Wednesday, June 20, 2018

National Education News

From Education Week:
The Trump administration, which is in the midst of a top-to-bottom review of the federal bureaucracy, is turning its eye on the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Labor, sources say, with the possibilities ranging from a shifting of some offices to an even more radical combining of the agencies.
Did you hear?  The first top tier public research university - the University of Chicago - says they don't care about your student having an SAT score.

From NPR's Education Roundup:

The University of Chicago will no longer require U.S. applicants to submit standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT for admission, the university announced on Thursday (June 14th).

Several well-known colleges have already gone test-optional in their admissions. Research has shown that standardized test scores have little correlation with a student's college performance. Test-optional schools have been able to enroll more students from diverse backgrounds.
 Also, from NPR, changes to AP History - are they are cause for alarm?
This week, educators and students expressed their opposition to the College Board's decision to cut out parts of the Advanced Placement World History curriculum.
The College Board announced in May that it was removing early world history from the nationally taught high school course. Starting in 2019, the AP World History exam will only assess content from 1450 to the present.

Schools will have the option to offer a Pre-AP World History course that covers 600 BCE to 1450 instead, but it will not count for college credit like other AP courses.

The flood of support for teaching early world history started after outraged teachers vocalized their concerns at an during an open forum with College Board members in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A high school freshman, Dylan Black, started an online petition to keep early history in the curriculum — and so far, it has more than 8,000 signatures.
 Google launches college information search tool
On Tuesday, Google announced it would aggregate detailed information about four-year universities and display it at the top of search results about schools. Statistics like admissions records, cost, majors, post-graduation employment rates and ranking are included.
The company said this function will help students access information that is crucial to the college application process but not always easily found. When considering colleges, information like acceptance rates and job prospects out of college can shape how a student chooses a school.

The feature is currently available only on mobile browsers with an abbreviated version available on desktop. 


Anonymous said...

Test optional admissions help a university's profile - applicants with high test scores are likely to still submit them, while those with lower scores may not. Applications will likely increase, along with the average -reported- scores, and with increased applications, the acceptance rate will likely go down. Net effect is a college that looks more competitive on paper. It's a strategic decision. Colleges are still businesses, after all.


Outsider said...

Blast ... I was teaching my son to fake symptoms of ADHD, so he can get a diagnosis and an extra hour on the SAT. Then he would get a much better score than otherwise, and get into a better college. Meanwhile, he could get an Adderall prescription and sell the pills at school to pay for the college. Now the whole plan is ruined if colleges stop paying attention to the SAT. We will have to think of a whole new way to game the system.

Unknown said...

I've taught in high schools up and down the SES spectrum, and it's usually the upper-middle class mothers who hate the SAT/ACT, especially those whose kids have a high GPA because they're compliant, privileged, well spoken, and have excellent tutors and parent support.

You can't help your kid during the SAT like you can with their tri-fold boards and essays, which drives them nuts, so they try to undermine the system when their lab-grown child lands at the 76th percentile ranking. I've yet to hear the mother of a kid in the 95th percentile raise much of a stink.

SAT scores also make legacy admissions more complicated because there's an objective ranking that may put some plebeian ahead of the patrician applicants. It's much better to go off of perceived relative difficulty of schools (often more a function of marketing than actual curriculum and instruction) and letters of recommendation, which are subject to social pressure.

But hey, at least they still have lacrosse and ultimate frisbee to distinguish themselves.

Outsider said...

Wealthy parents can help their kids during the SAT. By understanding the system; using their networks of well-placed friends and colleagues to find a cooperative doctor; and telling their kids what they need to tell the doctor to get a confidential diagnosis that gets them an extra hour on the test. (ADHD is, after all, the only possible reason why their well-bred darlings are not scoring as they "should.") There is a reason why SAT scores don't correlate with performance at elite colleges. The test is very game-able, and favors those who are good at gaming systems.

Unknown said...


After watching kids take classroom tests for almost twenty years, extra time doesn't make that much of a difference; the test isn't that "game-able."

But I agree with your parenthetical snark, and yeah, it isn't ADHD; it's regression to the mean. Two intelligent humans are very likely to produce humans who are less intelligent than they are (but still pretty smart nonetheless), and when that American ideal of every generation being better off than the last comes out of the cultural zeitgeit, those parents start reaching for every systemic advantage they can grasp.

I'm still a big fan of the SAT; it's not a level playing field, but it's way less sloped than letters of recommendation, GPA, activities, or any other means of class-advantage propagation.

Anonymous said...

It's not uncommon for people to disparage those with disabilities due to ignorance - sometimes willful.

Although it's disappointing to read the above comments, unfortunately, it's not surprising.

However, the biggest harm done to children is when teachers and family members share the same lack of understanding or think accommodations are a manipulation of the system by a lazy child and withhold needed help.

"... 1 in 5 children who have learning and attention issues such as dyslexia and ADHD."

"...children with learning and attention issues are as smart as their peers and can achieve at high levels but too often are misunderstood as lazy or unintelligent. Without the right academic or emotional support, they are much more likely than their peers to repeat a grade, get suspended and drop out. Individuals with learning and attention issues also struggle in the workplace and have high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system. But this downward spiral can be prevented."


Parent Advocate

Anonymous said...

Somewhat related news from New York:


For whatever reason, Outsider and Unknown seem to be harboring some deep resentments, leading to some pretty questionable assertions. Kind of the same diatribe lobbed against HCC parents, strangely enough. The New York story paints a different picture.

big picture

Outsider said...

Unknown, how do you reconcile your favorable opinion of the SAT with the assertion of elite colleges that scores don't correlate with student performance? Perhaps the colleges are lying, and student performance isn't actually what they care about. That would be a plausible explanation, given the ubiquity of institutional lying these days.

But another explanation would be: elite colleges like Chicago admit nearly all their students from a narrow band with SAT scores of 600+. The extra hour is worth perhaps 50 points, and expensive test prep is worth another 50. So the rich, system-gaming student has a 100-point advantage over a naive working class student who just shows up and takes the test. That would cause places like Chicago to see little correlation in ultimate performance between candidates with scores of 620 vs. 720.

C.H. said...

I've never even heard of the University of Chicago. I hate when private schools give themselves names that make them sound like public schools.

Anonymous said...

The SAT can absolutely be gamed and prepared for. My own kid had a private tutor to raise their score more than 100 points to the 1500 mark, barely in the range for elite colleges. U Chicago generally admits students well over 700s, so surprising that they would make this move.

As to disabilities, accommodations should not give unfair advantages to people with disabilities. The main question should be: would this accommodation benefit those without the particular disability too? Time is a key factor in standardized tests, especially the ACT. The publisher actually claims that it uses time as a way spread out top scores. Claiming disability indeed confers an unfair advantage on standardized tests like this. Unlike glasses or visual organizers, the additional time accommodation would get everyone a better score. That’s the indication that it’s not a fair or reasonable accommodation. Why not simply give everyone adequate time to take the tests? It’s a very artificial way to measure any useful skill.


Anonymous said...

Seriously CH? Ever heard of University of Pennsylvania? Ivy League school predating most public’s.

Good luck at Seattle Central.


Anonymous said...

Dear C.H.,

You stated "I hate when private schools give themselves names that make them sound like public schools."

I think you are mistaken in your assessment of the naming of these schools.

The University of Chicago was founded using John D. Rockefeller money.
It has consistently ranked in the top 10 US Universities for decades. ...

Consider the following University names of private universities:

Seattle University
University of San Francisco
University of San Diego
University of Pennsylvania (opened in 1751)
Boston College. (founded in 1864)
Dayton University
New York University. (founded in 1831)
Washington University (founded in 1853)
Portland University
University of Southern California
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology

Do you really believe that these schools selected names so they would sound like public schools?

I do not.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Dear CH,

US News ranks the University of Chicago at tied for #3 among national universities in the USA.

Overall University ranking

#1 Princeton University

#2 Harvard University

#3 University of Chicago

# 3 Yale University

#5 Columbia University

#5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

#5 Stanford University

#18. Washington University in St. Louis

#56 University of Washington in Seattle

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Several elite high schools are discontinuing Advanced Placement classes.

Well known WADC high schools are dropping AP Classes

-- Dan Dempsey

Outsider said...

There is a big difference between:
1) accommodations that help disabled students learn as much as possible in school
2) accommodations that artificially boost scores on competitive entrance exams

One is clearly positive, subject to some reasonable cost-benefit considerations. The other just confuses the admission process and prompts colleges to disregard the test results.

Probably the explosion of mental health problems on college campuses that you read so much about in the media comes in part from a collapse of admissions standards, which puts many more students in stressful college environments they are not prepared to handle.

Anonymous said...

Outsider, you are wrong to think getting testing accommodations is that easy. Most students need to prove that they needed and used those accommodations in school. Therefore the school would have had to determine there was a need for it. It is not simply showing up to SAT with a doctor's note. There has to be history.

From https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/special-circumstances/students-with-disabilities: "With few exceptions, students who request an accommodation on College Board exams receive that accommodation on tests that they take in school. However, students who receive an accommodation in school or have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan that includes the accommodation do not automatically qualify for the accommodation on College Board exams — they must still be approved by the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities, and in some cases documentation will be requested for the College Board’s review.

The student’s history of receiving accommodations in school and information provided by the school are important in the College Board’s review of requests for accommodations. Yet College Board exams can differ from classroom tests. When requesting accommodations, schools and students should consider whether the accommodations that are used for classroom tests are needed for the specific College Board tests that they are taking."

As far as your heartless uninformed bias against students with ADHD I would like to say a lot of things. ..?!! But let me know when I should have a few kids come by since you clearly think you have all the answers.
NW Parent

Anonymous said...

Outsider & Reader,

Let's break down the bias point-by-point:

Myth: "The other just confuses the admission process and prompts colleges to disregard the test results."
Fact: Tests taken with accommodations aren't flagged since 2003, so the colleges don't know if the person who took the test had a disability and needed accommodations.

Myth: "accommodations that artificially boost scores on competitive entrance exams"
Fact: No, people who need accommodations would have artificially depressed scores if they didn't receive them. The premise of IDEA is leveling the playing field for people with disabilities so they have equal access to life such as learning and jobs. People who are ELL also receive extra time accommodations.

Myth: "accommodations should not give unfair advantages to people with disabilities"
Fact: The College Board has carefully studied this matter and extended time is only given to those with challenges that specifically impact their ability time. As mentioned above, disability is an unfair disadvantage and accommodations are meant to level the playing field not rise above it.

Myth: "Probably the explosion of mental health problems on college campuses that you read so much about in the media comes in part from a collapse of admissions standards, which puts many more students in stressful college environments they are not prepared to handle."
Fact: The most common mental health issues among college students are substance abuse, depression and anxiety. Victims of sexual assault also needs campus mental health services. Students with ADHD only account for between 2-8% of the total student population, so they are not the major driver behind this "explosion".

Myth: Accommodations are easy to get.
Fact: They require medical and/or school documentation. The further back the school history goes, the easier it is, but still, they don't make it easy to get. Just so you're aware, some people don't realize they have a disability until their kid is diagnosed, and have gone their lifetime without support and diminished opportunities.

Furthermore, preparing for the SAT test isn't gaming it. Any test - whether math test, driving test, SAT test - requires practice, hard work and dedicated preparation. I don't recommend anyone just show up believing their innate abilities will carry the day.

Who has seen the light of intensive prep? Organizations like Rainiers Scholars and Prep for Prep among others are now using this approach with graduates heading to elite private institutions.

By the way, there are 100% free SAT test prep books at the public library, so no one can complain elitism.

Even if self-interest is your only game, society is improved when everyone is educated.

Parent Advocate

Anonymous said...

Speaking from the perspective of a local pediatrician. Every year I am asked to fill out documentation in support of SAT or ACT accommodations. The process is arduous. You must document historical need for accommodations and the use of these accommodations. In addition, you need neuropsychological testing completed within the last 3 years. This testing (for ADD) typically shows very low working memory and processing speed. Even then the student may not qualify for extended time. Not once in my career has a parent asked for accommodations that were unwarranted. Even when granted, these accommodations simply level the playing field in terms of processing speed. These alarmist and biased comments prejudice others against those with true disability.
Get educated

Outsider said...

There is this:

Admittedly it's rather old now, and perhaps the testing companies have tightened their requirements in response to such criticism. Or perhaps it's typical corporate media over-hyping of the story. But it's not just me saying so. An excerpt from 2006:

'Hired Guns' Give Diagnosis

Approximately 300,000 students will take the three-hour-and-forty-five-minute SAT this Saturday; about 30,000 taking the test this year will be given special accommodations, including extra time.

For decades, the College Board, which administers the SAT, has allowed up to twice as much time to accommodate students who have legitimate learning disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But with college admissions more competitive than ever, guidance counselors and other educators say privileged kids have gamed the system.

At the elite Wayland High school outside Boston, the number of students receiving special accommodations is more than 12 percent, more than six times the estimated national average of high school students with learning disabilities.

Wayland guidance counselor Norma Greenberg said that it's not that difficult for wealthy, well-connected students to get the diagnoses they want.

"There are a lot of hired guns out there, there are a lot of psychologists who you can pay a lot of money to and get a murky diagnosis of subtle learning issues," Greenberg said. "'Subtle' is a word that is really a red flag. 'Executive functioning' is another red flag, something that is kind of a new thing."

Other high school guidance counselors told ABC News that "diagnosis shopping" has given rise to a cottage industry of doctors and medical professionals, all willing to give students the documentation they need to get the extra test time they want.

In any case, the SAT was originally designed to predict college performance; and once long ago it was considered to do so. Now colleges say it doesn't. Something seems to have changed in the meantime, and increasing accommodations is probably part of it, even if not the biggest part.

That low working memory and slow processing speed (which sounds like my computer) will follow affected students into college, and cause them stress and anxiety as they try to keep up with neuro-orthodox peers. U. of Chicago will find that performance does not correlate with SAT scores. I don't have any hostility toward these students, but one could reasonably doubt that this "level playing field" logic makes sense (see next).

Anonymous said...

Pediatrician, you also could use some education.

The issue boils down to the the following salient questions. What is the essential function of the test? And what is a reasonable accommodation? The American Psychological society highlightes these exact issues.

It is quite clear that answering questions at a high rate of speed is the essential function of standardized college admissions tests. The publishers themselves note that speed is how top scores are differentiated on the ACT, and therefore fluency and rate of response is an essential function of standardized tests, especially the ACT. If you actual challenge yourself to go and do a test, say, the science ACT section, you will know how true this is. Try it sometime. ACT test prep materials coach students to avoid reading any of the passages and to base responses on the visuals alone. Speed is the key. Not science, not comprehension, not anything else. Giving students with disabilities extra time does indeed “level” the playing field, as you correctly note... but so does simply providing answers. A reasonable accommodation is one that would not benefit students without the disability. Testing in Braille, for example, is a reasonable accommodation because it 1) is of no use to test takers without visual impairment and 2) does not change the essential function the test. Since giving extra time on the SAT/ACT would benefit all test takers, it clearly is questionable as an accommodation. And secondarily providing extra time gives up the very thing being tested: fluency. Therefore, the time accommodations really don’t make sense and aren’t especially equitable. As you also note, expensive doctor visits and paperwork make the accommodations even less equitable since only the affluent and knowledgeable can avail themselves of the perk.

I do understand the dilemma and am a strong supporter of students with disabilities. We live in an imperfect world. And providing extra time seems like the right thing, even though it breaks the fundamental basics of accommodating. The real solution though is to change the tests themselves. Time should not be an advantage for any student. Why should a reasonable test taking strategy be to avoid reading the passages? That is not the skill we really want for our students. Clearly the disconnect is there. The SBA and all other state tests are untimed. As despicable as these tests are, at least they got that part right.


Outsider said...

Why don't we have a "level playing field" in the Olympic trials? I always wanted to be an Olympic sprinter, and with proper accommodations (like a jet pack), I could run as fast as naturally fast people. OK, I hear you saying ... the Olympics themselves don't allow jet packs, so maybe it's better to give the place on the team to someone naturally fast, who has an actual chance in the Olympics, instead of me who would be toasted in the first heat. By the same logic, you could say, give the college place to someone with naturally fast processing and abundant working memory, who would thrive in college, and have a chance to compete for jobs with the H1 visa crowd.

Regarding the students NW parent is going to send to me, because I have all the answers ... I have all the questions too. First question is, why are these students pathologized in the first place? Do they even have a "disorder"? Or is the real disorder to be found in a society that has decided that anyone who is not wired for or inclined to book learning has a disorder?

Seattle is such a strange place, full hard-charging knowledge workers who are ostentatiously PC and so woke it hurts (they will be happy to tell you), yet if one of their offspring became a bus driver, it would be such an unbearable, catastrophic loss of social capital that, well, it just can't happen. Our woke culture so devalues (both economically and culturally) any role other than knowledge worker so severely that the new aristocracy of KWs considers it a pathology or disorder if any of their children isn't wired to replicate their status. The children will be diagnosed and medicated and accommodated and forced down that pipeline through college to KW status no matter what. No plan B. Look around you -- are these children happy? Who is the heartless one, me who calls bullshit, or this lunatic fake-woke society (or the MDs and drug companies who enable it all and profit obscenely)?

Step back and notice how absurd the whole thing is. Any time a child doesn't do what he is supposed to do according to the rules of the great game, it's possible to medicalize it, and slap a pompous name on it, and diagnose it, and prescribe drugs, and demand accommodations. Executive Function Disorder. Really, there is such a thing now. You were supposed to do that! Why didn't you do that! I have EFD.

It's been noted by observers wiser than me that our whole vast college industrial complex is just a vast credentialing machine that doesn't teach most students anything related to the jobs people will actually do. It just determines arbitrarily who will get the jobs by how well they play the game. I understand why wealthy parents of "disordered" students feel they must play and win this game, but that doesn't mean it makes sense.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am astonished at the number of professionals in the field that we have here. Because I see little "in my opinion" or "I believe."

"First question is, why are these students pathologized in the first place? Do they even have a "disorder"?"

Are you a professional in this field? If not, that's a broad statement for a lay person but, as other have said, you seem to know all.

Don't know what a "KW" and what the Urban Dictionary has isn't good. Better to be clear.

"The children will be diagnosed and medicated and accommodated and forced down that pipeline through college to KW status no matter what. No plan B. Look around you -- are these children happy?"

It's interesting that you can so easily judge others AND know how they are raising their children.

By trying to flip the table on some neurobiological disorders, you demean all of them. Would you say all this about autism? Down's Syndrome? Where would you stop?

I'll end the discussion here before Outsider decides to analyze each of us in turn.