Dear Deborah, Tests inevitably gauge a student’s fund of knowledge and experience, not just what was taught in school. If a student comes from a family where he or she hears a large vocabulary, where there are many books in the home, where reading and learning are valued, where there are excursions to the library or the museum, the tests will reflect that huge amount of social capital. Tests of math and science are more likely to reflect what was taught in school because most students learn those subjects almost entirely in school. The same is probably true, I ...

Dear Diane, You didn't suggest that good medical care was test-prepping—that was my translation. But it does seem to me that in effect that's not a bad way of looking at it—most standardized tests rest on experiences that don't come to us from school, but from the prepping that life has offered us. It may even account for the interesting story I just read—more next week—on a Chicago study that demonstrates that actual test-prepping may hurt scores! As to testing itself: Yes, reviewing questions for bias and using judgment to determine "grade level" rather than...

Dear Deborah, I didn’t suggest that “good medical care” was “test-prepping.” Just goes to show how easily words are misunderstood, how important it is to teach grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. so as to improve the clarity of our expression. When I went to public school in Houston, our English teachers devoted half of every year in their classes to teaching correct grammar. It was never fun, but it was very valuable. I am reminded on a daily basis of the importance of good grammar and syntax; without them, we will all of us have trouble communicating what we mean. ...

Dear Diane, The notion of good medical care as "test prepping" is delightfully bizarre, but maybe no less so than traditional forms of test-prepping? Perhaps Richard Rothstein is correct that it would have a greater impact on test score gaps. Traditional psychometrics is filled with problems built into the excellent history you’ve offered us, Diane. It presumes that scores fit a curve, and that there is a norm, usually labeled 100 or expressed in percentiles with 50 percent below, 50 percent above grade or age “level”, with a particular cluster toward the center. All very precise. How come half ...

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 ...

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.

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