« Genetics articles over @ Dienekes | Gene Expression Front Page | Snapshots of life »
September 19, 2003

Handicap the SATs

THE NY TIMES MAGAZINE "idealab" suggests norming multiple variables instead of just race. If you're going to do this sort of thing, adding other variables might be best so that kids don't get stigmatized on such an obvious criteria like their racial background. But the thing that gets me is that the author feigns surprise that "children of parents who have graduate degrees outscore children with parents who didn't finish high school by a staggering 272 points." The article states that the author is "the Paterno Family professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University," I wonder if it was just luck & hard work that got him through graduate school.

Posted by razib at 10:34 PM

Norming the SAT? Are they serious? The purpose of this test is to determine aptitude. Why don't we just use the scores "as is" without any regard to hair color, foot size, political orientation, or anything else (including skin color). That would be just. Anything else would be a joke.


Posted by: Ole Eichhorn at September 20, 2003 09:02 AM

I am not sure what was meant by "norming" in this article (I couldn't access the NYT article via my Internet connection). When you norm a test, you simply gather oodles of folks to take the test (preferibly a random and representitive sample) and then scale the raw scores accordingly (it is more complex that this, but this is the general idea).

If there are seperate norms, it is almost always done on an age/development basis, because it helps maxamize its predicitive capabilities. But the thought of norming via race is non-sensical, b/c then the test would have very limitied predicitve power (i.e., a Black score of 100 would not be the same as a Whilte score of 100). This idea is not new though, as it was around in the 70's 80's to have race-normed IQ tests (i.e., Williams' B.I.T.C.H. test). It didn't cut the mustard back then, though, and it is highly doubtful it will cut it anytime in future.

I agree 100% with godless: math, physics, medicine, ad inifinitum are not race-normed, and the consequences for lowering the bar can have horrible consequences.

Posted by: Alex B. at September 20, 2003 08:31 PM

Godless, actually if you enroll low-scoring people in the engineering program, you just get more first year dropouts. Getting an engineering degree still requires meeting objective standards. The problem is, they'd be taking class slots from people who actually have a chance, and so we wind up with even fewer engineers.
Ditto for doctors. On the other hand, if race-norming at law schools causes fewer graduating lawyers, I'm all for it - assuming we can't do the logical thing and cut back on the entering class slots...

Posted by: markm at September 22, 2003 07:39 PM

Getting an engineering degree still requires meeting objective standards.
But who is to say that norming wouldn't be extended into the awarding of degrees as well? I'm totally opposed to this idea: it's an extremely stupid notion. We shouldn't use different measures for everyone simply because certain groups come up short.

Posted by: Hanno Buddenbrook at September 24, 2003 03:46 PM