Cramming to the top

Chinese students spend years cramming for the two-day college entrance exam that will determine their future. The gaokao “robs Chinese students of their curiosity, creativity, and childhood,” concludes Jiang Xueqin, deputy principal at Peking University High School, in The Diplomat. But the killer exam is the fairest way to provide social mobility for bright and diligent students in a poor country that can’t afford to educate everyone.

China needs a system that can “resist the pull and power of the well-connected and wealthy,” Xuequin argues. That means it needs a national test.

If we were to test writing and thinking ability, then that would mean an automatic bias towards the children of well-educated parents who have from an early age discuss books, current affairs, and travel plans with their child over the dinner table. Moreover, to teach thinking and writing (or any soft skills such as creativity and collaboration) would require highly specialised and highly professional teachers who would naturally congregate in expensive private schools or prestigious public schools in Beijing and Shanghai. And if this were the case, China would just be like the United States, where education is monopolised by the self-perpetuating and self-interested educated elite, and social mobility through education becomes a distant dream for everyone else.

But China has 800 million peasants who depend on schooling as their child’s only chance out of the rice fields. Rural children don’t have access to the libraries, well-trained teachers, and intellectual spaces that wealthy cities can offer — all they have is their willingness to work hard to improve themselves. If Chinese believe in fairness and social mobility, then tests must be more about the student’s ability to memorise the textbooks he has access to, rather than about his ability to think critically, which is the result of making the most of a special set of resources available only to society’s elite.

What do you get? The gaokao. Chinese students will take the test June 7 and 8.

I don’t think social mobility through education is a “distant dream” in the U.S.  But it’s interesting to see the land of opportunity through other people’s eyes.

About Joanne


  1. This is a very interesting and provocative passage. Do American public schools provide ambitious low-SES kids the “ladder” to Yale? In other words, would getting A’s K-12 in a typical American public school system mean that a student would be able to ace the SATs? I suspect the answer is “no”. Only kids whose parents supplement the anemic curriculum at school with conversations about “books, current affairs and travel plans” at the dinner table will get the vocab and background knowledge necessary to score high on the SATs.

  2. In Soviet Union, the universities and institutes had (still have to some degree) their own admission exams (oral or written, in the disciplines related to ones selected major). All higher ed institutions have the entrance exams in July-August. So school graduates have a month or two to prepare on their own. Because the curriculum was common and well known, the entrance exams were composed of the topics that were supposed to be covered in the given discipline over the course of all school years. To be accepted into a veterinary school I had to take an oral exam in Biology (all covered material from grades 5 through 10), Inorganic and Organic Chemistry, and Russian composition/literature.

    Now, what’s good about it? No matter whether you had a good or bad teacher, were sick for half a year, had dismal grades in lower grades… If you wanted to get accepted, you could get the school textbooks and study on your own. I did spent all the time after graduation till entrance exams studying using the school books. All subjects from the very beginning of the school program. You couldn’t blame a school for your failure. And no matter where you came from (my vet. school was accepting a lot of students from the villages/ country side), if you knew what you want – you could get it.

    (From another point, higher ed was free, competition for places was high, and there was no big need to accept unprepared students)

  3. In both cases cited above, academic performance was what counted. American colleges would undergo massive student redistribution (and much smaller total numbers) if SAT/ACT scores were what determined admission. The political consequences of such an endeavor make its execution highly unlikely, since SAT scores of admitted students may span 400 SAT points at elite schools (according to a recent post) and URM status trumps SAT scores. Of course, athletic ability is also a significant asset in this country (trumping even basic literacy in the money sports). I’d like to see a total separation of academics and extracurriculars (both sports and other) in the whole k-college system, but it won’t happen in my lifetime, and probably won’t happen at all.

  4. Sean Mays says:

    There was a Wall Street Journal Article during Fall semester of 2008 about the Indian cram schools and how hard those kids worked for a shot at the elite schools in India – Saturday classes, 12 hour school days, etc, etc. My students and I read the article together in class. When we got done, we discussed it and compared it to their experience situation. One of my students uttered the following pithy analysis: “Stupid foreigners.” That was apparently the general sentiment; I pointed out to them that they’re alot of them and they work hard for the opportunity and they’re making a dangerous assumption that the world of tomorrow will be the same as their parents knew. Yeah, but we’ve got all the Benjamins another said. Sure, the top 1 or 2% have plenty of Benjamins I responded, BUT cash is fungible and portable; you can buy alot of research in Beijing or Delhi with a million bucks and plenty of capital is going overseas.

  5. Mom of Four,

    It seems to me that the SATs are fundamentally unlike the gateway tests in other countries, in that they’re more like IQ tests than tests of HS course content. Ergo, kids who do not have well-educated parents (who boost IQ through mental nourishment at home) don’t stand much chance of doing well on them, because the schools give so little mental nourishment of any sort. The Chinese and Russians are more just, in this matter at least: create a test that ALL kids can actually prepare for, and gear schools to actually prepare them. Right now there’s a disconnect between the SAT and public schools’ curricula. Only the elite win in this situation –and this forces us to resort to the affirmative action policies that you deplore. If we made, say, biology knowledge part of the SAT, and issued explicit study guides to ninth graders, ambitious URMs would know what they have to know. Right now the whole business is shrouded in fog –kids are under the false impression that getting A’s in a mediocre HS will prepare you for college. Even if the colleges waive the SAT requirements, these kids will not succeed in college –they lack the background knowledge to comprehend many college-level texts. We’re doing them an injustice with our bait-and-switch, reality-obfuscating system.

  6. Ben F,

    I hate momof4’s race baiting and constant bashing of URMs… and I also don’t think the SAT should be the sole measure for college admittance.

    That said, I actually have no problem with the SAT itself… the verbal part basically tests vocabulary and reading comprehension… the math tests algebra I and geometry. There is no mystery to what is on this test, and it is VERY teachable… lots of study of vocabulary, algebra, and geometry + intensive drilling in test taking techniques can dramatically raise the scores of ANY student… currently though, upper-middle class/rich families can provide their kids with expensive tutoring which can boost scores. But discipline + princeton review test prep books can boost scores just as well.

    That said, I would like to see more emphasis on SAT II tests which test specific subjects… in addition to the SAT I’s, it would be better to couple that with a science, a history, and a foreign language test.

    I am as liberal as they come, but I like the standardized tests, and feel emphasis should be placed on helping poor kids get access to resources to help them better prepare for these tests rather than downplaying the tests.

  7. The SAT hasn’t been an IQ test for years, but even if you want to persist in that bit of nonsense, the SAT isn’t the only college admissions test. The ACT is used by more students, and the ACT closely tracks high school curriculum.

    And–alas–the ACT and SAT have roughly the same results. So sorry, but the whole nonsense about IQ and the SAT being all about income was never correct in the first place. Think you could update your talking points?

    BTW–poor whites outscore rich blacks on the SAT and the ACT. So much for income being the predictor.

    That said, I would like to see more emphasis on SAT II tests which test specific subjects… in addition to the SAT I’s, it would be better to couple that with a science, a history, and a foreign language test.

    The UC was going to do that, but then they did a 180 and did away with subject tests altogether. Know why? It made the achievement gap much, much worse.

    kids are under the false impression that getting A’s in a mediocre HS will prepare you for college.

    This is absurd in so many ways. First, any kid who has terrible abilities and a high GPA didn’t go to a mediocre high school, but a high school in which the vast majority of students can barely read. That kid isn’t prepared for college not because he wasn’t taught, but because he’s not that bright–he’s just the hardest worker and “best skilled” in a very low skilled population.

    Second, any kid who goes to a terrible school is getting horrendous test scores, both on college admissions tests and state end of course tests. If he or she thinks she is prepared for college simply because of grades, then again, the real problem is a low level of cognitive ability preventing any understanding of reality–not the grades. I agree that the grades are a fraud, but they are a fraud entered into by the high schools and the colleges–and any kid who doesn’t understand that is not going to be helped by going to a better high school. He’ll just get lousier grades, not better abilities.

    And we aren’t “forced” to affirmative action because “the elite win”, but because the racial imbalances are unacceptable to the courts. It’s not income. It’s race.

  8. Foobarista says:

    The Gao Kao (Big Test) is far more comprehensive than SAT/ACTs; it’s more of an uber-final on all subjects covered in high school.

    One point worth mentioning is that universities have different admit scores for different non-Han “minorities” (a sort of affirmative action), as well as different scores for Chinese provinces.

  9. Jab,

    I agree that one can study for the math portion of the SAT I. But I don’t believe that one can make LARGE gains on the verbal portion through vocab drills alone. The kid who scores in the 600-800 range on the verbal portion will have to have had parents with large vocabularies and exposure to lots of non-juvenile media. I’d guess that these high scorers may know 100,000 or more English words (estimating from the notion that English has over 200,000 words total). Kids from low-education households can’t make up a 60,000 word deficit through the study of word lists. And even if they can game the test, they’ll still have a real background knolwedge deficit that will hinder their achievement in college.

    Giving more weight to the SAT IIs might prod K-12 schools to beef up their content delivery, which would result in a better education for all kids, especially the ones who get little supplementation at home.

  10. Cal…

    Do you have a link…

    I had heard the opposite… that the achievement gap on SAT II was LESS than the achievement gap on SAT I.

  11. The SAT hasn’t been an IQ test for years, but even if you want to persist in that bit of nonsense, the SAT isn’t the only college admissions test. The ACT is used by more students, and the ACT closely tracks high school curriculum.

    And–alas–the ACT and SAT have roughly the same results. So sorry, but the whole nonsense about IQ and the SAT being all about income was never correct in the first place. Think you could update your talking points?

  12. The kid who scores in the 600-800 range on the verbal portion will have to have had parents with large vocabularies and exposure to lots of non-juvenile media.

    A kid who scores in the 600-800 range on the verbal portion will have to be pretty smart. It won’t matter whether his parents had large vocabularies, except in that parents with high IQs are more likely to have kids with high IQs. But you’re right that drilling won’t help.

    It’s not about how many words you know. Verbal SAT scores are not simply a matter of vocabulary, but verbal intelligence (a very different thing). And your estimate of average vocabulary is considerably off.

    I had heard the opposite… that the achievement gap on SAT II was LESS than the achievement gap on SAT I.

    That’s because of the Geiser study, but a) the study did not, in fact, show a reduced gap, b) the Subject tests evaluated (Writing and Math Ic) are no longer available tests, but incorporated into the SAT I–where the gap is just as bad and c) the population studied wasn’t everyone.

    Besides, it simply boggles any good sense that a harder test would make the gap smaller. It’s just wrong, and those who ever thought it would happen just didn’t know what the limits (not flaws) of the Geiser test were.

    The Gao Kao (Big Test) is far more comprehensive than SAT/ACTs; it’s more of an uber-final on all subjects covered in high school.

    I believe it. This, too, would only make the gap worse. The SAT/ACT is by far the most egalitarian of all the admissions tests; a bright kid who never did much in school or had a terrible education is best reflected in this test, not any of the others. Kids of lower abilities are also accurately (and fairly, for the most part) captured by these tests.

    The problem is that “a bright kid who never did much in school” primarily (but not exclusively) describes white kids, “a bright kid who had a terrible education” is a miniscule, teeny tiny category, alas, and “kids of lower abilities” are disproportionately URM.

  13. Cal or one of the other Californians can probably clarify this, since I don’t remember the details or source. I think I remember reading that some (all?) of the CA state schools were allowing a SAT II test to be substituted for the SAT I for admissions. I think it was (primarily) to allow native Spanish speakers to use the SAT II Spanish test, as a way to increase their likelihood of admission and thus their representation in the college population. In that context, the gap may be less, but the tests are not equivalent. SAT II Spanish (or any foreign language) are designed for non-native speakers, so native speaker have an advantage.

    I was recently treated to an example of verbal intelligence in a child one week past her third birthday; she informed her 4 1/2 y.o brother that he was “being inappropriate and uncooperative” and that “there would be consequences.” I was told that she had heard those terms once, several days prior, and they were used in appropriate context. It’s highly unlikely that kids from a low-verbal background who go to weak schools will equal the verbal ability of kids who start like this.

  14. Mom,

    As you suggest, your bright three year old would probably bomb the verbal SAT if she were adopted by uneducated parents. How else would she know “inappropriate”? So the idea that the verbal SAT tests raw verbal intelligence seems implausible to me. One’s experiences/education matter a lot. My own verbal scores shot up from 640 (SAT) to 800 (GRE) after four years reading difficult books at college. My high school had not challenged me that much.

  15. Ben: You are very fond of crying racism. Do you really think that URM from amiddle-class suburb (parents physicians, lawyers or other professionals) should be admitted over a poor non-URM from small farming community on the Northern Plains or an Appalachian mining town when the latter kids have significantly better SATs? Why should the former not be expected to do better? They have access to a wide array of educational and cultural opportunities (as do kids from inner cities).
    Also, is it not unfair to highly successful URMs to be seen as undeserving because many of their group are significantly underprepared? The son of friends almost transferred out of an Ivy after his first semester because he was shunned by the majority because of his presumed AA status (minority-typical first and last names). Fortunately, things improved in his second semester. BTW, this kid had mid-700s on both the SAT math and verbal, AS AN 8TH-GRADER, and graduated at the top of one of the top magnet high schools in his area. Kids like that, and I’ve seen plenty, don’t like what AA does to their reputations.

  16. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Kids like that, and I’ve seen plenty, don’t like what AA does to their reputations.

    CAN I GET AN AMEN ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    (I’ve not only seen plenty — I was one.)

  17. I apologize; my last comment was directed to jab, not to Ben.

  18. I call bullshyt on momof4’s story about a minority student being shunned at an Ivy because of supposed AA status, and almost pushed to transfer. You really just pull anecdotes out of your azz to prove whatever ridiculous idea you have. I went to an Ivy, and had many friends who were black & latino and that certainly does not track any experience I have ever heard of. And no, momof4, they didn’t all major in soft fields either… My ex-gf who is black is now a surgeon…

    I don’t cry racism, momof4, I just call it how I see it. Literally almost every single thing you post is about the supposed academic inferiority of URM students.

  19. Cal… a student can definitely boost the SAT Verbal with vocabulary drills.

    I was raised by a single mom on welfare… no one in my family history (parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc) had EVER been to college. No reading in the home. No arts/cultural activities. The first time I took the PSAT as a sophomore, I got 49 verbal, 62 math, despite being the valedictorian of my class. By the time I was a junior, it shot up to 59/72, and by the time I took the SAT, my scores were 710/740 (this is in the 1980’s, before the test was renormed). My only study prep was Princeton Review books… yes, you CAN study for the verbal.

  20. jab; Enough of the insults. It’s obvious you don’t want to be confused with facts, so I’ll just ignore you. Do take a look at the SAT score distributions if you’d like to expand your horizons.

  21. momof4, you don’t have facts… you have beliefs and anecdotes.
    Let’s see if you can go 3 posts in a row without your constant whining about unqualified minority students disrupting the education of precious white students.

  22. Hainish says:

    jab, thank you. I agree, the race baiting is really sickening. I’m tired of hearing about white students being so! so! oppressed! by non-whites.

    Let’s not ignore legacy admissions (of white students), development admissions (of white students), admission from feeder schools (of mostly white students), etc.

  23. Richard Aubrey says:

    If all distinct groups are equal in potential, then certain of us can make ourselves out to be superior by insisting the actual results are the result of discrimination by our morally inferior fellow citizens. Cheap grace.
    When I was in college, going on forty-five years ago, studying psychology, we learned all the reasons why the data didn’t really show what it was supposed to show.
    However, whatever the origin of the differences, they are manifest in various scores on tests, in FBI crime stats, and in other ways.
    It doesn’t make much sense to insist that schools ignore the disparate results in such things as graduation or discipline.

  24. Richard,

    Why don’t you just come out and say it. So you don’t believe URM are equal in potential… You think URM are on average inherently less intelligent, more crime-prone, less disciplined… you (and momof4 and engineer-poet) will say that of course there are SOME “good” URM who are hurt by the bad reputation of the rest of them, but that is what you fundamentally believe. In my book, if you believe certain “groups” (aka minorities) are inherently not of equal potential, then yes, that makes you a racist. Own up to it.

  25. Richard Aubrey says:

    You need to tell the FBI that their crime stats are wrong. Or, at least, that they should keep their stupid mouths shut.
    How’s this. I believe that all groups have equal potential, except for those whose potential is demonstrably superior to whites.
    I just have no idea why the differences in outcome..
    See, for example, John McWhorter, “Losing the Race”. Or Thomas Sowell, cultures vary and differences have consequences. Or Walter Williams on the subject(s).
    McWhorter, who went to high school in Shaker Heights told about the problem for blacks doing well in school. Acting white. A later study by a guy named Ogbu showed that black kids watched about twice as much television as white kids. That time comes out of homework. Shaker Heights is a good study since it has a high-average income SES, a good ethnic mix, and a good school system with early intervention.
    Bit on NPR some time ago. Reporter goes back to his old neighborhood with a friend. On a street corner–presumably with new, smooth concrete–are Hispanic kids doing amazing stuff on skate boards. Stretching up to look into the library he could see it full of Asian families with their kids. Thirty years from now, will we be complaining that Asians are discriminating against Hispanics?
    Couple of studies about what a kid thinks he can score on a report card and not get into trouble at home. Pathetic.
    Been to a black HS frequently when my kids were playing HS ball of various kinds. Only away games with metal detectors and at which the cheerleaders went from bus to field and back again inside a hollow square of football players.
    Single-mom households have less verbal connection with kids, there not being enough adults around to get the numbers up. Single-mom households vary by ethnic group.
    None of this–as you know–has anything to do with genetic potential. Problem is, you can’t afford to admit that some cultures and subcultures have different fits for success in our civilization.
    BTW, I went to Mississippi in 67 and 68 to do civil rights stuff. It’s been my observation that people today who pitch the “racist” accusation were, back then, pissing their pants at the thought of going south of Cincinnati. Say, you think you’re kind of projecting because of guilt at inaction?

  26. Guilt of inaction?

    No… I have was a gang-intervention counselor working with young men in gangs and trying to get them back into school, church, and jobs. I’ve mentored recent Mexican immigrants to help them learn English, I have mentored young men released from juvenile detention to help them get on the right track, I have taught academic classes in prisons to help rehabilitate prisoners before they are released, I have tutored at after-school programs in the inner city… and now I am a college professor in the hard sciences.

  27. Richard… my criticism of you was based on the phrase questioning equal potential… if you believe that all groups have equal potential on average, but then poverty and the culture around that poverty can disrupt that potential, then perhaps we agree more than you think… but your original post was very ambiguous on that point, implying that you believe URMs are inherently less disciplines, crime-prone, and less intelligent.

  28. Richard Aubrey says:

    Whether it’s inherently or not, there doesn’t seem to be any way to change the results. Which means it hardly matters which it is.
    You will, of course, dismiss the assertion that Ashkenazic Jews score ISD above the US average. Unless you can figure out some way to ascribe that to culture of the Ashkenazis and not to Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular, or Lubavitcher culture(s). Jump right in.
    Callng “racist” is known to be a manipulative scam. Everybody knows it but apparently you didn’t get the memo. Everybody knows it.
    One of the cheapest ways to feel good about oneself is to consider that everybody else is a racist. That puts you in the moral minority. The smaller the minority, the more superior it must be. So, calling your fellow citizens racist, exaggating the numbers, is a pretty cheap way to do it. Beats hell out of accomplishing anything.

  29. Spare me the righteous indignation… another way to “feel good” about yourself is to assume the inherent inferiority of others, which absolves you from doing anything hard to fix the problem… “heck, they inherently have less potential, so we should up on trying to figure out why there are unequal outcomes… in fact, we should stop even trying to provide equal education because it will just be wasted anyway.”

  30. Roger Sweeny says:

    On two other threads here CarolineSF, a loud and proud progressive, is saying that charters appear to be better than they are by decreasing the number of African-American and Latino students they have and increasing the number of Asian students they have.

    She insists that there is nothing wrong with arguing this way, “it isn’t exactly some kind of outrageous racism to base a comment on the undeniable and universally understood facts that Asians tend, overall on average, to outperform all other ethnicities; and that African-Americans and Latinos tend, overall on average, to be lower academic achievers.” (Study: Best Charters Don’t Get Most Dollars, June 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm)

    Does she deserve the same censure as momof4, Cal, and Richard Aubrey?

  31. My only study prep was Princeton Review books… yes, you CAN study for the verbal.

    Jab, I am a test prep tutor. I know far more than you do about what is coachable and what isn’t. I am not denying that test scores can improve with coaching. I am saying that practice will not give you ability. You improved because you needed to understand the test. You didn’t improve because coaching increased your actual ability.

  32. Roger,

    The difference is this… I don’t think CarolineSF ever argued that those facts implied anything inherent about the underlying populations… of course, there are differences in achievement among groups that are mired in generations of poverty, versus recent immigrant communities who, although poor, have a community culture that values education. Those of us on the frontlines of education struggle daily to challenge our brightest students to the best of their ability while at the same time trying to improve the skills of those who start out far behind…

    I bristle, however, when I hear people proclaim that these differences are inherent to whole groups… you have Richard here trotting out FBI crime statistics in a cavalier way… once you get to the point where you believe the differences in achievement are do to the inherent inferiority of particular groups, it absolves you of struggling to close the gap…

    I think the achievement gaps are stark, and downright scary… and I have no easy answers on how to close the gap… but it is a struggle I believe is worth fighting for, and I have hope that it can be ameliorated.

  33. Cal… I improved because I learned new vocabulary, I learned how to read better (see below), I practiced math facts until they became natural to me, I learned test taking strategies. These can all be coached… and yes, coaching can improve ability. No, you cannot make up years and years of academic deficiencies with minor coaching… I agree.

    For example, I still recall struggling mightily with the reading comprehension passages (I always could narrow the choices down to two, and then I always picked incorrectly… LOL)… from reading Princeton Review, one of the hints they gave was circle any word that indicated a change in idea/tone/argument… words like, “despite”, “although”, “however”, “nonetheless”, etc. They advised to think about about what was immediately before such a “trigger word,” and what changed immediately after. It was remarkable how much my score went up from that one little ridiculously easy trick… and it carried through beyond studying for the SAT, and onto all my academic reading. Simple, coachable trick that improves reading comprehension/ability and scores.

  34. Roger Sweeny says:

    I can’t read Richard or momof4’s mind so I don’t know if they are saying some groups are inherently inferior (on average) or if they are saying that by the time people get to 6th or 9th grade, it’s awful, awful hard to do anything about the differences that have developed.

    If it’s the former, cry racism. If it’s the latter, it seems like what CarolineSF is saying.

  35. Jab, do you read? I said I was a test prep instructor. How on earth could you possibly delude yourself that you were offering new information?

    Nothing I said changed; you are simply too dim to understand that what you describe is not inconsistent with what I said. You aren’t, however, so dim that you can’t improve your test scores, which is why you improved. Although I must say nothing you’ve posted in this blog strikes me as consistent with high 700s. I can’t remember if you said you were black, but if you are black, then the odds of you having two scores in the high 700s is very low. If you’re white, then it’s not that unlikely–although again, black or white, you don’t post as all that terribly bright.

    Don’t feel bad, though, I’ve posted that my GRE verbal is 790, which is top half of one percent, and that’s very rare, even rarer for a woman. As is Ben’s claim that he has an 800 GRE in verbal. I mean, what are the odds that there are three people in this blog all in the top one half of one percent? And wait, Michael Lopez claims that he, too, has a score that high. Really, people, some of us have to be lying. It’s statistical white noise, all these .01 of .01 percenters just happen to be posting here. (But then, my scores are validated by a reporter. I say unto you all, neener neener.)

  36. Wow, the racism really does fly around here…

    Cal… My GRE scores were: 740 Verbal, 800 Math, 800 Analytic.
    I have any Ivy league degree, a PhD in astrophysics, and am a college professor.
    Published dozens of articles ion scientific journals…

    Yup… I’m dim alright.

  37. Oh, I forgot my point. Jab, it’s fine to use yourself as illustration, but not as proof. You claimed that “a student” can definitely boost scores with vocabulary drills. I said that practice does not give ability. I also said: “You improved because you needed to understand the test. You didn’t improve because coaching increased your actual ability.”

    You don’t understand what this means. That’s fine. But you should ask, rather than think your illustration–which you don’t understand–functions as proof.

  38. Wow, the racism really does fly around here…

    Are you black? Because there are no recorded cases of a black person getting an 800 on the GRE–that means, no one who has gone public. So you should alert the media if you are black. I’m not saying that sarcastically or skeptically. There are very few African American 800 scores on the SAT, and none officially validated on the GRE that I know of. So go make yourself a data point.

    If you’re not black, an 800 on the Quant section is no big deal, particularly back when you took it (which was at least 10 years ago). It’s top 10%–nothing to sneeze at, but not that big a deal. It’s 780+ in Verbal that’s rare.

    But assuming you’re telling the truth and you’re not black, there’s nothing unusual about your scores, nothing inconsistent with my assertion, and sadly, it’s not unheard of for someone dense as a post ideologically to have high test scores. In short, goofball, I was insulting you by saying you were dim, not seriously challenging your scores based on your posts. (Based on statistics, sure. But that’s different.)

  39. Richard Aubrey says:

    Roger. I believe that all distinct groups are equal in potential, except for those which exceed American WASPs. We can talk about those. Nobody gets upset about that.
    However, it’s an act of faith. There is no data to support it, and no external authority which asserts it in terms that overcome the data.
    So, I livein faith.
    I am, however, also living in the real world.
    I’m not sure how to do any fixing. Money’s not much help. The urban schools famously spend more than the rest of the schools and get the worst results. Talking about disfunctional cultures gets you called a racist–which, considering the folks doing the calling is hardly important–which means there is no interest in “struggling” against the effects of the cultures. Want to see somebody try? See the Usual Suspects when Bill Cosby said some things that needed saying.
    Calling a person or an idea “racist” means there is no need to face an uncomfortable truth. Besides, some of these programs employ an awful lot of people.
    Got a relation who spent the last five years trying to drag a disfunctional–and only mildly so–person through life. Shopping for groceries is better at Walmart than the gas station. Cooking is cheaper than prepared deli stuff at the supermarket. Washing your dishes is actually a good thing; it’s why Habitat provided a dishwasher. Budgeting is not rocket science. Person has a job.
    It was like dragging a wagon with square wheels. When my relation suffered a health issue and was no longer able to keep a strain on the line, to use a nautical metaphor, the relapse was immediate. The social energy devoted to this woman and her son–my relation,Habitat, food stamps, Big Brother, various other aids–was enormous and not effective.
    The existence of people like her provides endless opportunity for people like jab to puff themselves up by talking about a struggle and accusing others of racism.
    Given the shortcomings in this woman’s inability to get various simple things, it hardly matters if it’s inherent or the result of a poor upbringing.
    Now, as to crime stats. They either mean something or they don’t. Victim survey stats the same. You deny the differences or you try to explain them. But the former is kind of a waste of time and the latter is uncomfortable. So, as with other differences, one accuses those who point to the difference as “racist”.
    As to “racist”, see the difference in the attention paid to the Duke lax hoax and the near simultaneous rape of Duke student Katie Rouse. And the half-dozen conflicting metanarratives that kept the saga of Duke admin Frank Lombard under the radar.
    Explain that. Nothing to do with racism. All to do with what’s allowed in polite society.

  40. Cal,

    No need to be so condescending… I understood perfectly what you meant. I just disagree. An although using myself is an anecdote is not “proof”… I have tutored many young people on the SAT, though not in the capacity as an “official” paid tutor.
    In my experience, coaching can BOTH help students understand the test and approve ability, if done right.

    Perhaps we are using different definitions.meanings of “ability”… if you mean “ability” in the narrow sense of inherent intelligence, then yes, you are correct. If you mean “ability” in the broader sense of able to understand and perform given tasks (e.g. reading “better”, building math intuition” through practice), then yes, ability can be improved.

  41. Cal… damn, what the hell is wrong with you??????????????

  42. What are you talking about? Nothing is wrong with me. I thought you said you were black (in some other post) and if you are black and those are your scores, that’s a big deal. Are you somehow unaware that it’s incredibly rare for blacks to get over 700 on either section of the SAT? And unheard of for them to get 800? I’m not being racist. I’m not imputing cause. I am stating statistical facts. If you’ve never said you were black, then I apologize if you feel insulted. But for some reason, I’ve thought you were black as long as you’ve been posting here, so when you mentioned your scores I was interested in them, statistically. On the other hand, as the rest of my post observed, many people here claim, er, unlikely scores (including me!). So I was keeping that possibility open.

    if you mean “ability” in the narrow sense of inherent intelligence, then yes, you are correct.

    Yea, I knew that. Now you know that, too. Because we weren’t talking about Life of Jab, but the scores of over a million students every year and clearly, I was talking about their basic ability. As you should know, coaching on average does not improve scores to the level that yours improved. That only happens when the issue is test taking ability, not inherent intelligence.