Tuesday, August 28, 2007

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.


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