Amy Binder, co-author with Kate Wood of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, was on the guest spot of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to debunk myths about conservative undergraduates:
A fan of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking created this ignite session based around the ideas of the book:
Watch the video and then make sure you pick up the book for loads of additional information and activities.
You can also read Ed’s new article at The Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-burger/effective-thinking_b_1951028.html
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
With news out today that the NAACP intends to ” file a complaint on Thursday over the admissions test at New York City’s specialized high schools, among the nation’s most elite public schools, citing effective discrimination against black and Latino students,” education experts Checker Finn and Jessica Hockett are poised to offer key insight into the “messy matter” of exam-based admissions at selective schools in New York City.
Finn and Hockett conducted the first-ever study of selective public high schools, the so-called “exam schools” and their findings are essential background for anyone interested in learning more about the NAACP complaint.
Here we present several key excerpts from their book Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools as well as some info graphics comparing the demographics at public high schools and selective public high schools across the nation and for New York City.
Graphic: The Demographics of Public and Selective Public High Schools
Excerpt 1: The Messy Matter of “Screened” High Schools in New York City
New York’s high school landscape presented a unique challenge for our list. The city uses a complex application-and-placement system for all of its 600+ high school programs, and hundreds of those programs (and entire schools) are “screened,” meaning that those running them set various criteria or preconditions for admission to them. Sometimes those criteria involve prior academic accomplishment, but such prerequisites are set at various levels. About 75 such programs technically meet all six of our criteria, but in many cases their academic bar is set low. To make sure that our list was not overwhelmed by the largest city in the country—and to make sure that we identified within that city the schools that are its most academically selective—we included only those screened schools that require applicants to have minimum scores of 85 percent on the state assessments. This yielded fifteen “screened” high schools, in addition to the city’s eight specialized high schools that base their admission entirely on scores on their own separate test.
Excerpt 2: The Admissions Maze
Despite tight quarters in a city where space is always hard to come by, Townsend Harris High School [in Queens, for example], is flooded with eager applicants (about 5,000 for 270 9th-grade openings), of whom many (around 1,200) meet it’s very demanding threshold requirements for admission. THHS does not, however, control its own admissions—though it wields considerable influence over who ends up enrolling.
Since 2004, New York City’s method for matching 8th graders with places in the system’s 650-odd high school programs in almost 400 buildings has been, in its way, rational and generally fair, but it’s also seriously complicated. It’s intended to foster school choice on a citywide basis and to minimize “gaming” and influence peddling en route into Gotham’s competitive-admission schools and programs.
Unless they want to attend one of the city’s twenty-some charter high schools or its myriad private and parochial schools, every 8th grader in New York must pass through a centralized placement system before landing somewhere for 9th grade. There’s no longer an automatic de- fault into a “zoned” or neighborhood high school.
Modeled on the medical field’s “match” procedure for placing newly minted doctors in residency programs in specialties of their choice, the New York system asks every 8th grader to list twelve high school pro- grams in order of preference. Many of these are open to all comers and listing one of them as top choice pretty much guarantees entry into it. But hundreds of programs and schools (including Townsend Harris) are “screened,” meaning that those running such a school or program establish its admission prerequisites and then rank their (eligible) applicants in order of the school’s preference, based on its own distinctive criteria. The school doesn’t know where the applicant ranked it, and the applicant doesn’t know where the “screened” school to which he/ she applied ranked him/her. Then the “big computer in the sky” seeks to match students with programs in order of each’s preference for the other. After all this, the student receives a single placement.
This works pretty well for most kids. City data indicate that some 83 percent of applicants (for 2011–12 high school entry) got one of their top five choices and another 9 percent got one of their other choices. But, for a host of reasons, almost one-tenth of 8th graders fail to “match” anywhere during the main selection cycle and must present themselves in person to arrange individual placements—rarely into desirable screened programs—by the Education Department’s Office of Student Enrollment.
High-demand academic schools face a different problem—and complicating wrinkle—namely, that the city also operates what amounts to a parallel admissions process for nine of its most competitive high schools, including the illustrious original big three: Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. These plus five newer academic high schools have their admissions determined strictly by student scores on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), which some 28,000 youngsters take each year and for which many eager families spend serious money to “prep” their children, as if for the SAT. These Specialized High Schools have statutory protection—indeed, a legislative mandate— to admit pupils solely on the basis of [this] special test (though LaGuardia also requires auditions). The relevant amendment to the New York State Education Code dates to 1971, when there were demands to do away with these “elitist” institutions and their “culturally biased” entrance exam. Two Bronx legislators managed to get enacted a bill that says “Admission to [these schools] shall be solely and exclusively by taking a competitive, objective and scholastic achievement examination…. No candidate may be admitted to a special high school unless he [sic] has successfully achieved a score above the cut- off score for the openings in the school for which he has taken the examination.” The political trade- off was creation of a “Discovery Program” to assist disadvantaged and minority youngsters to prepare for the competitive exam, although that program seems to have fallen by the wayside. [Still] this separate admissions system enables students to apply to both the test-based schools and the regular 600+ high school programs, and it’s possible to end up being matched with one of each.
That’s what happens to many THHS applicants, which is why this school’s “yield”—those who actually enroll there—is about half of the 600 or so kids who are matched to it. The other half wind up attending one of the “exam” schools or a private school. The reason, of course, is that Townsend Harris’s applicant pool contains many of the same kids who are applying, and often getting admitted, to Stuyvesant and the other “exam” schools.
© 2012 by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved.
Are Exam Schools an under-appreciated resource that could serve thousands more high achieving youngsters? Checker Finn argues that current education policies like NCLB virtually ignore high-potential students and this “doesn’t just deny individuals opportunities they deserve. It also imperils the country’s future supply of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs.”
BARACK OBAMA and Mitt Romney both attended elite private high schools. Both are undeniably smart and well educated and owe much of their success to the strong foundation laid by excellent schools.
Every motivated, high-potential young American deserves a similar opportunity. But the majority of very smart kids lack the wherewithal to enroll in rigorous private schools. They depend on public education to prepare them for life. Yet that system is failing to create enough opportunities for hundreds of thousands of these high-potential girls and boys.
Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor.
It’s back to school time, and today is triple maths. Dana Mackenzie, author of The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics as Told through Equations shares his knowledge of maths and the history of maths in three little podcasts by RTE Lyric FM Culture File.
FACT: “China has pushed to increase both the quantity of students and the quality of its universities. The total number of undergraduate and graduate degrees quadrupled from 1999 to 2005, while the government spent more than 30 billion yuan
($4.4 billion at 2009 conversion rates) on a group of forty leading universities in an effort to vault them into the top tier worldwide.”
The Great Brain Race:
How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World
by Ben Wildavsky
With a new preface by the author
In The Great Brain Race, former U.S. News & World Report education editor Ben Wildavsky presents the first popular account of how international competition for the brightest minds is transforming the world of higher education—and why this revolution should be welcomed, not feared. Every year, nearly three million international students study outside of their home countries, a 40 percent increase since 1999. Newly created or expanded universities in China, India, and Saudi Arabia are competing with the likes of Harvard and Oxford for faculty, students, and research preeminence. Satellite campuses of Western universities are springing up from Abu Dhabi and Singapore to South Africa. Wildavsky shows that as international universities strive to become world-class, the new global education marketplace is providing more opportunities to more people than ever before.
Drawing on extensive reporting in China, India, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, Wildavsky chronicles the unprecedented international mobility of students and faculty, the rapid spread of branch campuses, the growth of for-profit universities, and the remarkable international expansion of college rankings. Some university and government officials see the rise of worldwide academic competition as a threat, going so far as to limit student mobility or thwart cross-border university expansion. But Wildavsky argues that this scholarly marketplace is creating a new global meritocracy, one in which the spread of knowledge benefits everyone—both educationally and economically. In a new preface, Wildavsky discusses some of the notable developments in global higher education since the book was first published.
We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9694.pdf
If you’ve ever wondered if the way you’re thinking about things is holding you back, The Five Elements of Effective Thinking is a must-read. Written by the acclaimed teacher and mathematician Edward Burger—a man whose electrifying teaching style has won him countless awards—the book teaches strategic goals for using our minds to realize goals effectively, creatively, and more successfully. Today Burger takes a specific look at how we’re thinking about voting, offering an alternative to heading to the polls armed with sound bites, our preconceptions, and little else (or, as Jason Brennan would call it, being a bad voter.) Check out Burger’s post here:
This fall, the US will once again decide its fate by selecting its next batch of national, state, and local government leaders. In 2008, the previous presidential election year, voter turnout was a whopping 57% of the voting-age population. Using modern political math, that works out to nearly 8 out of every 10 man, woman, and child. If you happen to be one of those patriotic citizens who plans on doing his or her civic duty on November 6 by pulling a lever, “X”-ing a box, or punching a chad, then the 64,000-dollar question (or with the help of today’s Super PACs, the 3.2 billion-dollar question) is: For whom will you vote?
Very recently I co-authored, with Michael Starbird, a tiny but practical guide to better thinking entitled, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. It offers everyone—students, teachers, parents, professionals, and life-long learners—the opportunity to “make up” their own minds and better tap their creativity and imagination through stories and examples as well as concrete action-items that can be directly applied to any circumstance and that can become useful habits to provoke thought. Here I briefly apply some of the lessons we developed to offer a straightforward way of determining your ideal candidate.
Identify and understand the issues that matter. The cost of a candidate’s haircut or a particularly fetching outfit’s designer might not be on the top of your list of issues that truly matter. Despite the topics on which the media or even the candidates themselves decide to focus, you need to determine which issues are important to you—whether they be social, national security, or financial issues, or issues that directly impact your community or family. Don’t let the media dictate what’s important to you. Work hard to deeply understand those issues you identified as well as why you’ve embraced the views you have. Invest the time to prioritize those issues so you know what matters most to you. Focus on the essentials.
Observe how well the candidates fail. Anyone who strives to be imaginative, creative, or bold will eventually make a misstep. If your candidate has never failed, ask yourself, what—if anything—has that person been doing? If your candidate has failed, determine what lessons that person has learned from that experience. Study how the candidates evolved and moved, and decide if you agree with those corrected paths. Failing—unintentionally or deliberately—presents one with a great gift: the opportunity to learn, grow, and innovate. Discover exactly what the candidates have done in the past when they’ve stumbled upon or purposely solicited such a “gift.” If failing did not provoke a new insight or change in thinking, then you might want to keep shopping for candidates. Failure is a fantastic tool for moving forward.
Ask the right questions. Many questions will be hurled at the candidates and it’s often entertaining to watch politicians uncomfortably squirm or use the Teflon-approach and dodge those speeding queries faster than the man of steal. But by watching that drama unfold on-line or on TV, you are merely a passive listener. Instead, become an active listener: Create your own questions as you listen to the candidates or as you read their platforms and proposals. Even if you’re not one of the lucky few who actually get to directly question those politicians, you should still deliberately raise those questions in your mind. Then discover who addresses those issues and assess their stands. By doing so, you are custom-tailoring the campaigns to your interests, concerns, and values. Become an active listener: Hear what is said, and often more importantly, take note of what is missing.
Determine where we’ve been and where you think we should go. One of the quotes that inevitably surfaces during a presidential campaign is: “This is the most important election in this country’s history.” Unless our voting district is Lake Woebegone, every presidential election cannot be the most important ever. A more accurate and less melodramatic statement might be, “This is an extremely important election in this country’s future.” It is not wise to view an event or issue as sitting alone in a vacuum of a single moment in history (even if it’s touted as, “the most important”). You need to examine everything within context: From where we are emerging, to where we are today and where we need to go. With presidential politics, it’s essential to look back (both long-term and short-term) and articulate the gains we’ve made as well as the losses we’ve incurred. Then you can thoughtfully assess our current state, define local and global directions in which to move forward, and find the candidate that shares that similar vision. Always focus on the flow—what’s past, what’s the here and now, and what’s next.
Decide how you want to change. By following the four previous modes of thinking, you will be transformed—you will realize new insights, identify other points of view, uncover unintended consequences, and even generate original thoughts. Through this process, you will not only quietly and clearly discover to your ideal candidate, but you will also discover your ideal self.
Focusing solely on sound bites, political pundits, and commercials is tantamount to flipping a coin in the voting booth or even worse, mindlessly handing your vote over to the loudest voice. Instead, cast your vote effectively and intelligently. As Mike Starbird and I wrote in the last chapter of our book:
When the American Founding Fathers imagined a democracy that would reflect the will of the people, the people they envisioned were thoughtful, independent-thinking citizens who would understand the issues of their day and would turn their own clear wisdom to making sound decisions for the benefit of society. Surely more than ever, the world needs thoughtful voices—voices that can ignore the bombast and heat of shallow excitement and focus instead on thinking calmly and sensibly about long-term goals and consequences. These elements of effective thinking will help you to become a quintessential citizen of the world—contributing personally and professionally, locally and globally.
Edward Burger can be reached at email@example.com and followed (on Twitter) @ebb663. For more information about The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, visit www.elementsofthinking.com or follow @5thinking. Burger is the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, an educational and business consultant, and most recently served as Vice Provost for Strategic Educational Initiatives at Baylor University. He is the author of over 60 research articles, books, and video series (starring in over 3,000 on-line videos). Among his many awards and honors, the Huffington Post named him one of their 2010 Game Changers; “HuffPost’s Game Changers salutes 100 innovators, visionaries, mavericks, and leaders who are reshaping their fields and changing the world.” In 2012, Microsoft Worldwide Education selected him as one of their “Heroes in Education”.
PUP’s first eBook-original HUMAN CAPITALISM: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter–and More Unequal, by Brink Lindsey
In Princeton University Press’s first EBook original, Brink Lindsey demands an investment in “human capital” to stop the growing divide between the haves and have-nots
What explains the growing divide between the wealthy and everybody else? Politicians, pundits, scholars, journalists, economists and many others have tried to solve this critical question that would create a more equal society. In Princeton University Press’s first Ebook original HUMAN CAPITALISM: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter—and More Unequal (Publication Date: August 8, 2012; Ebook $4.99), author and Kauffman Foundation scholar Brink Lindsey argues that the gap between elites and the rest of us can best be explained by the ever-growing complexity of modern economies and the barriers to the acquisition of the skills—“Human Capital”— necessary to not only survive but thrive in a new economic landscape.
The complexity of today’s economy is not only making these elites richer—it is also making them smarter. As the economy makes ever-greater demands on their minds, the successful are making ever-greater investments in education and other ways of increasing their children’s human capital, expanding their cognitive skills and leading them to still higher levels of success. But unfortunately, even as the rich are securely riding this virtuous cycle, the poor are trapped in a vicious one, as a pattern of family breakdown, unemployment, and dysfunction, leads to a further erosion of knowledge and skills.
Lindsey shows how high skill level jobs are rewarded, while mid-level jobs are outsourced, further widening the gap. Simply retraining workers or teaching skills isn’t working because it’s not removing the cultural divisions and polarization that permeates the economy; those cultural factors are impeding the success of targeted programs that he espouses. Fueling the
polarization is the resentment of those on the lower end who don’t want to hear that the world has changed and that they need better jobs.
Lindsey’s solutions? To redeem the promise of human capitalism, it is necessary to restore the connection between rising complexity and rising human capital cross the socioeconomic spectrum.
o Maintain growth through policies that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
o Reform K-12 education by unleashing competition.
o Step up experiments with early childhood interventions that can compensate for disadvantaged environments.
o Combat social exclusion of low-skilled adults through low-wage job subsidies, changes in disability insurance, and penal reform to reduce mass incarceration.
o Improve higher education by limiting tuition subsidies.
o Reform land use regulation and occupational licensing to facilitate upward mobility.
In this brief, clear, and forthright eBook original, Lindsey shows how economic growth is creating unprecedented levels of human capital—and suggests how the huge benefits of this development can be spread beyond those who are already enjoying its rewards.
Coming in Spring 2013, Princeton University Press will also be publishing an expanded hardcover edition of the book.
In the coming months, lots of people are going to have questions about why this or that school isn’t included in Checker Finn and Jessica Hockett’s new book Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools. The authors acknowledge that their list, presented as an Appendix in the book, may not be complete, but that it does represent, to the best of their present ability and knowledge, the most comprehensive, state-by-state list of examination schools in America. I asked them to describe the criteria they used to identify schools that should be included in their unprecedented study. Here’s what they had to say:
The first challenge we faced was simply identifying which schools should be included in our research, a process we liken to “searching for needles in the high school haystack.” There are 22,568 public high schools in the United States and after careful application of the following criteria, only 165 schools remained.
It may surprise readers to discover that the list of exam schools in Appendix 1 of our book is the first of its kind and it was difficult to assemble. There is no “Association of Examination Schools” from which you can cull this information, and we used information from a variety of information sources—published lists of top high schools in the country, SAT and ACT scores, professional organizations, and state/district websites and personnel—to assemble this list.
We made every effort to make sure the list is comprehensive and complete, but we acknowledge it may not be exhaustive or absolutely accurate. We invite readers to help us refine and update it. Let us know if we missed a school that meets our criteria and should be included in future studies. To this end, we are happy to share the criteria we used to find the schools currently listed in our book.
First, it’s a public school, predominantly (or fully) supported with tax dollars, does not charge tuition, is operated by or under the aegis of a public body, and is accountable to a duly constituted public authority.
Second, it offers 12th grade and has a graduating class each year. That’s what we call a “high school,” even though it might also include elementary or middle grades. (This criterion barred a few new schools that were “growing” toward 12th grade but didn’t have a graduating class as of 2009–10.)
Third, it’s self-contained, not a program or school within another school. Hundreds of U.S. high schools contain academies, magnet or specialized programs, schools within the school, or distinctive course sequences that are selective or application based. Our list, however, is limited to schools where all enrolled students are selected through an admissions process.
Fourth, it offers an academic curriculum aimed at college readiness. The school may off er a variety of course sequences or specializations, but its overall curriculum is implicitly or expressly designed to give all of its students the skills and knowledge they will need for college-level work.
Fifth, it employs an admissions process that is academically selective. That process involves substantial attention to a student’s academic potential and/or academic record, usually incorporating some attention to exam results. An array of other factors may also be weighed–such as attendance and behavior–but the process primarily emphasizes criteria such as grades, test scores, or writing samples.
Sixth and finally, its admissions process is academically competitive. We considered it to be so if more students apply than can be accommodated, or if a student’s application could be rejected on the basis of his/her academic merit in relation to that of other applicants and/or the school’s standards.
Excerpted from Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools
by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Jessica A. Hockett (Princeton University Press, 2012).
Refining the List
These straightforward criteria yielded a significant number of schools that have programs catering to academically advanced students, but are not straightforward examination schools, so the list was further refined. For the complete details, we refer you to the book, page 23-35, but the schools eliminated in this step include partial-day schools, programs, and centers; competitive/selective programs within schools, schools for the arts; schools that admit via lottery; schools that skip the diploma en route to college.
New York City also posed a unique challenge as it uses a complex application-and-placement system for all of its 600+ high school programs. About 75 high schools technically meet all six of our criteria, but in order to identify the most academically selective, we included only those schools that required minimum scores of 85 percent on the state assessments. This brought the number down to 15, in addition to eight specialized high schools that have a separate exam for entrance.
The End Result
After all the searching and refining, we were left with a list of 165 schools in thirty states and the District of Columbia. Readers and education researchers now have a resource that shows that these schools are more prevalent in some parts of the country than others; that there are many of these schools in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, but none in Los Angeles, Denver, and Minneapolis. Identifying these schools allowed us to then survey their admissions processes; outcomes; demographics; and teacher, parent, student, and community expectations—all material included in Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools.