Sunday, November 02, 2008

Britain: Dumbing down outcry as one in five high school pupils thinks the Sun orbits the Earth

More evidence of the conspicuous failure of Leftist education ideas

One in five pupils who took the basic science GCSE this year believes the Sun orbits the Earth, it can be revealed today. And one in ten of those taking the same exam did not know that a rechargeable battery could be used more than once. The level of ignorance, despite the 'laughably easy' questions, was exposed in the 2008 Examiners' Report by exam board Edexcel, which has been seen by the Tories. It sheds new light on what MPs say are falling standards and led to a condemnation of the 'national scandal' of dumbing down in schools.

Conservative schools spokesman Michael Gove, who saw the Edexcel report, also released sample questions from the same board's new GCSE science tests, which were introduced this year. He said they were proof that exams are now much easier than 20 or 30 years ago. Among the questions proposed was one that asked if a nurse should stay clear of X-rays 'to avoid melting her mobile phone'.

Mr Gove said: 'It's not as though these questions are rigorous tests of scientific knowledge. One exam board asks if we look at the stars through telescopes or microscopes.' He added: 'There is a desperate need to assert the importance of rigour and excellence in education if we are to avert further decline, but almost every step the Government takes is in the opposite direction.'

Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education said: 'It's a national scandal. When you get laughably easy questions like this which may help politicians to reach targets but mean businesses and employers can't rely on the standards then obviously the system is not fit for purpose.'

The Tories claim standards have been lowered to inflate the pass rate as part of the Government's drive to meet its targets. The system of single, double or triple science GCSEs, for which separate physics, chemistry and biology papers were set, was scrapped this year. Instead pupils chose science or, for the more competent, additional science. They could also choose the degree of difficulty. The lowest level available, the 'foundation tier', is so basic that even if candidates answer all questions correctly the highest grade they can hope for is a C.

Last summer 537,606 pupils sat the new science GCSE, with 59.3 per cent scoring grade C or higher. And 433,468 took additional science, with 63.2 achieving C or higher. The new GCSE was dismissed as 'fit for the pub', not the classroom, by scientist Baroness Warnock.

Earlier this year pupils who sat chemistry O-level questions from the 1960s achieved an average mark of 16 per cent. Last year in GCSE chemistry 90.9 per cent of candidates achieved at least a C.


Is UCLA Cheating?

Californians amended their constitution in 1996 via Prop. 209, which provided that
The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

As I have discussed here many times (such as Prof Charges UCLA Admissions Cheating, Resigns From Committee), there is a great deal of suggestive evidence that UCLA has honored this constitutional command primarily by exploring different methods of getting around it. See, for example, here, and here I quoted, among other sources, these findings reported in the UCLA Daily Bruin:
In fall 2006, before UCLA switched to holistic admissions, black and Latino applicants' average SAT scores were 255 and 246 points lower than the average for their white and Asian counterparts. That gap seemed largely unaffected by holistic review - in fall 2007, black applicants' SAT scores were on average 293 points lower than those of white and Asian students, and Latino applicants' scores came up 249 points short.

I'm not sure that average black SAT scores falling from 255 to 293 points below the white/Asian average means they were "largely unaffected" by the move to "holistic review," but perhaps, thanks to the Pacific Legal Foundation, now we can find out.
In an effort to determine whether UCLA is obeying the state Constitution's ban on race- and sex-based discrimination and preferences in undergraduate admissions, Pacific Legal Foundation today submitted a California Public Records Act request for relevant documents from UCLA's applications process.... Among the documents sought by PLF's Public Records Act Request:

Undergraduate applications, including essays - with all personal identifying information redacted - from applicants to the classes of 2005 through 2008.

The identities of all applications readers, the scores they gave each application, and documents revealing why they decided to admit or reject each candidate.

All handbooks and other documents designed to guide application readers.

"UCLA asks for personal essays, which by definition have to be graded somewhat subjectively," said [PLF Attorney Joshua] Thompson. "We're asking for these essays - and evidence of how they're scored and weighted - to make sure that admissions officials aren't using these subjective evaluations as a way to bias the process in violation of Proposition 209."

The PLF's request to UCLA emphasizes that "all personal identifying information may be redacted," and stated it is "willing and eager to work with UCLA to safeguard individual identities." Maybe now we can find out how willing UCLA has been to comply with the prohibition against preferential treatment.

Source (See the original for links)

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