« Testing and Unmistakable Links to Social Status | Main | It All Depends On... »

IQ Testing in Historical Perspective

| 33 Comments

Dear Deborah,

When I first read Murray and Herrnstein’s "The Bell Curve," I was unpersuaded. They argued on behalf of the heritability of IQ and the linkage between race and education. Richard Herrnstein has since died, but Charles Murray continues to write about the immutability of inherited intelligence and the futility of any efforts to improve intelligence by education.

I was not persuaded then by their claims; I am still not persuaded. I do not understand how they could be so certain about how much of intelligence is genetic and how much is environmental. Is it 40 percent genetic and 60 percent environmental? Or the other way around? Or, is it 30-70 or 70-30? Or is it some other set of numbers? 20-80? 80-20? How could they be so sure that their numbers are just right? Are the ratios the same for everyone? Or not? It is not as if anyone could dissect brains in autopsies and find the answer.

One reason I was skeptical was my own family experience. I am one of eight children. We all had exactly the same parents and the same grandparents. Yet our school smarts and coping skills varied widely, probably as much as the variation among randomly selected people. Based on what I knew from my own life, I was not willing to concede that heredity and genetics predetermined one’s intelligence and life chances. If Murray and Herrnstein’s arguments were wrong in my family, I was willing to bet they were wrong in lots of other families as well.

When I wrote "Left Back," I devoted a chapter to the huge influence of IQ testing on American schools. I called the chapter “IQ Testing: ‘This Brutal Pessimism.’” (See pp. 132-133). The subtitle of the chapter was a direct quote from Alfred Binet, one of the earliest designers of mental tests. In Binet’s own words, he disagreed with those who “assert that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism.”

Binet was wiser than many of those who followed in his footsteps. He was skeptical of precise numerical descriptions of intelligence. After he and a colleague devised the first functional intelligence test, they concluded that the fundamental characteristic of intelligence is judgment, “otherwise known as good sense, practical sense, initiative, or the faculty of adapting oneself.” Who today would claim that IQ tests are the best measures of these qualities?

Contra Murray, Binet believed that children’s intelligence could be improved. By “practice, enthusiasm, and especially with method one can succeed in increasing one’s attention, memory, judgment, and in becoming literally more intelligent than one was before.” Binet developed exercises that he called “mental orthopedics” to demonstrate that the intellectual level of any child could be increased. Charles Murray would do well to read Binet.

During World War I, some of America’s most prominent psychologists designed intelligence tests to enable the Army to select officers from the millions of men who were inducted for military service. Later analyses of the test scores showed very large differences among racial and ethnic groups. The highest scores went to recruits who were native-born and of northern European background, while the lowest scores went to those who were foreign-born, of southern and eastern European background, and black.

Carl C. Brigham, a Princeton psychologist who helped to develop the Army tests, wrote a book called "A Study of American Intelligence," in which he said that the test scores showed the danger of continued immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Brigham identified what he called three distinct European races: the Nordics, the Alpines, and the Mediterraneans. Of the three, the Nordics (northern Europeans) were supposedly the superior “race,” and this group got the highest IQ scores on the Army tests. (Brigham, incidentally, designed the original Scholastic Aptitude Tests in the late 1920s, which eventually displaced the College Boards in 1941.)

One of my intellectual heroes, William Chandler Bagley of Teachers College, punched holes in the theories of the IQ testers. He was literally the only prominent psychologist who took on the leaders of his field. Bagley wrote critical articles and a book ("Determinism in Education") in which he said that the IQ tests were a threat to democracy because they were being used to close the doors of educational opportunity to large numbers of people. Bagley showed that the groups that had the highest scores on the Army tests were those who had had the greatest educational opportunities. In a coup de grace, he pointed out that the IQ scores of literate northern blacks were higher than those of literate whites in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Since southern whites were the purest “Nordic stock” in the country, Bagley said that Brigham would have to acknowledge that the test scores were the result of education, not racial inheritance.

All the best minds of the 1920s were in favor of IQ testing, and Bagley soon became a figure of derision among the leading progressives because of his stubborn belief in the power of education to improve intelligence.

I encourage readers who want to learn more about Bagley to read a terrific biography of him: Wesley Null’s "A Disciplined Progressive Educator." Wes, who is a historian of education at Baylor University, also wrote a brilliant biography of Isaac Kandel, another great and (now) little-known giant of American education, titled "Peerless Educator: The Life and Work of Isaac Leon Kandel." This biography was just reviewed by E.D. Hirsch Jr., in Education Next, and it is well worth reading. A couple of years ago, Wes and I co-edited a collection of essays called "Forgotten Heroes of American Education." Deb, I think you would enjoy it.

As for Richard Rothstein's contention that we could do more to raise test scores by providing good medical care than by test-prepping: I think that is the wrong issue and the wrong choice. We should have good medical care for all. We should have good education for all. Test-prepping is not good education.

Diane

33 Comments

Diane:

Thank you for the historical review. I believe it is always enlightening to learn from the purposes of those who have gone before--particularly as they are so often easier to examine than our own!

It seems to me that the recurring conflict is rooted not in who can be educated, but in who should have the best access to the limited commodity--education (granting that the amount of the commodity is somewhat fluid and within our power to limit or expand). Time after time the schemes to objectify the distribution favor those who have the most power/control over the decision-making process.

The revolution of No Child Left Behind (which I still contend was an accidental oversight on the part of the current president) is that it sets a floor of access intended to be available to all. Now, certainly, there are lots of arguments on who gets to set the floor, how it should be measured and whether all really means all. In addition, any amount above the floor is still open to the usual means of distribution (determined by geography, income or wealth, IQ, etc).

There is an additional revolutionary feature in that access is intended to be measured by outcomes rather than inputs. After all, who cares if all kids have the same number of books if only some are able to read them?

What I see in all the current protestations (generally couched in terms of concern for the poor children who are being stressed beyond their abilities to demonstrate learning of which they are incapable--whether due to IQ, poor parenting, poor neighborhoods or lack of health care), is a profound sense of support for a status quo in which certain elements have a greater guarantee than others. That the protestations frequently come from teachers--a group that by definition already has access to education and its fruits (employment) should raise the question of whose ox is really being gored.

I am not foolish enough to think that we could overcome some hurdles by requiring teachers to live in the same communities and to send their children to the same schools in which they teach. But if that should happen--in other words, if teachers and their families were grouped amongst the same youngsters who are considered to be less educable, might there be important changes in the perceptions of who can learn and what it takes?

Perhaps a study of rural schools might serve as a proxy.

Yet another post that reminds me why this blog is one of the ones I most look forward to seeing pop up in my reader. I started reading it because of my immense respect for Deborah Meier. My respect for Diane Ravitch grows through every post.

The background on IQ tests does not surprise me. However, it makes me wonder if we aren't making the same mistakes with so many of the standardized tests we are administering now under NCLB. I have no doubt that we have come a long way in making such tests more accurate and appropriate. That doesn't mean we've achieved perfection however. Are we doing a disservice to our students from other countries, our students living in poverty, or our minority students through these tests. Or will we look back in 50-100 years and wonder how we could have thought this was reasonable?

Jenny:

I wonder if you could elaborate on your thesis that NCLB tests are being used in ways similar to IQ tests. It would seem as though there are some very important differences. The misuse of the IQ testing was to limit options (educational, advancement, etc) to individuals. As Bagley pointed out, those with the highest educational opportunities were those who scored highest (and received even more opportunities). It would seem as though one aim of NCLB testing is to determine how effectively Title I funds are put to use (or to ensure their effective use) to "level the playing field."

Murray and others argue that either the level of the playing field is inconsequential (because the players are inherently unequal), or that the playing field cannot be levelled.

Murray doesn't "believe" that intelligence can't be improved. He points out that the most likely reality, given all the research, is that intelligence can't be improved.

Binet could "believe" all he wants. But wishing and hoping doesn't address reality, and thus far, many studies point to the difficulty of improving intelligence, and the likelihood that much of our intelligence is set at birth. Again, that's just where the research is, not a statement of "belief" or of "fact".

The problem with those who dismiss this viewpoint is that they assume it means that everything is predetermined, and that intelligence and success are directly correlated. Murray certainly never says this; I don't think anyone other than MENSA obsessives argue it. So it's a strawman to say that your family's results demonstrate that everything isn't fixed at birth. I'm amazed you'd even bring that up as a refutation.

Understanding that intelligence thus far seems to be relatively unchangeable does NOT, repeat NOT mean that we shouldn't educate people of lower intelligence, nor that we should restrict them to certain issues. It does mean, I suspect, we should expect speed of learning to vary based on intelligence, which is why tracking works well.

"Test-prepping is not good education."

If it gets results that help students do well in life, then yes, it is. I work with low income kids and have seen them get results that will ensure they won't be stuck for an extra year or more in remediation, paying far more for a college education. In light of the financial savings that low income kids get from good test scores, it's really wrong to dismiss something that has such tangible results.

Diane,

Considering the minimal skills that are present in our childrens' tests then test-prepping alone would hardly be considered a good education.

But if our tests were tightly aligned with both a quality education and classroom instruction, would you not consider that prepping for that type of test would facilitate a quality education?

Erin Johnson

Murray's article is wonderfully written and makes eminent sense.

Next year, no doubt, "educational romaticism" will be pushed in a new direction by a Democrat administration, with poor outcomes for the underachieving, dismal classrooms for the gifted, and more power for unions.

One reason I was skeptical was my own family experience. I am one of eight children. We all had exactly the same parents and the same grandparents. Yet our school smarts and coping skills varied widely, probably as much as the variation among randomly selected people. Based on what I knew from my own life, I was not willing to concede that heredity and genetics predetermined one’s intelligence and life chances. If Murray and Herrnstein’s arguments were wrong in my family, I was willing to bet they were wrong in lots of other families as well.

You do understand that when we talk about genetically inheritable traits, we are talking about probabilities, not certainties.

Let's assume IQ is normally distributed with a standard deviation of 15. We can generate predicted offspring IQs for parents with various IQs.

If the Dulls (with an average IQ of 85) have 8 offspring, their IQs based on the normal probability function might turn out to be 59, 79, 79, 82, 90, 95, 103, and 105 (average IQ = 86).

If the Averages (with an average IQ of 100) have 8 offspring, their IQs might turn out to be 74, 94, 94, 97, 105, 110, 118, 120 (average IQ = 101).

If the Smarts (with an average IQ of 115) have 8 offspring, their IQs might turn out to be 89, 109, 109, 112, 120, 125, 133, 135 (average IQ = 116).

(I ran these probabilities with EasyFit XL.)

In these three specific cases, the range of offspring IQs is 46 (about three standard deviations). However, four of the Smart offspring have IQs above 115, two of the Average offspring have IQs above 115, and none of the Dull offspring has an IQ above 115.

Conversely, four of the Dull offspring have IQs below 85, one of the Average offspring has an IQ below 85, and none of the Dull offspring has an IQ below 85.

The Smart offspring have "school smarts and coping skills [which] var[y] widely, probably as much as the variation among randomly selected people[, such as the ofspring of the Dulls and Averages]." Nonetheless, the Smart offspring are much more likely to achieve academically and much less likely to struggle academically based on their IQs.

These offspring IQs should be viewed as potentials with actual IQs being affected by the environment. If the Smart ofspring were subjected to severe malnutrition and lead poisoning, their actual IQs would likely be depressed.

This is closer to Murray's actual argument re the genetic aspect of IQ.

In a coup de grace, he pointed out that the IQ scores of literate northern blacks were higher than those of literate whites in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Since southern whites were the purest “Nordic stock” in the country, Bagley said that Brigham would have to acknowledge that the test scores were the result of education, not racial inheritance.

The emperical evidence appears to show that persons with similar IQS tend to behave similarly regardless of race or ethnicity. (Smart soldiers are less likely to get themselves killed either accidentally or in combat which is why Army still uses IQ tests to weed out the dumb soldiers.)

Bagley's "coup de grace" is actually less impressive than you think. He merely restricted the range of the subjects he studied. He culled "literate" nothern blacks and "literate" southern whites from the rest of the herd and observed similar average IQs (actually slightly higher for the black group), but this close to what we'd expect to see based on our current undertanding of IQ effects. Literate blacks are no different than literate whites with similar IQs.

We'd also expect to see (if the experiment was conducted properly), if Murray's argument is sound, that the the number of "literate" northern blacks would be a smaller percentage of all blacks than the number of "literate" whites as a pecentage of all whites based on the one standard deviation differntial between the two groups. For example, if the IQ cut-off for "literate" was 115 (IQ and achievement correlate highly), then we'd expect to see about 17% of whites exceed this cut-off, yet only 2.5% of blacks exceed this cut-off. And, thus an achievement gap is born.

I'll conclude by stating that Murray is certainly wrong in his views on education and the benefits of an effective education on lower IQ students. But the emperical evidence is more in accord with his views on IQ than the opposing viewpoint.

KDeRosa,

1. If IQ was an immutable trait, then perhaps Murray's anaylsis would be valid.

But with variations of up to 50 IQ points and more than 15% of the population experiencing more than one standard deviation of change, Murray's analysis and all conclusions are completely incorrect.

Honzik, M. P.; Macfarlane, J. W.; Allen, L. 1948

2. It is statistically invalid to compare sub-populations based upon variances. A proper statistical analysis would require a t-test or an ANOVA and the data would have to be independently sourced.

Very little of Murray's views on IQ are supported by evidence. If you have supporting references, please list.

Erin Johnson

Margo/mom

You ask, "I wonder if you could elaborate on your thesis that NCLB tests are being used in ways similar to IQ tests."

I wonder how anyone could deny the obvious huge similarites. I take progressive supporters of NCLB at their word. But clearly you guys are involved in an "end justifies the means" approach. You want to take the same tools that justified oppression but use them to undo its legacy. Politics makes strange bedfellows and you - for reasons that you have explained - has chosen some doozies.

I flinched when blog headlines linked Murray and Rothstein, and I certainly don't want to do something disgusting like that with you so let me tread lightly while asking you. Don't you think that in terms of karma, you and IQ testing are in the same tradition? And if I pull your leg on this a little, think how we feel when you condemn teachers, and our unions.

Speaking of traditions, we've had our issues in the labor movement, but on the whole I am extremely proud of our contributions to justice and equality. (even if I'm not thrilled with being a bedfellow with Hillary)

1. The fact that IQ has been found by some research to be somewhat malleable by environemental factors during childhood (at least as measured by some lower g-loaded achievement tests) does not detract from Murray's argument. Height, is also somewhat malleable during adolescence by environmental factors, such as by malnutrition, yet this does not mean that height isn't at least partially inheritable.

2. Not sure what you are referring to here. Which analysis?

Soem relevant research: the Minnesota Twin Family Study and Brouchard's Reanalysis, the Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project and Willerman's various analyses, and the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study which suggest that any IQ gains are washed out by the end of adolescence.

And, what is your evidence that IQ is not at least a partially inheritable trait?

KDeRosa,

Of course the research demonstrating that IQ is not a fixed, pre-determined quality completely refutes Murray's argument.

His argument rests on a premise that IQ is a completely inheritable trait (not partial)that does not change throughout life or experiences and that IQ completely determines learning ability.

While there may be evidence that IQ may affect learning rate, there is no evidence whatsoever that IQ limits total amount learned. (With perhaps the exception of people born with specific mental disabilites, e.g. Down's, cerebal palsy etc...)

Your thought experiment following on Bagley's parsing of "literate blacks" and "literate whites" is statistically invalid. Comparing sub-groups based upon variance of the whole group is not supported by the assumptions inherent in a bell curve statistical analysis.

For discussions of education, it matters not whether IQ is a "partially inheritable trait" but whether those inherent differences that we all have will ultimately limit what children can learn.

Certainly the evidence from the effect of schooling in the US is rather grim in that US schools do very little to narrow the acheivement gap.

Internationally, however, the acheivement gap is substantially lower than seen in the US.

Would you argue that these other school systems greatly narrow the acheivement gap because they have a more narrow IQ range in their population? If so, please cite evidence to that effect.

Or is it possible that their schools systems are designed to ensure that all their children learn well.

Erin Johnson

You've erected a series of strawman.

In the Bell Curve, Murray argued that intelligence is largely (40% to 80%) genetically heritable, noy entirely heritable. No one seriously argues that intelligence is entirely genentically heritable since malnitrition and lead poisoning are two well known environmental factors that affect intelligence.

Murray also argued that that no one has so far been able to manipulate IQ long term to any significant degree through changes in environmental factors - except for child adoption - and in light of their failure such approaches are becoming less promising. The operative terms being "long term" and "to any significant degree."

There is evidence that intelligence affects both learning rate and the amount of practice needed for retention. Thus, lower IQ students need to engage in more effortful study to learn requiring more work and more motivation than their smarter peers. SO while I tend to agree with you that IQ is not, in theory, a limiting factor to what a student is capable of learning (at least at the K-12 level), the reality is that low IQ is going to cause more of these students to self-select their way out of the effortful study needed to become educated. In this respect I disagree with Murray's prognosis of educating those on the left sideof the curve.

With respect to my analysis, it was not meant to be a statistically accurate analysis but a thought experiment. My larger point still stands, much statistical mischief can be caused when you start playing around with restricted ranges, as Bagley has done.

International comparisons are fraught with statistical infirmities. That the achievement gap among a homogeneous group, such as the Finns, is smaller than the achievement gap among a highly diverse population, such as in the U.S., doesn't tell us much of anything unfortunately. Of course, based on PISA 2006 data, Finns have an average IQ of about 105 making them a tad easier to educate and achieve eductional equality than the low IQ minority groups in the U.S., especially considering the massive failure rate in educating those at the bottom of the curve.

KDeRosa,

Your assessment of the international scene is quite mistaken. There are several countries with larger immigrant populations than the US and yet their schools are able to minimize the acheivement gap. Likewise for socio-economic gaps.

See for example Australia and Candada in the 2006 PISA

www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/30/17/39703267.pdf pg191

By going with your "IQ theory," the reason that our children are struggling on international exams is that we are just stuck with a big group of low level, stupid children.

But if that were true, why is it that our top students are greatly underperforming relative to the top countries in the world?

In the 2006 PISA we had 9% of our students performing at the highest leveles (5&6) compared to New Zealand's 18%.

Are you trying to suggest that New Zealand has twice as many inherently "smart" people as the US?

If IQ were the dominating force in education, then the school system would not matter. Any school would do. But the international evidence is clear, schools do matter. And they matter a lot. The better school systems enjoy a 1-year advantage in learning by 8th grade when compared to the US.

see Fuchs and Woessmann, 2003
www.socialpolitik.de/tagungshps/2004/Papers/Fuchs.pdf

It is not a low IQ distribution that is hindering our children's learning but a very poor school system designed to monitor "seat time" and not develop/encourage quality student learning.

Erin Johnson

No matter what one's theory about IQ, one cannot get away from the basic question: Are our schools enabling young people to make the most of their intelligence and abilities? To that we must surely answer no. Not only do schools lack excellent curriculum and instruction, but they fail to foster a culture of listening. The outside culture fails in this way as well.

For listening to happen, there must be silence. I love what William Torrey Harris has to say on the matter. It seems so distant from the way our schools work today (but nostalgia is not the point). He writes, for example (in "The Relation of School Discipline to Moral Education," p. 359 in Forgotten Heroes of American Education):

"If it is true, as scientific men tell us, that man has descended from the anthropoid apes, we can see more clearly the significance of this moral training which suppresses the tendency to prate and chatter. The mere instinct for expression of the half-cultured child is to utter what comes first to his mind. He pours out his impressions before he has allowed them to ripen by reflection. If he can repress the utterance of one thought until he can add another and another and another to it he can deepen his power of thought, whereas if he utters the thought carelessly as it arises in his mind it passes away from him and he does not make a synthetic thought by adding to the immediate impression all other thoughts that relate to it. This is the deep significance of the school virtue of silence."

Schools teach anything but silence. There is in fact a fad of groupwork chatter. The kids are "engaged," many believe, if they are in groups talking away, using "accountable talk" or whatever the going term might be. If the whole room is abuzz, then learning is going on, according to such a model. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is impossible to think well without silence. The noisy atmosphere forces superficial ideas and mediocre work.

One sees this among teachers as well, for just about every PD (and many an ed course) involves groupwork with some intellectually limited task, such as filling out a graphic organizer. The emphasis is on talking quickly, coming to quick conclusions, and producing something tangible regardless of its quality.

I have to work on listening and silence every day. Although I listen pretty well, relatively speaking, I have much room for improvement. I have to watch out for urges to speak prematurely or jump to conclusions without having taken in an idea or work in its entirety. I am vigilant and aware of my weaknesses in this area. But we are creating a school culture that is not vigilant--that prizes chatter and punishes those who listen.

Some schools try to address this problem by teaching specific behaviors associated with listening (such as looking at the speaker and nodding). But we need to go deeper. We need to make room for silence.

Some may believe that those with low IQ tend to exhibit higher rates of antisocial behavior. This may or may not be true. There are complications and contradictions--we can all think of highly intelligent people who have difficulty coping with life, or even brilliant criminals. But certain behaviors in school, including constant noise, brings everyone's capacity down. The ones who can't stop talking in class often tend to use the most cursing, and they change the atmosphere for all. Even the one who has been listening with full mind must take in the rudeness of others. Such a student lives with a degree of helplessness and distress.

Schools need to create a culture of silence and listening. Without a schoolwide effort, there will be too much variation from class to class, and students will not develop the habits. Of course discussion is an essential part of learning--but without silence and listening, it cannot be fruitful, and students will walk away with less than they had before.

I stated at the outest that I disagreed with Murray's arguments with respect to education. I believe that our education system can be greatly improved and that low IQ/low SES students are capable of learning much more than they currently do.

Your reliance on PISA data, however, is unfounded. Neither Canada nor Australia have the same kind or amount of historically low peformingh minority groups that the US does. PISA basically ignores race and focues on SES as if every group were identical. It's a confound that should be controlled for.

http://www.aei.org/events/eventID.1425/event_detail.asp
Above is a link to an AEI event, a debate about the black/white achievment gap.
At the very end of this event, Rick Hess asked Charles Murray, "What is the answer to the problem?" Murray replied, "We need to start treating people as individuals and quit lumping them in groups." Or something to that effect. I agree with Charles Murray in that point. That is why I believe every child deserves an individualized education plan.
Also, with all due respect, comparing your results with four sets of grandparents with Murray's results does not stand in for statistics, and is dangerously close to the "values trump data" problem in education research.

Diane Senechal,

Thank you for a wonderful comment.

I have been enjoying the rich conversation between Erin and KDeRosa. I do see some persistent weaknesses on KDeRosas side however. One is reliance on the tautalogical confounding of achievement and IQ. In several places you suggest that there is an achievement score that equates to a particular IQ (setting an IQ score that equates to "literate" for comparing "literate blacks" to "literate whites" and again in suggesting that PISA scores indicate an average IQ for Finns of 105). If high achievement is used as the measure of who CAN ACHIEVE highly, then we can expect about a 100% correlation, because we are simply measuring the same variable.

And it is true that IQ measures have generally measured actual achievement against some scale of normed or predicted achievement based on a population--making them very vulnerable to cultural/population-based biases. I recall back in the 60s a multiple choice test that someone had cobbled together to make the point. I recall that it asked questions about when the eagle flies and the color of a chocolate cake--as examples of knowledge that were deeply entwined in culture--to demonstrate that a test could be constructed to give the advantage to a particular culture, and be normed and come out with a number at the end.

Feuerstein encountered this problem of how to separate the ability to learn from actual learning in evaluating emigres to Israel post WWII. He was dealing with a population whose cultural base had been profoundly disturbed at some very vulnerable points and "schooling" disrupted at the very best. He developed a task-based screen designed to measure the ability to learn--as opposed to what had already been learned, in order to more accurately describe incoming students. This reminds me of some of Vygotsky's work, which dismisses the tendancy (in trying to understand the process of cognitive development) to measure point in time achievement, and broadened his scope to include the current work of learning (zone of proximal development) in which the student was engaged as being predictive.

I believe that some of Feuerstein's work is being employed at present to expand what is known about the learning process among those who are "cognitively disabled," and is expanding to an extent beyond some of the presumed limitations with regard to "ability to learn."

But John asked me some questions that, were I not so old, might cut me to the quick. John, I have to confess that I recently ran into an old friend. I don't think that it is because we have both reached "a certain age" that we have a hard time finding comfortable beds to crawl into. He is a long-time union organizer, who confessed to me his support for Zionism and the war in Iraq. I confessed to him my growing conflicts with teachers unions in regard to education. BTW--I strongly agree with the your statement about the work of labor unions on justice, equity, all kinds of good things. I just don't know that I am seeing those kinds of concerns within the NEA at this time.

Frankly, as a social worker, community worker and non-profit administrator, I have seen funding streams and requirements shift considerably over time. I used to be able to use the power of story to support agencies doing good work. That time is long gone. I saw a period in which numbers of participants and contact hours were considered to be evidence of success (and garnered funding). This was a rather dark time in which organizations with a strong sense of mission and long-term goals were encouraged to just count heads--and a crowd or a revolving door was more "fundable" than in-depth work with families. So it goes. I saw that go by the wayside in favor of outcomes-based reporting. Initial, and some current, efforts were pretty hokey--slapping a pre- and post-test onto every encounter, or set of encounters. But it also scaled back some pretty pie-in-the-sky claims of programs that were not particularly effective. Despite enormous popularity (T-shirts, time off for teachers), the DARE program was not shown to be more effective than no program at all in preventing drug abuse--which was the goal and the reason it was funded.

Now, when the first accountability in education attempts came into my state, I sang in the choir that decried the effect on the kids in my neighborhood. The test was not based on standards that were in place ahead of time--and the only consequence of failure was on the student. And many who might previously have received a diploma could not demonstrate that they had acquired 8th grade skills. It was only a side effect that the district might have begun to realize that their curriculum was lacking--that kids were unlikely to learn what they were never taught.

When schools were included in the accountability system, I started to look at things differently. I have a kid who(se scores) could be excluded from the accountability system--and I fought it--because I saw the difference between the attention on learning in the other classes--the ones that did count.

Actually, I see more of the IQ argument in those who believe that the tests are unfair because "our kids can't be expected to learn with all the problems at home and in their neighborhood." My "n of one," for what that is worth, actually consists of an adoptive family--which KDeRosa suggests is the intensity of intervention that is required to expand ability/achievement (since he confounds them). But throw in the additional factors of living in an urban system, and I guess we lose out. I can assure you that my children do not go home to a lead-filled house and crack-head mom (not to say that John suggests this). But when the expectations of the school system are that these conditions pre-dominate and set hard and fast limits on learning (or IQ) ability--it is pretty hard for an individual family to have much impact. Throw in any lingering suspicion that race plays a role and some kids are really doomed (and statistics tend to bear this out).

We can argue until the cows come home about whether three native languages taught in Finnish schools constitute diversity, or whether their success is based on their Nordicness. But to have these discussions in a absence of also examining such things as the selectivity of their teacher education programs, the integration of social services and the method and rigor of their instruction is to really ignore the elephant in the living room.

Re achievement vs IQ See The aptitude-achievement test distinction: A study of unrelated children reared together, by Willerman et al. in Behavior Genetics Vol. 7, No. 6, November 1977 (Unrelated children reared together (N=156) in 71 different families included in the Texas Adoption Project were compared for similarities on intelligence and achievement tests. The purpose was to see if a distinction between the two types of tests based on their heritabilities could be sustained. Results indicated no substantial differences in correlations for the two types of tests, and hence little or no support for the notion of an aptitude-achievement distinction based on differential heritabilities.)

Today's IQ and achievement tests are vetted to preclude such biases.

For a good critique of Feuerstein work on the mutability of IQ see "Feuerstein's Dynamic Assessment Approach: A semantic, logical and empirical critique." by Frisby and Braden published in The Journal Of Special Education, Vol. 26, No. 3, 1992, pp. 281-301.

KDeRosa,

If you don't like the PISA, results you might look at the 2003 TIMSS, the results are still very consistent.

Regarding your comment about "historically low performing minority groups," are you trying to suggest that if we took out those groups then out then our schools would look great?

Are you trying to suggest that education can only flourish in "homogeneous" populations?

We have many schools in our country that would resemble Finland in their homogeneity. Given you "homegeneity theory" should those schools not be performing as well as seen in the top countries around the world?

So say we went with your thought experiment that we get rid of the lowest performing students in our country. How do our top students perform, relative to the top performing countries in the world?

Some data for you to consider:

TIMSS 2003 Grade 8 Math

Percent of Students reaching a "high international benchmark"

US: 29%
Netherlands: 44%
Singapore: 77%

Lest you insist that the Netherlands and Singapore are "homogeneous populations", consider that one of Holland's largest cities, Rotterdam is just about 50% minority.

Ethnic tension in the Netherlands between immigrants and historic Dutch is quite high to the extent that you would find great similarity between Dutch-Morrocan youths and inter-city American minorities.

Singapore is a highly diverse country with 4 major ethnic groups, with an extensive history of ethnic tension. School is taught in English, a 2nd language to 75% of the population, and yet their math scores are stunnigly high when compared to the US. Why?

Is it because they just have a "high IQ" population? Or is it because their school system is set up to monitor learning (not seat time) and their math instruction is so much better, that their children learn more/easier?

The evidence suggests that it is the latter as their math curricula is better designed, more child friendly and more closely aligns to quality math instruction.

See for example the AIR report on Singpore math:

www.air.org/news/documents/Singapore%20Report%20(Bookmark%20Version).pdf

Blindly following any one other countries school system will not serve us well, but neither will ignoring the lessons that can can learn from the successful school systems.

By far, the most enduring lesson is that schools matter. And what matters most is a school system that is set up to encourage/monitor student learning, not in monitoring "seat time."

Erin Johnson

I am another example with the same familial experience of Diane. A poor kid from a single parent household whose parents only finished high school, whose grandparents mostly completed only the eighth grade, I tested in the upper reaches of the IQ exams and did very well on the SAT and ACT. While my sister earned better grades than I, I always tested better.

Funny though, after about 10 years of being in the workforce, my GRE language scores were only in the 90th percentile while my math scores were in the 50's; due to an erasure error I always said, but don't they all say that.

Still, after some dusting off of the cobwebs, graduate level statistics and measurement courses, as well as economics and other quantitative and qualitative courses were quite easily passed. And yet, should I now try to take the SAT or ACT, I fear I would not score very well.

Does IQ relate to achievement, as measured by tests? Perhaps, but only if one has been prepared academically to take the tests. Is high achievement related to IQ? Not sure, since many of those in my class who scored higher on SAT or ACT had lower IQ than I.

More importantly, ala Murray, do certain groups have higher IQ ranges than other groups? It does seem that way based on the evidence of the measures, BUT it appears as though those measures are socially, culturally, or ethnically biased. And we do know that maternal diet and well being contribute greatly to the health and diet of the infant, all of which impact the IQ of the subsequent adult.


In the end, what they appear to measure is the impact of poverty and the poor access to high quality schools by minority students that seems to permeate our society. Isn't it funny that those who resemble those who design and interpret the tests, or the social systems that lead to our school systems, always tend to do better, as a group, than those who do not?

Perhaps, instead of argueing IQ/Achievement correlations, we should wonder instead why a society such as ours develops such health disparities and why we do not demand that our leaders correct the problem.

Erin, you keep addressing me but you are arguing points I haven't made. Also, I have already stated "I believe that our education system can be greatly improved and that low IQ/low SES students are capable of learning much more than they currently do."

However, it is clear that the U.S.'s achievement on these international tests are being affected by the scores of some historically lower performing groups: US Whites (523), US blacks (409), US Hispanics (439).(From Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Science and Mathematics Literacy in an International Context.) the performance of US Whites does compare more favorably with the scores of European countries which are mostly white. (Morrocans make up less than 2% of the Netherlands BTW.)

And, Finnish homegeneity is not replicated muchin the U.S. for the simple reason that we don't have many students of Finnish or Swedish (the 2nd largest group in Finland) descent, except perhaps in Minnesota which does boast some of the highest scores in the U.S.

Getting rid of low performing students isn't going to improve the performance of our top students either.

Singapore is comprised of mostly ethnic Chinese (75%) that's one reason why Singapore peforms about as well as China in math tests. The other ethnic groups in Singapore don't perform as well. Singapore also has a better education system than we do, there's no denying that. So Singapore's high math scores are partially due to the visio-spatial IQ advantage of the ethnic chinese and partially due to the better education system.

It does seem that way based on the evidence of the measures, BUT it appears as though those measures are socially, culturally, or ethnically biased.

There is no evidence of this bias on present tests since this is such a radioactive topic.

And we do know that maternal diet and well being contribute greatly to the health and diet of the infant, all of which impact the IQ of the subsequent adult.

This is limited to mostly cases of severe malnutrition which is virtually non-existent in the U.S. Most U.S. citizens are super-nutriated with the "poor" more prone to obesity than the general population.

In the end, what they appear to measure is the impact of poverty and the poor access to high quality schools by minority students that seems to permeate our society.

You, like Deb in the previous post, are confusing correlation with causation. Moreover, you'd be hard pressed to find a big city school district, where most poor minority groups are located, that has funding below the mean school district in that state. With the exception of some highly affluent suburban school districts, big city school districts are some of the best funded (though most poorly managed) schools out there. The D.C. schools for example have over $24,000 of per pupil funding. Lastly, there is an achievement gap even in the affluent suburban schools which should be the last nail in the coffin of this argument.

Kderosa:
"You, like Deb in the previous post, are confusing correlation with causation. Moreover, you'd be hard pressed to find a big city school district, where most poor minority groups are located, that has funding below the mean school district in that state. With the exception of some highly affluent suburban school districts, big city school districts are some of the best funded (though most poorly managed) schools out there. The D.C. schools for example have over $24,000 of per pupil funding"

Question: What has spending lots of money in the schools per student have to do with cleaning up the health of the students who live in our throw away communities? And how many generations will it take to negate the ill effects of living in them?

From your responses, I am afraid you just do not understand the context of my post. Your outright assertion that the current tests are not biased is proven wrong in that scores are correlated with socio-economic status both within and across groups.

Socio-economic status does not cause IQ scores to be high or low, but it sure seems as if our measures we use to determine IQ or achievement are caused by our biases, recognized or not.

I wish they would have applied your correlation is not causation arguement to smoking, then perhaps we would not be considered second class citizens. :)

"mommy, may I please have another helping of those lovely paint chips? I just cannot seem to get enough of them."

Sometimes, we just need to get our heads out of our journals, leave the tower, and live with those other people we treat like lab rats.


What has spending lots of money in the schools per student have to do with cleaning up the health of the students who live in our throw away communities?

Nothing. Why do you ask?

And how many generations will it take to negate the ill effects of living in them?

For some groups -- one. For others -- a lot more.

Your outright assertion that the current tests are not biased is proven wrong in that scores are correlated with socio-economic status both within and across groups.

SES is also correlated with IQ and last I checked smart kids tend to perform better on tests.

You're confusing equality of opportunity with equality of results.

KDeRosa,

Perhaps you mean well with your insistence that IQ trumps all (schools, culture, parental influence, etc...), despite all the evidence to the contrary.

But your rationalization of the poor achievement levels seen in our low SES groups lends substantial credence to the notion of institional racism.

There is NO evidence to suggest that any ethnic group is *inherently or genetically* superior than an other. Acheivement levels on tests are not genetically determined!

Asserting that "ethnic Chinese" have a "visio-spatial IQ advantange" is unsupported and brings to mind the eugenics movement popular in Nazi Germany.

What is IQ, if not one more erroneous way of sorting ourselves into into "winners" and "losers." Diane was so right in calling IQ "This Brutal Pessimism."

IQ offers no insight into humanity; only a way of sorting people into "smart" and "dumb."

Fortunately there is much more to life, learning and the pursuit of happiness than your (and other IQ afficianatos) overly simplistic generalization of human potential.

We would all be better off if we looked for and encouraged (through education!) the positive in that which each of us can contribute to this world.

Erin Johnson

You continue to put words in my mouth.

I do not claim that " IQ trumps all." It is merely one easily measured factor among many.

All the evidence is not to the contrary. You appear to be just choosing to ignore al the evidence that you don't agree with. This is confirmation bias.
Do you want a cite for the VS advanatage of northeast asians? I've provided lots of cites so far and you've ignored them, I'm starting to think I'm wasting my time.

Since the racial issue is so charged, let me suggest that you just look at the IQ issue separately since there are plenty of low IQ whites and Asians to go around. The educational implications are clear for these kids who constitute the bulk of our educational failures -- the nerd improved teaching techniques which clarifies instruction and additional practice for retention. They should be given this without predjudice.

Ignoring the IQ issue because it makes you uncomfortable and goes against your worldview is more harmful than dealing with it responsibly. Pretending that all kids have the same cognitive ability or that all they lack is some breakfast or parental attention does these kids a great disservice and is reulting in mass educational failure. That does not seem preferable to me.

KDeRosa,

You are using individual differences in IQ interchangably with group differences. There is no statistical basis for that use.

Unless you have a citation using an ANOVA comparing the "visio-spatial IQ" of ethnic Chinese in Singapore to other ethnic groups in Singapore, your extrapolation from "northeast Asians" is statistically wrong.

While there can be great differences between children in learning and interest, there is no case that IQ helps to guide or improve instruction. A single number can not prospectively capture future acheivement, nor should it.

Right now, could you tell me if I had 3 kids with an IQ of 89, 106 and 120, how would you use that information? How would your instruction be different?

Education should be focused on student learning, not in sorting our children into boxes that only limit them.

Erin Johnson

I do have a cite comparing northeast Asians with everybody else. The students of Chinese descent in Singapore are northeast Asians and the rest of the students are mostly Ssutheast Asians. Mankind Quarterly, 31:3, Spring 1991, 255-296, Lynn, in which he reviewed the literature on racial IQ in IQ averages for Caucasoids, Mongoloids, Negroids, Negroid-Caucasoid hybrids, Amerindians and South East Asians. More than 100 studies were referenced, most from peer-reviewed journals. Lots of ANOVA.

I don't remember saying that students should be separated into boxes (tracks) based on their IQ. Placement should be based on performance.

I do think that students should be flexibly grouped homogeneously according to how much they know coming into school and how fast they are capable of learning. Both of these criteria are functions of IQ. Instruction should be specifically targeted to each group and student learning should be carefully monitored. If a student isn't learning, the instruction has failed and needs to be adjusted and/or the student's placement needs to be adjusted.

Generally speaking more of the higher IQ students will be placed in the faster moving group and more of the low IQ students will be placed in the slower moving group. You have more instructional options with the high group. These students can generally tolerate more of the progressive nonsense that Deb prattles on about. the lower group not so much. Their instruction should be clearer, more structured and their learning should be more closely monitored. They should recieve more instructional time since they need more practice. They should be given the best teachers in the school. Most importantly, their poverty, low SES, low IQ, and "learning disabilities" should not be used as an excuse for their failure to learn. If this group fails to learn it is a failure of the instruction, not a failure of the student.

Education should be focused on student learning, not in sorting our children into boxes that only limit them.

Poor instruction is what sorts children. When the instruction is poor, ambiguous, and incoherent the higher IQ students will be sorted from the rest sinec they are the only ones ho are capable of learning in such a academically hostile environment.

When the instruction is good, clear, and unambiguous almost all the students will be learning at an acceptable pace because larning from clear instruction is not as IQ dependent.

Poor instruction is analagous to solving a progressive matrix which requires abstract problem solving skills, the province of people with high cognitive ability. Lower IQ students aren't as facile with these skills andif instruction erlies on them being able to solve the constant stream of puzzles thrown at them ina typically school day, then we should not be surprised when they fail at a higher rate.

This is also why systematic instruction using phonics is more effective than whole language/balanced literacy techniques for learning how to read. Phonics makes the code most of our language is based on more explicit and easier to understand which helps kids with lower cognitive ability. Higher IQ kids are more likely to be able to puzzle out the code with less explicit instruction like the kind found in WL/BL.

Ultimately, it is this reason why the proper understanding of IQ is important. This is how IQ informs instruction and education policy.

KDeRosa,

Lynn's meta-analysis on "race differences in intelligence" has been discredited, most notably by one of the researchers who gathered the data in the first place.

Hunt and Wittman (2008)

You are grossly confounding IQ and acheivement. Knowing and understanding a subject is greatly different than having the potential to learn.

None of your suggested uses of IQ are any different that what is already done in our schools. How would adding IQ to the mix fix "poor instruction"?

Your statement: "Higher IQ kids are more likely to be able to puzzle out the code with less explicit instruction like the kind found in WL/BL" is not subtantiated by the literature.

The failure rate at learning to decode is only very weakly correlated with IQ. Children with high IQs are almost as likely to fail to learn to read as low IQ children (thus our diagnosis of dyslexia; a reading ability less than expected as would be predicted by IQ.)

Decoding ability is not genetically determined and all children (low and high IQ) benefit from the same high quality instruction.

So if all children would benefit from high quality reading instruction, why are you trying to sort out the children and labeling them instead of focusing efforts on improving instruction?

Additionally, the great downside of using IQ as a sorting device is the lowering of expectations for low IQ children, both by the student himself/herself and by the teachers. If a student's path through school is determined by his/her IQ, why should he/she bother to learn anything?

Why would IQ be an improvement over actual acheivement and learning at matching material to the student?

Erin Johnson

The Hunt and Whittman paper criticizes (not discredits) certain aspects of some of Lynn's data points in a Lynn's 2006 book "Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis" which is not the study I cited. The study I cited was a meta-analysis so when you go googling for more criticism don't forget to look for criticism on all the underlying studies relating to northeast asians.

You are grossly confounding IQ and acheivement.

See the Willerman study I cited above re achievement and IQ.

In any event, I am not confounding the two, I am distinguishing. Actual performance is the importance criteria for placement to IQ. That's what I wrote.

This debate would be more productive if you responded to arguments I actually made instead of arguments you wish I made.

None of your suggested uses of IQ are any different that what is already done in our schools. How would adding IQ to the mix fix "poor instruction"?

I'm not suggesting any uses of IQ to fix instruction. I am suggesting uses of performance to fix instruction.

My original point was merely that there is evidence that IQ is a partially inheritable trait, not that IQ should be directly used to sort students (ala Murray) or fix instruction.

And, what is being done in our schools is not what I have suggested. Classes are heterogeneously grouped. Instruction is not suffienctly clear for many students. The concept of distributed practice isn't understood or applied with any degree of competence. Student performance isn't monitored closely enough to inform instruction and students are often passed along without mastering the material.

Your statement: "Higher IQ kids are more likely to be able to puzzle out the code with less explicit instruction like the kind found in WL/BL" is not subtantiated by the literature.

Yes it is. As you admit, there is a positive, yet "weak" (weak like the SES v achievement correlation), correlation. This is sufficient to support the claim that more higher-IQ kids will learn to decode than lower-IQ kids. Remedial reading classes are not full of the smart kids and they are often there because they can neither decode nor comprehend sufficiently.

thus our diagnosis of dyslexia; a reading ability less than expected as would be predicted by IQ.

Which suggests that reading ability can be predicted with some acuracy from IQ. Dsylexia is mostly indicative of a teaching disability, rather than a learning disability.

So if all children would benefit from high quality reading instruction, why are you trying to sort out the children and labeling them instead of focusing efforts on improving instruction?

I'm not suggesting this at all. I agree that all students benefit from high quality instruction. However, some students don't require high quality instruction and are capable from lower quality instruction (the kind of instruction Deb likes). I see no reason why these kids shouldn't be allowed to receive this lower quality instruction for whatever nutty benefits they think this kind of instruction confers. the important thing is that they are learning.

If a student's path through school is determined by his/her IQ, why should he/she bother to learn anything?

That's why I don't advocate this and why I disagree with Murray.

Why would IQ be an improvement over actual acheivement and learning at matching material to the student?

It wouldn't. But matching instruction to students sounds suspiciously like misguided learning styles ideology which has no emperical support.

KDeRosa,

A meta-analysis on statistical data can at best be used to point in futher directions of study.

Certainly, the gross torturing of the data that Lynn did to produce his "conclusions" may suggest a new avenue of research but it can never be considered definitive. Your use of his work makes your argument highly suspect. Do you not have any independent, peer reviewed data to support your absurd claims that:

1. Racial groups are statistically different in IQ (statistically the bar for a definitive judgement is much higher than Lynn used.)

2. Sorting kids by IQ will lead to better instruction?

3. Acknowledging these so called "facts" will lead to better schools.

Our schools may not be teaching our children very well, but your "solutions" would only make the situation worse.

Sorting children a priori based upon an IQ test that has no basis in instruction will not lead to better teaching, better curriucla not a better learning environment for our children.


If an IQ test is not an improvement over actual acheivement and learning (as you have stated), why are you trying to prop up this horrendous idea of sorting kids into buckets based upon shady, half-baked, inaccurate statistics with the results being of no discernable benefit?

You claim to disagree with Murray but your whole argument is based upon ideas that do agree/support his "theory".

While it sounds as if you would like our schools to be better, why are you using these ill-supported ideas to support educational reform?

Should you not be focusing on improvements in our children's education that would have a chance at improving their learning (ie better instruction, better curricula, etc...) instead of this statistically wrong, unsubstantiated idea that our children need to be sorted based upon IQ?

Erin Johnson

PS

Apparently, you have not been in a lot of remedial decoding classes as yes those classes are full of smart kids that failed to learn to decode.

1. I don't see any support for your criticism of Lynn's work other than your opinion. You are also conveniently failing to consider the underlying research that Lynn based his analysis on. That's why I pointed to Lynn's metanalysis; it collected all the extant research, mostly peer reviewed.

That there are IQ disparities between diffferent ethnic/racial groups is not in dispute. Only the cause of those disparities remains in dispute due to the lack of direct evidence, though not for a lack of indirect evidence. It's been estimated that in another 10-15 years we will have identified the genes responsible to cognitive ability and, thus, will have direct evidence to go along with all the indirect evidence, so you might want to start formulating new arguments if you still wish to cling to your worldview for when that day comes to pass.

2. I never claimed that sorting kids by IQ was a good idea. (why do you keep raising this point,, especially after I keep telling you that I'm not arguiing in favo of such a policy. The first rule of argument is to be responive to your opponent's arguments not your own strawmen.) I advocate flexible ability grouping which is different and supported by research.

3. See Project Follow Through.

You claim to disagree with Murray but your whole argument is based upon ideas that do agree/support his "theory".

That Murray is wrong about education, does not make him wrong on intelligence. I do find your attempts to marginalize Murray amusing, as if he were a lone researcher making wild claims. Here's the American Psychological Association on IQ and Murray's Bell Curve:

* IQ scores have high predictive validity for individual differences in school achievement.

* IQ scores have predictive validity for adult occupational status, even when variables such as education and family background have been statistically controlled.

* Individual differences in intelligence are substantially influenced by both genetics and environment.

* There is little evidence to show that childhood diet influences intelligence except in cases of severe malnutrition.

* There are no statistically significant differences between the IQ scores of males and females.

* The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status. Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support... At present, no one knows what causes this differential.

The remainder of your comments rely on the mistaken notion that I advocate sorting by IQ so there's no need to repsond to them.

Lastly,

Apparently, you have not been in a lot of remedial decoding classes as yes those classes are full of smart kids that failed to learn to decode.

They are full of kids who failed to learn how to decode because they were taught improperly. Some of them are smart, most of them are not. You might want to check out the SAT scores (which correlate well with IQ) of college students in remedial reading classes.

Comments are now closed for this post.

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Follow This Blog

Advertisement

Most Viewed on Education Week

Categories

Archives

Recent Comments

  • hertfordshire security installers: Greetings. Great content. Have you got an rss I could read more
  • http://blog.outsystems.com/aboutagility/2009/04/challenges-of-scoping-and-sizing-agile-projects.html: I would like to thank you for the efforts you've read more
  • http://acousticwood.net/mash/2008/03/yeah_off_to_the_uk.html: Between me and my husband we've owned more MP3 players read more
  • buy cheap metin2 yang: When you play the game, you really think you equipment read more
  • Nev: Anne Clark - If a Dr. instructs a patient that read more