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Replacing SAT with LEGOs 438

A reader writes "The Denver Post has a story about Colorado College, in an effort to attract minority and disadvantaged students, is dumping college-admission exams in favor of a Lego-building test, but only for a handful of applicants. 'The Lego test helps identify initiative, leadership and an ability to work in groups - qualities that hours-long ACT and SAT tests never quite get at.' " The college is working on this as a pilot program, along with eight other schools. Bet I could have gotten a better scholarship if they would have let me build a space station.
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Replacing SAT with LEGOs

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  • You attract the poor people by basing your exam on how much practice you've had with an expensive toy, the handicapped with a test of manual dexterity and the "disadvantaged" with a complex spatial relations test.

    This isn't going to go down well...
    Java banners:
    Bad for users because Java kills Netscape
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:05AM (#1314731)
    If I was a 'minority' I would take great offense to this. In an effort to attract minorities, they are foregoing tests which measure the intelligence of a person, in favor of 'building stuff with blocks'?

    Perhaps we should drop attendance requirements as well, since the children do not 'really want' to go to school everyday. You know, to attract more minorities. Perhaps not.

    In an era when job competition is becoming more intense everyday, our schools should strive to emulate countries which are far ahead of us, and send our children into the work place with a firm foundation of knowledge. Or we can just baby them and continue the recession into stupidity.


  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:05AM (#1314734)
    I'll let the other slashdotters handle the joking about this and just go right to the heart of the matter..

    First, it's excellent that universities are finally, after over 100 years of this, beginning to understand standardized testing is a poor indicator of value/intelligence/leadership. It's been known for a long time that there are many varieties of intelligence - the IQ test only tests one - basically math and spatial visualization. Wuzzah. So if you know 13 different programming languages - from LISP to C++ and can pick up new ones within a few days.. well, sorry - that won't show up on the test.

    It's still a nice idea - give college kids some legos and see what they build. However, if they're still bent on using tests (an ultimately doomed approach) instead of interviewing potential students, may I suggest giving potential candidates an objective (which varies from person to person) and see how they solve it? In my opinion, it's more important /how/ you solve it than /whether/ you solve it. After you give the same problem to a few hundred people you'll know what solutions are typical and be able to spot the innovative and/or unconvential people in a group. What you do with this information is up to you, as an administrator, but you all know who my money's on.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Like it hasn't been dumbed down enough already.

    What's next, orgami skills as a determining factor?

    Seriously, though, the problem I have with this is that there is more than one test for entrance. And you don't get to choose which test to take. One is easier than the other. Isn't this unfair?
  • I really think that standards are declining if people use legos to get into college. I actually wanted to take the ACT test to get into college and I feel that it was worth it. I can't realistically believe that anyone who can build with legos can actually be on par with someone who has actually shown a knowledge of the material through a standardized test.
  • by molog ( 110171 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:09AM (#1314750) Homepage Journal
    I would think that minority groups would feel insulted by having tests that have lower standards then the average white kid. Doesn't just say that they are stupid? I know I would feel insulted if someone game me a test that was not as challenging as someone else. I am willing to say that all people despite ethnic or cultural background are smart enough to handle a challenging education and tests. I am going to go off on a limb here but I would bet that these lower standards are not needed. Rather keeping all students accountable to a higher standard in the class room no matter who they are.
  • by D3 ( 31029 )
    Hey, didn't some oragami guru find a way to fold solar panels for spacecraft in a way to take up less space than what a bunch of engineers thought was possible? I think he even out-did a computer program that had been tried.

  • What I can't believe is why somebody would honestly believe standardized testing was a measure of their worth....
  • If school and life was based around LEGO tests, I would have been supreme overlord when I was 10.

  • I was wondering how I was going to get into college.

    Now only if they could move the drivers license test to Bob's GOKart downtwon.

  • I am a little disappointed that colleges would only let 'disadvantaged and ethic' students participate. Are they implying that they are not as smart as others.

    Truthfully, it doesn't matter who you are, some people are intelligent but can't take tests like the SAT's and such.

    I hope that this will soon be available to all students and adapted by more colleges.
  • I can't realistically believe that anyone who can build with legos can actually be on par with someone who has actually shown a knowledge of the material through a standardized test

    I know many people who can build with legos AND have shown a knowledge of "the" material through a standardized test.

  • by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:16AM (#1314774) Homepage
    i can just hear it now...

    some lady in screaming because her child didnt
    have legos when he was growing up because the
    family was too poor. now all of a sudden, this
    test is biased against the poor minorities of
    the country.

    let's get serious here. the ONLY people who
    complain about unfair tests are the people who
    didnt do well (or the family and friends of said

    my parents didnt even graduate high school and
    were not wealthy (the two biggest predictors) and
    i got a 1350 on the SAT.

    there will never be a perfect test. the only
    "good" alternative is to base it on face to face
    interactions with the candidates (something few
    colleges could afford to do)--and then there would
    still be the argument that "the interviewer was biased".

  • I hope people respond to it in the nice way that they should, and agree that this is a positive step, helping minorities and the disadvantaged as it is intended to. I know that Mensa certainly has 'culture fair' test which rather than
    requiring a good knowledge of the subtleties of English or Maths as many IQ tests require, uses spatial awareness as the basis instead - in a direct attempt not just to get the stereotyped arrogant British toffs that might be the only
    ones to get good scores on old style tests.

    A little bit of grammer check (this really gets on my nerves) 'maths' is not necessarily proper grammer. If I want to talk about math in the plural form I say just math or mathmetics. How exactly if I actually *read* the books does my race have anything to do with getting accepted to college. If I am black does that make me unable to learn? If I am "disadvantaged" how does it prevent access to information? I was rather poor through my childhood and was still able to gain access to public libraries (ever heard of this new thing called the "free" library started in the 19th century and Carnagie). Somehow I doubt that everyone and their mother wants to get into MENSA anyway. It might look good as just another feather in your cap but that dosn't mean much.

    I'm all for alternate testing techniques, especially if the courses that this is being used as a requirement for are technique based rather than courses that do require prior knowledge (of literature, for example).

    We really do not have that much of a problem at least in the US of getting information to people. The public school environment will at least produce a basic level of information that can be used to create more information and generally be allowed to give a better result. Alternate testing techniques could be employed under the ADA or something similar however college is usually for people who went to HS. High School education or GEDs are not exclusive as they were in times past.
  • by sethg ( 15187 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:22AM (#1314786) Homepage
    In the Lego test, groups of eight to 10 students are given a box full of Lego pieces and told that they have 10 minutes to build a robot exactly like one sitting on a table in the next room.

    Each group member is allowed to look at the robot, one at a time without taking notes. Evaluators then watch the group as they snap together their version of the robot, giving each student a score between zero and four....

    Lego® bricks, paper, and computers are just tools. You can't judge the quality of a test by the tools used for taking the test.

    Furthermore, the woman who designed the test will be keeping track of college students who took it, to see how well their success on the test correlates with their grades and so forth.
    "But, Mulder, the new millennium doesn't begin until January 2001."

  • The sad fact is that the truly untested initiative is that of the universities themselves. Standardized testing is just a pathetic cop-out to allow them to deal with students en masse, without committing the resources necessary to make informed decisions.
  • I know many people who can build with legos AND have shown a knowledge of "the" material through a standardized test.

    Ok I should have been a little clearer. I meant to say that if all you can do is build with legos then that is a poor indicator of intelligence. I have a younger brother who was able to play with legos in the 4th grade. Does that mean he can get into college? I didn't think so.
  • Congratulations [student name],

    Based on your performance in our Lego Application Process Demonstrating Aptitudes Needed for College Entrance (LAPDANCE), [name of school] is pleased to inform you of your admission to the College of Engineering.

    Due to your particularly anal-retentive use of color you were passed over by the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English. However, this same aspect to your creation was considered a strength by admissions specialists for the School of Computer Science....

    Yadda - yadda - yadda ...
    "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."

  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:26AM (#1314792) Homepage
    Okay, let's assume for the sake of argument that there are "multiple kinds of intelligence" (certainly not implausible), and that standardized tests are really testing only one or two of them.

    Item 1: College, in general, is *AIMED* at those one or two kinds; these tests measure *ability to do well in college*, for the most part. Giving people a test of something else just sets them up to fail later.

    Item 2: Why is it that these people are assuming that the minorities "can't" do well on standardized tests? Isn't that sort of like saying they think the minorities are "stupid"? Frankly, I don't know whether or not racial groups have differences in brain structure, or whatever - but if they do, we'd damn well better start facing it head on, or we're going to wreck a lot of people's lives trying to push them into something they aren't. (Admittedly, it's no better to assert that an entire group will behave in the same way.)

    Item 3: Why don't they give *EVERYONE* the lego test, and see how it pans out? If you give it only to the students you think won't do well on the other test, you aren't learning much. Let's be fair; make *EVERYONE* take the lego test, have their results graded by people who don't know which color people did which projects, and find out what the lego test tells you.

    Item 4: "Kinds of intelligence" is probably meaningless anyway. "intelligence" is supposed to refer to the generalized set of "kinds of intelligence". Sure, the tests don't measure them all, but the lego test doesn't *MEASURE* anything, it just gives you a platform to balance your prejudice on.

    Honestly, I think it comes down to this: There uexist people who are not "disadvantaged" in any way, and who feel guilty about this, and who will seek out "disadvantaged" people, and try to "help" them, in a way that makes it absolutely clear that the people doing the helping are in charge, and the "disadvantaged" people oughta be grateful for the help. These people are just as racist as the overt racists, they've just found a better way to sublimate it. Better for them, anyway. Not sure it's any better to be talked down to than openly hated.

    This is a joke. With any luck, they will realize it, and start trying to do something useful - for instance, if the "different kinds of intelligence" thing pans out, start building a real curriculum for them, not just excuses to shove them into a curriculum that doesn't match them.
  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:29AM (#1314796) Homepage
    I scored an 1850 on the SAT, but I didn't do so well on math ;)
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:31AM (#1314799)
    Tests are imperfect at best and misplaced at worst, but reducing admissions to the level of "job" interviews is far, far worse than even the most poorly designed and executed test.

    A test has at least the possibility, and if adminstered correctly, probability of giving objective results. The criteria may be misplaced or imperfect, but the results will generally stand on their own, all imperfections aside.

    An interview can never even aspire to be resonably objective. Subjective prejudices in terms of personality, appearance, gender, and culture are intrinsic to any interviewing process. The result will not be some utiopian "fair deal" for those who score poorly on tests but would have made good students anyway, but a system so completely weighted by the personal opinions of admissions interviewers that fairness of any kind will not be even remotely possible. Ultimately it will no longer even be expected, or strived for.

    Standardized testing, for all of its flaws, at least eliminates the worst of the cultural and personal bias of the admissions process, by stating more or less "you are required to know a modicum of the following, if you don't, learn it and come back for another try." Far more fair, even for the disadvantaged (however one defines the term) than an interviewer commenting "You really aren't State U material, sorry kid" become some arrongant jerk doesn't like your accent, your nose ring, your hair style, or your skin color. Or worse, they've simply had a bad day and just feel peaved enough that playing God with your future makes them feel better. (If you don't believe both of these happen quite often in the private sector, I suggest working for a time in the personnel department of any large firm.)

    No system is perfect, but your proposal amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, then chucking most of the nursery out the window as well.

    As to the notion of using legos for colleges admissions, I can only cringe at the value a college education received in the United States will have fifteen or twenty years from now. All of the arrogant posturing by Europeans with respect to the American system of Higher Education will become appallingly accurate if this silliness continues.
  • There is zero chance that this will replace the SAT in general.

    First, it is incredibly expensive. Look at the time and number of judges required.

    Second, it is much more subjective and will consequently have a lower test-retest reliability.

    Third, given the limited range of scores (and lower reliability) it is very doubtful it could ever approach the predictive validity of the SAT.

    What's even weirder is that there's no evidence that minorities would do relatively better on this test than on the SAT, so the whole project is suspect.

  • Don't knock it. I did well on the SATs and I think that it counts for something. Let's face it: you can bullshit your way through it to some degree, but the difference between someone with a 1100 and someone with a 1500 is pretty
    big. Granted, it's hardly the only measure of aptitude or potential, and is of limited worth to anyone except those who did well (and get to brag :). But I had seriously mediocre grades in HS, but my SAT and SAT II scores got me
    into a highly-ranked school, so I can't complain.

    Ok that seems reasonable. The tests are to test general knowledge and such. If you can prove that you know something that's a good thing.

    But you're arguing with slashdot-terminal, the uber-right wing fuck who couldn't possibly see beyond the whiteness of his own skin.

    I think that was uncalled for. Let's get things straight ok?

    1. How do you know I am white? Have you actually traced my identity to an actual person? I actually have taken great pains to distance myself from an actual identity.

    2. I don't see how advocating the current system actually hurts anyone including minorities. The only people who really get hurt are people who don't like tests. I am actually a test phobe. I hate tests with a passion. However once you get into college of any sort (even a crummy one) you have to take tests all the time. So why not get over your phobia now.

    3. Are you a person who is non-white? Can you show that I have callously disregarded you in any way. Considering I have never seen you either I think that I can't even prove you aren't white.

    If you don't like my arguments then fine. However I grew up in reality where tests were the norm and studying was something that was expected. I will not allow the world to move on with what I perceive to be misguided dumbing down of the curriculum. However if people want to make it trivial for people like me to succeede while I put in less actual work then fine. I really don't care. I can actually spend half or less the time I devote to studying and staying up late at night to get all my work done. In other words no skin off my nose at all.
  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:38AM (#1314813)

    Look. College is many different things; I'm not going to argue that. But its primary purpose is a place of study. If a student can't perform well on a test (which requires that one exercise a reasonable amount of study skills), that student simply isn't going to do very well in most collegiate enviornments.

    The bit about testing leadership and other types of intelligence is, I suppose, a valid concern. But do it in addition to the tests, not instead of them.

    Personally, I always saw racial preferences as one of the more wacko ideas. A person's race doesn't determine how well they'll do in a college environment at all. Religion might, depending on the tenets of the given religion, but that's exceedingly rare and a student whose religion might affect college life is very likely to choose a place where the two won't interfere with one another anyway. Sexual orientation doesn't affect study skills, or gender, or anything else along those lines. So why even put them on a college application at all? Statistics?

    Statistics and such are of interest to statisticians, but in the end they're not really indicative of very much. Personally, as I see it, if you want to make college admissions fair across races, don't make all kinds of special treatment. Make the process race-blind (and gender-blind except in the case of single-sex colleges, and such). Completely eliminate the race question on the application form; if you feel you need the statistics then send the students a survey after the admissions decisions have already been made. I don't think anyone here will argue against the assertion that race and such has no place in the decision whether or not to admit a student. So why even ask the questions until the decisions have been made?

    But I'm ranting again, so back to the subject...

    A college is a place of study. I fail to see how objective merit is an invalid concern. The SAT's and ACT's are meant to be a measure of the skills a student needs to succeed in a college environment, namely study and reasoning skills. I think the ACT tends to do a better job of measuring this than the SAT's (since the ACT's test a broader range of skills), but both do well in their given fields. The rest, such as leadership, are of course very nice skills to have. But they have little to no effect on how well the student does in classes, and can even hinder the student in some cases, as they get involved in more activities than they can handle and their grades suffer as a result (I've seen this happen to far too many students).

    So attacking merit isn't the way to go. Replacing onjective tests with subjective ones only adds the potential for more racism and bias than the terminally insecure claim exists now. Combining the two is actually something of a good idea, so long as you're careful about how that's done.

    Oh, one last thing. Someone talked about the idea of interviewing prospective students. Most colleges already do that. I went through a bunch of interviews, as did my sisters when they went off to college, as did everyone I know who went to or is currently at college. It's an important tool. But all tools are inherently flawed in some manner or another (even a simple hammer is flawed: it can miss the nail or worse, hit your finger); that's why only rarely can any one tool be used to get the job done well.
  • But I didn't get enough of the flat rectangles!
  • by dweiss ( 128227 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:41AM (#1314823)
    A close reading of the article reveals that the school is not "throwing out" the SAT, but allowing kids who flunk the school's SAT benchmarks to take a battery of alternative tests, including this lego test. The battery will apparently include a traditional interview. That thought, however, is too complex for us mere mortals to grasp. Watch as our friends in the media helpfully simplify the story for us over the next few days to: "SAT thrown out for Legos!" Dan
  • by rellort ( 146793 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @09:42AM (#1314824)
    I believe that aptitude test should be devised using an "open source" methodology. Lest you think I'm just trying to drop the phrase "open source" for karma points, I'll explain:

    Aptitude/intelligence tests are typically devised behind closed doors. A small committee gets together and creates questions. The questions are then tested on students. Questions with a high miss rate are considered "hard". Questions with a low miss rate are considered "easy".

    This methodology has very real flaws. First of all, the elite group which gets to create the questions is too small. They are very rarely questioned. The fact is that SAT questions have been proven to contain questions which could be misunderstood. Sometimes, the "correct" answers are just wrong. Lawsuits have been filed over this and ETS (the company who creates the SAT) has been forced to change scores. This is kept quiet, of course. We can't have people questioning the almighty SAT.

    Since the elite group is too small and closed to rule out the possibility of group error, we should open up the question-writing to everyone. Let educators from around the country create the questions. We have the technology to do this right now.

    In fact, it should go beyond just the educators. The process should be open to students, as well. How about a pilot program where Slashdot members devise an aptitude test? I have no doubt that the combined intelligence of this site could produce a far more informative and perceptive test than anything in use today.
  • Standardized testing doesn't measure *worth*, but it can very likely measure a relevant kind of *ability*.

    Since that's what you'll need to make it through college...
  • The person who can build with the LEGOs would not be on par with the person with the knowledge, they would be playing a different game all together.

    Maybe so but the goal is still the same. To get into college.

    There is a different kind of intelligence at work when a person uses LEGOs as opposed to memorizing material. The whole point of the LEGOs is to level the playing field for people who didn't have the resources to learn the material
    that someone else had to luxury of having access to or the time to learn it.

    Funny I can take the material that I supposedly "memorized" and apply it in various situations (such as posting to slashdot) without just reciting the things chapter and verse.

    Could someone please tell me in the late 20th century early 21st century in America how exactly can one *not* get a HS education? Maybe if they have a severe series of operations or maybe they are physically beaten up on the way to school then it might prevent this. However even the poorest student in the USA has some local school where he/she can get access to education. Now if the school sucks or dosn't teach right isn't the issue. It's wheather you can *learn* from teh HS and get a diploma. Technically if you get D-s all the way through HS there are still colleges that will take you. As far as time well why do you even do anything? People in the late 20th century seem to think that they have less and less time then people in earlier periods of history. As I recall in the early 20th century we had people who really didn't have a whole lot of time because they were working to death. Quite frankly I think such a hellish time was absolutely scary. I don't think HS students are so pressed for time (you really don't need a job at all in HS) that they can't even read a book or do some homework.

    Let's face it, life isn't all peachy everywhere for everyone. People are put at a disadvatage sometimes and should not be denied opportunities for it. This is the basis of using LEGOs. It's an opportunity for certain people who are
    disadvantaged to prove that they can hack it in school. You can't honestly expect ghetto kids to stop dodging bullets to learn trig or expect some kid in the swamps to study poetry or whatnot while he waits for his pops to beat his
    ass because he is drunk again. The LEGO thing makes things more fair because they are blocks that can go together in a way to make something.

    You know people must think that everywhere at every time that people absolutely *HAVE* to live where they are. If I live in complete and desperate poverty or are dodging bullets or what not I can always get up off my ass and actually leave. Hell if I am homeless or a bum I can always leave. People just don't realize that there are alternatives. Maybe if say a group of well armed thugs decided to take out the little ol' gang members perhaps we could actually get some peace. I mean they want to threaten others why don't we threaten them?

    Basically you are saying that because johnny is too busy not getting killed or maimed in some way that he can't learn? Exactly how many of these cases are actually happening? I would like some reliable figures that indicate that the use of legos and alternative testing measures are actually an effective measure to giving these people an equal chance. If I can't do basic algebra how can I do say entry level calculus or say even good programming. The concepts of varibales and equations are basic to programming and without the ability to actually know these things I think that you can't do it well.

    My point is if you are bright, but for some reason unable to learn the things that you and I have had the opportunity to learn, the LEGO test is basic enough to let a person like this demonstrate that he is smart enough to go to

    So colleges now become the centers of remedial education. These people will undoubtally end up taking level 0900 classes or equivelent and not starting out in freshmen level classes like the rest of the people.
  • Millennium said:

    Someone talked about the idea of interviewing prospective students. Most colleges already do that. I went through a bunch of interviews, as did my sisters when they went off to college, as did everyone I know who went to or is currently at college.

    I can tell you for a fact that, at many larger schools (including the one I attended for undergraduate and graduate work) there were no interviews during the admissions phase (this includes colleges for which I applied and did not attend).

    I had numerous interviews for various scholarship "competitions" but those typically took place after I had already been admitted (got early acceptance in Nov. of senior year of HS).

    In fact, to provide a counter-example to yours, I know of no one who had interviews as part of their admissions procedure, but that may have to do with the fact that almost everyone I know went to one of two or three large, public universities.

    As a side note, I don't exactly believe that outstanding performance on standardized tests is any better an indicator of future performance in college that poor performance. I know of several people who went to my high school who made outstanding scores on the SAT/HS GPA/etc. but, once at college and out from under Mommy and Daddy's control, took to too much partying and ended up failing/dropping out of college. Likewise, several "marginal" students went on to excellent college careers. However, I am not advocating the "dumbing-down" of admissions standards. As a graduate teaching assistant, I encountered far too many students lacking basic mathematical and communicative skills. I actually know of a student who wrote the following on a physics lab report: "It is would be much more actual in percent difference. And much more correct to[sic]."


  • by Anonymous Coward
    If I was a 'minority' I would take great offense to this

    If it got me into college, I might just decide to live with the indignity. After all, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and most other Ivy League schools have special programmes (quotas, no less) for the children of alumni, to get in on the basis of less demanding standards. Somehow, I don't see these rich, privileged, (mainly) white kids going around crippled by the knowledge that they didn't earn their place. Some of these token quota-kids even manage to muster the self-esteem to run for Governor of Texas . . . .
  • I would think that minority groups would feel insulted by having tests that have lower standards then the average white kid. Doesn't just say that they are stupid? I know I would feel insulted if someone game me a test that was not as challenging as someone else.

    I would agree with you except that I didn't get the impression that this was a special test for minority groups. I believe that article explicitly stated that race was not a factor in selecting who was taking the test. The majority who are initially taking it are black or Hispanic but this seems to be attributable to the demographics of NYC (the pool of students that they are drawing on).

    I also take issue with your assertion that this sort of test is a lower standard. It is measuring other qualities. How well this test does that remains to be seen, but the testers are looking for leadership and the ability to work in groups. I could also see it indicating creativity and problem solving skills. These are valuable, non-quantifiable assets for which standardized tests tend to be poor indicators. I don't think I'd throw away all standardized testing, but I would balance them with other non-conventional tests, such as this, to better assess a candidate.


  • 1500+?

    You must not have done much with it (or have gotten it pretty recently) if you still brag about it (and obnoxiously and insultingly at that). At Rice you learn to shut up about stuff like that pretty quickly when your mention of "I got a 1600" is met by "Really? You too?"

    I'd go into the huge variance in the correlation between SAT scores and grades/salary/whatever, but that'd just be excessive.
  • by Erbo ( 384 ) <amygalertNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @10:10AM (#1314883) Homepage Journal
    If you look more closely at the article, you'll see that it's more than just Lego-building that's involved in the new CC "entrance exams." I quote: "Other activities include public speaking, conflict-resolution drills and personal interviews..."

    Actually, some of those sound almost as interesting, if not more, than the Lego test. Public speaking, in particular, strikes me as a good test, given that, in many, many surveys, people have consistently rated "speaking before a group" as their number one fear, above even death. Conflict resolution is going to be increasingly important in society as a whole, and on college campuses in particular. And other messages in this thread have suggested that personal interviews be used in place of "the Lego test"; it would seem that they're actually being used alongside it.

    Some other things to note about the article:

    • CC "has long been an innovator in higher education." Somebody's got to try these ideas first...
    • CC is not the only college using these new tests; eight other universities are doing this, too (four other private liberal-arts schools and four state universities).
    • Very few students are going to be admitted as a result of these tests, at least at first (it's a pilot program). CC and the other liberal-arts schools will be admitting four students each under this program; the four state schools will admit 20 students each.
    • Researchers will be keeping track of these students; to see how well they do in relation to students admitted under "normal" policies.
    • The intent of all this is to maintain racial diversity in college admissions without resorting to "affirmative action" programs (which are in the middle of a whole slew of political firestorms right now). This is important for CC, since (according to the article) "Colorado public colleges and universities are required to show continuous improvement in minority recruitment, retention and graduation."
    Naturally, the "Lego test" gets the headline because it sounds outrageous. Nonetheless, the overall program sounds both interesting and worthy of investigation, and I hope that it works out. And, even if it doesn't, they'll have learned something as a result.

    Eric (Denver, CO)
    "Free your code...and the rest will follow."

  • All of the arrogant posturing by Europeans with respect to the American system of Higher Education will become appallingly accurate if this silliness continues.

    Well, I don't know, I can see as a potential improvement in the US education system if they start selecting students on how well they use Lego rather than how well they play sport.

    Regards, Ralph. (An arrogant posturing European and proud of it (on one leg)).

  • by Bearpaw ( 13080 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @10:11AM (#1314885)
    School is supposed to teach you things more useful than building castles of LEGOs.

    Didn't read the article, huh?

    Where is the evolution then?

    I wasn't aware that low-scorers on the SATs were fed to the wolves.

  • "certain academic criteria" to be exclusive of the poor.

    no, but Outstanding Public Education is definitely NOT exclusive to the poor (or even inclusive). America's education system is much like it's health care (please no wars), they are great if you have money and don't exist if you don't.
  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @10:14AM (#1314892) Homepage
    But they wouldn't have *TESTED* your roommate with the lego test! They would only have tested him *if they thought he would do badly on the SAT's or ACT's*.

    As to motivation, I don't think the Lego Test tests for that. That's what the interview is supposed to be for - and it won't always work, because some people *change* when they get to college.

    As to "kinds of intelligence" - when I was doing my psych work (B.A. only), it was 120 kinds, and they had a little 3-D graph. It's all guesses, still. We know that certain tests model the ability to do well in school. That's about it; we really don't know what the other things are, or how to model them, or how they work.

    More importantly, when we speak of a person being "intelligent", we normally mean that they have a broad base of aptitudes. Someone who's brilliant at one of those things, and bad at the others, isn't "intelligent" - he's "an idiot savant".
  • Why is it that these people are assuming that the minorities "can't" do well on standardized tests?

    For some unknown reason, be it the schools the minorities attend or some fundamental brain difference, they consistantly score worse on standardized tests than average. They're just attempting to move themselves out of the 'affirmative action' spotlight before some pompous 1540-SAT-having white male sues them for letting in the 1150-SAT black female and turning him down. Courts all over the place are slamming colleges for their racist 'affirmative action' programs. So they're reserving a number of non-competitive seats for minorities in this alternative testing program, regardless of how badly the tests go.

    I think they should just fix the damn standardized tests, instead of playing these damn foolish games.
  • (If you don't believe both of these happen quite often in the private sector, I suggest working for a time in the personnel department of any large firm.)

    On the same note, if you believe that a set of tests designed and produced by a private company are at all objective, you may wish to spend some time with the great segment of the American population which has almost 0 representation here on Slashdot-- namely African-Americans, Hispano-Americans, anyone who's Gen 0 or 1 American (i.e. a new immigrant or their child.) If you haven't taken a standardized test (like the SAT, ACT, or my personel bane, the MEAP (a test given to grade, middle and high schoolers in MI), you should maybe order a few sample copies from ETS and give them a look-see.

    Look these objectify metersticks of knowledge over and ask yourself: What would this mean to me if I were born after the Cold War? What would this mean to me if I grew up to a single parent in the middle of City X and have never seen an open body of water or a forest? What would this mean to me if English were my second language (N.B., children, that the US has no national language-- we take all comers, here (in theory,) unlike snooty old European nations.)

    We'd do better to release this delusion of having aquired objective judges by simply moving people farther away from the process. I'd rather sit in an interview room and know that a white man was seeing me as a black girl, then sit at my little desk and think that some machine somewhere didn't notice or care.

  • >actually, SAT scores are poorly correlated with
    >college grades, particularly for women (on
    >average, women score lower than men on the SAT,
    >but earn higher grades, at least at MIT, which is
    >the sample pool i know best)

    Interesting. Higher grades in same classes, or higher grades, different selection of classes? It'd be interesting to compare inputs.

    Also interesting would be to see whether there's, say, social issues involved. At the college I went to, a lot more of the guys had wild drinking parties... Which can't possibly have helped grades.
  • Did anyone else have trouble with this?

    The Lego test helps identify initiative, leadership and an ability to work in groups

    I don't remember Lego being a team game. I'm the youngest of 3 and I remember mostly playing with Lego alone. OK, sometimes I built something with my sis, but then it was more about cooperation than leadership.

    Lego was/is more about creativity and engineering than group interaction. For me, anyhow ...

    Regards, Ralph.

  • As to the notion of using legos for colleges admissions, I can only cringe at the value a college education received in the United
    States will have fifteen or twenty years from now. All of the arrogant posturing by Europeans with respect to the American system
    of Higher Education will become appallingly accurate if this silliness continues.

    I'm all for alternative testing to get into college, but it's only a step in the process. Jusrt getting disadvantaged students into college does not guarantee their success. Traditional curricula also need to be adjusted.

    That being said, Allowing someone college adminission based solely on Lego-related skills is absurd. But using a Lego test as a component of a well designed non-biased test sounds like a great idea to me. From the article:

    The Lego test is one of a dozen workshop activities over three hours in which pencil and
    paper are thrown out. Other activities include public speaking, conflict-resolution drills and
    personal interviews performed under the watchful eye of high school principals, teachers,
    counselors and college admissions deans who evaluate the college hopefuls.

    That sounds like a great idea to me.

  • [...] these tests measure *ability to do well in college*, [...]

    These tests are intended to measure the ability to do well in college. They do not succeed. In the course of earning my BA in Psych, I took a lot of classes dealing with both the statistical and emotional aspects of standardized tests. As they are currently implemented, they fail badly in both arenas. Not only are SAT's not a good predictor of college performance (let alone lifetime success, which is really more important anyway), they're only maybe 10% better than random chance.

    Why is it that these people are assuming that the minorities "can't" do well on standardized tests?

    Because they don't. They just don't. They aren't stupid, but - and here's where those emotional aspects come in - they are made to feel stupid, and then to add injury to insult they are denied the rights to education that they deserve and can benefit from regardless of what those SAT scores say. While I disagree with Affirmative Action in principle, I disagree even more strongly with white people designing tests that don't take into account the way non-white people think - a way which, while equally effective in the real world, does not add up to success on those particular tests.

    Why don't they give *EVERYONE* the lego test, and see how it pans out?

    Politics, largely, but also fairness. Studies on these kinds of tests show they are good predictors for some things - including, not coincidentally, success in college - but they have to be proven in incremental steps or (a) the public won't accept them and (b) they could fail to work as intended when given to a larger audience. You don't spend a billion dollars to build an arsenal of new bombs unless you've tested a few of them. Incidentally, standardized tests (at least mainstream ones) are ALWAYS graded colorblind; SAT's are graded by machines, anyway, and I have no doubt that the lego tests will also be controlled for color and gender. It's standard practice.

    Kinds of intelligence" is probably meaningless anyway. "intelligence" is supposed to refer to the generalized set of "kinds of intelligence". Sure, the tests don't measure them all, but the lego test doesn't *MEASURE* anything, it just gives you a platform to balance your prejudice on.

    I'm not sure what you mean here, but the part about giving you a platform to balance your prejudice on is an interesting point. If these tests turn out to be as bad as the SAT's in the practice, they'll certainly be a waste of money, but they won't get adopted, and so there won't be any additional prejudice added by the process of prototyping that's going on now.

  • How do they "fix" the standardized tests? How do we demonstrate that the tests are even broken?


    That would suck. But it would *not* suck as much as trying to skew a test to make it stop measuring a difference that really existed.

    If a yardstick tells you that asians are generally a little shorter than whites, do you "fix" the yardstick, or do you say "okay, that's a difference between ethnic groups"?

    The good part of the "lego test" is the idea of trying to measure skills other than the ones we've traditionally measured. The bad part is trying to make sure that these measurements are applied only to certain people. If you want to have a test which shows "something these people are good at", you need norms, and those norms need to be control groups from other populations.

    It may turn out that different ethnic groups have different strengths. It may even turn out that, say, Asians just *always* do better than whites on any intelligence test we can come up with.

    But as long as it's easier for people to be emotionally okay with "Asians, as a group, do better than whites" than it is for them to deal with "blacks, as a group, do worse than whites", we have a much bigger problem than we're admitting.

    After all, if whites can be worse than someone else, why can't someone else be worse than whites? We have too much politics, and too little science.

    Mostly, people forget that attributes of groups are not transferrable to individuals. I have met tall Chinese people - and, when I was in China, I also met about two hundred thousand of them that were shorter than me. But the tall ones exist, and any test which tries to "fix" things will end up screwing those people.
  • As in "reading the article." Looking over comments, here are a couple of things most posters seem to have missed:

    1. The lego test is only one of a series of twelve workshop tests performed.
    2. The schools are looking for tests that are better predictors of college success. These workshop-based tests are an experiment to find such tests--they are only being used for a highly limited number of admissions, with the outcome carefully tracked. Maybe they'll work, maybe they won't.
    As alluded to in the article, the dirty little secret of standardized tests is that they correlate better with socioeconomic background than they do with ultimate college success. And that's to be expected--kids from more affluent families went to better schools, got more help from their (usually) college-educated parents, and so forth. Most of us who have been through college know people who aced their SAT's but royally screwed up their coursework. These schools are looking for something better, somthing that measures ability to succeed as well as general knowledge.

    It's worth a try, in any case.

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @10:48AM (#1314946)
    Well, as some of my posts undoubtably underscore (spelling in particular), my rather high score on the ACT was NOT due to the English portion of the exam. :-)

    The standardized test (and later the net, with it's emphesis on typing and not writing by hand) also enabled me to do well despite my appalling handwriting.

    Standardized tests do work pretty well, albeit imperfectly. Smart people with significant failings in other areas can and do do very well, with those weaknesses hilighted by their respective scores.

    As an aside, the fact that two private firms came up with two competing, national tests (the ACT and the SAT), and their subsequent success, clearly shows there was an unfulfilled need for a national standard whereby colleges could judge the relative educational level of prospective students coming from diverse backgrounds and school systems of widely varying quality. These tests may be imperfect, but they are far more functional (and useful) than building with legos.

    The only real "argument" with respect to national standards tests is not whether or not they are needed, but whether or not they should be designed and maintained by private companies or by some kind of public (government or acedemic) institution. As stubborn Americans we may steadfastly refuse to learn from our European and Asian neighbors (who have had standardized testing on the national level for a long time), but we can hardly ignore our own free market, which we hold in such high, almost religious, regard, and which has very unambiguously demonstrated a need for the same kind of national standards right here in the good ol' US of A.
  • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @10:48AM (#1314947) Homepage
    I agree, but for different reasons.

    Who is more likely to be GOOD at these tests, someone who's never seen these blocks, or someone who's played with them all through childhood? Who's more likely to have played with them lots? I would suggest that these tests are bound to be biased in favor of white male children with well-to-do parents. I say white male because they seem to be the target market; I don't see too many minorities in the ads. I say well-to-do because I've priced them lately.

    Anyway, I'd be REAL skeptical of this program doing ANYTHING except paying the grant writer's bills for a couple of years.
  • You know people must think that everywhere at every time that people absolutely *HAVE* to live where they are. If I live in complete and desperate poverty or are dodging bullets or what not I can always get up off my ass and actually leave.
    And go where?

    How do you intend to afford to move to a new place when you're in "complete and desperate poverty"? How do you afford to travel to your intended new neighborhood to hunt for an apartment? How do you come up with the security deposit for your new place - and the deposit for the electric service, and for the phone? How do you get your stuff (meager though it may be) to your new place?

    Have you ever actually known any poor people, slashdot-terminal? I think that if you did, you'd know that moving to a better place is at the top of many poor people's dreams. But it's much easier said than done.

  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @10:59AM (#1314955) Homepage Journal
    That is what they're doing. According to the article, the students are asked to duplicate as closely as possible a robot in the next room. They work in groups, and each group member may look at the robot alone and may not take notes. It is also worth noting that the Lego test is but one of a dozen tests the prospective students undergo, and after the tests, there is a half-hour interview with each person.

    So do you think you would get low grades if you said, 'Ok you idiots, sit down, shut up, and stay out of my way.' then flawlessly reproduced the robot? Do they care if you hate people, what if you get into a group with some imbecile that doesn't know what they are doing but won't get out of the way? I hate groups.... I always hated working in groups because either I did nothing or I did everything....

    I don't play well with others.

  • FWIW, a friend of mine grew up in inner-city DC, with people getting shot, and came out of it well educated through some kind of pilot program... but honestly, she woulda been well-educated if the nearest library had been five miles away.

    Raw intelligence will make up for poor resources.
  • This is true. Just try getting financial aid if you are white and have a financial status that would be considered "lower-middle class" (i.e. living paycheck to paycheck). I was passed over for financial aid every year I applied. My girlfriend, on the other hand, who is a member of a minority race in the U.S., had absolutely no trouble getting financial aid even though her economic status was basically the same as mine.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why is that these poeple are assuming that minorities "can't" do well on standardized tests?

    It is the backgroung information problem. It is easy to program an intelligent AI - one that given information can produce "good answers". The problem is background information - people spend their whole lives learning backround information that we carry around with us. Computer programs have problems "learning" all of that background infomation - because they don't "live" a life like we do. They don't have all the little experiences(we often call it common sense) that we take for granted.

    How is this relevant? Well it turns out that there isn't one common sense. Different cultures share different commong little experiences. So people from different cultures make different conclusions because the background they use to reason can be wildly different. Complete this simple analogy - apple::red as banana:: ? Let me guess - many immediately respond yellow. That is a good answer, but in some parts of the world bananas are typically green. (This is based on SAT question that assumed people eat yelllow bananas). Particularly in the verbal section of the SAT and similar exams, there are subtle word games. Those games fall apart when played against the wrong cultural background.

    How does this relate to minorities and other disadvantaged groups? The first obvious part is that many of these poeple are immigrants or first generation citizens who have a different cultural background. But urban poor and rural poor have differnt backgrounds than the middle or upper class. Not so much as the immigrant perhaps but enough to sometimes get in the way, particularly for the word games in the verbal section. Women are culturized differently than men as well - in significant ways. These sorts of things matter when a scantron is graded and knows absolutely nothing about you and your background.

    I also strongly disagree that college is about only one to two "kinds" of intelligence. The math major and the anthoropolgy major will use very unrelated skills. Throw in literature and you have a third already. Engineering I think is by itself as well. But even just talking about differnt subjects is missing the biggest factor - college isn't just about what grades you get in what classes. If it where, we wouldn't have universities, it would all be done by mail/electronically. The people you live and work and play with are major parts of college. The things you do that are not for a grade are at least as important as the things you do for a grade.

  • Standardized testing is much more accurate than interviews. That doesn't mean it's accurate, it just means that interviews are *LESS* accurate.

    They *do* use interviews, once they've established that some raw skill is available.

    For that matter, once you have the "give candidates an objective" test, and you observe hundreds of them, YOU'RE RIGHT BACK TO STANDARDIZED TESTING!

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I've taken standardized tests which had "prove this" or "calculate this" questions with open-ended answers. They are a pain to grade, but, they're still standardized tests. If you don't know your calculus, you *can't* get the answer.
  • Legos are not cheap toys, Legos cost money to buy. How likely is it that the disadvantaged minorities that they're trying to test wll have had a chance to play with legos when they were younger? So it seems that even as they're trying to give disadvantaged minorities a boost, the better off kids (those whose parents bought them legos) will have an advantage.
  • by bons ( 119581 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @11:08AM (#1314968) Homepage Journal
    Ken Boucher was like many other hopeful students Tuesday when he took the new "Lego admissions test" for Colorado College. Unlike other students, however, he had an edge.

    Armed with a number of pre-programmed lego mindstorm control modules, he not only duplicated the robot in the other room but activated it. Once activated the robot began attacking all of the other entries, destroying a large number of them before being turned off. Ken stated that he got the idea from watching Battlebots on pay-per-view as well as a recent SRL performance.

    Although banned from Colorado College, Ken is not disturbed by the results of his actions. Both CalTech and M.I.T. are offering him full scholarships.


  • And people don't cram for these standardized tests? There is no set of litmus tests that can predict the future. These are supposed to be indicators of where the potential lies. Standardized test are limited and need to be complemented with other forms of assessment, such as the interview. I wouldn't necessarily replace the SATs with anything, but I might disregard an individual's SAT scores if they didn't jive with the other indicators (whether those SATs are high or low). This test provides more insight into the potential that a person possesses. If successful, it may be a more consistant indicator of potential than the interview.

    Hmmm... Everyone I know who did REALLY well on the SAT (1400 or above) or ACT (30 and above) did no extra studying, wasn't nervous, and most of us went out for a movie or an all night pizza party the night before we took it. On the other hand the validictorian with the perfect GPA studied her ass off for 6 months to try to do well on the SAT and scored in the mid 1200s. While my lazy 2.3 GPA ass scored a 1450 with no effort.
    Not everyone crams for the standardized tests, I'd say that most people who do really well don't. Hell, if I had studied maybe I would have gotten those extra 150 math points and scored perfect, but it wouldn't have made me any more motivated to waste my time putting up with the more juvenile high school crap in college.
    If you want a higher percentage of high school grads to go to college make high school optional, keep the idiots out. I might even have enjoyed high school if it wasn't taught to the dumbest person in the class all the time. You can only here the same concept explained so many times before you pass out from boredom.

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @11:11AM (#1314973)
    I'm all for alternative testing to get into college, but it's only a step in the process. Jusrt getting disadvantaged students into college does not guarantee their success. Traditional curricula also need to be adjusted.

    Getting "disadvanted" folks into college is a laudable goal, as long as you aren't throwing more qualified applicants out to do so. If you are, then you are at best merely substitutied one unfairness for another. More likely you have chucked a reasonably fair and objective system for a very unfair one, which happens to favor whatever disadvantaged group you are wishing to promote at the expense of everyone else.

    Indeed, if you substitute arbitrary standards (or worse still, subjective interviews) for reasonably objective standards, you eliminate any degree of fairness whatsoever from the system and replace it with an economy of favors and influence.

    If there is a group of "disadvantaged" people who can't cut it in academia as it now stands (due to "test paralysis" or whatever), feel free to establish an alternative university with different standards and metrics designed for that group. But do not deny those of us who are capable of excelling at academics a good education to do so by dumming down our existing universities, or so slanting entrance standards to such a point that they become meaningless.

    What is next? Getting rid of exams altogether (after all, if you can't pass an entrance exam what makes you think you can pass the first semester's mid-terms or finals)? Social promoting? ("It just isn't fair that someone with a BS makes a better living than a high school graduate, so everyone gets a BS!") Some other nebulous notion of achievement based on some administrator's completley subjective notion on how well a student did (and how do you document this "performance" to insure even a modicum of fairness?), as opposed to imperfect tests which at least strive to be fairly objective and which, for whatever other weaknesses they possess, can at least be referred to, reviewed, even regraded if necessary)? That might actually fly in areas with a great deal of subjectivity anyway (e.g. some of the Arts and Humanities), but in areas of hard science such an approach would be absurd in the extreme.

    As for objectivity being a myth, or unattainable, as another poster suggested, that is simply hogwash. Perfect objectivity may be unattainable, just as a perfectly (i.e. 100%) effecient engine isn't possible to build, but high degrees of objectivity and fairness are achievable (just as highly effecient motors which run quite well, if not "perfectly", are). The effort to achieve objectivity is certainly not something to be discarded in favor of selection methods which are fundamentally subjective and completely unfair altogether (as the proposed "interview" approach would be), or simply so off-target as to be meaningless (as the "Lego" approach is).
  • You seem to assume that standardized tests are perfectly objective, which is not necessarily true. When a test is designed, it will invariably reflect the cultural biases of those who design it.

    I still haven't figured out exactly how you can bias a standardized test. Nobody has offered an actual example yet. I've heard this claim many times in articles or on the radio, but have never heard of even a single example.

    Aren't the tests based on what the students are supposed to be taught in school? If they are being taught these things in school, then shouldn't they be able to pass the tests?

    It seems like if there is a problem with students passing the tests, then that problem is probably with the schools, not the tests. Are the tests unreasonably difficult or what? I'm just looking for some actual examples here.

    Here's a bit of my background, just in case it gives any insight into why I can't seem to understand this. I went to public schools in Texas from 3rd grade to graduation. They weren't very good schools. The classes were too big. Discipline was spotty at best. Real teaching was eschewed in favor of the teacher writing notes on the board, copied straight from the book, which the class was supposed to copy for themselves. Why we sat around re-writing the textbook instead of just reading, discussing, and using the knowledge, I'll never understand. I still managed to pass the standardized tests (and actually did quite well on them).

  • The problem that supposedly exists in the tests is that the test experiential things, and were first designed when mostly white people took tests to get into college. As cultures(not races) there are enough differences that the standard knowledge set of one culture varies from the others, and the idea is that the tests do not compensate for these differences.

  • *ding* *ding* now entering the ring, The Liberal

    If I am "disadvantaged" how does it prevent access to information?

    Lack of books in the home. Lack of transportation to information. Lack of well funded education.

    I was rather poor through my childhood and was still able to gain access to public libraries (ever heard of this new thing called the "free" library started in the 19th century and Carnagie).

    I grew up working class one of (if not THE) poorest county in Illinois (hmmm...15% unemployment. Things are looking up.) I've been to the libraries back home. VC Andrews and 1978 National Geographics Circa 1986 non-ficition books? Not a chance.

    But these are the city libraries. What about great repository of learning that is the school system. Encyclopedias from 1982. History books that stop at the Seven Days War. Science labs that are out of date. Physics teachers who go around saying, "I didn't do well in physics in college. So I'm not going to teach the physics in the book. I'm going to teach 'Conceptual Physics' instead. (Basically physics with no math. Amazing, but true.)

    After survivng this wasteland of banality, you go to a Big-10 university and are forced to compete against Buffy and Tad who complain about their schools junior varsity swimming pool being outside, unlike the varisity swimming pool; or something equally decadent. They complain in calc based physics about the fact that this was just like high school. While some people sat there and said, "Calculus in high school?" Damn I had to take that this summer at community college.

    Now imagine how this would be worse if my parents couldn't have afforded to send me to geek-camp, or give me vacations to view museumes in major cities.

    That is how the "underprivlaged" are not given access to information.

    We really do not have that much of a problem at least in the US of getting information to people.
  • I was so proud of my SAT score when I received it. But I got to college and found that my awesome SAT scores meant absolutely nothing. I almost failed out during my freshman year in college. I don't understand why colleges still require these antiquated, useless scores. When I went to an info session at West Point, they said that SAT scores are the only common denominator among people across the country so that was what they used. SATs I guess are meant as a way to judge a student against the rest of the nation, since High Schools differ so greatly in quality, but what good is measuring a student against the rest of the nation if the measuring tool itself is broken? Really, I know people who got in the 1100s who are doing much better than I am.

    SATs are simply another way for the College board to rip high schoolers off. That and the $75-per-exam AP tests -- which most colleges don't even care about anyway.

    My first reaction to this Lego thing was scorn, but after thinking about it, almost anything would be better than the SATs. Then again, why doesn't the college just prepare its own comprehensive entrance exam? How do you rate a Lego creation?

    With this Lego test, I probably would have gotten into college when I was 12!
  • by technos ( 73414 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @11:42AM (#1315001) Homepage Journal
    Culture! Yes.. We have inner-city children told that being intellectual is 'acting like whitey', middle-class whites being pushed into college because it's expected, and asians who's culture is typically non-tolerant to failure. But does that mean that the culture stereotypically unprepared for college should move to the head of the line, or be encouraged to engage in 'alternative' tests because they're not 'smart enough' to take the normal one? Bollocks. I should apply there, if only for a joke. I'm Native American, perhaps they'll judge my 1500 SAT as too low to take the regular test.
  • I'm proud to see that our system of higher education is now looking for methods of admitting students with brains who do not have a traditional education, recognizing that the lack of a traditional knowledge base does not mean a lack of intelligence.

    Now, how do they plan to teach them?


  • I disagree even more strongly with white people designing tests that don't take into account the way non-white people think - a way which, while equally effective in the real world, does not add up to success on those particular tests.

    People keep saying that minorities think differently or that the questions are biased based on quirks of language or some such thing. I'm just asking for an example or two to back these statements up. Right now, as near as I can tell, the fault lies in the schools for their poor teaching, and the government for its poor support of the schools. Education should be #1 in this country, but it seems that we just don't want to make the investment.

  • I don't buy it. You have a group of people that consistently underperform on certain tests, and you assert that it *MUST* be the tests which are bad.


    This is science. Yeah, people may feel bad. Fuck 'em. WE HAVE TO KNOW, DAMMIT. If the answer is "sorry, seebs, you're just never gonna be able to write decent poetry, you haven't the right kind of brain", I'd rather know than be given a "special" test that lets me feel good.

    Frankly, let me say this:

    "The way non-white people think" IS ABSOLUTE FUCKING BULLSHIT.

    Math is math. The way it works does *NOT* depend on what you think, or how you think. If your brain isn't good at math, *that is a thing you are not good at*.

    I happen to have a brain which is very good at math. I also happen to have a brain which is absolutely *horrible* at day-to-day activities and basic "common sense". I have a strength, and I have a weakness.

    Saying that a test of common sense is a "bad test for me" is stupid. It's a very good test, *showing something I'm not good at*.

    I don't buy this thing about "white people designing tests that non-white people aren't good at."

    You honestly believe that a black person growing up in suburban America is less like me than a Japanese kid? The Japanese kid will wipe the floor with my test results.

    It's not about white or non-white. It's about a test which measures something, and people who either don't have it, or just haven't learned it. Either way, putting them in an environment which *requires* that attribute will screw them.

    As long as you're making excuses, saying "well, they have a different way of thinking, we can't compare these", you've got the most severe kind of prejudice and racism imaginable, the one that says that *NO* black person can ever be quite "up to" white standards. You can phrase it however you want, but you're saying that there are things white people can do that black people can't.

    I say it's bullshit. Maybe, *MAYBE*, we'll find out that, statistically, black people aren't as good at some particular kind of symbol manipulation as white people, but that's *statistics* - we can still believe that any *INDIVIDUAL* can be anything, and can take any test.

    You believe that there are tests that these people shouldn't take because it'll hurt their feelings. Fuck that.
  • A very simple example:
    In Texas (I believe), one of the graduation tests included a question on credit card usage. While most middle class kids have seen their parents use a credit card (heck, a lot probably have one), there are some poor students whose families don't even have bank accounts.

    However, experiments have been done where biases like the above were removed from the tests (as much as possible). Minority students' test scores improved, but they were still below the mean.

  • This "new test" is reminiscent of the original Binet IQ test from 1905. [yorku.ca] Binet was most concerned with identifying mental defectives; his first test is to see if the subject's eyes and head will track a light. The series of tests works upwards from there, ending with a rather origami-like exercise.

    That test grew into the classic Stanford-Binet test, which is still in use. That's a one-on-one test, usually given by psychologists. It has more range than the more popular paper-and-pencil tests, which lack resolution for the bottom and top 5% of the population. It's expensive to give, since it takes hours of psychologist time. It does test non paper-and-pencil skills, like this proposed new test. But the Stanford-Binet test is individual.

    Scoring an individual acting as part of a group, as that new test tries to do, has reliability and bias problems. But it's a concept that's been made to work by the U.S. Marine Corps. [amazon.com] The Marines have a scheme called the Crucible for testing recruit group problem-solving skills. The Marines do it the hard way; they get the troops hungry and exhausted, then test them. It works for them.

    A recent book on the measurement of intelligence, The G Factor [amazon.com], is worth reading. The big "g" controversy revolves around whether it's meaningful to have a single measure of "intelligence". The answer from research in the field seems to be yes, in that different measures of "intelligence" are strongly correlated, but the results are so politically incorrect that desperate attempts are made to avoid accepting this fact. Here's the problem, as a reviewer on Amazon writes:
    Indeed, much of the opposition to IQ testing and heritability would probably disappear if it were not for the stubborn and unwelcome fact that, despite extensive well funded programs of intervention, the Black-White difference refuses to go quietly into the night. Chapter 11 of The g Factor fully documents that, on average, the American Black population scores below the White population by about 1.2 standard deviations, equivalent to 18 IQ points. (This magnitude of difference gives a median overlap of less than 15 percent, meaning that less than 15 percent of the Black population exceeds the White average of 50 percent). The difference between Blacks and Whites in average IQ scores has scarcely changed over the past 80 years (despite some claims that the gap is narrowing) and can be observed as early as three years of age. Controlling for overall socioeconomic level only reduces the mean difference by 4 IQ points.

    That's the basis of the controversy.

  • Perhaps the questions on the tests should be reviewed more carefully. Maybe they should have a bunch of kids who did poorly on the test come in and explain why they missed each question. Maybe that would clear up some of the problems. Either way, we deal with other people's biases every day. Until we all have the same life experiences and background, that's the way it will be. Given that everyone is biased in different ways, I'm not sure what measurement you could use and be even remotely accurate.

  • I'm just asking for an example or two to back these statements up.
    (Apologies if this is a duplicate; browser's acting funny.)

    I don't know about "thinking differently", but certainly there are differences in vocabulary and usage between socioeconomic groups, and these groups correspond strongly to race.

    One example that I saw in (IIRC) a study guide based on old SAT tests was something like "Regatta is to boat as..." That's one's not just culturally biased, it's geographically biased - how many people living in landlocked Iowa, compared to costal Maryland, know what a regatta is?

    Another one, that I read about in an article on standardized tests, involved the word "buttercup". Imagine that you live in the ol' concrete jungle, where wildflowers are not exactly common. You might just think that a buttercup was perhaps some sort of a kitchen implement, whereas suburban kids like myself used to pick buttercups for our moms.

  • Men and women do study differently because mens' brains have a weaker corpus collostum (sp?), the bridge between the hemispheres. Men have, in general, a greater ability to think objectively. Women have greater ability to think subjectively. So women empathize and work with people better than men, but men usually make better analysts.

    True. But in the end, it tends to balance out. So even if the styles are different, it comes out as a wash.

    You either have many specialized tools that work well on specifics, or a few generalized ones that aren't very good at anything.

    Or, more to the point, you use several tools to get the job done, each one doing what it does best and contributing to the whole.
  • The article clearly states that only 14% of the people in the program were "American ethnic minorites." This is for people who teachers/counselors/whoever know are smart enough to contribute but don't do well on tests. I for one would welcome a lot more people in college who are not as "book smart" but have leadership capabilities or think at right angles to other people (to steal a phrase from a former teacher). Just because somebody doesn't do well on the SATs doesn't mean they should be dropped from society or unable to continue their education. This test recognizes that there is more to being intelligent than just being able to fill in bubbles correctly on a scantron sheet.
  • Pretty hard to justify, though, given that, as I recall, one of the concerns is that inner-city whites don't test the same as inner-city blacks.

    Culture *is* a problem in tests - but it's also a problem in education. You have to understand how people talk, and how they write, and you have to pick up their allusions. Good? Bad? Who knows, but it's the way people communicate, and you *have* to pick it up sooner or later.

    I fought the need to be aware of the world around me for years; I eventually realized that it was important.
  • I agree that quality primary and secondary education is the larger issue - which, given current funding models boils down to a class/ecomomic issue.

    But since you've asked here are a few examples of race/class/gender/regional bias in the SAT:

    In the vocabulary tests, like analogies, there are often words that have a distinct social class bias, such as regatta. Now, crew is a very expensive sport so poor kids are far less likely to know what a regatta is, even if they are extremely well read. But even the dumbest kids at my prep school knew about regattas. I think I've seen saling examples as well. I remember reading about one for castleing, and guys are far more likly to play chess, yet playing chess isn't a great college admissions standard. There have also been arguments about words w/ a regional bias, some kids never experience a snow drift or a breakhead.

    To take it to an extreme, think about what would happen if football, hockey, stockmarket, basketball or sewing vocabulary, or words related to different music genres were on the tests. (guitar is to pedal as:)
  • OK, for starters:
    What's worse are the so-called solutions to the "problem" of the SAT's supposed "cultural bias".

    Oh, cultural bias does shave a few points here and there, but not as much as economic bias. I used to run a non-profit test prep service where we charged 5 bucks and the book at our cost. We mainly wanted to help disadvantaged kids. We saw modest improvements, it's been a long time but I remember something like 15-20 points on each side being typical. If you walked into the SAT and I gave you a chit saying that we were going to take 40 points off your combined score because of the school you came from, you'd howl like a stuck pig, because unless your combined score was north of 1450 or so this would put you out of the running somewhere. That's essentially what happens to poor kids who are stuck in a dead end school, unless they can find people who are willing to tutor them for practically free like we used to. And remember -- we did nothing to improve the chance of the kid's success in college -- only his chance of getting in. We didn't make them smarter, only better test takers.

    There are genius an dolts among us.

    Yep, and there are genius-dolts too. I knew quite a few people who had 1600 combined and, you know what? They weren't always as successful as people with combined scores in the 1400 range. Intelligence tests like the SAT measure very narrow capabilities, and not necessarily every capability you need to succeed in life, or even as a student.

    Intelligence tests are inherently imprecise, in that unlike measures of distance, mass and time they cannot be corroborated by anything but other intelligence tests. As such, they are engineered to confirm our personal biases. SAT scores went through a long period of decline because they were engineered to do so -- the test is checked and recalibrated every year. This is justifiable, because it should have declined over the last several decades because of demographic changes in college bound seniors -- but it's good to remember this when reading breathless media accounts of the dumbing down of our student population. Great story, from Steve Chorover's book From Genesis to Genocide: When the Stanford-Binet test was first translated from French, it has a peculiar quirk: women on average scored five or ten points higher than men. The "researchers" then recalibrated the test, throwing out questions that women did good on and adding more of the sort men did good on until the test was gender-neutral. If the initial results had gone the other way, how much do you want to bet it would have stood?

    IQ tests DO have their place, but they aren't enough. Getting to know a student by watching him in action is a great idea, and a great way to find the kids who have the balls to succeed even if they're starting from behind. Not mention to weed out the people who look good just on paper. I recently fired somebody with an engineering master's degree, because while he said he could adapt to our technology, he didn't have the drive to learn and succeed when things weren't handed to him on a platter.

    Instead of trying to give extra help, lowering requirements, or inventing new tests for low GPA HS grads who can't get into colleges, you should really be looking why they aren't up to snuff in the first place and go fix that.

    Changing the requirements to measure poise, leadership, ability to cooperate with others is not lowering standards, it is changing them. For some people, these changes would represent considerably more stringent requirements. Combined with standard IQ testing, this will give a better picture.

    Fix the educational inequities where they form so that there are no problems that need special tests and special admissions rules to address.

    How is a college admissions officer supposed to accomplish that? His job is to do a fair a job as possible at finding kids who will succeed at his school -- not to fix the world. For that matter, how do you propose we as a society are going to give every child equal educational opportunity? Improving education is like self-improvement. There's no magic formula, just a long, hard road with lots of failure and disappointment at the outset but hopefully leading someplace better.
  • This is stupid. SATs are in no way objective.

    Perhaps this could be said, to some degree, for the verbal section. But math, I'm afraid, is objective no matter which way you slice it. It's a simple fact that no matter where you go, 2 + 2 = 4. You can prove this to be true if you want (although, ironically enough, a rigorous proof of this particular problem is quite large).

    If you have gone to good schools (which generally means wealthy communities) then you have a better chance of doing well on the SATs.

    I won't deny that some schools are better than others. Believe me, I've been to some of the best and some of the worst. But you can apply yourself and do the work anywhere. That's all it takes. Some people have to work harder than others, and some may require assistance in doing the work. But, barring certain very rare medical conditions (and no, ADD is not one of these), anyone can do the work.

    That may be true if your seeped in middle american culture but it doesn't hold true for large numbers of Americans.

    Math exists independent of any culture. Certain language skills also exist independent of culture; while the particulars can differ sometimes there are constants which can be drawn; ask any linguist.

    Standardized tests are bullshit. They maintain the educational tradition of memorization.

    There's a place for memorization. A large one, actually. Any coder knows this, or (I'm assuming you code, judging from comments you make later on) do you consult the documentation every single time you call a function?

    Learning and teaching students to be learners for their entire lives is not achieved by have students regurgitate a bunch of bullshit.

    Not entirely, no. But the ability to recall previously learned material is an important aspect of learning, and it's the only one that can really be tested under truly fair conditions.

    Education should teach students to learn and research. As a bunch of computer geeks most people here should appreciate that.

    I don't deny that a basic love of learning is important. I'd imagine it's also something a lot of Slashdotters posess. Now, how many Slashdotters got that love of learning directly from course material in school?

    Not many. I know I didn't get mine that way. There are some things that can't be learned in a classroom. A general love of learning can't be taught; student have to find that on their own.

    A decent geek can learn and research anything they want.

    Agreed, but this doesn't apply only to geeks. Anyone with a love of knowledge can do it. Anyone without a love of knowledge can do it too, but first you have to get past that little barrier of disliking the steps you have to take to get the knowledge you seek.

    Any good hacker knows that learning is the key, having someone shove a bunch of facts down your throat is useless.

    There are two ways of learning something. You can discover it for yourself, or you can have it taught to you (I'm including looking things up as a part of this). Having something taught to you involves getting facts "shoved down your throat" as you so eloquently put it.

    Here's the thing. You are correct that true learning comes from research and discovery. But those are only the tip of the iceberg. You still need a good foundation from which to work, or your research won't get very far. That is where the memorization comes into play. Facts are like building blocks in that regard. You start with a few facts, and a question based on them. You go, you find more facts, and your knowledge builds as a result. You can take this even further, gathering still more facts.

    This reminds me of a story I saw on the news when I was little. It was about a man who was writing a new style of math textbook. The idea behind it was simple: out of the problems in the back of each chapter, only a small portion, perhaps just the first few, actually covered the new material. The rest were review of previous chapters. So the students worked over the older material again and again. These textbooks worked. Studies proved that students who used these things were doing better with the material than those who weren't using the books, and moreover they were better at incorporating new material regardless of the source. This book style died a painful death not long after their introduction, though. The reason: people who claimed that it taught the students to be "robots." Never mind that the students were learning the material.

    The point is this. You've found a joy in learning through research and discovery. That's good. But you've forgotten that before you can build the house, you have to pour the foundation. And yes, it's dreary work. But it's important.
  • Here's an interesting fact that might be a little less off topic:

    Studies recently reported in Science News suggest that students at charter schools do not do any better than at their counterparts at public schools on standard measures of acheivement. Parents, however, express much higher degrees of satisfaction with charter schools.

    It isn't clear whether charter schools really are better and the tests don't show it, or whether they aren't really better but parents are somehow bamboozled.

    What remains clear is that the time tested formula for producing higher test scores: select the best students (or population of students) and spend a lot of money on them.
  • Go watch the olympics and see that the records are in the various events where there are mens and womens competitons (100m sprint, weightlifting, etc.). Also, go to your local school and look at the list ph physical fitness requirements (i.e., how many pull-ups boys have to do to pass vs. for girls).

    Go to the maternity ward and watch women and men attempting to give birth.
  • For any student that is even marginally literate, niether of the examples should pose a problem regardless of the test-taker's "socioeconomic background"!

    Ths simple fact is that *anyone* applying to enter *college* should be well read enough to know the trivial facts that a regatta is a (sail)boat race, and a buttercup is some kind of flower. There's no cultural bias at all here - most of us have never participated in a regatta, yet it is quite reasonable to expect that we should at least know what one is. There is, on the other hand, an entirely appropriate bias toward literacy in the examples you cite.

    In fact, it seems that it's your comment that contains the subtle racial bias, by implying that somehow, certain races can't be expected to measure up, so we'll have to cut them some slack. This is surely the most vile and corrosive form of racism possible!

    The answer isn't to dumb down the tests, the answer is to make sure that our children can escape having their lives ruined by educrats who are more interested in hoovering dollars from Washington and making illiterate kids feel good about it (they call this "self-esteem") than they are in graduating literate, functional, citizens. (We actually graduate a non-trivial number of people in this country every year that can't read their diploma - There is no excuse for this! With any kind of proper teaching, children (with very few exceptions) can and should exhibit survival-level reading ability as they leave *first* grade!)

    If you're interested in actually fixing the problem, I highly recommend the following two books to become somewhat more literate on the educational problems we face: Doug Wilson's "Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning" (which includes mystery novelist and solid thinker Dorothy Sayers' excellent essay on "The Lost Tools of Learning"), and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's "For the Children's Sake".
  • Heh... what's a breakhead? :)

    I see your point. These all seem to apply to the reading/vocabulary portions of the test. How do minorities fair on the math and writing portions compared to others?

  • And remember -- we did nothing to improve the chance of the kid's success in college -- only his chance of getting in. We didn't make them smarter, only better test takers.

    Actually, you may have done more than you thought. For some of those kids, seeing successful adults up close, seeing that said adults are actually willing to make time for them, seeing that they have actually have the ability to affect their educational oppertunities ... this impact on self-esteem on study-habits ... knowldge that one can "work the system" if one learns the rules ... exposure to people of a culture simmilar to the academics they'll encounter in school, in a more firendly, less intimidating context ... all of this can have a meaningful impact on future success, perhaps more than you realize

  • Ths simple fact is that *anyone* applying to enter *college* should be well read enough to know the trivial facts that a regatta is a (sail)boat race

    Actually, whether the boats in the race have sails or not has no bearing on whether or not a race is called a regatta. The Head of the Charles in Cambridge MA is also referred to as 'The Regatta' and none of the boats in it have sails.
    ------------------------------------------------ ----------
  • Funny, I seem to recall quite recently a number of people quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. saying that he was for judging people by the content of thier hearts (and presumably thier minds as well) rather than the color of their skin.

    Sorry, but if you *really* think skin color matters, then *you* are a racist.

    Anything but a truly level playing field (in either direction) indicates a racist position. Any special patronizing adjustments only serve to promote and extend racial bias and hostility. We cannot (and should not try) to ensure equality of outcome - we should ensure equality of opportunity - and do that without attacking the integrity of our educational and other institutions.
  • The only math biasaes I can think of have to do with primary and secondary schools, not the actual test. Some schools have crappy math programs and others have 'tracking' where some students are encouraged to to take advanced math classes and others are sometimes discouraged. My husband went to a rual school in West Virgina where they didn't offer calculus at all. He had a really fucking hard time in his freshman engineering program. I had to fight and argue (and make my parents fight and argue) to get the chance to be in the top math classes (and no, the descision wasn't based on grades or test scores). And lets not forget that chicks and anyone who isn't confident of thier background are often very freaked out by the "smart-ass-obnoxious-know-it-alls" in the techie classes who routinely interup and demean their classmates. It takes a while to realize that they aren't nessecarily as smart as they think they are.

    I have read things about some groups doing better on some kinds of problems than others, like chicks going better with word problems and guys doing better with fractions and asians doing better with abstract problems than with real life examples, but it seems that none of the math problems are inherently biased so, to me it isn't as much of an issue. I guess the word problems and anything involving measurement units could have some cultural bias.

    Oh, and a breakhead is an off-shore pile of stones that protects the shore from big waves (i think).
  • That's why I put "sail" in the parentheses. Although a regatta does not necessarily imply sail-powered craft, the word seems to be most frequently used in that context, at least in my experience.
  • by fable2112 ( 46114 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2000 @02:34PM (#1315081) Homepage
    Here's the problem:

    First of all, race makes a handy metaphor for class in the U.S. since anyone talking about the "lower class" must be a dirty Commie (everyone's middle class, and all the children are above average, blahblahblah). So enough with the racism complaints (not directed at the previous poster, but at the thread in general). "Non-white" seems to be the only way to describe "dirt-poor" that will make it into public discourse.

    This, of course, creates a problem. Namely, the rich non-whites are getting into college just fine, and poor kids (white and otherwise) are left to rot.

    Next problem: As others on this thread have already pointed out, the SAT questions are biased towards the upper-middle-class suburban life. Someone from Appalachia or from the "concrete jungle" is going to have a serious problem with those questions. One example that's always stuck with me (not an SAT, but another standardized test for younger kids) that I saw back in my days of work-study work for an educational consultant was this:

    You were playing with your friend's ball and lost it. What do you do?
    1. Buy him a new one and pay for it (answer worth 2 points)
    2. Look all over for it, try to find it (answer worth 1 point)
    3. I'd just cry; say I'm sorry; apologize (answer worth 0 points)

    Um, do we see a slight problem here? The damn test is using "throw money at the problem" as the right answer! That's NOT going to work for kids that have no money.

    Speaking of throwing money at the problem ... when preparing for the SATs, high school students from solidly middle-class to upper-middle class families with white-collar, college educated parents have a HUGE advantage. Make that several:

    1. The parents have probably had to go through the standardized testing process at some point, and can sit down with their little wannabe college students and grill them.

    2. They can also afford SAT prep courses.

    3. They can also (sometimes) afford private schools, and/or to live in places where the public schools are good.

    4. In some cases, there's a difference between merely getting into a specific college and getting into said college with enough money to go there. The kids who got (at most) 1200 on their SATS and come from rich families are a "level playing field" for the kids who got 1500 and are on full (or nearly full) scholarship.

    I know a lot of this from personal experience. I was homeschooled from 3rd-6th grade, and every year I went to take the Iowa tests with the kids in school. The first year, I ran into a severe crisis on the math section that can best be summed up as "lots of problems really fast." All my other scores were in at least the 75th percentile (most were in the 95th plus), but this one was somewhere around 38th percentile. Mom thought something was strange about this and asked me what was going on. I explained, and she started drilling me on fast-paced timed arithmetic tests. I think I jumped up to 97th percentile on that same section the following year.

    And as for the concept of the SATs et al testing "what you need to know to succeed in college," they do no such thing. Again from personal experience. I was in Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth program. A prerequisite for admission to said program was scoring at least 430 on the old Verbal and 500 on the old Math SAT at the time I participated. Some of us did fabulously well in life. Some of us who were big fish in small ponds in high school got to college and realized that we might be intelligent, we might be brilliant standardized-test takers, but we didn't know how to study! I was screwed the first time I had to write a research paper in college. Didn't know what in the H-E-double hockey sticks I was doing. I also tested out of (or nearly so) classes that I really should have taken, and the holes in my mathematical, scientific, and music theory background came back to haunt me again and again in college.

    One of my friends from CTY summer camp? She got a 1500 on the SAT when she was 12 years old. She received early admission to the same college program I did, then transferred to Alfred -- and flunked out. Last time I talked to her, she was working fast-food. So much for high SAT scores predicting success, huh? She wasn't the only one in a similar situation, just the most drastic example I can think of to show how completely the SAT doesn't predict success on a damn thing other than taking standardized tests.

    And yes, I know that a poor and hard-working kid can beat the odds, study on his/her own, and make it into a good college. (I went to school with quite a lot of them.) I also know that, again, the playing field isn't level. They worked a lot harder to get where they are than those of us who had money and/or parents in an educational field.

    This issue is so incredibly complex that writing off any one approach as "laughable" is, itself, laughable.
  • (I wonder why I'm even bothering with an AC...)

    You do know that DC's schools are some of the best funded in the country. Similarly, you know that DC has one of the best transportation systems in the country.

    DC is just one city. We're talking about a systematic problem. Or in poker-lingo, "I'll see your Washington DC and raise you Detroit and Indian Reservartions."

    Lack of books in the home I'll give you. If you asked nicely, I'd also give you "parents who don't give a s*** about their children's education."

    Come now. The poor family that doesn't give a damn about their children is a horrible stereotype. The majority of poor families are just trying to make through life. Of course there are those that don't give a damn, and so we should just write off all poor kids because one was raised by an utter fuck.

    Unfortunately, you probably wouldn't understand the concept.

    What the hell does this comment mean? You're just shooting flames with out any reason.

    "After survivng this wasteland of banality, you go to a Big-10 university and are forced to compete against Buffy and Tad who complain about their schools junior varsity swimming pool beingoutside, unlike the varisity swimming pool; or something equally decadent. They complain in calc based physics about the fact that this was just like high school. While some people sat there and said, "Calculus in high school?" Damn I had to take that this summer at community college."

    Yeah, so what. I (and many others) had a similar experience at one of the Ivies. It's meaningless class bigotry.

    This is not meaningless class bigotry. It underscores the fundamental flaw in how the public schools are funded; property taxes. Somehow society has gotten it through its head that this is somehow equitable (as opposed to a central fund where the state dolls out an allowance per student). Until the schools are funded differently, there will NEVER be any real improvement for poor school districts.

    "That is how the 'underprivlaged' are not given access to information."

    Underprivileged US citizen is an oxymoron.

    Do you go to that inner-city library with your eyes closed and your hands over your ears or what?
  • I hate to offend people, but vocab questions like "Regatta is to boat as..." or one involing buttercup, can be solved by any idiot who HAS A GOOD VOLCABULARY! honestly, in my everyday life, regattas tend not to come up, but I know what it is, because I pay attention in class and I study my vocab.

    Now, a question like "All bears in the north are white. My friend from up north saw a bear, what color was it?" would be unfair to some nomadic asian people, because they DON't think like that. But vocab is vocab. You want to do good, you STUDY THE DAMN VOCAB. And thats that. Meanwhile, I think its more likely the "ghetto" attitude of "I Don't care, because everybody wants me to fail" that leads minorities to do worse than the majority. They don't study and then do bad.

    Or then there is the possibility that the majorities have an advantage due only to their larger sample group.

  • A little bit of grammer check (this really gets on my nerves) 'maths' is not necessarily proper grammer.

    Well, you are displaying a cultural bias here. In the UK and Ireland, for example, we call mathematics, maths for short, and find the word "math" that americans use strange. Are we "right", or are you "right", or is it just a cultural difference? Do you mark someone who spells "colour" as "color" incorrect? Or vice versa?

    (Also, it doesn't look to good to correct someone's grammar, when you spell the word grammar wrong yourself!)
    This is not meant as a flame, just a comment that what you regard as "wrong" could, in different circumstances be correct, and what you regard as correct, be regarded as strange elsewhere. There are no absolute wrongs or rights in language, just differences in usuage.

    Personally, what I find most annoying is people who think that their way is "right" and any way is "wrong", when it is basically comes down to personal preference/culture. (be that vi/emacs kde/gnome colour/color maths/maths etc etc)

    Live. Learn. Love. Laugh.

  • No argument here. I couldn't get financial aid, so I'm going to school at night and working full time during the day. I kinda wished I was a minority when I saw how many different loans and grants were available exclusively to people of a certain race. Nothing like that if you're white though. Owell. At least my girlfriend gets some of hers paid for outright. The rest she'll hafta pay back. Glad I won't have any loans to pay back. It's just taking me a lot longer to finish.

  • I do agree about the flaw in the test with the "throw money at it" option. A friend of mine had a similar one; you find a wallet in a store.

    Keep it: 0 points
    Give it to the store management: 1 point
    Give it to the police: 2 points

    Frankly, my responses are:
    1. Call the person if I can find any ID. I have a cell phone.
    2. If that fails, give it to the store management, knowing that, if he comes back soon, he'll get it, and otherwise, they'll forward it to the police.

    As to the "non-white" vs. "poor" thing: Not really. Part of the problem is that white kids from ghettos *DO* perform better than black kids from the same ghettos... Not all *that* much better, but enough to be socially unacceptable.

    Still, your point is well taken; some of the tests are *horribly* misleading. However: Those tests aren't, generally, things like the math section of the SAT's. :)
  • I can't think of any highschool english lit book that uses the word regatta, certianly not any on the AP english exam. Nor can I recall seeing it in any news or academic articles (except the ones that use it as an exapmle of a biased SAT word and local news in Boston during the big regatta). In which book would a highschooler pick this up? Most SAT words are fairly general purpose and can be seen frequently literature and non-fiction: superflous, penultimate, garrolus etc. Regatta is specialized sporting term and as such has limmited use anyway. I can't think of any instance in college (other than at crew practice) where I have ever used or witnessed the use of the word regatta.

    Since sailing and rowing are sports who's participants and spectators are largely upper-middle class, it isn't suprising that a lot kids from weathy backgrounds know the word with no effort while few kids from poorer backrougnds know the word without a decent ammount of effort. Only the smartest, most well read land-locked poor kids would get the correct answer while even the dummest most un-educated rich kids would know it. How is that fair? So are we supposed to study boating, golf and tennis terms in our junior years to learn the valuble culture of the elites (if we weren't already raised with it)? Perhaps we should also incude hand ball, monster truck racing and pro-wrestling terms on the SAT as well?

    You know what a regatta is, congrats, perhaps you're very smart and well read, how many other kids in your highschool class also knew/know what a regatta is? EVERYONE in my highschool class did, EVERYONE, even the kids who *never* read, the kids who skipped class to screw/drink/smoke in the cemetary, the dumbest of the dumb jocks, the nerdiest of the nerds ... absolutely everyone knew and with zero effort!
  • Commonly quoted, but not as accurate as they like to make it sound. SAT's, etc., have fairly strong correlation to college performance. They *also* have correlation to your "socioeconomic background".

    This doesn't mean "ah-hah, they're really measuring your background". It might mean "your background and your chances in college are related".

    If you were a social darwinist, you'd claim that poor people are poor because they're stupid.

    If you believe in nurture over nature, you might argue that the majority of poor kids were *ALREADY* denied a good education when their parents didn't read to them enough.

    Either way, the tests *do* correlate to your chances of doing well in school. Someone's gonna try to offer a "counterexample".

    That's not how correlation works. Correlation measures *tendencies*. Not absolute causal relationships.

    SAT scores are a pretty good indicator for future college performance. Doesn't matter if they're measuring intelligence, or amount of exposure to books in the home, or what - they measure how well you are likely to do in a specific, relevant real world situation, and that's the end of the story.
  • Let me get this straight, you have people who have "poor access to educational materials", in other words, they are not as well educated as people with better access, and you want to send them straight into college?

    Why don't we send them into a year of decent schooling with real books to *properly* prepare them for college, if that's all that's wrong?

    I'd hate to think we were pushing people to overcommit to try to catch up with other students.

    Social promotion, all over again.
  • Actually, last I heard, women *still* stay a few points ahead of men. On the other hand, the vast majority of "outliers" on both sides are men. You get a few standard deviations out in either direction, and the population is overwhelmingly male. You look a few points above "norm", and it's mostly female.

    I seem to recall that someone established that testosterone changed the way neurons branch. Not always for the better, mind you...
  • >The color of one's skin certainly has nothing to
    >do with how intelligent one is.

    We'd better hope so. If it *does* matter, there will be riots.

    On the other hand, let's try a few variants on that statement:

    >The color of one's skin certainly has nothing to
    >do with how tall one is.

    Any takers?

  • >The term "disadvantaged" refers to a lack of
    >finances, not mental acuity.

    That's still insulting, to claim that being non-white has the same effect on your college preparations that not having books as a kid does.
  • Ummm, if you really don't want to offend anyone, you might want to back off of attributing a "ghetto" attiude to minorities. There are white, non-white, homogonous and diverse ghettos and there are bad attitudes in every economic class.

    The study in the article was looking for ways to provide opportunities to disadvantaged and minority kids. One's economic class and parental education level are the greatest indicators of one's success on the SATs. There are many reasons for this, but the greatest infuence is quality of your schooling. Generally this is determined by the neighborhood you live in (schools are funded by property tax), mom and dad's ability to pay for private school and/or the education level of your parents (figure out how to get you into a better school against the odds, or homeschool you).

    Moreover, in a really good school, the teachers and advisors tell you how important the SAT's are and how you should prepare, college educated parents would also inform their kids. In lesser schools and with uneducated parents, kids often have no clue about college or the college admissions process. Some kids know to explicitly study for the SATs and others don't.

    But the big issue isn't the really smart kids with a good vocabulary who study really hard . They will get very high scores anyway, even if they do miss a few biased questions. Kids with 1400+ SAT's and high GPA's probably won't suffer from 20 points here or there. It's the kids in the 900-1200 range who could miss out on something if they miss a few extra questions.

    Are you joking about the advantage of a larger sample group? It's not like only 5 black kids take the SAT on any given year :)
  • Maybe this college is trying something different and attempting to give their students a more well rounded experience? You're not going to deal exclusively with people who did well in school once you leave college and knowing that different people have different skills in life that are aren't all learned in university studies is very important.

  • That's still insulting, to claim that being non-white has the same effect on your college preparations that not having books as a kid does.

    They didn't claim that it has the same effect, just that both can have a negative affect.

    An upper-middle class black kid will have many advantages over a dirt-poor white kid in the college admissions game. But given a white and a minority kid of the same economic class, the white kid might be better off in some ways. Having been one of the few brown faces in mostly white schools, I can tell you first hand that being in the minority gets you noticed, for better or for worse. If you do well they notice right away, but if you slack off, that gets noticed immediately too.

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