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Education

July 07, 2015

If you can't lose your excess weight, just change the scale!

The U.S. educational system seems to particularly fond of this dopey advice. A case in point: "There's going to be a new SAT, and it will be easier than ever". This change is awesomely crazy:

1. No Obscure Vocabulary

The new version of the SAT will be easier because there will no longer be obscure vocabulary to trip up test takers, Patel told Business Insider. High school students will no longer have to study massive vocabulary lists with obscure words. 

Instead, the College Board made the measured decision to focus on vocabulary words that students will encounter on a regular basis in college and in future jobs. On the College Board's website they reference their decision saying, "No longer will students use flashcards to memorize obscure words, only to forget them the minute they put their test pencils down."

June 29, 2015

"Improving Higher Education Through Professor Specialization"

Troy Camplin makes an excellent point:

Every economist will tell you about the benefits from specialization. We have known about that since Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations. But for some reason, this knowledge is thrown out when it comes to specialization in academia. 

I am talking about the requirement for tenure-track professors to engage in research. 

The comments are highly entertaining. Some folks seem to think this is crazy, but it's clearly not.

My take is that good teaching and research are clearly complementary for some faculty, but are just as clearly not for others. It would be difficult to even estimate the proportions. 

But there's a very important fact Camplin doesn't discuss: good research is reasonably cheap to quantify: publications--even quality-adjusted--and citations can be counted. But good teaching is much more costly to assess and quantify. (Student evaluations, alas, are only a tiny bit better than nothing.)

June 23, 2015

"New York teachers unions’ ‘choice’ charade"

Beware of unions endorsing "a parent's right to choose".

June 17, 2015

"College is Biased"

Mike Munger points us toward the funny video clip, "Are Standardized Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give a Shit?"

June 15, 2015

"The truth about 'holistic' college admissions"

Sara Harberson, who "worked in admissions at the University of Pennsylvania and at Franklin & Marshall College":

In all, holistic admissions adds subjectivity to admissions decisions, and the practice makes it difficult to explain who gets in, who doesn't, and why. But has holistic admissions become a guise for allowing cultural and even racial biases to dictate the admissions process?

To some degree, yes.

As an admissions professional, I gave students, families and guidance counselors a list of what it took to be admitted — the objective expectations of a competitive applicant. I didn't mention that racial stereotyping, money, connections and athletics sometimes overshadow these high benchmarks we all promoted. The veil of holistic admissions allows for these other factors to become key elements in a student's admissions decision.

My wife teaches a high school government and politics class. When she covers affirmative action and talks about how the policy is intended to help disadvantaged minorities, her Asian students perk up. Some even smile. And she tells them sorry, but Asians aren't considered a disadvantaged minority. They say, essentially, "WTF?!" She then has what ed school types call a teachable moment.

June 10, 2015

"How to Open the Mind of a College Graduate"

A good idea from Thomas Sowell.

My own favorite approach to controversial issues, going back to my teaching days, is to confront students with the strongest arguments available on opposite sides of these issues. The point of this approach is not to feed the students prepackaged conclusions, but to force them to seek facts and apply logic, in their own attempts to resolve complex and important controversies. . . .

My suggestion would be to give young people a subscription to both the New York Times and Investor’s Business Daily. Seeing how the editorial pages of these newspapers clash, day after day on issue after issue, should build up some mental muscles that students seldom get from being mental couch potatoes on politically correct campuses, where one viewpoint fits all.

June 04, 2015

"Distrust and Disorder: A Racial Equity Policy Summons Chaos in the St. Paul Schools"

Epically sad.

Two years ago, kids who'd spent their academic lives in specialized classrooms for behavioral issues and cognitive disabilities were mainstreamed into general classes, along with all the kids who spoke English as a second language. More than 3,000 made the transition.

The district also shifted its thinking on discipline, influenced by data that showed black kids being suspended at alarming rates. Such punishment would now come as a last resort. Instead, disruptive or destructive students would essentially receive a 20-minute timeout, receive counseling by a "behavioral coach," then return to class when they calmed down.

Guess--go ahead, guess--what happened. 

Link via Economics Job Market Rumors.

"28 Kids Who Outsmarted Their Teachers"

Much cuteness and cleverness here, but the main lesson is that teachers should be really careful in how they word test questions.

May 27, 2015

"Reforms aimed at fighting grade inflation are falling short"

Discouraging.

May 26, 2015

"Breakthrough: A Top 50 MBA For $20,000"

This sounds quite promising.

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