Back to School Edition
By Arnold Kling
Charles Murray says college admissions offices should stop using the SAT and instead use the SAT 2’s (what we used to call the achievement tests).
Getting rid of the SAT will destroy the coaching industry as we know it.
…A coaching industry that teaches content along with test-taking techniques will have the additional advantage of being much better pedagogically—at least the students who take the coaching courses will be spending some of their time learning history or chemistry.
The substitution of achievement tests for the SAT will put a spotlight on the quality of the local high school’s curriculum. If achievement test scores are getting all of the parents’ attention in the college admissions process, the courses that prepare for those achievement tests will get more of their attention as well, and the pressure for those courses to improve will increase.
Teen paid employment is at an all-time low; about 35% of teenagers are working at some point in the year, compared with close to half at the post-World War II peak in 1979. That’s because for kids these days, summer is no different from the rest of the year; it’s always time for education, or, more precisely, résumé-building.
In the junior-high and early high-school years, middle-class strivers spend summers at soccer, hockey, swim, diving or baseball camp to sharpen their athletic skills; they go to science, computer and arts camp to pump up their academic records. In their junior or senior year they jet off to exotic destinations to fill in the international travel/community service credential, building huts in Guatemala, supervising nursery-schoolers in South Africa or, as one company offers, reforesting fruit trees in Fiji. And then, finally, for many older teens, it’s an internship, a part-time, usually unpaid, job-lite at an office in a business or nonprofit organization.
Her description of teenage extracurricular experience these days seems right on target. Affluent teenagers are spending an incredible amount of time abroad, while they are becoming increasingly out of touch with rural and small-town America.
My first two summers in college I worked in a factory. I also took the first semester of my sophomore year off to work for a couple of months as an unpaid intern in the office of Senator Hubert Humphrey. I think that both experiences were valuable.
Hymowitz is the author of Marriage and Caste in America, in which she says that affluent parents act as if they were on a “mission” to raise affluent children. My guess is that, however uneasy Hymowitz or I might feel about the craze for internships and foreign travel, the families that are part of these trends are doing the right thing.
The evidence provided in this paper suggests that a higher proportion of female peers improves scholastic achievements among both boys and girls. The effects seem to be larger at higher proportions of girls in the classroom, in particular, beyond 55 percent. These effects do not appear to be generated entirely by spillover effects of girls’ achievements. Interestingly, a higher proportion of girls in a class increases the likelihood of enrollment in advanced classes in math and science among boys while the effects among girls are not precise enough to be identified.
An exploration of the mechanisms of the gender peer effects shows that a higher proportion of females in a class leads to a better classroom and learning environment. Students who have more female peers report a lower level of classroom violence and disruption, better relationships with other students and teachers, and a higher level of satisfaction with their school. The effects on improved classroom environment appear to come from a change in the classroom composition and not from changes in students’ individual behavior or in their study effort. The benefit from a higher proportion of girls in the classroom is also due to lower fatigue and burnout among teachers, which probably affects their productivity.