaningful across schools?  Hell,
              forget K-12.  How do you do that at the college level, so that
              graduates of 'fraud with a A- GPA knows as much as a Cal grad?
              \_ Uhm, give more money to schools so that they can hire better
                 people to A) Administrate them and B) Teach the courses in
                 the K-12 level? As for the college level, in order to pass
                 a compsci class you need to at least know how to program to
                 a minimal level of proficiency to pass, at least at Cal. As
                 for other schools, well, the ones that don't matter and have
                 easy classes have bad reps and nobody cares about them. The
                 ones that have easy classes (like Stanford and Harvard) have
                 a built-in selection mechanism to ensure only bright people
                 get in or their parents have enough money to ensure that their
                 kids have a minimal threshold of education to start off with,
                 so society takes care of them. Anyway, if you want better
                 HS graduates what you need to do is change the culture and
                 the curriculum. I don't get how a standardized test achieves
                 either. In a sense, we already have a standardized exit exams
                 for college bound high school students, the SAT, so an
                 additional test of that sort would be redundant. If you want
                 better schools you first need to get better administrators
                 and second you need to get better teachers and third you need
                 to get better infrastructure. All of the above require lots
                 of money, which is why prep schools and other private
                 institutions blow public schools out of the water in general.
                 Also, if you take a look at school districts that are part
                 self funding like the one in Contra Costa County you see
                 a world of difference. It's actually pretty simple, want
                 better schools? Increase school funding. The question is,
                 do you want to pay?
                 \_ The money arguement is provably bullshit.  If you look
                    at the spending per student at different schools around
                    the state(which I just did for my home state), you'll
                    see shitty, crime-ridden inner city schools often spend
                    more money per student than the suburban schools, which
                    in my state gave the prep schools a run for their money
                    in terms of test scores and admission to top colleges.
                    \_ You're forgetting the amount of money that schools
                       raise on their own through fundraisers plus the
                       infrastructure that parents contribute to the schools
                       in suburban communities (i.e. the PTA in suburbs is
                       MUCH more active than in inner cities and a LOT more
                       people are privately funding things behind the
                       scenes). The reason why inner city schools get more
                       money is because they have to deal with a lot more
                       problems, i.e. security. A suburban public high school
                       in a decent neighborhood will equate to an inner city
                       prep school. You can't simply look at the raw numbers
                       that the state provides you. Kids in suburbs cost a
                       lot more to raise per capita than kids in inner cities.
                       Parents have the means and are willing to spend that
                       kind of money on kids in suburbs, but parents in inner
                       cities do not. Again, it's just a function of money. If
                       you want higher test scores and smarter kids, be willing
                       to spend the money to upgrade their environment. Again,
                       are you willing to pay?
                       \_ As usual, you miss the point.  The point is that
                          *no* amount of money will solve the problem of
                          bad inner city schools.  The kids in the public
                          school I went to got higher test scores because they
                          were in a culture that encouraged academic
                          performance.  Most kids I knew were read to by their
                          parrents before they even got to school, which
                          gives us an advantage that no amount of spending
                          can make up for.  I'm not proposing a solution,
                          I'm just saying that lack of money is simply not
                          the problem.  Calling greater parental involvement
                          in schools "infrastructure", as though you can just
                          add that to a town budget is just plain stupid.
                          \_ Uhm, no, you miss the point of my previous post.
                             I never said that just adding in money will result
                             in better schools. I said that you need to change
                             the administration and the teachers and the
                             infrastructure of schools to get higher test
                             scores. In order to do that you have to pour in
                             resources into the schools, which basically
                             equates to money. Obviously pouring money into
                             an existing infrastructure that doesn't work
                             will not work. I'm saying you have to change
                             the system. Changing the system requires a lot
                             of money and a lot of political will power. The
                             question is, are you willing to spend time/money
                             on this problem? It's also naive of you to think
                             that good schools can't make a difference in
                             a young person's life. Ever see the move
                             Stand and Deliver? It's a true story. I actually
                             was close to the district that Garfield High was
                             in. Thinking that Latino or Black kids can't learn
                             Calculus was wrong and was racist. Give the schools
                             the right infrastructure, and you can turn out
                             inner city kids that can ace the AP Calc exam.
                             Case closed.
                             \_ I think the point here is that the inner
                                city schools receive about the same
                                funding, so why does their infrastructure
                                not work and yet in suburban schools it
                                does? Sometimes this happens at different
                                campuses in the same school district (e.g.
                                LA Unified).
                 \_ Grade inflation is rampant throughout higher ed, including
                    at Berkeley.
                    http://ls.berkeley.edu/undergrad/colloquia/04-11.html.
                    50% of Berkeley undergraduate grades are A's, 35% are
                    B's, and less than 5% are D's or F's.  -tom
                    B's, and less than 5% were D's or F's.  -tom
                    \_ The grade distribution never looked like this for
                       the classes I took (mostly math). Didn't the
                       Physics Dept. mandate a bell curve with 50% at C+?
                       If you scored the mean on a test you didn't usually
                       get an A (or even B+). That might be different in,
                       say, anthropology or classics where I got A's
                       without really trying.
                       \_ They note that there are differences across
                          disciplines.  -tom
                          \_ Indeed. They do mention that in Physics just
                             15-20% of students earn A's. "The Physics
                             department began monitoring lower division
                             GPAs at one point when it was discovered that
                             instructors were giving mostly B's."
                    \_ Robert Holub hosted the event. Any relationship to tom?
                       \_ No.  -tom
                    \_ Definitely good news for people who had a hard time
                       graduating, like t** and p**
                    \_ "A significant increase in the GPA occurred during the
                        Vietnam War when students received a draft deferment
                        if they remained in good academic standing."
                       Who says draft is a bad thing now? :)
                 \_ The SAT is for entrance to college, not graduation
                    from high school. The idea behind an exit exam is that
                    it gives more value to a HS diploma and is also a
                    metric that schools/teachers can use to see how well
                    the students are doing at all levels, not just
                    college-bound students.
                    \_ So my question to you is, why not just make the SAT
                       a metric that employers can utilize to gauge students?
                       If you are so concerned about gauging the metric
                       of the average H.S. grad, make them take an existing
                       standardized test. Why should the state take up the
                       burden of creating another standardized test? Anyway,
                       companies like UPS already utilize standardized testing
                       to screen applicants, making the whole point moot.
                       \_ It's not for the employers to 'screen', but a
                          metric for the schools. They could use the SAT,
                          but they have no control over it.
                \_ Exactly... you say bad colleges get bad reputations.
                   That doesn't work at the high school level. They are
                   providing public services and need to be held to some
                   minimum standard. They can never be equal but there's
                   no way to enforce "making classes harder" other than
                   having harder standardized tests.
                 \_ How do you know if schools are getting better or worse
                    without testing?  What metric do you propose?  How does
                    that metric compare to direct testing of the output?
        \_ Perhaps you should give your examples of "liberal opposition".
           The progressive take on this is not necessarily that exit exams
           are bad, but that standardization with negative reinforcement is
           not the way to help an ailing school district.
           \_ I gave my examples. Bad for self-esteem and lower graduation
              rates. Obviously not all liberals feel this way, but all of
              the opposition is indeed liberal.
              \_ I meant examples of liberal opposition.  Not the factors to
                 which you say they object.  How 'bout an article or two?
                 Transcript to a news show?
                 \_ Find them yourself. It's easy enough. It's in the
                    headlines right now.
                    \_ It's your argument, man.  If you can't support your
                       own assertions with evidence, or show how you reached
                       your conclusion aside from faulty logic or opinion,
                       then you're in serious danger of being labelled
                       (quite justifiably) a troll.  If you can't even
                       support your own argument with evidence, why the fuck
                       should anyone else?
                       \_ I am assuming I am debating with informed
                          individuals. If you are not informed then it is
                          easy to become so. Use Google. Otherwise, I don't
                          have time to search for and post links. This is
                          in the headlines. It's like asking for a link to
                          who Schiavo is. Read the Chronicle, which said:
                          "Leaders of the teachers unions are adamantly
                          opposed to the exam, as are groups representing
                          the minority students with the lowest pass rates."
                          I'm not a frickin' newspaper. Read one once in a
                          while.
                          \_ why do conservatives support stealing money
                             from public schools to give to rich families?
                             \_ Because public schools apparently aren't
                                worth shit according to the standardized
                                tests. However, most wealthy conservatives
                                not only put their kids in private schools,
                                but contribute to public schools as well.
                                \_ So you're saying conservatives don't care
                                   about the non-wealthy (which is most of
                                   them) conservatives?
                                   \_ They probably don't, however which part
                                      of "contribute to public schools as
                                      well" did you miss? Whether they care
                                      or not, they are helping anyway.
                    \_ If by "liberals" you mean "teachers", then I can tell
                       you it's because they look at education as a continuing
                       process, while those who implement std'ized tests look
                       at it as a race with an endpoint.  In a perfect world,
                       they would have small enough class sizes that they could
                       give the necessary attention to each student.  In their
                       world, the number of students who passed whatever test
                       was set in front of them would be much higher than
                       83%.  As it is, it's a deadline put upon a system with
                       limited resources.  When budget cuts are linked to
                       poor performance on these tests, it creates an incentive
                       to "teach to the test", to the detriment of actual
                       education.
                       \_ This is a load of shit. So "teach to the test"
                          then. At least we're sure they are teaching
                          something, as opposed to now where kids get by
                          w/o learning shit.
                          \_ Dim, you're a load of shit, as you make clear
                             any time you post here.  Talk to a teacher about
                             this sometime.  Pick one you respect.  You'll be
                             surprised how much you don't understand.
                             \_ I've talked to a lot of teachers and I
                                think they are mostly afraid of facing the
                                reality of their situation. No one said
                                teaching is easy. I respect that. However,
                                standardized testing is not supposed to be a
                                panacea or a way for kids to learn more.
                                It's just a metric. If you want to propose
                                something akin to a thesis to graduate high
                                school I am all for that, but personally a
                                simple test seems a lot easier for the
                                teachers if less accurate.
                                \_ So you've talked to the teachers and
                                   dismissed what they've said out of hand.
                                   Grow up.
                                   \_ Yes, it is a sign of immaturity that
                                      I do not take what teachers say at
                                      face value. Heck, my sister-in-law
                                      is a teacher. I find their arguments
                                      lacking. Most of it is touchy-feely
                                      bullshit about catering to the
                                      lowest common denominator. These are
                                      the same people who don't want to be
                                      paid for their performance. I can't
                                      even imagine having a job where my
                                      performance wasn't tied to my
                                      raises. Why would I want to make the
                                      same as someone who does less than I
                                      do? For teachers somehow this is OK.
                                      \_ Yes, not everyone in the world has
                                         the exact same worldview as you.
                                         That does not mean that they are
                                         "wrong" and you are "right."
                                         \_ I have the freedom to label
                                            them 'stupid'. Many of them
                                            are booksmart, but have no
                                            clue how anything works. It
                                            comes from being around 8 year
                                            olds all day. Not wanting a
                                            raise for performance & not wanting
                                            the underperforming teacher in the
                                            next room replaced is idiotic
                                            in every worldview but theirs.
                                            If schools were run by
                                            businesspeople instead of
                                            'educators' more shit would
                                            get done. In fact, this is
                                            closer to how private schools
                                            work.
                                            \_ I'm amused that you think you
                                               have a clue about how things
                                               work.
                                               \_ I get a feeling you are
                                                  easily amused. I'm
                                                  saddened that you think
                                                  I don't have a clue.
                          \_ This is a load of shit.  How is 'teaching to the
                             test' equivalent to an education in any
                             rational sense?  Memorizing a set of answers
                             without any context or any ability to apply
                             that knowledge isn't education.
                             \_ Our education system, including college,
                                is the best in the world. We must be
                                doing something right.
                                \_ Nah - I think our collegiate educational
                                   system is the best in the world, but our
                                   lower level educational system(s) are
                                   desperately in need of attention.
                                   \_ Your claim that high school graduates
                                      are the worst in the world is hard
                                      to reconcile with the fact that our
                                      college graduates are the best.
                                      \_ Uhm, ehr?  I never made the claim
                                         that our HS grads are the worst in
                                         world.  You should reread my previous
                                         post, dude.
                                         the world.  You should reread my
                                         previous post, dude.
                                      \_ Maybe most of our college grads
                                         are foreigners (this is certainly
                                         true in the postgraduate level).
                             \_ Really basic math skills, history recital,
                                and English language ability should be
                                easily testable. And yes, a lot of kids would
                                fail that. And if they do then they aren't
                                ready to graduate. Obviously we expect that
                                an education should have been provided along
                                the way, but a basic test can at least stop
                                blindly pushing kids through a system without
                                even meeting the most basic of educations.
                                Ideally basic tests should be given in earlier
                                grades to catch problems earlier. Kids in a
                                certain grade should be expected to have a
                                certain skill level. Smaller class sizes are
                                good to a point, but only the kid and his
                                parents really have the ability to make sure
                                a kid learns actual skills, and not sit around
                                in no-pressure environments where everything
                                is the right answer.
                                \_ Err, I'm not taking a stand for or against
                                   the notion of an exit exam.  Reread, please.
                                   I'm objecting to the fuck-stupid notion
                                   that teachers prepping students to pass one
                                   very basic test is in any way meaningful.
                                   \_ The problem here is that kids aren't
                                      passing the tests EVEN WHEN the
                                      teachers teach to the test. This
                                      implies that when they are not
                                      teaching to the test the results are
                                      about as dismal. So teach to the
                                      test and get 98% of the kids to pass
                                      and then worry about if it is meaningful.
                             \_ And yet our fully contextual students get
                                clobbered annually in achievement tests by
                                students in countries big on memorization.
                                And we lament when our colleges and grad schools
                                couldn't import more of those memorization
                                drones.  Amazing.
                                \_ 'Fully contextual'?  Are you nuts?  The
                                   problem has more to do with crappy quality
                                   of education and (depending on who you
                                   speak with) a bloated administration that
                                   soaks up any money thrown at it.  If you
                                   think that memorizing answers for one test
                                   is going to magically fix everything,
                                   you are so deluded or ignorant it makes my
                                   teeth ache.
                                   \_ college admissions use mostly GPA and SAT
                                      to select students. even the private ones
                                      who are free of government garbage. so
                                      the free market thinks standardized tests
                                      are a good indicator of academic prowess
                                      for their student body that they want to
                                      be the best possible to generate good
                                      alumni etc.
                                      \_ 'The free market'?  LOL.  Thanks.
                                         That actually made my day.
                                   \_ Do they make the tests available ahead of
                                      time?  Or the questions?  If not, how do
                                      you memorize the answers?  Or do they
                                      make a study guide available?  Go ahead,
                                      memorizing that would be a good start.
                                      \_ Yes, actually they do make the tests
                                         available ahead of time.  That's
                                         a rather large part of the origin of
                                         this debate.  That's why you need
                                         tests that can't be taught to.
                                         \_ URL please.  Giving out tests early
                                            seems stupid enough to require
                                            substantiation.  If all they give
                                            out is a study guide, then teaching
                                            to that seems quite reasonable.  It
                                            would be even better if they called
                                            it a "study guide" but it's really
                                            a "text book".
                                              \_ That rocks.
                                            \_ In fact, that seems to be exactly
                                               the case.  "Teaching to the test"
                                               means teaching the subjects known
                                               to be in the test, rather than
                                               teaching the questions (or
                                               answers as you claimed).  See
                                               http://csua.org/u/bwm for example.  I'm
                                               still awaiting proof of your
                                               claim that tests are given out
                                               early.
                                            \_ Find them yourself.  It's easy
                                               enough.  You know *nudge,nudge*
                                               google?  Yahoo?
                                               \_ I can't find any.  Of course,
                                                  it's impossible for me to
                                                  prove that it doesn't exists,
                                                  prove that it doesn't exist,
                                                  hence my plea of a positive
                                                  instance where the test was
                                                  given out early, since you
                                                  made the claim.  You can't
                                                  find one either, huh?
                                                  \_ "The abscence of evidence,
                                                  \_ "The absence of evidence,
                                                      is not the evidence of
                                                      abscence."
                                                      absence."
                                                      \_ One would think that
                                                         you made the claim
                                                         with a particular
                                                         example in mind...
                                                         Otherwise why would
                                                         you make the claim in
                                                         the first place?  So
                                                         you're saying you made
                                                         the original claim of
                                                         tests being handed out
                                                         early to students
                                                         *without* any basis at
                                                         all?
                                                         \_ No, I was just
                                                            making fun of
                                                            Rumsfeld for
                                                            saying that during
                                                            the WMD debate.
                                                            \_ So where is the
                                                               reference to
                                                               tests being
                                                               given out early?
                                                               Again, one
                                                               assumes you
                                                               have made the
                                                               claim with some
                                                               basis in fact.
                                                               \_ I am not the
                                                                  same guy who
                                                                  made that
                                                                  claim. I am
                                                                  some other
                                                                  jackass.
                                                  \_ Your assumption that he
                                                     ever looked may be
                                                     somewhat specious.
                          \_ I listened to an interview on KCBS radio.  Teaching
                             to the test is big.  The interviewer asked, "Is
                             that because the teachers are teaching to the
                             test?"  The researcher said, "No, we use an
                             adaptive test that cannot be taught to."
                             Interviewer: "How about this other measurement
                             that declined?  Could that show teaching to the
                             test?"  Researcher: "No, it's impossible to teach
                             to our test.  Our data don't show why that other
                             measure declined."  3 questions later, the
                             interviewer asked: "Does this show the teachers
                             are teaching to the test?"  Researcher: "We don't
                             know yet.  You can say that if you want, but we
                             haven't done the analysis yet."  End of interview,
                             interviewer: "Apparently teaching to the test is
                             causing an improvement in test scores."
        \_ I'm a liberal and support HS Exit Exams.
        \_ I'm a liberal, and I'd support them if they reflected the results
           of some sort of organized curriculum of basic material.
        \_ I'm a liberal and I support gays, lesbians, and welfare.
        \_ You would understand the opposition if you looked at the
           composition of the 17% who fail the test.
           \_ Yes! I forgot this argument. It's racist! Tests are racist
              plots invented to keep minorities down! Oh, except Asians
              \_ Standardized tests are culturally biased in favor of those
                 cultures that value education.
              \_ Have you actually considered the possibily that standardized
                 tests have cultural bias? Nah, probably not. You sound
                 too smug and arrogant to ever consider the possibility
                 that your assumptions might be incorrect.
                 \_ This arguement is laughable, and makes me ashamed to call
                    myself a "liberal", since it seems to be only liberals
                    who actually believe it.  Maybe you can explain what
                    Irish, Jewish, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Scottish
                    immigrants have in common that somehow makes tests biased
                    in favor of all of them.  I'm pretty sure that if the
                    tests were somehow geared towards people who were raised
                    in, say, a Japanese household I would have failed.  And
                    if they had a "jewish" bias, I'm sure the same would be
                    true of most asians who also kick ass on the tests. I'll
                    say it again: standardized tests are culturally biased
                    for exactly one cultural trait: valuing education.
                    This is why affirmative action for higher education makes
                    sense.
                    \_ Are you the same guy who mocked the the notion that
                       there was bias in the tests? You are talking out of
                       both sides of your mouth, if you are. And yes, I can
                       explain how it might be so, but I will not bother
                       wasting my time with someone who is mind is so
                       obviously already made up.
                       \_ Fucktards like you are the reason we keep losing
                          elections.  Maybe you should take your giant brain
                          over to the republican party.
                    \_ Old jungle saying: You can lead a girl to Vassar but
                       you can't make her think.
                 \_ Apparently they're culturally biased for Asians.
                    \_ Is that what you think? Perhaps they are simply
                       biased toward the wealthy:
                       http://www.america-tomorrow.com/ati/gb80211.htm
                       \_ Asians (Jews, too) didn't always have it so
                          good. I am not sure it's genetics, but it
                          certainly is cultural. They are wealthy because
                          they worked hard and studied hard. You have your
                          cause and effect mixed up.
                          \_ At least you are thinking, unlike Mr. Your
                             Argument Is Laughable fellow above. There
                             is probably some kind of virtuous cycle that
                             is taking place. Whether you want to call
                             this evidence of bias or not is up to do.
                             Here is a great paper by a Harvard researcher
                             talking about cultural and language bias:
                             http://gseweb.harvard.edu/hepg/freedle.html
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ls.berkeley.edu/undergrad/colloquia/04-11.html
Click to jump to section links of this category (if any) or continue f or page contents Undergraduate Division L & S Colloquium on Undergraduate Education L&S Colloquium Tackles Grades and Grading Philosophies By Susan Hagstrom January 19, 2005 "91% to Graduate with Honors (at Harvard)" "Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education" "Grade Inflation: It's Not Just an Issue for the Ivy League" Recent eye-catching headlines on grade inflation prompted the Undergradua te Division of the College of Letters and Science to host a colloquium o n the topic of grades and grading philosophies. On November 22, 2004, a panel of four distinguished administrators and fa culty members, and an audience of faculty, staff, and students, gathered to discuss the meaty issues surrounding grades and grading philosophies . Dean of the L&S Undergraduate Division Robert C Holub moderated the even t and opened the discussion with his perception that no topic is more im portant to students while they are undergraduates and less important aft er graduation from college. The four panelists then presented thoughtful , provocative perspectives on the value and purposes of grading along wi th some specific views about what's working, what's not, and what the in stitution could do differently. In a reference to Garrison Keillor's fictional small town, panelist Dr. D ennis Hengstler of the Office of Planning and Analysis described the phe nomenon of grade inflation as the "Lake Wobegon effect", one in which al l of the students are "above average." Giving a historical perspective, Hengstler noted that in prior years a grade of "C" was considered "Avera ge" and is now defined as "Fair." Hengstler set the stage for his fellow panelists by providing statistics and facts about grades at UC Berkeley and elsewhere: * In the late 1950's, the average cumulative GPA for Berkeley undergrad uates was 250 and has increased to approximately 325. A significant increase in the GPA occurred during the Vietnam War when students received a draft deferment if they remained in good academic standing. These findings parallel recent data (spring 2004) from the National Survey of Student Engagement: 40% of students say they earn mostly A's, with 41 percent reporting that they earn mostly B's. An exception in recent years occurred when the SAT total score decreased between 1998 and 2001 as it was deemphasized in the UC admissions process. Such variations are a national phenomenon and are not specific to the Berkeley campus. Princeton has declared that "A's shall account for less than 35% of the grades in any department." "No one, not even faculty who h ave been here for 20 years or more, can accurately interpret a transcrip t," stated Rine. "Yet we try to serve our students, often writing letter s of recommendation, based upon the very data on those transcripts that we cannot accurately interpret." Rine noted the variance between policy and practice in citing a 1976 Berk eley Academic Senate recommendation that the average grade awarded by th e instructor in a course be recorded on the student's transcript along w ith the class size and the grade he or she has earned. The Academic Sena te also stated at that time that "it seems to us that we should attempt to return to the traditional distribution where grades A and B recognize honor work in undergraduate courses and should be awarded to fewer than half the students on average." Rine described the shock he felt during his three years on the Committee on Teaching from roughly 1998 to 2000 when he reviewed teaching records for large undergraduate classes, with more than 100 students, in which n o one got less than an A-, year after year. At the time, Rine asked Asso ciate Registrar Walter Wong to assemble some data looking at upper divis ion and lower division grading in the physical sciences, biological scie nces, social sciences, humanities and engineering, so that he could dist inguish trends from anecdotal exceptions. "The p hysical sciences and engineering had rigorous grading standards roughly in line with the recommendations from 1976," stated Rine, "while the hum anities and social sciences in many classes had all but given up on grad es below a B, and in many courses below an A-, and the biological scienc es had no consistent pattern." Rine gave data from his own discipline to illustrate: in the lower di vision, the average Bio 1A GPA is 248. At the other extreme, in MCB61 t he average GPA is 328, nearly a full grade point higher. At the upper d ivision, MCB 100 has a rigorous 257 GPA, whereas MCB130 L has a 350 GP A, with 62% of the grades being A's. Referring to the 1976 recommendation, Rine outlined two possible benefits of recording the class size and GPA on the student's transcript. First, a student could tell whether he or she was adequately measured against the other students in that class, and hence would have some feeling for whether he or she has talent in that field, as well as an understanding of how much work was required to achieve what level of distinction. Seco nd, faculty evaluating transcripts "would be able to see whether there i s clear evidence of distinction in rigorously graded classes, or whether the grades are ambiguous, in which case we would be better off emphasiz ing other aspects of the record in preparing our evaluations of that stu dent." "The student turns to the last page of the paper and either congra tulates himself or condemns the instructor. When asked to revise a paper, most students use the instructor's comme nts to simply 'correct' their work." Now, McQuade chooses not to put grades on papers, maintaining that grades are a serious distraction from the pedagogy. This approach keeps the re sponsibility for making progress where it belongswith the student. McQu ade believes that his first obligation as a teacher is to create conditi ons where students can learn. He asks students to make an ethical commit ment to submit work that is "ready-to-be-read." The initial readings are done in small groups of students. At the end of the term, McQuade also asks students to write a detailed analysis of the work they have done du ring the semester, summarizing the nature and extent of the specific pro gress they've made and recommending a final grade. If there's a discrepa ncy of more than a half grade (B / A-), he meets with the student to rev iew and reconcile the difference. He finds that the vast majority of stu dents undervalue their work. McQuade observed that students often are expected to pretend that they kn ow how to do something before they've had the time to establish mastery over the skill through practicing it. So, too, he noted that one goal of teaching is to make oneself obsolete by the end of the semester. Bob Jacobsen distinguishes between the grade rec orded on the transcript and the mastery of course material. For Jacobsen , an A should indicate a very good level of understanding of the course content. Jacobsen states that just 15 to 20% of his students earn A's be cause he hasn't figured out how to teach well enough so that they all ma ster the material. "Student's worry about preparing for impacted majors," reflects Jacobsen. "They don't worry about whether they are adequately prepared for the ne xt course." A C grade should indicate that a student is prepared for tha t next course, but may have to struggle with some of the prerequisite ba ckground. The Physics department began monitoring lower division GPAs at one point when it was discovered that instructors were giving mostly B's. A facult y committee then mandated that faculty give A's and C's or explain why. This worked for a while but now, Jacobsen notes, the department is once again drifting toward giving mostly B's in lower division. "I'm not willing to say that 17% of students should automatically receive A's and B's. But I am willing to say that 25% should get D's and F's if they earned them." L & S colloquia, which take place once or twice each semester, pro vide opportunities to learn about and discuss the overarching issues aff ecting undergraduate education at U C Berkeley.
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THE SECRET TO THOSE HIGH ASIAN TEST SCORES: AFFLUENT, WELL EDUCATED DADDI ES, MOMMIES, TOO Gerald W Bracey A principal I know from Brooklyn once joked that when he was a kid, all o f the students knew that Jewish kids had a "smart gene." Now, he said, t he students in this same Brooklyn neighborhood know with equal certainty that the smart gene resides in Asian brains. Indeed, the performance of Asian-American students on tests has been the subject of much admiratio n and why-cant-the-rest-of-you-be-like-this commentary. In a 1992 international study of mathematics, Asian kids in this country ev en outscored students in the top two nations, Taiwan and Korea. Now comes a report from Educational Testing Service that reveals some mor e mundane reasons for high Asian-American test scores: contrary to the s tereotyped images, Asian families are not huddled in tiny apartments in various "Chinatown" slums. Asian students live in the suburbs with paren ts who are considerably more affluent and better educated than the natio n as a whole. If we put them all into a single district, in terms of edu cation and income, it would look a lot like Fairfax County, Grosse Point e or Cherry Creek. In the year of the study, the median family income for Asians in this cou ntry was $41,251. For the nation as a whole, the average family that yea r took in $32,142. The difference is the more remarkable when one consid ers that the figure for Asians includes Cambodians (income, $18,126), La otians ($23,101), and Hmongs ($14,327). Vietnamese, though, had an avera ge income better than the national average, $33,909. When we look at the educational attainments of our Asian immigrants, the figures are staggering. Nationally, 31% of the po pulation are alumni of some institution of higher education. The people coming here from Asia are not just those beckoned by the inscription on the Statue of Libertys base. The figures for other groups, while not matching the South Asians, are al so impressive: Japanese fathers with college degrees, 53%, mothers 42%; F ilipino fathers, 38%, mothers 41% (Filipinos are the largest Asian immig rant group, by the way); Only mothers eman ating from Southeast Asia fall well below the national average, 12%. From these figures alone, someone could argue that this proves that Asian s have a smart gene. But South Asians, with 87% college degrees and Fili pinos with 38% are not among the groups generally presented when people speak of high scoring Asian students. Every study that has ever looked at the relationship between parental edu cational level or parental income and their kids test scores has found a simple correlation: more money equals higher test scores; This income-education-test-score ladder sho ws up on the test results of Asian students. For the best educated, weal thiest group, South Asians, 79% of their offspring score above the 50th percentile in reading, 84% above the 50th percentile in math (nationally , by definition, 50% of students score above the 50th percentile, 50% be low). The percentages decline with declining income and education until, for th e least educated, least affluent group, Southeast Asians, students are a ctually below average: Some 43% of Southeast Asian students scored above the 50th percentile in math, only 32% in reading. Little wonder, then, that only 65% of Southeast Asians aspire to earn a college degree compar ed to 95% of South Asians and 90% of most other groups. Actually, the sc ores for Southeast Asians are somewhat inflated because the report also notes that in high schools with high concentrations of Southeast Asians, the dropout rates hover around 50% (that sound is the crash of another stereotype). The really low scorers have left, taking their low scores w ith them. It would appear that in addition to welcoming the worlds tired, poor, hud dled masses, we have also been aggressively selecting educated, skilled immigrants from the Asian continent. The ETS report was designed to disp el the notion that "Asian" is a meaningful label for such diverse cultur es as Japan, Vietnam and India. It has the incidental merit of sending t he "smart gene" up in a puff of affluence and schooling. Gerald W Bracey is an independent educational researcher in Alexandria, VA and author of the annual "Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Ed ucation (Phi Delta Kappan, October) and of Setting the Record Straight: Responses to Misconceptions About Public Education in the United States.
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com Abstract The SAT has been shown to be both culturally and statistically biased aga inst African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. In this article, Roy Freedle argues for a corrective scoring method, the Revise d-SAT (R-SAT), to address the nonrandom ethnic test bias patterns found in the SAT. The R-SAT, which scores only the "hard" items on the test, i s shown to reduce the mean-score difference between African American and White SAT test-takers by one-third. Further, the R-SAT shows an increas e in SAT verbal scores by as much as 200 to 300 points for individual mi nority test-takers. Freedle also argues that low-income White examinees benefit from the revised score as well. He develops several cognitive an d cultural hypotheses to explain the ethnic regularities in responses to various test items. But, in practice, this early promise has not been fulfilled, especially for minority groups whose mean test performance has departed significantly from White mainstream test-takers . Over the past several decades, the search for a more equitable ethnic representation in our nation's select colleges led to the adoption of af firmative action, a policy that is increasingly under attack (Lemann, 19 99). The recent erosion of affirmative action increases the need for oth er means of identifying promising minority students for admission into o ur system of higher education. This article suggests one avenue for solv ing this problem. The chief purpose of this article is to present a new method of scoring t he SAT (called the Revised-SAT, or R-SAT) that will greatly increase the number of high-scoring minority individuals. This new scoring method co rrects for two types of potential test bias: cultural and statistical. I t has the potential to justify the acceptance of many more minority indi viduals into select colleges based on their test performance, along with other important factors such as high school grade point average. Stephen Jay Gould (1995) reminds us that a test can be biased in at least two ways, culturally or statistically. Gould's distinction crystallizes several ideas regarding test bias. He explains that a standardized test may be culturally biased when one group (typically a minority populatio n) performs consistently lower than some reference population - typicall y, the White population. He adds that a test is considered statistically biased if two individuals (eg, one African American, one White) who g et the same test score nevertheless perform differently on some criterio n external to the test, such as school grades. One can extend Gould's argument to say that a test is culturally biased i f individuals from different ethnic groups interpret critical terms in m any of the test items differently. The consequence of this interpretive difference would be the observed mean differences in test performance. B uilding as well on Gould's statistical bias definition, there is at leas t one other sense in which a test can be biased. For example, if two ind ividuals get the same verbal test score, it is reasonable to assume that they should perform approximately equally well on all aspects of the ve rbal test itself. However, if two individuals with the same overall scor e - or, more generally, two ethnic groups matched on some total test sco re - should differ substantially on different subparts of a test, we wou ld say that the test is also statistically biased. Based on the results presented below, I assert that the SAT, as currently administered and analyzed, is both culturally and statistically biased in the ways described above. I also show how both cultural and statistic al bias can be partially ameliorated by scoring one half of the SAT, the hard part. The hard items are those that are often dependent on rare vo cabulary, whereas the easy items are dependent on terms that are typical ly more common. Background Studies of Cultural and Statistical Bias in the SAT Cognitive psychologists Freedle and Kostin (1987, 1988, 1990, 1997) use a measure called the standardized Differential Item Functioning (DIF) sta tistic to study ethnic bias in any standardized test. The respective proportions of White and African Americans who correctly answered that first item are computed, and then the difference in proportions is determined. This difference is then weighted by the n umber of African Americans scoring 200. Notice that both Black and White students are said to be of matched ability here because both groups rec eived the same score of 200. Next, for the same item, the same weighted computation is performed for a ll White and African American candidates who scored a 210. These steps (from 200 to 800) toget her yield sixty-one weighted computations, all applying to the first ite m One sums these sixty-one computations and determines their average va lue. This average is called the DIF score for the first item. All subseq uent verbal items are then examined by the same procedure, and a DIF sco re is assigned to each of them. A positive DIF score for an item indicat es that the African American population performs differentially better t han their matched-ability White peers. For example, White students may get 84 percent correct on some ea sy items, while African Americans get a slightly lower number, say 82 pe rcent, correct for that same item. Conversely, for some particular hard items, White students might get 30 percent correct whereas African Ameri cans might get a slightly higher score, say 31 percent correct. What is unusual about these effects is their highly patterned nature; that is, m any easy items show a small but persistent effect of African Americans' underperformance, while many hard items show their overperformance. Later I will make it clear that these small single-item bias effects beco me magnified, partly because the traditional scoring of a paper-and-penc il SAT gives equal weight to every item. In other words, a correct easy item carries the same weight as a hard item. I examine this assumption o f equal weight below in terms of its effects on ethnic bias. The Lexical Ambiguity and Cultural Familiarity Hypothesis The largest positive and negative DIF values occurred among analogies and antonyms, the verbal item types with the least verbal context. In contr ast, the smallest DIF values tended to occur for the reading comprehensi on items, which had the maximum verbal context. Freedle and Kostin (1990 ) observed two major effects: 1) DIF item values, both positive and nega tive, increase as the amount of verbal context decreases; and 2) within each item type (except for the reading items) the easy items typically r eceive negative DIF values, while the hard items typically receive posit ive DIF values. In short, test bias against minorities occurs primarily for easy analogy and easy antonym items. In this case, the fact that the correlation is positive indicat es that hard items are associated with positive DIF values, while easy i tems are associated with negative DIF values. Replication of the Ethnic Bias Pattern: A Brief Review Freedle and Kostin (1997) reviewed other background studies that replicat ed and extended the general pattern of DIF that they reported earlier. They also found, like Freedle and Ko stin, that analogies and antonyms yielded the largest DIF scores for eac h ethnic group, and reading items yielded the least bias. Schmitt, Doran s, Crone, and Maneckshana (1991) also reported similar verbal DIF findin gs for all three ethnic groups. Finally, Freedle and Kostin (1997) reana lyzed data reported by Raju, Drasgow, and Slinde (1993) regarding a 45-i tem vocabulary test for grades ten and twelve. Participants included 245 African American and 436 White students. Again, they found significant effects favoring the African American students for the hard vocabulary i tems and disfavoring the African Americans for the easy items. It is clear then that other researchers have replicated this ethnically b ased response pattern, with easy items generally being better performed on by the White majority and hard items generally being better performed on by each of the minority groups. Wh...
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Opinion Buttons Wednesday, March 7, 2001 Story last updated at 4:41 pm on Tuesday, March 6, 2001 PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Teaching to test narrows the curriculum It's the time of year when schools across Florida administer the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. I have been teaching mathematics in the same Florida high school for almo st 20 years. I would like to share the position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics on high-stakes testing. The NCTM defines high -stakes tests as "tests that are used to make significant educational de cisions about children, teachers, schools or school districts." The NCTM January/February 2001 news bulletin states: "To use a single obj ective test in the determination of such things as graduation, course cr edit, grade placement, promotion to the next grade or placement in speci al groups is a serious misuse of such tests." The NCTM further states: "Far-reaching and critical educational decisions should be made only on the basis of multiple measures." Measuring students' abilities in a narrow range of mathematical and commu nications skills does not necessarily provide a true measure of a school . Using the FCAT as the major tool for grading and funding schools seemi ngly ignores everything else. It does, however, encourage schools to tea ch to the test. The NCTM warns that "teaching to the test narrows the curriculum." Less t ime spent on algebra and more time spent on FCAT skills may produce some one who can pass the FCAT but who probably now is a weak algebra student , who may then become an even weaker geometry student and so on down the line. Colleges and universities across Florida now have a disparate num ber of entering students taking remedial math. The FCAT has demoralized hardworking teachers, stressed students and is c reating hardship for the schools that need the most help. If you want to grade schools, th en measure the progress of their students across the curricula over the years. Teachers can only teach students who attend class regularly, are ready to learn and, most importantly, are willing to work at it. By the way, I'd like to see how w ell our state legislators would do on the FCAT.