Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Standarized Tests II

As an addendum to my last post, another thought conditioning technique is something similar to the Christian saying, "what would Jesus do?", but in our case it would be "how would a high test scorer think?".

First one should think, then one make sure that every thought has an element of problem solving, analytical thinking, and reasoning required on standardized tests, then one should ask "how would a high test scorer think?", then one would think through a high test scorer thought process. Just as asking oneself "what would Jesus do?" becomes a habit, asking oneself "how would a high test scorer think?" should also become a habit. Also, the person should take practice exams everyday with the goal of besting your previous score and then one should analyze the test to see how a high test scorer would have answered every question. Then retake the test using the high test scorers thought process.

If every thought is conditioned by this technique, eventually thinking like someone who scores high on tests will become natural and therefore the child will also score high on standardized exams.

Standarized Tests

There are only two things that really matter in the US educational system standardized test scores and grades, everything else is rubbish. Yet, people make two fallacious conclusions about different ethnic groups regarding test scores:

1. Differences in test scores are immutable.

2. Differences in test scores are due to racial differences.

1. Both from experience and AI arguements most test scores are changeable, you can improve your score on almost any type of test. Like I have said before if thinking is an epiphenomena of the brain and the brain operates according to the laws of physics then it is possible to emulate the brain processes of someone who does well on a standardized test and use it to also do well on a standardized test. Some may ask if it is possible, then why do we have so many people who don't do well on standardized tests? This is a simple question to answer, the reason why people score differently is because we don't have access to the brain algorithm of people who do well. It is not as if our brains come with a firewire or fiber optic data ports, where we can download our operating system to another brain.

2. This is another conclusion people draw from standardized test scores, the problem is that it is based upon John Stewart Mill's logic:

a) If we have two objects the same in every respect except one, then any difference between the two should be due to that difference.

b) if we have two objects different in every respect except one, then any similarity between the two should be due to that likeness.

Most people draw conclusions using logic a) that if we have two people the same in every respect except they are of different racial backgrounds then any difference in test scores must be due to that difference. The problem is how can you tell if two people are exactly the same, except for a racial difference? Even within races people are not exactly the same, so this logic fails to account for more than one difference. There are tremendous differences in the way different ethnic groups approach discipline, consistency, strategy, and mental training. The reason most people downplay such differences is because they are difficult to analyze and quantify.

Logic b) is the one most people downplay, though it is more positive and more useful. It is much easier to assume that two people of different racial backgrounds are different in every respect, and to attribute any similarity in test scores to a likeness between the two people. Obviously this too has problems for how can we determine if two people are different in every respect? Despite the problems this logic is more useful for if we can find the likeness between people of different racial backgrounds that accounts for a similarity in test scores, we can analyze it and help others to raise their test scores.


Possibly the most important factor in both grades and standardized tests, the problem is that people seem to confuse the act of studying with actually studying. Any child can stare at a book or half-read a book to give the impression that they are actually processing information, when in reality they may be daydreaming or whatnot. So here is what I do, after they are done studying I say, so you think you really know this huh? I pick out, at random, a question from one of the pages they should have read and processed, if they can't answer it within a minute then they really didn't study. If they can answer then I pick another more difficult question and so on, increasing the level of difficulty until they can't answer the question at which time they have to restudy the book until they can answer any question, of any difficult, at anytime under 1 min.

Same technique with standardized tests, so you think you can do well on these tests huh? I pick out a series of difficult test questions, which they have not seen, and give them only 1 min per question (about 30s less than required) if they can't answer them all correctly within the alloted time, then they really don't know the test.

It all comes down to whether the child wants to learn or not, it is almost impossible to teach a child who doesn't want to learn while, it is relatively easy to teach a child who does want to learn. Simply because a child sits a in a classroom doesn't mean he/she is learning, simply because a child goes through a program doesn't mean the child has internalized the program, you want the desire not just the action. It many respects the value of education is like an ideology that children must learn and internalize, the problem is that unlike dictatorial states, it is easy in the US to not value education.

Friday, August 24, 2007

High School Exit Exams

In regards to the following article:

Students strive for passing grade in exit exam

The negative tone of the article is meant to emphasize just who is it that is failing the test.

People who believe in the power of "common sense" always but always in one way or another believe, "anyone can pass this test, why don't these kids, they must be idiots or defective". The problem is that "common sense" is highly dependent upon where you live, and what time you live. At one time it was "common sense" to believe that diseases were brought upon by God trying to punish people, it was "common sense" to believe the earth was flat, it was "common sense" to believe time was absolute etc. Also common sense is highly dependent upon where you live, it maybe common sense for a sailor to know where the star Polaris is while it may not be for a land lubber. It may be common sense for someone raised in a household where academic achievement and competition is normal to know how to study for a standardized exam. These are not meant to be excuses but explanations.

Unlike the sciences, education is one subject that cannot be approached in a reductionist manner. Educators are always looking for that one program that will magically raise the number of children who pass, when in reality one needs a holistic approach. By holistic I mean you will need to take the child's economic situation, cultural beliefs, approach to discipline and consistency, peer group, parents, study techniques, activities outside of school, and mental training techniques all into account. If any one of these parts is lacking the outcome will not be as good as it could be.

Beneficial cultural values should be taught, retaught and reinforced from a young age. Standardized exams should be given everyday from kindergarten onward. In kindergarten the educators should simply get the kids used to the test and working under timed conditions. In the subsequent grades the educators will slowly increase what is expected from the children, while at the same time, children will be encouraged to think about the standardized exam outside of school. The goal will be to make taking timed tests as something normal for the child, much akin to reciting the alphabet.

Thinking in the patterns expected in the exam should become a way of life, every thought, every action, everyday should be directed towards mastering the subjects and the test taking techniques needed to pass the exam. Also, the child will continuously think of ways to improve the aforementioned. Problem solving, analytical thinking, and test taking tricks and techniques should become part of the child's thought process. Their parents and peer group should also reflect this thinking otherwise the child will quickly fall away. The child will think about this test and other standardized exams all the time, while on the bus, driving a car, listening to music, or watching TV, mastering the test(s) will become akin to the air they breath.

Finally we need patience. People want results yesterday, the problem is that education doesn't work that way, it takes time to build the foundation upon which one can achieve success. Also it takes time to modify the system to achieve maximum results, it also takes time to re-engineer cultural values.

The most beneficial cultural beliefs implicit in the cultural practices of the typical American are:

1. It is not enough to say, one must do.

2. It is not enough to do, one must do it correctly.
It may not be possible to do it correctly the first time around, so it is best to always improve, with the goal of one day doing it correctly.

3. It is not enough to do it correctly, one must finish.
Many people say, do, and do it correctly but never finish. Also it is best to correctly finish everything on time.

4. It is not enough to finish one correctly done project, homework assignment, or correctly read book, one must be consistent in finishing whatever one begins.

5. It is not enough to correctly finish anything one begins, one must have a strategy, path, or system to follow. Basically one must have a set of goals and should direct their actions towards them.

6. It is not enough for one person to follow the above steps you need a sizable portion of the population following the steps.

7. It is not enough for a sizable portion of the population to follow the steps for one generation, the population must follow the steps generation after generation.

To sum up: Everything in your life must be rational, analytical, detailed, thorough, consistent, and timely.