Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Cheating Rampant on College Tests

What if the test score that you post on a standardized test wasn’t a true measure of your intelligence? Admissions offices tend to correlate intelligence with standardized test scores. If your test score doesn’t reflect your actual performance, doesn’t that make the test score correlation meaningless? The test score difference I am referring to is not related to cultural bias and the arguments sociologists make to harpoon standards in academia. Are you aware of the trend in wealthier high schools where students game the standardized test system?

Gaming the system is rampant among a certain sector in America. Find an upper crust neighborhood in the US and you will find families that are trying to artificially create an edge. They have the disposable income or inherited trust assets to do it. The game: Extended Time.

If you are wealthy enough, or desperate enough, you find a willing psychologist. Parents will pay fees of up to $4000 to have their child diagnosed with a learning disability. When their kids take all tests, including regular tests in school, they get extended time. Prove a bad enough disability and the student may get up to 4 days to take the ACT! Jackpot.

The edge is big enough to change the outcome of admission at college. Kids that are medium to great students and have extended time on standardized tests raise their scores significantly, up to four points on the ACT, and on the SAT. It affects math scores more than verbal scores. The extended time bump is enough to move scores from one echelon of schools to the “elite” schools that sound good at cocktail parties.

Studies have shown it’s easy to fake.
“The results reveal a strikingly high ability of college students to falsify a positive ADHD diagnosis by way of a self-report battery: 75% of students taking the ADHD Rating Scale, 95% of students taking the Brown Adult ADHD Scale, 90% of students taking the Conners Adult ADHD Rating Scale, and 65% of students taking the Wender Utah Rating Scale. These findings are remarkably different from the 7 to 8% of the college population that has been reported previously to be affected by the disorder (Weyandt, et al., 1995). These results also reveal that all four batteries are significantly easy to fake. While the psychological tests used for child diagnosis are refined and well documented, the ease of diagnosis falsification of batteries developed for adults is a sign that further improvement of these scales is needed and a reliable adult scale has yet to be produced.”

Not only that, but the statistical curve showed a bi-modal distribution. ”
“Hypothetically, if you distributed the scores of all students sitting for the SAT on a curve, with or without accommodation, it should approximate the normal curve (a.k.a. the “bell-curve”). When the College Board plotted the 2005 results of students taking the test with accommodations, the results yielded not a bell-curve but rather a bi-modal distribution (meaning the distribution was top and bottom heavy with a disproportionate number of low scoring and high scoring students rather than a tendency toward the mean). This greatly alarmed the College Board that the population of students receiving accommodation did not mirror the rest of the population.”

The reason they do this is because some enterprising parents sued ACT under the American’s With Disability Act to remove the check off showing a child took the test with a disability. They were successful in 2004.

For decades the College Board placed an asterisk * next to the scores of all students who took the SAT under nonstandard testing conditions. Disability rights activists considered this a form of discrimination and filed multiple suits to revoke the nonstandard designation (*). In 2004, beset by lawsuits, the College Board and ACT Inc., agreed to remove the nonstandard designation, meaning students’ test-scores would no longer be “flagged” as an indication that the students had received extra time or any other special accommodations on their tests. With the flag gone, the number of applications for special accommodations increased dramatically.

Colleges don’t know who is truly disabled, and who isn’t. That makes things tougher on the admissions department. As the practice becomes more widespread, it makes the standardized tests less important-and standards for admission murkier.

The wealthy don’t stop there in their effort to get Junior into an Ivy League school.

The next step in gaming the system is hiring the essay writer for college applications. Now, all your kid really has to do is fill in blanks on the college application. Woody Allen said, “90% of life is just showing up.”, and this exercise proves it!

Any family that can’t afford all these extra financial efforts is theoretically disadvantaged. But, many of those families are already taking a backseat since wealthy families can send their kids to private schools, and enrich their kids more anyway. There is no way to level that playing field; but the extended time dance is just blatant cheating. Families are exploiting a loophole they created.

There are some points that need to be crystal clear. In this post, I am pointing out families that truly cheat the system. There are certainly many kids that need extended time on standardized tests due to mental or physical disabilities. I am not talking about those children. Most of them were diagnosed with disabilities before high school. Families that cheat, get their diagnosis in the junior or senior year of high school.

What does it do to the self esteem of the child that knowingly receives extended time when they don’t deserve it? Can you imagine the kid that received extended time raising his hand in the operating room when they had to make a split second life or death decision? “Stop, stop! I need extended time.”!


Obliterating What’s Left of Childhood Privacy

From preschool through high school and their careers, young Americans will now have all their data consolidated and shared by federal agencies. Thanks to years of the expanding surveillance state, data collection, and centralization of education, accelerated by an overlooked provision in President Obama’s stimulus program, everything about kids that is documented from the time they first set foot in class will be information freely shared among federal bureaucracies. Emmet McGroarty and Jane Robbins write:

Under regulations the Obama Department of Education released this month, these scenarios could become reality. The department has taken a giant step toward creating a de facto national student database that will track students by their personal information from preschool through career. Although current federal law prohibits this, the department decided to ignore Congress and, in effect, rewrite the law.

It appears that no data is safe—grades, absences, disciplinary incidents, health records, STD test results, and family income would all be fair game, for the federal government to share internally and with private businesses, without the students or parents knowing. It’s all for the sake of the children, of course.

Also see this clip on CNN:

Notice the anchor seems rather calm about this whole development, as though it’s a reasonable course of action for government to take. At this point, it is difficult to have arguments about such things based on facts alone. Either people support this kind of thing, or they oppose it.


Stop teaching about the holocaust so that children see Germany in a better light, says Lord Baker

British schools should no longer teach children about the Nazis because it makes them think less favourably of modern Germany, the architect of the National Curriculum has claimed.

Lord Baker of Dorking, who spent three years as Margaret Thatcher’s education secretary, said that he would ban the topic and concentrate on British history instead.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said that schools should concentrate on teaching “the story in our own country” rather than the events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust.

Lord Baker, who introduced the National Curriculum in the 1980s, said: “I would ban the study of Nazism from the history curriculum totally.

“It’s one of the most popular courses because it’s easily taught and I don’t really think that it does anything to learn more about Hitler and Nazism and the Holocaust. “It doesn’t really make us favourably disposed to Germany for a start, present-day Germany.”

Lord Baker now runs a series of university technical colleges which teach courses on the lives of great British engineers, scientists and inventors, a model he would like to see applied more widely.

"Why I’ve got a thing against the Holocaust and all of that is I think you study your own history first,” he said. “I’m sure that German children are not studying the British Civil War, right? “I think children should leave a British school with some idea of the timeline in their minds – how it came from Roman Britain to Elizabeth II.”

He stressed that he would not entirely exclude European history, saying that in order to study the Tudors and Stuarts, students would have to learn about Luther.

“I would focus much more on British history basically. But that takes you over the seas – we’ve been a great international country. It takes you into the empire. We’ve been a seafaring nation – you get to know other countries.”

Holocaust charities dismissed his suggestion.

James Smith, Chairman of the Holocaust Centre, said: “The study of the Holocaust leaves children ill-disposed to present day Germany only if it is badly taught. The period of the Nazis was not just a blip in German history; the Holocaust was a Europe-wide crime.

“The Holocaust is why the nations of the world, not only Germany, ratified the United Nations Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide and why the United Nations looked forward to the day the International Criminal Court would be established.

“Forgetting how much of our legislation that protects fair and equal societies is rooted in the knowledge of how far humans can sink would be a backward step for civil society and democratic values.”

His remarks come as ministers prepare to overhaul the curriculum. The Coalition has tasked an expert panel with reviewing the structure of existing lessons in England and is expected to issue a report next year. It could recommend making history compulsory up to the age of 16 – instead of the current cut-off of 14.

Lord Baker said that his biggest regret as education secretary was not extending the school day by at least one period. He said it was “outrageous” that most schools finish for the afternoon at 2.30 or 3pm, causing “huge, huge problems with childcare”.

He would prefer schools to teach until at least 4 or 5pm, extending their lunch hour to include an hour of sport, drama, debating or even puppetry.

By extending the teaching day until 5pm and adding two extra weeks a year in his university technical colleges, the institutions have gained the equivalent of an extra teaching year for every pupil over five years.

But he was forced to retreat on his ambitions as education secretary because of opposition from teaching unions, he said. “There was a two-year teachers’ strike and by settling it, we made an agreement with the teachers that they can only spend – I think the figure is still the same – 1,215 hours a year. “If I was going to ask them to do another 40 minutes, I’d have had to reopen the negotiations – I just couldn’t take it on.” He added that union resistance would still block the idea today.


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