Monday, June 05, 2006

How much can we boost IQ and scholastic attainment?

The article below initially reports some very impressive data on the fixed nature of intelligence but the attempt in the last paragraph to give it a politically correct "spin" is pathetic (though probably necessary to get it published). OF COURSE intelligence is not the only determinant of success in life or at school -- nobody has ever said it is -- and of course immigrant kids do better on tests given in English in an English-speaking school system as they learn more English.

But the third assertion is a straight LIE. As a former Army psychologist, I can assure everyone that the Army certainly does not believe that. They SELECT officer candidates most carefully (using psychological tests) precisely because they think that you CANNOT make a good officer out of just anyone.

The title I have put on this post is of course an allusion

In our mobile societies, few of this month's graduating high-school seniors have been with the same classmates for 12 years. But if you know such students, think back to the pupils who, at 5 years old, were pint-size math whizzes and spelling champs. Now match those memories with the seniors at the top of their class. You'll likely find a near-perfect match. That raises some disturbing questions. Why doesn't 12 years of schooling raise the performance of kids who start out behind? Can you really tell which toddler is destined for Caltech?

For as long as there has been a science of intelligence (roughly a century), prevailing opinion has held that children's mental abilities are highly malleable, or "unstable." Cognition might improve when the brain reaches a developmental milestone, or when a child is bitten by the reading bug or suddenly masters logical thinking and problem solving. Some kids do bloom late, intellectually. Others start out fine but then, inexplicably, fall behind. But according to new studies, for the most part people's mental abilities relative to others change very little from childhood through adulthood. Relative intelligence seems as resistant to change as relative nose sizes.

One of the more striking findings comes from the longest follow-up study ever conducted in this field. On June 1, 1932, Scotland had all children born in 1921 and attending school -- 87,498 11-year-olds -- take a 75-question test on analogies, reading, arithmetic and the like. The goal was to determine the distribution of intellectual ability. In 1998, scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen tracked down 101 of those students, then 77 years old, and administered the same test. The correlation between scores 66 years apart was a striking .73. (A correlation of 1 would mean no change in rankings; a correlation of .73 is very high.) There is "remarkable stability in individual differences in human intelligence" from childhood to old age, the scientists concluded in a 2000 paper.

In the U.S., two long-running studies also show the durability of relative intelligence. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, launched in 1998, tested 22,782 children entering kindergarten. As in the Scottish study, individual differences in mental ability were clear and persistent. In math and reading, when the children were sorted into three groups by ability, ranking stayed mostly the same from kindergarten to the end of the first and third grades. Some gaps actually widened.

The National Education Longitudinal Study tested 24,599 eighth-graders on several subjects, including math and reading comprehension, in 1988 and again two and four years later. "There was a very high correlation between the scores in eighth grade and in 12th grade," says Thomas Hoffer of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago. Again, rankings hardly budged.

He suspects that the way schools are organized explains some of that. Eighth-graders who show aptitude in math or language are tracked into challenging courses. That increases the gap between them and their lower-performing peers. "It's not that [relative student performance] can't change, but that standard practices in schools work against it," says Mr. Hoffer.

Now there is evidence that cognitive ability, or intelligence, is set before kids sit up. Developmental psychologist Marc Bornstein of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and colleagues followed children for four years, starting in infancy with 564 four-month olds. Babies' ability to process information can be tested in a so-called habituation test. They look at a black-on-white pattern until their attention wanes and they look away, or habituate. Later, they're shown the pattern again. How quickly they sense they've seen the image long enough, or have seen it before, is a measure of how quickly, accurately and completely they pick up, assimilate and recall information.

The scientists evaluated the children again at six months, 18 months, 24 months and 49 months. In every case, performance mirrored the relative rankings on the infant test, Dr. Bornstein and colleagues reported this year in the journal Psychological Science. Such stability, he says, "can entice" scientists to conclude that inborn, inherent, even genetic factors determine adult intelligence. But he believes crediting nature alone would be wrong.

For one thing, these tests don't measure creativity, gumption, character or other ingredients of success. For another, there are many cases of kids catching up, as when Mexican immigrant children in the U.S. start out with math skills well below their U.S.-born white peers but then catch up, says education researcher Sean Reardon of Stanford University. And as those familiar with management training and military training show, it's possible to turn even the most unpromising candidates into leaders. [What!! Reference please!] That leaves the question of how current education practices (and, perhaps, parenting practices) tend to lock in early cognitive differences among children, and whether those practices can be changed in a way that unlocks every child's intellectual potential.


Australia (1): Homosexuality promoted in Victorian schools

Victorian schools are being advised to dump the words "mother" and "father" by a controversial new teachers manual that promotes the cause of same-sex parents. Out of sensitivity to same-sex parent families, teachers should use "parent" or "carer" instead, the manual states. Schools should also put up posters of gay celebrities in schools and not use gender-specific toys, the free Learn to Include teacher's manual urges. It also suggests pupils as young as five should act out scenarios in which they have two mums and have discussions about discrimination. The contentious manual, used in dozens of Victorian schools, is aimed at teachers of prep to year 3 pupils.

Victoria's Department of Education and Training has invited the editor of the manual, Vicki Harding, to promote it to principals and teachers at a taxpayer-funded conference in Melbourne next month. Ms Harding will advise teachers about using the manual and children's books she has written about children with two mums or two dads. Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan will address the conference.

The manual's classroom worksheets include a fill-in-the-word exercise about a child who climbs a tree while the youngster's "two mums" work in the garden. The manual suggests - to help children respect diversity - teachers "include pictures of notable lesbians and gay men among images around the school" and use "gender neutral play materials". Children should also be offered stories, games and television programs that show "people in various forms of relationships", it states.

The State Opposition claimed Ms Harding's invitation to the conference proved the State Government endorsed the guide. "Parents don't send their children to school expecting them to receive those sorts of lessons," Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said. "It is political correctness gone mad ... (and) the Government is endorsing it." Family Council of Victoria spokesman Bill Muehlenberg said parents would find the manual "reprehensible".

Department spokeswoman Melissa Arch said schools were free to decide whether to use the manual. "It is not something the department imposes over them," she said. Ms Allan's spokesman, Tim Mitchell, said the Government did not endorse the use of the guide.


Australia (2): Leftist NSW teachers at work

They want failing students to stay that way

School reports that will grade students on a scale of A to E for the first time this year are in doubt, with teachers threatening a widespread revolt. Nearly 11,000 teachers from 800 public schools have written to the Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, saying they need more time to prepare the reports. They are strongly opposed to using the A-to-E grading scale, saying it will brand very young children a failure and alienate them from the education system.

The NSW Teachers Federation will present a report on teacher submissions to its 300 delegates in Sydney today, along with a survey that found fewer than half of schools had received sample copies of the proposed reports. The federation's president, Maree O'Halloran, said teachers had overwhelmingly rejected the reports mandated by state and federal governments. "Teachers across the state have told the minister the reporting requirements are not good enough, that they are educationally unsound," she said. "What this means is that the minister is facing a massive revolt and that those schools will not be implementing the reports." Ms O'Halloran said just under 200 teachers had indicated their support for the reports, but the remaining 10,800 teachers wanted the format to change before they would implement it.

A federation survey of 322 schools so far has found that only 47 per cent had copies of the proposed reports and 13 per cent said that no teacher had copies. Most of the schools said they were concerned about the use of the scale and its mandatory use this year. Teachers argue that they will need until next year to properly implement the new reports.

The NSW-ACT Independent Education Union general secretary, Dick Shearman, said teachers in private schools shared the concerns. Completion of the reports this year using the grading scale was a condition of schools receiving federal funding, he said. "Most of our schools have completed the reports, but it caused teachers a great deal of anguish," Mr Shearman said. "The validity and integrity of the reports is compromised when you force them in quickly, impose unreasonable guidelines and tie funding to it."

Ms Tebbutt said she had received positive feedback on the new system from schools. "I don't get the sense that there is a strong negativity behind the need for greater consistency in reporting," she said. "We announced the reports in August last year to allow sufficient time for their implementation to meet federal requirements. We are not going to jeopardise the federal funding we receive by delaying implementation." Ms Tebbutt said the Department of Education would continue to offer support to teachers in the form of information sessions, new software and advice from the NSW Board of Studies on how to achieve greater consistency in reporting. She said sample reports were available on the internet.

Kindergarten pupils, those with significant learning disabilities and children with English as a second language would have written reports instead of a grade. "We will continue to talk to the federation about the concerns they have," Ms Tebbutt said. "We are committed to our implementation plan. These reports are going to provide clear and concise information on a student's achievement. Parents need that information to know how their child is performing."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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