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

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  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @08:32AM (#43502973)

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

  • Age (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @08:48AM (#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.

  • by nblender ( 741424 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @09:01AM (#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...

  • by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @09:23AM (#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.

  • How Gifted? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Flozzin ( 626330 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @09:25AM (#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.
  • by Aranykai ( 1053846 ) <slgonser@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday April 20, 2013 @10:17AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 20, 2013 @11:03AM (#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.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @12:08PM (#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.
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Saturday April 20, 2013 @12:18PM (#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 [] and IXL [] to make much of the math self-paced. They also let the kids pick their own books to read using AR Bookfind []. 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 []. 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.

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @12:18PM (#43504129) Homepage Journal

    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%.

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