Posts Tagged With: Testing

Are You F***ing Serious?

Just finished reading in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the second straight day of riots at West Philadelphia High, after a popular principal learned he was being fired in a newspaper. Some quotes from the article: "Problems at West Philadelphia High exploded last week after teachers there complained that assaults on staff in some cases were being downplayed. Initially, Vallas said he would replace James soon but he speeded the process after another staffer was attacked. On Friday, several small fires were set in the school and another teacher was assaulted during an evacuation...Two female students were arrested at the school entrance when metal detectors found a razor on one and a nail file on the other - items prohibited under the district weapons policy. More arrests are pending for two small fires that were set in lockers. The school was evacuated at 11 a.m. and again a short time later. Attendance was down to between 40 and 50 percent yesterday, said Ozzie Wright, acting co-principal. It's usually at 75 percent." And then, the kicker - "District officials hope they can calm the school today so 11th graders can take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, the high-stakes test that determines whether schools meet federal achievement targets." I mean, come on, who's being kidded here? What are you going to say to the kids? "Hey there, I know we've had two fires and several assaults over the past week, but we really want you to show up to fill out some bubbles on a test that has no real purpose. The standardized test tells the state how smart you guys are." My guess is the smart students are at home, watching the Wire and looking out for their own safety. If I'm a WPHS student right now, there are bigger issues than a standardized test. Sorry, Philly school staff.

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The Difference Between Knowledge & Intelligence

Right now I'm reading Justin Menkes' Executive Intelligence. Menkes points out that many top businessmen aren't competent and fail basic management objectives, and wonders how the screening process failed to winnow out the bad executives. He defines executive intelligence, shows examples of exec-intelligent CEO's who lead their companies to success, and proposes ways to screen for it that would be better than our current measures. I'm reading it because I think the SAT is a crappy, racist test, and I want to see what tests Menkes proposes and if they'd be good for high school seniors. By far the heaviest hitting part of the book was when he talked about the difference between knowledge and intelligence, and how we confuse the two.
"The distinction between knowledge and intelligence is frequently blurred. For example, most people are familiar with the popular television show Jeopardy!, on which contestants are rewarded for the amount of knowledge they possess of a wide variety of topics. Often the winners are referred to as "exceptionally smart." But the truth is that they are exceptionally knowledgeable. Successful Jeopardy! contestants haven't really proven anything about their intelligence...[Joseph Fagan, chair of psychology at Case Western] has done research focusing on racial differences in test scores, and his experiments found that measures that required certain kinds of academic knowledge, such as vocabulary or complex math, yielded significantly different scores between racial groups. But tests focused on reasoning or processing skills, such as picture and spatial pattern recognition, showed no such differences."
I generally score well on IQ and SAT tests and people call me smart, but I don't think my ability to take tests well is any measure of 'intelligence.' I run my mouth when I shouldn't, run in with cops when they have the power to detain me, and sometimes fail to grasp the rules of simple social situations. What I can do, I think, is aggregate information, discard the useless parts, repeat things other more intelligent people say, and use my fantastic memory to recall information and arguments at will. If we are going to rely on tests as much as we do as a society (just look at No Child Left Behind), we need to make sure the tests are measuring what they're supposed to measure, and that we want to rely on test measures to determine success.

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