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Statistical Errors Keep 4700 K-3rd Students From NYC 'Gifted' Programs

timothy posted about a year ago | from the more-than-a-little-oopsie dept.

Math 215

alostpacket writes "The New York times reports that statistical scoring by the standardized testing company Pearson incorrectly disqualified over 4700 students from a chance to enter gifted / advanced programs in New York City schools. Only students who score in the 90th percentile or above are eligible for these programs. Those in the 97th or above are eligible for 5 of the best programs. 'According to Pearson, three mistakes were made. Students' ages, which are used to calculate their percentile ranking against students of similar age, were recorded in years and months, but should also have counted days to be precise. Incorrect scoring tables were used. And the formula used to combine the two test parts into one percentile ranking contained an error.' No mention of enlisting the help of the gifted children was made in the Times article, but it also contained a now-corrected error. This submission likely also contains an erro"

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Totally arbitrary anyway (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43502973)

All this "precision" to test against an arbitrary "90th" and "97th" percentile.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (4, Insightful)

dwhitaker (1500855) | about a year ago | (#43503003)

It may be arbitrary, but it is still a somewhat socially-accepted metric. I suspect that many people would agree that the top 10% (or 3%) of students by whatever accepted measure qualify for "gifted".

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503027)

In the meantime, the truly gifted are hitting the library, doing their own thing, and pretty much don't need no stinking program.

-see life of Linus Pauling, Einstein. etc ...

Stranger danger hysteria and cul-de-sacs (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43503155)

In the meantime, the truly gifted are hitting the library, doing their own thing, and pretty much don't need no stinking program.

In the pre-World War II era when Linus Pauling and Albert Einstein grew up, it was believed acceptably safe for a child to walk the streets unaccompanied [tvtropes.org] . Nowadays kids are kept indoors over public hysteria over "stranger danger" and over poorly laid out, cul-de-sac-heavy street hierarchies [wikipedia.org] that discourage getting from one place to another in anything but a passenger vehicle.

Re:Stranger danger hysteria and cul-de-sacs (5, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43504063)

When I was growing up, a long generation after Einstein and Pauling, it was still considered safe, but it was objectively much LESS SAFE than it is now.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (4, Interesting)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year ago | (#43503157)

While I agree with your premise, I can't say I agree on the examples.
The education has undergone a lot of changes since 1910, when Linus was in it.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503303)

The education has undergone a lot of changes since 1910, when Linus was in it.

Citation needed.

Re:Citation needed?! Really?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503873)

Go away AC.

Do your own homework and write a 500 word essay on how educational theory has changed in 100 years. Pick any two of the hundred factors that have changed.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (3, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43504125)

In the meantime, the truly gifted are hitting the library, doing their own thing, and pretty much don't need no stinking program.

-see life of Linus Pauling, Einstein. etc ...

The "truly gifted" are also wasting a lot of time in "normal" classrooms. This is the 21st century. We should be using technology to customize education for each child, and let them learn at an optimal pace. This is easiest for subjects like math, and my son's school uses Khan Academy [khanacademy.org] and IXL [ixl.com] to make much of the math self-paced. They also let the kids pick their own books to read using AR Bookfind [arbookfind.com] . My son has read over a hundred books this year, and has yet to find a book that isn't in their system.

Both of my kids qualified for California's GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program [ca.gov] . But it seems to me that it could be expanded to include a lot more kids, because the parents do a lot of the grunt work. So if you double the number of kids, you are also doubling the number of parents. The school just needs to provide a framework. I take an afternoon off work each week to work with these kids and I love every minute of it. Some of these kids are amazingly bright. Last week I showed a fourth grader how to do a cross product of two vectors, and she "got it" in less than a minute. I walked away thinking "this kid is going to change the world someday." She also laughed when I told her a "math joke":

Q: What do you get when you cross a tsetse fly with a mountain climber?
A: Nothing. You can't cross a vector with a scaler.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43503325)

No, it's fucking retarded at its face. So we find the children that need the LEAST amount of help, and give them the most help. Then we take the kids in the most trouble and flunk them out, punish them, hold them back a grade. The entire premise is idiotic. In this country we have trouble getting normal children the basic skills they need. Last I checked, our gifted students were doing ok. So lets start focusing on the kids that need it, and let the ones that gifted ones be gifted on their own.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (5, Interesting)

Aranykai (1053846) | about a year ago | (#43503377)

You have it backwards. You find the kids with the most amount of potential and give them a greater opportunity. That being said, I was a 'gifted student' throughout school(class of 04 for what its worth) and I don't recall any 'help' or special tutoring. Most of the time that status simply granted us access to advanced placement courses, taking higher math or english studies than you would normally have access to or sometimes special after-school opportunities.

I hate to sound crass, but the problem with students that 'need help' in our education system is 80% the result of inept parenting at home(or lack there of) and has nothing to do with the schools. The other 20%? Well, not everyone excels at every task.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

dwhitaker (1500855) | about a year ago | (#43503517)

In an ideal world it would be an "all of the above" situation with getting kids help. Is your child struggling? Here's more, personal help. Is your child excelling? Here's some resources to help them achieve more. Is your child neither struggling nor excelling? Here's more help so that they don't struggle and can possibly excel.

There will always be inequality in education, and there will always be finite resources that need allocation. As a society, we seem to have decided that we need amazing talented people that receive more attention even when they are doing well. We've also decided that struggling students should get extra help. Unfortunately, there are often many other issues related with struggling students, and their lack of performance in the classroom is indicative/symptomatic of other issues. It is hard to quantify gains due to interventions (which cost money) for this group. (I also think it would be hard to quantify some gains in the 'gifted' group, but people like high test scores, and they may not need further justification.)

We can neither have a 'Harrison Bergeron'-type society, nor can we have a society that devotes all of its resources to the gifted/wealthy/etc. We need a balance, but this balance is both hard to attain and maintain.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43503715)

You have it backwards. You find the kids with the most amount of potential and give them a greater opportunity. That being said, I was a 'gifted student' throughout school(class of 04 for what its worth) and I don't recall any 'help' or special tutoring.

I was considered gifted in elementary school and they taught me speed-reading and we played logic games. Pretty useful, I guess. They wouldn't let me do any of the cool stuff though and since I was a problem child they stopped involving me (though I was always well-behaved when associating with the GATE class) so it was in the end a fuckoff waste of time and money, to me. That's OK; the whole system is hypocritical. Public school is part of the lie that you can excel through hard work in today's system, and GATE is part of making that lie convincing.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (5, Insightful)

Slyfox696 (2432554) | about a year ago | (#43503411)

No, it's fucking retarded at its face. So we find the children that need the LEAST amount of help, and give them the most help. Then we take the kids in the most trouble and flunk them out, punish them, hold them back a grade. The entire premise is idiotic. In this country we have trouble getting normal children the basic skills they need. Last I checked, our gifted students were doing ok. So lets start focusing on the kids that need it, and let the ones that gifted ones be gifted on their own.

I'm sorry, but your opinion is silly. Why are you interested in making everyone mediocre? How about we push ALL kids, not just the ones at the bottom? Whether it's publicly acceptable to say or not, the fact is most of the kids at the bottom will never advance past subpar. They'll be the manual labor, the janitors, the cooks, etc. And there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that, any person providing for their family is okay in my book.

But the gifted children, they are the thinkers, they are the ones who will change the world. We need to be giving them every opportunity to succeed we can, and to hold them back simply because there are some kids who are not intelligent seems a completely backwards outlook on life. You're saying we should not provide assistance to the children who will change the world so we can instead focus on those who will work fairly unintellectual jobs. That makes no sense.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (0)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#43503537)

Governments would rather subvert their talents for their own purposes and then destroy them when they dare to become a liability.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#43504045)

Nice tin foil hat.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (2)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about a year ago | (#43503777)

i think that's utter bull shit. given enough time and effort, even your own effort all knowledge comes. There is no reason to not teach these kids the fundamentals of how to learn and grow in this society. They do not have to be janitors or cooks unless they want to be. We can make freaking robots for that crap. They must have the basics so that they can learn on their own after school or their world will be very bleak indeed. I watched my own parents work day in and day out trying to make ends meat. By the time i graduated from highschool their bodies were wrecked, and aliments of other kinds were coming as well. this is not how we should be treating people in this society. At some point those jobs won't be there anyways like i said above, the time is coming where we are going to have machines doing most of the manual labor, and perhaps most of the lower thinking jobs as well.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (5, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | about a year ago | (#43503797)

His opinion may be silly, but he isn't alone. I overheard two teachers saying the same thing, that the gifted kids take care of themselves and don't need any help.

Of course that's often false. It is a common enough occurrence for some gifted kids to get really lazy because early on, they find it is easy to skate with minimal effort. Later in their education careers however, when subjects become inherently tougher, those skating work habits turn to failure. I have personal experience here.

Secondly, relying on smart kids to take care of themselves is not a recipe for a well rounded education, it's a recipe for hyper focus on a single area that may or may not prove valuable to the student. In the college context, the point of a liberal arts education is to expose students to a wide range subjects because sometimes, very interesting things can happen when knowledge in different subject areas intersects. Ignoring smart kids might make sense for a diploma mill, but it doesn't make sense if the actual goal is help kids succeed by showing them where interesting (and potentially lucrative) intersections can be found.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (5, Insightful)

nbauman (624611) | about a year ago | (#43504189)

It's difficult or impossible to identify the kids who will make major contributions to society in middle school, for God's sake. Read the biographies of Nobel laureates. Many of them were fuck-ups in high school (and beyond).

Assuming that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates contributed to society (or at least made a lot of money), neither of them showed much promise in high school.

Most of the people who made significant contributions came from financially comfortable, and often wealthy, families. Try eliminating poverty and inequality, to the extent that most other developed countries have.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503653)

Your kind of thinking is what's holding our students back. Letting the slowest kid in the class dictate the pace for everyone else only kills any kind of interest in education that the advanced student would have. Meanwhile the kid who isn't doing as well may be special needs and that should be determined. If the child isn't special needs you have to stop and wonder if they're simply lazy or if there is a deeper problem. In any case, what do we do with the lazy student who thinks that learning is for fools because he has no desires in life aside from becoming a gang banger or the next goof on The Deadliest Catch? If your going to use his performance to determine the pace of the class then you're doing a great disservice to those who are willing to work for better.
 
Your way of handling things would only lead to mediocrity and stagnation.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43503687)

Great idea; we should also implement this system for school sports programs.
Kick all the talented kids out of the teams and replace them by the kids that perform worst.
Last I checked, our talented athletes were doing ok, so lets start focussing on the kids that need it.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about a year ago | (#43503879)

I think you don't understand how this works. The great students get access to advanced classes. They don't need extra teachers or tutoring, i.e. "extra help." The underachieving students get extra teachers and tutors. At least that's how it is supposed to work, and how it works in my area. I'm not in NY, so I can't gauge the reality of it there.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (0)

Lehk228 (705449) | about a year ago | (#43503955)

quite the opposite, society functions due to the successes of the few, the elite. to identify students with that level of potential is how we strengthen our society, not by spending vast amounts of resources trying to turn a few percentage of future ditch diggers, sandwich artists and fry cooks into file clerks, middle managers and receptionists instead.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43504113)

Holding them back a grade, if we could remove the stigma, would be exactly what most of the "slow" kids need, because many of them are not really slow, they're younger than most of the kids in their classes. It would put them in classes with other kids who are closer to their level of ability and skill mastery. Instead, we hold back the whole curriculum so the "slow" (young) kids can keep up with the average.

And there's no reason we can't educate each child according to his or her ability, with the possible exception of the top 0.1% that teachers won't be able to keep up with.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (5, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | about a year ago | (#43504129)

FWIW, I was a "gifted" student in the 1950s (IQ 160). They brought me up to believe that I was part of an elite and everybody else was stupid. I now know that I was wrong. It's a fundamental mistake to write off the other 80% as being too stupid for a good education.

We read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and obviously we were the alphas. The other kids are betas and gammas who just aren't as smart as us and a good education would be wasted on them. (This was a mirror of the British class structure, of course.)

Yes, it's true that 80% of kids can't do well in the educational system, and yes, it's true that a problem is the parents. I draw 2 conclusions:

(1) If you have a bad family background, school gives you a second chance. Not a school dedicated to getting high scores on machine-graded multiple-choice questions, but a school in which teachers act like human beings with feelings, and can relate to kids and support them, the way surrogate parents do.

(2) Every study says that the main factor that correlates with school achievement is family income. Adequate housing, health care, and employment is necessary (if not sufficient) for raising kids. You can't read to your kids if you're working 2 low-paid jobs, morning to night. The U.S. has about the greatest inequality, and the most widespread poverty, of any developed country. We didn't use that science education to eliminate poverty, we used it to make millionaires into billionaires. The upper 1% owns 75% of the wealth. Let's distribute that wealth a little bit and eliminate the poverty.

If you take those 80% and give them the advantages I had (father with a secure, well-paying union job, mother who didn't have to work), I think most of them would learn a lot. I think it would turn out that the percent of kids who can't learn wasn't 80% but much lower -- maybe 40%. Maybe 20%. Maybe less.

We can look at countries like Finland, which has eliminated inequality and poverty as much as possible, to see what an egalitarian society is like. They seem to be doing pretty well.

How much money should we spend on education? Well, if our society invests $1 in tax money in a kid, and we get $2 back in social benefits, we should invest as much money as we can with those returns. Any business would. If we went back to the levels of investment in public education we had in the 1960s and 1970s, I think we'd have the same high rates of economic development we had in that time.

And you can get that return from kids in the top 20% and the bottom 80%.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (2)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#43503379)

It may be arbitrary, but it is still a somewhat socially-accepted metric. I suspect that many people would agree that the top 10% (or 3%) of students by whatever accepted measure qualify for "gifted".

Socially accepted or not, it still counts as completely arbitrary to say that 33000 kids get in to the "good" schools, but #33001 (NYC has 1.1M public school students) gets to attend one of the standard prison-camp style facilities.

Now, for the kids right at the edge, of course they care - But on a larger scale, it makes absolutely no difference to society as a whole whether Dashiell (age 6Y10M4D) or Phineus (age 6Y10M3D) make the cut.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503491)

We do live in a world that has finite resources, and in the United States - particularly when dealing with public programs - there is at least the assumption that things are supposed to be "fair". It's obscene that we make these distinctions with the standardized test score being the final arbiter, but that is the system as it exists today. Yes, it's arbitrary, but it is also arbitrary that the hypothetical program only funds 33000 students.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about a year ago | (#43503781)

Change is the only constant in this time, old laws, old ways, old things will die. We must evolve and try new things. The time is now, before it is too late.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503413)

top 10%? no way.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (4, Insightful)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about a year ago | (#43503499)

All this implies that there are 4700 empty seats in those gifted schools. There aren't. Very likely other folks with 96.98 percentile got in due to their b-days falling out onto the same month as someone a week younger and same exact grade on the same exact exam. In other words, by most measures, the folks in these schools are "just as" gifted as the folks who missed out due to the error (bad luck).

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#43504157)

Well the first grade class might start a war with the top 1% of them, and you know how that turns out.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#43503343)

All this "precision" to test against an arbitrary "90th" and "97th" percentile.

This.

When having aged one more day than someone else who got the same score means not making the cut, well, welcome to life, unfairness and all. The sooner kids learn that, the better.

Now, parents - If you really believe your little nose-picking demon can do better in the "right" environment, I can give you far, far better advice than suing the school system over fractions of a point on an admissions test: Move to suburbia. Even if the kid still doesn't make the cut for the gifted program, he'll receive a far higher quality education than he would in even the best of urban schools.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about a year ago | (#43503787)

better yet teach them how to learn and give them more oppotunities to excel. School is not the place to learn.

my best subeject (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503461)

in uni was statistics. The thing about statistics is its often just common sense. 1 mistake = careless, 2 = incompetent, 3 = corrupt

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503925)

The funny thing is by using those percentiles, 10% and 3% of the students should have qualified for the two programs, but they missed a bunch, so a quick sanity check of the sizes of these three lists should have been enough to spot the error.

Re:Totally arbitrary anyway (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43504055)

Did the test identify 3% of students as above the 97th percentile and 10% of students above the 90th percentile? If, so, then it did its job.

Age has to counted to the DAY? At 5 years old (age for entering kindergarten), you're still slicing those hairs thin (1.66%) at one month resolution. Age to the day would be .055%. What's the resolution of the test? The only advantage of computing age to the day is it's easier than rounding or truncating to get age to the month. Also, what grade has to be considered. A 2196 day old child entering 1st grade who scores above 90% of children of his age may belong in a GT 1st-grade class (although I consider 90% a low bar for "gifted." But if that 2196 day old child is entering 2nd grade and scores the same, he's behind most of the 2nd graders in his class, and not to be compared with a 2500-day old child who scores similarly above average for her age.

They're Screwed (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43502975)

They might as well file for bankruptcy. Their is no wrath like the wrath of a parent who thinks their child is gifted and talented.

Re:They're Screwed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503415)

Unfortunate for them, that is 97% of America.

Re:They're Screwed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503855)

My spouse had a parent complain to her that her kid didn't get to go on the special field trip that the TAG students did. So they had to inform her that her child didn't get to go because she wasn't in the TAG program. Not the least of reasons is that her daughter cannot read at a skill level beyond sight-reading (due in no small part because of the home support). The mother literally and in all seriousness asked if the schools position was that all students her age should be able to read. My wife teaches sixth grade.

Re:They're Screwed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43504121)

What do you mean by sight-reading in this context? You're not expecting sixth-graders to read and simultaneously perform music that they haven't seen or heard before, are you?

Standardized Assessments (2)

dwhitaker (1500855) | about a year ago | (#43502993)

I'm sure that a debate will emerge in the ensuing contents about the pros and cons of relying on standardized assessments as heavily as we do. From the summary, though, it seems as if the problem was not with the assessment, but rather the ancillary aspects of assessing. This doesn't excuse the mistakes, but it also isn't a compelling argument for abolishing standardized tests.

For what it's worth, Pearson is a for-profit educational publisher and assessment creator, but there are other assessment creators out there that are non-profit (e.g. ETS, the makers of the GRE). The entire assessment process is hard, and maintaining high-quality throughout is even harder.

Re:Standardized Assessments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503081)

Sole reliance on standardised tests is flawed. But standardised testing has allowed studies to show that female school teachers (which means most teachers these days) discriminate against boys by grading them much lower than girls - despite them doing better on standardised tests.

In essence, sexist female teachers are seriously damaging the prospects of male children. A fact that only comes to light due to standardised tests.

Reinhart, Rogoff, and Excel? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503105)

Perhaps they should have used Excel and asked Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff for some assistance.

Re:Standardized Assessments (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about a year ago | (#43503943)

If you had 5 students, you could test each of them closely to see their skills. 50 students, you can still look into individuals' skills. At 500, you may be able to have some customization. 5000, I doubt it. 50000, no way.
And that's assuming you think it's fair to make personalized tests. If Bob is good at math and Beth is good at English, do you cater or counter-cater to their strengths? Like you said, assessment is hard beyond a single individual.

Need statisticians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503001)

Sad. It's amazing how much crap passes as science these days. We have people using the words of the field (six sigma, percentiles, normal distribution) and yet when asked about basic, basic metrics they completely reveal that they're just saying the words.

I wonder how people will say that stupid line, "x% of statistics are made up on the spot" or variations of it.

Re:Need statisticians (2)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year ago | (#43503851)

about 13.6% of the Slashdot readership.

Re:Need statisticians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503911)

I wonder how people will say that stupid line

Usually with the mouth or keyboard.

I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503007)

They want to have age in days?

Who defines age? They have to count from conception to be fair, since babies born before 8 months show delays academically if their early birth isn't accounted for.

Re:I call BS (1)

fibonacci8 (260615) | about a year ago | (#43503931)

Since you're volunteering to be at, and record all dates of conception for every child everywhere, I think that's a perfectly valid stance.

Age (4, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43503017)

Why are we measuring age with regards to giftedness? The age at which students are permitted to enroll in classes does not permit students born in September to enroll early, but if you are born in August you get to enroll, then when it comes to the standardized tests students who were permitted early entry get a lower bar with regards to entrance.

Since things are in flux to the point where a few days make a difference, wouldn't it make more sense to wait until there's some validity to the testing being done? As far as I know there's no validity to the notion that early testing leads to the right decisions being made. Some folks just develop early, but don't hit a particularly high mark, and some take longer to develop and ultimately to a higher level.

I remember when I was a kid getting screwed over because of my age, if a couple of months are that significant, then the testing shouldn't be done.

Re:Age (2)

nblender (741424) | about a year ago | (#43503119)

A prognosis of 'gifted' is not to be confused with 'developing early'... Sure, my 'gifted' son appeared to develop early but his brain works differently and that is what is being assessed... His reading/writing/arithmetic was tested for sure, but those results are only a small part of the overall scoring... He was 99th percentile for reading/writing/comprehension but tested low for working memory and processing speed... A non-gifted individual will do better than my son at discovering a pattern in a long sequence of symbols, for example... Or will do better at word problems.. Even though my son could read and divine symbolic meaning from adult novels when he was 6, he still has trouble with word problems in math because as he's reading them, his brain explodes with the many possibilities that are emerging as each sentence progresses and has trouble sorting out the important parts of the problem... This is what is measured when they test for giftedness...Gifted children each have different strengths and weaknesses; they're not to be confused with the pop culture vision of a child prodigy... I actually with there were a different word other than 'gifted' because that word carries a lot of misconception...

I'm not a psychologist, just a parent who's been submerged in this...

Re:Age (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43503161)

That's more or less my point. At the K-3 level there's very little that can be said usefully for future development.

I don't really get why we're still evaluating students at such an early age for giftedness when it doesn't become reliable until later on. Evaluate for learning disorders as soon as you can, sure, but separating out the gifted students before you really know who is and isn't causes all sorts of problems. And age really shouldn't be a factor, if it matters which month you're born in, that should be a substantial reason to question the validity of the testing regime.

Ultimately, you get a system where you're rewarding students for having been fortunate enough to develop early when you're trying to reward students for being fortunate enough to be gifted. Which as you note isn't necessarily the same thing in all cases.

Re:Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503739)

That sounds kind of like me. When I think, I do not follow a train of thought. Instead, many different lines of ideas appear in my head and link together into a kind of web-like thing. This has certain consequences that other people notice. I will jump into conversations with comments that don't seem to relate at all to what anybody was talking about (they make complete sense to me). I propose analogies for things that seem insane, but after a LOT of thinking (on the part of other people), begin to make sense. I was always an excellent reader, but when I read books, I flip through pages in a semi-random order. When I try to understand something, I don't like to do it by starting with a central kernel and then building out in little building blocks. Instead I put up isolated ideas in different spots, and when enough of these ideas have been put in place, all the connections between them pop into existence simultaneously. I spend most of my time feeling like I don't "get it" with something new, but after a certain point, I suddenly get it all, in one big "poof."

Most people who encounter me and get to know me for a while claim that I am one of the smartest people they have ever met, and also one of the weirdest people they have ever met. I don't mind being weird, and I like the attention that comes with being smart, so I'm pretty happy with how my brain works.

Re:Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43504025)

I spend most of my time feeling like I don't "get it" with something new, but after a certain point, I suddenly get it all, in one big "poof."

One thing I remember from my educational theory classes is that it's like that basically for everyone. I think the differences are how comfortable people are with letting it happen, i.e. the frustration tolerance they have during the not-getting-it phase, and how much information someone can keep active, ready to be combined in the epiphany. IMO its a quantitative, not a qualitative difference, and most of the real world impact comes from extended interaction with a topic. That's why to some extent "giftedness" can be made up for by discipline: Discipline is a way of mustering frustration tolerance that you don't have naturally.

Re:Age (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about a year ago | (#43503205)

Keep in mind that if we're talking about Kindergartners that "a couple of months" is a significant amount of time, and at this age brain development is almost exactly a function of age. They're only 60-70 months old. It shouldn't be surprising that those that are 70 months old do better than those who are only 60. They've been alive 20% longer! Certainly, there are outliers, but they're going to score exceptionally either way (good or bad). Additionally, knowing the age of your subjects allows for basic test feedback to verify that nothing is wrong (older students should generally outscore younger ones). I'd agree that differences less than one month are unlikely to be significant, but since there's no significant cost to using the actual birthdate instead of just the birth month (there would have been prior to computerized data processing) then there's no reason at all to not use the complete birth date.

Here's another thing to keep in mind:
"Even before the error, the number of students qualifying for gifted seats — 9,020 — was far higher than the number of seats. The new number is more than 11,700. The competition is most acute for the citywide programs, where only several hundred seats are available."

So, yeah, 2,000 more students qualify, but the programs were apparently already full. Congratulations, Timmy! We made a mistake and you qualify for advanced schoolwork! Now go back to your regular classroom.

That said, I work in education IT. The fact that this mistake was made by Pearson doesn't shock or surprise me in the slightest. As soon as I saw their name I thought, "Oh, Pearson did it? No wonder it was wrong." Their software is shit and the fact that they're "industry leaders" should be a tremendous mark of shame upon the education assessment industry as a whole. Pearson is like your local cable company or wireless provider. They're the not a good choice, but they're often the best choice available.

Re:Age (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43503625)

I don't buy that. The problem is that you don't receive additional instruction for being a couple months older and this isn't supposed to be a test of how well you were prepared by your parents prior to going to school. What's more, at that age it's difficult to differentiate between being developmentally advanced for the age and having a more durable level of talent.

Bottom line the decisions should be put off a few years until the difference of a few days or a few months is a bit less meaningful. Choosing winners and losers in elementary school ultimately affects a student's academic performance for years to come. Seems to me that there should be a lot more concern paid to the scientific aspect of the evaluations seeing as it has life long consequences for those that are miscategorized.

Re:Age (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43503261)

A year is a huge amount of time for a child's development. In the UK we keep talking about splitting the school year into two groups six months apart because kids born in August are at a big disadvantage.

Re:Age (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43503805)

Just a few months can be significant; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_age_effect [wikipedia.org]
Basically, if you want to give you kid the best chance in live for sports, aim for a january birth.
Want to give it the best chance academically, aim for september.
Best to aim for an additional month in order to avoid the potentially disasterous effects of an early birth.

Re:Age (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year ago | (#43503913)

I disagree. Schooling has become so geared to the lowest common denominator that most of any issues due to age will be masked. I was an August child and typically came top in science and maths (except when I got too lazy due to the work being easy).

Re:Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503427)

Completely second your comment. When I was joining school, my mom had to go through several people, because I wasn't five yet and they required me to be five as of the time of starting classes. If they don't have a qualification exam based on age, to join school, why do they have one to filter people in school. Now that my baby will,be born in November, I'm afraid I'd have to go through the same issues as my mother.

Disband Pearson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503029)

I personally think that Person is just a thinly veiled racketeering scheme. They should be disbanded. Their corporate leadership show highly immoral behavior, bordering on sociopathy.

Irony (5, Insightful)

phoomp (1098855) | about a year ago | (#43503053)

Anyone else find some irony in the fact that the people deciding which kids qualify for advanced education programs couldn't get their math right?

Re:Irony (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43503191)

> Even before the error, theÂnumber of students qualifying
>Âfor gifted seats â" 9,020 â" was far higher than the number
> of seats.

It doesn't make a difference -- this is the real stupidity. It's long since been shown society would get much more bang for its buck devoting just a fraction of the money it spends making sure every last yokel can count to ten to accelerated education for people who actually invent stuff.

But those yokels, as adults, are amenable to claims that that is elitist, by other yokels seeking their support in power grabs.

I'd have been pissed. (4, Interesting)

nblender (741424) | about a year ago | (#43503073)

My son was having trouble in his neighborhood school. The teachers/principal told us there was something wrong, likely ADHD or Aspergers... Broke our heart to be told this in a 5 minute 'parent teacher interview'... Anyway, after a psych-ed assessment, it turned out he just needed a gifted program possibly with some mild ADHD... The neighborhood school told us "Great! We'll just give him harder work. That'll keep him busy." but they already weren't dealing with his bullies, just brushing it off, and as we learned more about the gifted affliction, we understood that 'more and harder work' is not what he needed. He needed to be taught how his brain worked, how his brain was wired to learn in order to be successful as an adult... This is something that neither I nor his mother had when we were kids...

Anyway, the school board has a gifted program but they want _only_ gifted children and since his psych-ed report used the evil "ADHD" term, they rejected him... We found another school here (a Charter school, not private, still publicly funded, but more like an R&D sort of school) that catered to kids with multiple issues, including giftedness... Unfortunately, there were only 2 spots in his grade and more than 50 applicants... Coupled with a move to a new campus, an extra 25 spots opened up so my son got in. He's now in his second year there and this program has made a huge difference in his life... His first day at his new school, he came home and said "Mom! I've met my people!" ... He has a ton of friends at school, and is beginning to understand how his brain is wired... His teachers are giving him very successful coping strategies, and have imparted terrific insights to us about how to help him be successful... This has changed the trajectory of his life...

I can't imagine where we'd be were it not for this school... If we had been denied entrance, I dread think what state he'd be in...

I feel for the parents of these 4700 children, many of whom will not get the help they need...

Re:I'd have been pissed. (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year ago | (#43503151)

I feel for the parents of these 4700 children, many of whom will not get the help they need...

Sorry, if a 15 days birth date error on your birth certificate would change you from "gifted" to "not gifted" then clearly it's a complete farce and there's no "help they need".

Re:I'd have been pissed. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43503181)

Precisely. Sounds like they need to go back and review their methodology. And probably put off the assessment until later on.

I remember going through something similar as a child. Most of my friends had birthdays in the spring and summer, which meant that on these screenings they required a lower score in order to qualify, even though they had the same amount of time in class as I did. Consequently I think 2 of the 5 got into the gifted program and I didn't. But, the kicker is that as an adult, I'm so far ahead of any of them intellectually that they're unlikely to ever catch up.

Assessment is tricky business, but when the scores are being used for anything other than screening for a more thorough evaluation, you invariably make many, many mistakes. And for the most part we don't really understand enough about the brain to really get what we should be looking for in the first place.

And let's not forget that in the K-3 range it's easy to miss a learning disorder that throws the whole score off.

Re:I'd have been pissed. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43503361)

Precisely. Sounds like they need to go back and review their methodology. And probably put off the assessment until later on.

The issue here is that no matter where you draw the line, and how you draw the line, there are thousands of determinations that would change if you moved the line even the tiniest bit in either direction.

They were calculating to the month, and not to the day. Now they're calculating to the day, and not to the hour - I bet that affects quite a few determinations. Then we draw the line at 97%, and not 98%, or 96%, or 97.1%.

The label "gifted" in many states really just means "individualized" - some part of the whole is treated as exceptional, and thus they get instruction tailored to their actual performance and not just their physical age. For what we spend on education I don't really understand why this couldn't be extended to everybody. When you're testing for IQ/etc all you're really trying to do is test somebody in a way that can measure performance across a very wide range. If you just performed that testing at regular intervals for everybody, combined with testing on mastery of the material being taught in class (what we traditionally test), then you could get a sense for whether the student should be placed higher or lower than they are, and their class assignments can be adjusted accordingly.

When I was in Elementary school I had fairly mediocre performance, and before I was identified as gifted I had a lot of attention/discipline issues in class. Even identified as gifted the reality was that little was done to actually accelerate classwork for gifted students - they just got some special instruction once a week but stayed in regular classes. It wasn't until middle school and especially high school when classes were tracked to varying performance levels (especially in high school where the more college-like schedule meant that you could mix/match across grade levels and subjects). Once I hit those grades my performance was exceptional in areas.

If a kid is really gifted at some subject then even in 2nd-3rd grade they should be allowed to advance accordingly. If they've mastered 4th grade math when they're in 2nd grade, then they should be taking 5th grade math, and then 2nd grade english or whatever. If they're behind in math then they should be taking 2nd grade math when they're in 5th grade. The way we deliver instruction needs to be more flexible. This isn't about leaving children behind - it is about not tossing them into classes where they won't learn anything anyway, so that in the time they are in school they learn as much as possible and don't simply graduate with a meaningless diploma.

Re:I'd have been pissed. (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | about a year ago | (#43503407)

I was in the same situation. My birthday being in september put me just past the cutoff time for almost all of the programs in my district so I ended up getting lumped into the groups the year following most of my fellow classmates. Thankfully that didn't seem to matter towards high school so it didn't interfere with AP courses etc...

I was retarded (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503175)

My sister and I were both pronounced retarded by our elementary school for doing badly on the coursework.

We got sent to a special school where educational "decks" (cards) of lessons were available to us. We ripped through them because we were finally challenged and could work at our own pace.

That's when they figured out it was public school that was retarded, that we were just bored and public school pace couldn't hold our interest.

Then from (1976) age 12 to 18, after school each day I ran down to Florida State University campus and stayed there till midnight on their PLATO computers.

With limited resources, schools just cannot hope to teach at the pace of the fastest students without actually segregating them into faster-paced environments. Which pisses off all the parents of average paced students.

Re:I'd have been pissed. (1)

Pionar (620916) | about a year ago | (#43503207)

Your son's story reminds me a lot of myself as a kid. Very similar, except we didn't have charter schools back when I was a kid.

Good luck to your son!

Re:I'd have been pissed. (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about a year ago | (#43503973)

nblender- I'm happy for you and your family.

Must be another excel error... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503111)

So much for software not destroying peoples lives.

Luke 22:31, I am your father. (-1, Troll)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#43503131)

Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.

Re:Luke 22:31, I am your father. (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43503239)

What?

More precision doesn't fix a broken model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503143)

So these rounding errors matter because the statistical models would otherwise be 100% predictive? That's ridiculous. How does numerical age correlate with "giftedness" anyway? How does being a day older than someone else make you any smarter? People should be compared against their classmates/graduation cohort, not based on date of birth.

How Gifted? (4, Interesting)

Flozzin (626330) | about a year ago | (#43503159)

I find it hard to believe that a few days in the year change a child from gifted to ungifted. If it does, then these kids are on the extremely low end of gifted, and after a year they will even out with the rest of the kids their age. There was an /. article a while ago discussing how the gifted kids, that you see go to college at the age of 14 generally even out when they hit their twenties. Super geniuses are extremely rare. What normally happens is these kids are smarter than their peers, but not any smarter than your average adult. So they fly through highschool and college and end up at the same place everyone else does, just sooner.

Re:How Gifted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503217)

I'd say it's a pretty acceptable error. These scores are at the bottom of the range, where the range itself is likely set based on the availability of seats in the gifted programs. So really, who cares?

It's similar to being outside the bubble of the NCAA Tournament ... until the #16 seeds win it all, nobody will care who gets left out.

Re:How Gifted? (2)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about a year ago | (#43503259)

It's not that the program itself creates gifted children. It's that it separate those kids from the under-performing ones and puts them in an environment where everyone is more invested in education. I'm convinced that the most critical component are the parents. If they care enough to push their students then the kids are more likely to perform well. A gift program that specifically requires an application process is the ideal arrangement because only parents who are invested are going to invest the effort. Everywhere else the under-performing kids, and especially troublemakers end up being a drag on everybody.

Re:How Gifted? (1)

tablebeast (827972) | about a year ago | (#43503477)

No one is calling these kids geniuses or super-geniuses, they are simply calling them gifted. And by gifted, they mean almost as smart as the average person was 100 years ago. So, by being labeled gifted, these kids may be lucky enough to get just a little bit less indoctrination of nationalistic claptrap and just a little bit more time learning how to memorize slightly deeper bullshit. Are they learning how to learn? Are they expanding their own personal ability to achieve? Not likely. If these parents think their kids are so freaking smart and don't want the schools lumping them with the booger-eating masses, then they should take them out of public school altogether.

In 'merica 90 is gifted and 97 is super gifted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503199)

The world average IQ is 100, you retards! Haha!

Re:In 'merica 90 is gifted and 97 is super gifted? (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year ago | (#43503543)

Your reading comprehension is low, possibly because you fall under that average. 90th percentile IQ is somewhere around an IQ of 120, and 97th percentile is somewhere between 128-130.

Clearly, gifted children. However, as someone else pointed out, IQ is malleable, and a cultural thing. Many very smart children lose their advantage by the time they are adults, and many average or above average children can end up in the genius IQ range as an adult once they realize they can be as intelligent as they want to be.

Re:In 'merica 90 is gifted and 97 is super gifted? (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#43503615)

Your reading comprehension is low, possibly because you fall under that average. 90th percentile IQ is somewhere around an IQ of 120, and 97th percentile is somewhere between 128-130.

Clearly, gifted children. However, as someone else pointed out, IQ is malleable, and a cultural thing. Many very smart children lose their advantage by the time they are adults, and many average or above average children can end up in the genius IQ range as an adult once they realize they can be as intelligent as they want to be.

Be nice. I don't know who this "Anonymous Coward" person is, but after fifteen years of their posting, its pretty clear they're developmentally challenged.

The ones who caught the error (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43503233)

One of the parents was a statistician. That's too funny for words.

Re:The ones who caught the error (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43503335)

The folks who made the error . . . didn't get into the gifted program . . . obviously . . .

Linear vs Go/No-go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503243)

Would rather see students get access to faster-paced courses based on their percentile, if they're going to use that metric. Students in the upper-most values would have access to more seats, maybe a full course-load at 99%, and taper off the number of available seats to 1 somewhere around 87%.

Then, anyone "left out" at 86% is only really missing out on 1 faster-paced course than he would have taken already. It would be difficult to argue that missing 1 faster-paced course is a game-changer for his academic growth. Spend an extra hour studying every week to cover that gap.

With an appropriate statistics ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503313)

we can make every student above average!

Re:With an appropriate statistics ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43504185)

This message brought to you by the Lake Woebegone Institute of Statistics.

Look for a profit motive (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year ago | (#43503337)

Look for a profit motive, right? Multiply the number of students by the profit they stood to make off of each student so classified. Someone close enough with enough knowledge of the processes and consequences of being misclassified to put these two things together has to do this.

Just the idea that you'd let a company like this supply AND measure students is a BIG mistake. If there's a chance to screw with the collection and/or processing of the data and one road takes you to greater profit and the other road takes you to lesser profit then you have a built in motivation to make "mistakes".

We're talking about a school text book company, a member in good standing of one of the most exploitative, manipulative RICO-ready industries in existence. One whose hands are filthy with the blood of the next bubble implosion - the trillion of so dollars of unserviceable student loan debt needed to cover, in measure, the massively inflated book prices that benefit not just the coke snorters at the top of this industry's corporate hierarchy but also the universities themselves.

The universities get a cut of cover price and believe me that total is a very, very BIG number. Thus the innumerable new 'versions" of textbooks which come out each year for the sole purpose of destroying the after-market for used text books. The company store was always a profitable idea but this one is astronomically profitable to all conspirators.

We weren't advanced ourselves.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503371)

Its seems to me that the person(s) whom did the scoring where not from that advanced schooling..

Not a big loss. (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#43503473)

Unless it is exceptionally different in NYC, it's not a huge loss. When I was in the TAG program on the west coast, I found that all it really meant was the material you studied was *slightly* less idiotic than the mainstream - but still fairly underwhelming. For example, in the English class we were reading Hemingway, while the mainstream reading class were reading Jurassic Park (yes, that highly regarded classical masterpiece of classical literature about a park of dinosaurs). In the long run - like most things in high school, including your actual "high school record", nobody beyond high school actually gives the slightest fuck about it. At no point in life has it ever been relevant to anything or asked about or. Well, until this Slashdot post. So . . yeah, I guess it's good for that. Hurrah.

Also, that they let me into the program sort of proves how irrelevant an stupid it is -- even when they aren't fudging statistics. :P

END government screwels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503475)

END government at all levels having ANY involvement in personal educatlon through the age of consent. There ya' go. PROBLEM SOLVED!

The term "personal education" is used deliberately.

Plenty of crapitlist money floating around out there which new Carnegie corporations trying to "buy their way into heaven" (MicroSerf) will spend "for the children".

Single, no children so my "dog in the fight" is MY MONEY, stolen by a corrupt bureaucracy for an even more corrupted and just plain government by thuggery (see proxy voting prior to 1995 in the US House of Representatives). My siblings children are SCREWED!

My own experiences were that I probably would have been diagnosed as attention deficit disorder at a minimum, and border Asburger if such crap had been used in the 1960s.

can't be wrong (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#43503523)

They tested X children. The 10% that performed best were awarded with the stamp "gifted". The 3% that performed best were awarded with the stamp "especially gifted". If they now give 4700 children more the stamp "gifted", they will have more than 10% of the children with a stamp stating they belong to the top 10%. That can't be right, so the current results aren't wrong. I'm sure every school wants all of their children to perform "better than average", but in reality, if they all perform better, the average goes up and you still end up with half of them performing worse than average. The same applies here. The top 10% is the top 10%, no matter how you rate.

Hence why I hate statistics (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43503555)

Statistics is the art of lying to yourself that you understand what should happen! The problem with statistics is that in general you just ignore mass amounts of data to try and prove a point, it would be like measuring a system and throwing out any strange readings. There is a much better system already in place that deals with the problem in statistics and that is to just measure or record the results of a finite population and only release results about that and only that population. You'll have the EXACT numbers and you wont be guessing or making assumptions!

Re:Hence why I hate statistics (1)

stymy (1223496) | about a year ago | (#43503753)

I guess you don't know what statistics even means, do you? A statistic is an estimator of a population parameter. If you have exact data you're not doing any estimation.

Re:Hence why I hate statistics (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43503827)

That is what I said, a statistic is a bad estimator of a population because it doesn't take into account outlying data point from a set. This is a huge issue, by not considering outlying data points your not taking into account all of the data. The only thing I learned about statistics from school is that your better off getting a true result by measuring everything in the populate set and creating a truly accurate value or ratio.

These students aren't gifted, it's their parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503605)

"the city has been unable to control the explosive growth in high test scores, which coincided with the growth in test preparation services"

Statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503607)

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain

standardized testing can passover people who are s (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43503685)

standardized testing can passover people who are smart but are not good at taking tests.

I'm not suprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43503747)

My uni uses Pearson software (MasteringPhysics in this case) and I once forgot my password. I used to restore password link, and lo and behold: they send me my password in plain-text. If they're incompetent enough to NOT hash passwords I do not think they have any right handling anything IT related.

They're one up on me (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#43503807)

When I as a kid I got kicked out of the Gifted programs for lack of funding. There were only 9 of us that bothered and that wasn't deemed enough to pay for our teacher.
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