Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do test-prep courses improve SAT scores?

Barely--according to this WSJ article:

Families can spend thousands of dollars on coaching to help college-bound students boost their SAT scores. But a new report finds that these test-preparation courses aren't as beneficial as consumers are led to believe.

The report, to be released Wednesday by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, criticizes common test-prep-industry marketing practices, including promises of big score gains with no hard data to back up such claims. The report also finds fault with the frequent use of mock SAT tests because they can be devised to inflate score gains when students take the actual SAT. The association represents 11,000 college admissions officers, high-school guidance counselors and private advisors.

I remember taking one of these courses prior to taking the ACT and it really seemed to improve my score. The class really taught me how to take a multiple choice test and understand how to give answers that the test makers wanted, rather than what I thought the right answer should be. It went against my intuition, but seemed to work. However, when I took the GRE prior to my PhD, I used a GRE prep book and skipped the class. I think that was a mistake. So, for some people, the classes may really work and for others, not so much.

Anyone else out there take one of these classes or have kids or grand kids who did and find them useful or not?


Friday, May 22, 2009

" it always wrong to make decisions based on fear?"

David Harsanyi: Fear: Our national pastime:

In a speech defending his detainee plan this week, President Barack Obama brandished his now-famous Spock-like wisdom by claiming that "Our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight" after 9/11.

Whether you agree with the president's account of the nation's post- 9/11 policy, you might still ask yourself two questions:

First off, is it always wrong to make decisions based on fear?

Having been in New York on 9/11, I would contend that fear was not only a logical reaction to what was happening but also an unavoidable one. As John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine recently noted, "Fear was an entirely responsible response to September 11. Indeed, it was, in some ways, the only responsible response."

....Fear, as philosopher Hannah Arendt observed, "is an emotion indispensable for survival."

Read the rest.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

"There has to be a relationship between the police and the community that has to be one of faith in each"

I was emailed some interesting articles on forensic work from the site. One that caught my eye was on why fewer murder cases get solved these days:

Ask homicide detectives what the No. 1 roadblock to their investigations is, and, by far, the leading response is "witness cooperation." That's one reason the average homicide clearance rate — cases solved by police departments compared with the number of known homicides — which approached 90 percent in 1960 is now a third less, 61 percent......

...Rather than a police tendency to devalue victims from minority communities, hence ignoring or failing to pursue homicide investigations in these areas, it is actually "police devaluation" that is at the root of the problem.

"A victim or a person who knows them might distrust the police," Jarvis says, "but you also have victims who might not want to go to the police. They don't believe the police are the tool or the mechanism for resolving that behavior."

Maybe the fact that the police have no duty to protect any individual person has something to do with people not trusting law enforcement to protect them, do ya think? Why should citizens have faith in police who have no such duty?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WSJ: How Washington rations (thanks Anna B).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"...they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help."

WSJ: From Patriach to Patsy: A father of three young children discovers the humiliations of being a modern dad (thanks to reader Dave):

In the most affluent parts of the Western world, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade-union movement, the women's movement or the civil-rights movement -- and it hasn't even been extended the courtesy of being called a movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children. Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all; they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don't guide their children through the moral quandaries of life -- they guide them to their extracurricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan....

Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood,Mr. Lewis's account of becoming a father to his three children, begins promisingly. "At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and -- let us be frank -- got fleeced," he writes.

The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks -- tasks that his own father was barely aware of -- and received nothing in return. If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr. Lewis: "Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight."