July 7, 2010

Is Our Adults Getting Stupider?

See if you can figure out the answer to the mystery posed in the following blog item by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones. Neither Kevin, nor the physics professor he quotes at length, nor Kevin's first 29 commenters can figure it out. Put your solution in my comments below. Kevin blogs:
Is Our Kids Studying? -- Take 2

After I posted a couple of days ago on the subject of whether or not college students are studying less than they used to, I got a long email on the subject from Paul Camp, a physics professor at Spelman University. This is pretty far outside my wheelhouse of expertise, but his take was so interesting that I wanted to repost it here just so that everyone would have a chance to comment on it. Here's what he told me:
I've been engaged in a few conversations about this in the past couple of years. I can offer the following data that correlates with anecdotal evidence from other professors at a variety of institutions.

Since the early 1990's, I have pre and post tested all of my introductory mechanics classes using a research based diagnostic instrument, the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation.

My first job out of graduate school was at an unranked tier 4 institution in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Coastal Carolina "University" to be specific. It was the 13th grade. There were a few brilliant students — I've learned that for a variety of reasons you can find exceptional students anywhere — but for the most part the student body was composed of people who were there for financial reasons or because they thought it would be a cool idea to go to school at the beach. The first four pages of our brochure described the beach, not the college. We knew which side our bread was buttered on.

I pretty reliably got 50-60% normalized gains on the FMCE.

Normalized gain is the ratio of how much their scores increased compared to how much they could have increased — (post-pre)/(100-pre). 50-60% is actually pretty stupendous on this particular measure. It means they were typically getting 80-90% of the questions right.

I left that job in a huff. There's a very long story, but the short version is that I was ordered by my dean to give everyone a passing grade and I wouldn't do it. I spent 5.5 years in a research position at Georgia Tech before coming to Spelman.

Spelman is a top 75 liberal arts college, according to US News, and top 10 according to the Washington Monthly. My personal impression of the students is that the average is generally much higher than it was at Coastal. These are students who can think around a few corners. Also, since they are able to cross register in some considerably easier classes at other AUC institutions, I tend to get classes of students who are there because they choose to be there and are therefore more engaged and thoughtful about their efforts.

I think I'm at least as good an instructor as I used to be, and probably a lot better. I know quite a bit more about developmental psychology and cognitive science as a result of my job at Georgia Tech and I think that improves my instruction considerably.

And yet, in a good year I get about 20-30% normalized gains.

I don't really know what is different but something clearly is.

Right now, I'm blaming No Child Left Behind, but that is less because of data than of general suspicion of high stakes testing. In fact, I am also now quite skeptical of pre/post testing (I could send you a research paper on that if you're interested) but not enough that I can account for the difference in the data. ...
I can't really say that this is a correct account. I can say that many faculty I have spoken with have expressed similar observations without me prompting them, but the difference between me and them is that I have data. I know what I used to get at a crappy college with surfer students, and I know what I now get at a top tier college with highly engaged students, and it isn't consistent with ought to be happening, all other things being equal.

So that's my data point. I suppose I could always have had some kind of mental excursion and become a bad teacher without knowing it, but I don't think so and my students don't think so either, and neither do my peers in and out of the physics department. So I'm going to provisionally discount that explanation.

I left Coastal in 1998. I started at Spelman in 2004. You tell me what changed during that time frame.

Class, this mystery has baffled the best minds of Mother Jones magazine. Do you have any ideas how to solve this conundrum? Put them in the comments below.

92 comments:

Jay said...

Those numbers are pretty stunning. That means that Coastal Carolina kids were going from 60 to 84 while Spelman kids are going from 80 to 86. (Using 60% and 30% for normalized gains.)

Underachiever said...

"It means they [the stupid kids] were typically getting 80-90% of the questions right."

Low Ceiling + Diminishing Returns = Solution

If the stupid students at the beach were getting almost all of the questions correct then the smart students were probably getting almost all of the questions correct at the beginning of the semester. If you start the semester at the top, you have nowhere to go.

Steve Sailer said...

C'mon, you guys can do better than a bunch of Mother Jones readers.

Silver said...

Assuming there's no race/immigration angle to this, isn't it simply that the relatively more driven liberal arts college students (selection factor) he had were operating at closer to their potential at enrollment while the surfer slackers were yet to really put in an honest effort?

pzed said...

okay, i'll say it. spelman is a black women's college.

Anonymous said...

The Internet has come between students and analysis/original thought. I notice with my own kids (both in college) that they want to cut and paste, rather than read, comprehend (and work). When I was in college, a paper had to be written out in drafts, then typed. The very slowness of the process allowed for reflection, and the relative strictness of the grading demanded some originality, or very well concealed theft of another's ideas. (see, Doris Goodwin generally.)

Gc said...

The author could have mentioned somewhere that the Spelman is a traditional women`s college for afro-americans.
Spelman college

Basil Ransom said...

First, we've got to take a look at the raw ingredients, the intelligence of the students in question. As the subject is physics, the SAT Math will be more germane than a composite of SAT scores.

Spelman 25-75 percentiles: 470 - 550, 93% black, balance of unreported and other.
Coastal Carolina Cabana: 470 - 570, 77% white, 16% black, 3% Latino

So the two student bodies are nearly identical at first glance, with a slight edge to CCC at its 75th percentile. CCC scores an average 10 points above Spelman. One would expect a physics class to attract the more numerate students, so the differences might easily become more stark, reflecting the 75th, or even 90th (for which I haven't the data) rather than 50th percentile; at the 75th percentile, CCC outscores Spelman by 20 points

My theory is that both colleges are comprised of people of fairly average intelligence, or slightly above average, but the Spelman kids have been educated better up until then, so there is less room to improve, plus there are a few more smart kids at CCC who weren't very well educated, so they can score higher normalized gains.

For instance, at Spelman, 33% were in the top tenth of their class, while only 9% of CCC students were. Perhaps Spelman students were pushed into higher, harder classes where they learned more, leaving less room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, Spelman is 91% black and 100% female.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Coastal Carolina University
African American: 4,706
Asian: 207
Pacific Islander: 28
American Indian / Alaskan Native: 297
White (incl. Hispanic): 25,062
Other: 410


Spellman College
African American: 26,733
Asian: 98
Pacific Islander: 46
American Indian / Alaskan Native: 111
White (incl. Hispanic): 368
Other 177

pzed said...

u know what, i'd like to withdraw that last comment. i'd rather someone else step up to the plate.

Chris Anderson said...

Coastal Carolina: Coed
Spelman U: All Female

That's the biggest difference I can see.

Tom said...

Normalized gains will be larger if you start with lower initial scores. That physics professor is either a moron or an idiot. I'd have to check my statistics to determine which he is.

Underachiever said...

Also, the students at the good college probably took Physics AP in high school and already knew everything that was taught in an introductory mechanics class.

agnostic said...

I remembered that Spelman was a historically black college, but I didn't realize it was also all-women.

Checked the GPA and average SAT of freshmen at both, and the ones at Spelmen are a bit higher (about 1030 at Coastal and 1090 at Spelman, and about 3.3 vs. 3.6, respectively).

But given how slackerish the Coastal dudes are compared to the go-getters at Spelman, the SAT and GPA are probably slight under-estimates for the surfers and if anything over-estimates for the Spelman girls. So cognitive ability looks about the same.

Still, men and whites are better at visuo-spatial and mathematical reasoning than women and blacks, so the surfers will more easily absorb the content of a physics course, even if both are in the same ballpark for overall IQ and academic achievement.

Of course, if the SAT / GPA *really* under-estimates the abilities of the surfers, and *really* over-estimates those of the Spelman students, it could be that the former are just plain smarter.

Could be -- you figure surfers didn't study for the SAT at all and barely put any effort into their classes, while the Spelman ladies had intense test prep since 2nd grade and worked like dogs in their classes.

Hard to tell which of the two explanations is right, but not hard to narrow it down to those two.

Tom said...

By the way, I'm a high school physics teacher and I've used an FMCE like test before (not sure if its the same one that the prof. is using).

It is very hard to get many of the questions right if you've never had a physics class before. This is what most of his Community College kids would be like. I know, I've taught community college before.

However, if you've taken a course in physics in high school like most motivated students do, that changes things entirely. His Spelman students have most likely already had a physics class before and will get a much higher percentage correct on the initial testing because of this background.

Physics Ignoramus said...

At Spelman, students are all female and 91% African-American (according to Wikipedia.)

Anonymous said...

Does Spelman College, which I had never heard of before, really have better students than Coastal Carolina University, which I have heard of, possibly in relation to football? I see from their website that Spelman is black women's college, not a place where one would expect to find future physicists.

Below the top tier of colleges, I'm not sure whether it makes much difference where you go. Given the choice between a little-known college in Atlanta and a little-known college in Myrtle Beach, I would go to Myrtle Beach without hesitation. So too, I suspect, would bright slackers with abilities not yet demonstrated by high school graduation.

Anonymous said...

Answer: The white surfer slacker dudes have higher innate intelligence than the blacks at Spelman.

Basil Ransom said...

Ah, I completely missed the fact that Spelman is a woman's college, just assumed it's a co-ed HBC. Guess that just reinforces the "CCC's right side of the curve is stronger" argument of mine.

Geoff Matthews said...

Taking a ratio of increase/could have increased, should take into account the starting point (I would expect a physics professor to have his math down).

While diminishing returns could explain part of the problem, Steve's pointing out the composition of the student population has to be considered.

Toadal said...

Spelman College is affiliated with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), therefore, the vast majority of their students are African Americans.

But, African Americans with a difference, they didn't want to attend a college where they had compete with whites or Asians, but only with poorly prepared, remedial black students like themselves.

Kylie said...

I usually keep quiet on threads like this because I know zip about stats, teaching, scores, etc.

But I will address--that's address, not answer--this: "I left Coastal in 1998. I started at Spelman in 2004. You tell me what changed during that time frame."

What changed during that time frame was a skyrocketing increase in computer ownership and Internet usage.

If I had to hazard a guess, that'd be it.

Rich Rostrom said...

Before arriving at any conclusion, I want to know more data. For instance, the author cites "improvement". What were the actual before and after scores for the two groups of students?

How many students take this class, out of the whole student body? At CCU, it is possible that the students in the course are all self-selected, whereas at more structured Spelman, students are meeting major and elective requirements.

SAT scores at the two schools seem very comparable. At CCU, the 75th/25th %ile SAT math scores are 560/480; at Spelman 570/490. This suggests that if Spelman students have difficulty with physics, it's specific to the subject, as there doesn't seem to be any general disability.

Another point is that CCU is four times as big.

Yet another point is that Spelman is a women's school, whereas CCU is coed. If (as the SATs indicate) general math (and by implication science) average ability is similar, there could be a variance in ability distribution - and there is strong evidence for gender- related variance. I'd like to see the CCU results broken down by gender. That's if the CCU pool has more than a handful of women.

The othber question I want answered is why an "elite, "selective", "Top 75" school has the same average student quality as a beach party school.

Tom said...

Shouldn't the SAT scores trump the racial/sexual differences? Those are actual data about the student bodies instead of assumption about the populations from which the students are drawn.

According to the College Board, you can't test prep for the SAT. Kaplan had to remove claims from its advertising that its prep classes increased scores. It isn't like the ACT where the style and format matter so much. SAT is more of a raw ability sort of a test.

Given roughly equivalent SAT scores (assuming the Costal Carolina scores were the same 10 years ago), shouldn't that imply roughly equivalent IQ's and capacities, regardless of the race and gender?

It would be better to know the average verbal/math breakdowns to compare as well though.

Rich Rostrom said...

Lucius Vorenus said...

LV, those numbers are demographics for the "main campus and surrounding areas".

CCU has 8,049 students.

Spelman has 2,290.

Udolpho.com said...

Smart, Fearless Journalism

zylonet said...

The professor states that CCU students realized 50-60% normalized gains on the FMCE with end scores ranging from 80-90% correct. He then states that Spelman students are realizing gains of only 20-30% in a good year.

Many posters are assuming that there was a marked pre-test difference between the two test populations. However, the professor never mentioned Spelman pre-test or post-test scores. Based on experience, I assume that Spelman and CCU students are scoring about the same on the pre-test. The difference is that Tanesha Von Braun and LaFonda Feynbro are not making adequate gains.

Believe me, if his black female students were scoring 90% on his post-test, the good professor would be revealing such to us. The fact that he omits the comparative data tells us all that we need to know. If Spelman students were to equal CCU students, then then the Fundamental Constant of Sociology would be turned upon it's head.

Anonymous said...

They're now better at that test because they've taken similar tests before, improvement is less between the start and end because they are doing better at the start.

They are now better at taking tests coming in ?

Lucius Vorenus said...

LV, those numbers are demographics for the "main campus and surrounding areas".


Coastal Carolina University

Student Enrollment Demographics
RACE: MEN | WOMEN | TOTAL

Non Resident Alien: 62 49 111
Black, Non-Hispanic: 429 | 721 | 1,150
Hispanic: 55 | 58 | 113
Asian / Pacific Islander: 36 | 49 | 85
American Indian / Alaskan Native: 15 | 19 | 34
White, Non-Hispanic: 2,734 | 3,704 | 6,438
Race Unknown: 35 | 83 | 118
Total: 3,366 4,683 8,049

Student Graduation Demographics
RACE: MEN | WOMEN | TOTAL

Non Resident Alien: 6 | 8 | 14
Black, Non-Hispanic: 12 | 33 | 45
Hispanic: 6 | 6 | 12
Asian / Pacific Islander: 7 | 7 | 14
American Indian / Alaskan Native: 2 | 1 | 3
White, Non-Hispanic: 313 | 374 | 687
Race Unknown: 4 | 5 | 9
Total: 350 | 434 | 784


**********
**********
**********


Spellman College

Student Enrollment Demographics
RACE: MEN | WOMEN | TOTAL

Non Resident Alien: N/A | 7 | 7
Black, Non-Hispanic: N/A | 2,276 | 2,276
Hispanic: N/A | N/A | N/A
Asian / Pacific Islander: N/A | 1 | 1
American Indian / Alaskan Native: N/A | 1 | 1
White, Non-Hispanic: N/A | N/A | N/A
Race Unknown: N/A | 5 | 5
Total: N/A | 2,290 | 2,290

Student Graduation Demographics
RACE: MEN | WOMEN | TOTAL

Non Resident Alien: N/A | 12 | 12
Black, Non-Hispanic: N/A | 564 | 564
Hispanic: N/A | N/A | N/A
Asian / Pacific Islander: N/A | N/A | N/A
American Indian / Alaskan Native: N/A | N/A | N/A
White, Non-Hispanic: N/A | N/A | N/A
Race Unknown: N/A | N/A | N/A
Total: N/A | 576 | 576

sabril said...

A google search seems to indicate that the two schools have roughly the same average SAT scores in both math and verbal.

I do agree with the other posters that there are too many variables to nail down exactly what is going on.

However, the fact that so much important information is omitted is suspicious.

Anonymous said...

The Spelman students must be doing worse because of stereotype threat.

Lucius Vorenus said...

BTW, it's weird that - for all intents and purposes - there are no Hispanics at either school.

As a control, I just checked Pasadena City College - in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley - and it's about what you'd expect [roughly 8000 Hispanics and 8000 Asians, plus Whites, Blacks, and Others].

TH said...

There's no information on how many questions the Spelman students got right in either test. The students seem to be about equally smart in both schools, but we do not know if the people taking physics classes are equally smart in both of them, too. You could say that race and sex differences is the answer, but it's just speculation.

l said...

The physics prof could not see smart kids where there were plenty and sees smart kids where there aren't many.

Anonymous said...

As a control, I just checked Pasadena City College - in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley - and it's about what you'd expect [roughly 8000 Hispanics and 8000 Asians, plus Whites, Blacks, and Others].

Whoa - another weird thing - PCC fails to list graduation rates.

I'm guessing that upwards of 100% of the Asians graduate -versus- maybe 10% to 25% of the Hispanics.

Lucius Vorenus said...

TH: The students seem to be about equally smart in both schools, but we do not know if the people taking physics classes are equally smart in both of them, too.

Two points:

1) This students seem to have roughly equal SAT scores - but this is not necessarily a good indication of whether they are "equally smart".

2) The students taking physics at Spelman are necessarily black females; the students taking physics at CCU are probably heavily weighted towards white males [maybe even 100% white male, with the occasional asian].

SFG said...

He works at Spelman and he was dumb enough to email *you*? Does he want to lose his job again? He's not even supposed to admit he reads you!

That said, I think race is a red herring here. They probably are more motivated at Spelman and hence don't improve as much, because they're working closer to their true potential (as other posters have said).

Steve Sailer said...

Spelman is a classy private college while Coastal Carolina is a run of the mill public college. Socially, Spelman is, roughly, to Southern black women what Wellesley, where Hillary Clinton graduated, is to northern white women. Spellman's grads include Hillary's friend Marian Wright Edelman and novelist Alice Walker ("The Color Purple").

Spelman was founded with money from John D. Rockefeller. It's more or less the sister school of Morehouse, where Spike Lee, his father, and his father's father all graduated. Both Spelman and Morehouse have active Greek life. See Spike's 1988 movie "School Daze" for a satirical fictionalized treatment of Morehouse/Spelman. Also, the opening chapter of Tom Wolfe's novel "A Man in Full" describes Atlanta's black private college social scene. And, the 2007 movie "Stomp the Yard," which made an impressive $61 million at the domestic box office, gives an interesting non-satirical fictionalized picture of Morehouse/Spelman fraternities and sororities.

Off the top of my head, I'm not familiar with any prominent movies or novels about Coastal Carolina.

Anonymous said...

Dont laugh at me, I never did statistics, but this is my very tired (Ive been up for 30 hours) bleary-cloudy insta-notion:


Coastal Carolina Kids improved 50-60% on the Post-Class Test from the Pre-Class test, but the professor said they were getting 80-90% of the questions right on the post-class test.
So at Coastal Carolina the kids were scoring about 30-40 on the pre-test, and after taking the class they'd improve their score 50-60%, so they'd be making 80-90% correct answers just like the professor said.


The kids at Spellman already knew much of the introductory-level mechanics class before even starting it, scoring roughly 70% correct answers on the pre-test. They improved "20-30%", and that would put them in the 90-100 range on the post test. They did't have higher normalized gains than that because they were already getting most of the answers right. You can't score more than 100, and if you came in scoring a 70, there's not nearly as much room for improvement.


This is probably eons offbase. All that grading curve stuff got put in short term memory and blessedly forgotten by me......just like French.


I doubt very many students at Spellman were affected by No Child Left Behind if it really is some expensive top-75 private school. That sounds like the professor poking a little cynical fun at Mother Jones.

Steve Sailer said...

Spelman v. Coastal Carolina

Spelman is a classy, fairly famous private liberal arts college while Coastal Carolina is a run of the mill public college.

Socially, Spelman is, roughly, to Southern black women what Wellesley, where Hillary Clinton graduated, is to northern white women. Spellman's grads include Hillary's friend Marian Wright Edelman and novelist Alice Walker ("The Color Purple").

Spelman was founded with money from John D. Rockefeller. It's more or less the sister school of Morehouse, where Spike Lee, his father, and his father's father all graduated. Both Spelman and Morehouse have active Greek life. See Spike's 1988 movie "School Daze" for a satirical fictionalized treatment of Morehouse/Spelman. Also, the opening chapter of Tom Wolfe's novel "A Man in Full" describes the Atlanta black private college social scene when Morehouse grad Roger White II gets stuck in a traffic jam of black college kids at Freaknic. And, the 2007 movie "Stomp the Yard," which made an impressive $61 million at the domestic box office, gives an interesting non-satirical fictionalized picture of Morehouse/Spelman fraternities and sororities.

I'm not familiar with any prominent movies or novels that refer to Coastal Carolina.

Coastal Carolina is near Myrtle Beach, which is the mass market golf vacation capital of America, with 120 golf courses.

Steve Sailer said...

This data, by the way, fits in with my hunch that when everybody like Tom Friedman says that we'll have to stop overlooking young talent if we're going to compete economically with China and India, the largest amount of overlooked technical talent is not among, say, black females, but among white males (with Hispanic males next).

There are a lot of institutions scouring the land specifically for talented girls and minorities, but white males who maybe don't have the kind of high-powered two parent fammiles ... eh, who cares? What have white males ever invented?

Anonymous said...

I think we need to know a lot more about the before and afters on the physics test and about the SATs of the physics class populations (maybe even the motivations of the populations) to make a big judgment. Just pointing to the demographic (sex or race) differences when the SATs are similar is a little cheap though.

Maybe the prof should go back to CCC and run a class and report the before and afters. Would be interesting to see how each compared over time. Did the befores get worse? What about the afters (maybe it is a remediable gap)?

TH said...

He works at Spelman and he was dumb enough to email *you*? Does he want to lose his job again? He's not even supposed to admit he reads you!

He emailed Kevin Drum, not Steve.

Anonymous said...

I think I see where I made a mistake. I assumed the Spelman elite students were scoring at least as high as the Coastal Carolina Surfers on the post-class test, apparently they were not. Oops.
Surfers must dig mechanics, maybe it helps them read those point breaks.

Dennis Dale said...

The physics prof could not see smart kids where there were plenty and sees smart kids where there aren't many.

Call it the "soft bigotry of raised expectations"

Anonymous said...

China and India have a lot of high IQ, hardworking people and pro-education cultures. What they lack is the ingenuity and innovativeness found amongst Westerners, especially Americans. Innovativeness is important in everything from entrapranuership to marketing to sales to finance to management to product development. The reason the white surfer dude slackers beat out the hyper industrious/studious easterners is that they're capable of coming up with lots of inventions, companies, theories, business procceses, markets, and new ideas that amplify their individual productivity immensely. So they work/study less, but they produce more.

I'm not sure if culture or genes are holding back Indian/Chinese innovation, but it's worth looking into. Right now both countries are producing a lot of competent blue collar and technical workers, but the world's leading minds continue to disproportionately be Western.

It's sort of strange that the Chinese and Indians continue to produce massive numbers of engineers, but a lot of the technology industry's leaders are Jewish (Zuckeberg of Facebook, Skow of EBay, Michael Dell of Dell, Ballmer of Microsoft, Brin of Google, Grove of Intel).

Couchscientist said...

Obviously he expected white, male students to do well and he expects black, female students to do poorly. It's a classic case of the students conforming to the racist expectations of their teacher. This whole thing goes back to master/slave relationships in the 1700's. The Stilman girls also probably do worse because he is raping them. The really sad thing is that he doesn't even realize he is racist.

SGOTI said...

Just to tell you how stoopid the kids are from Coastal Carolina: they go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to surf.

Anonymous said...

The lower the level of the student, the more room they have to improve. The higher level students have already learned the easy material, so their progress is more difficult.It's like the difference between teaching a musical instrument to a complete beginner and an advanced student. The beginner makes rapid progress, because he starts out unable to play and the material in his lessons is simple, but the advanced student already plays well, so his progress is slower and takes more effort because his lessons are more difficult.

Anonymous said...

The Stilman girls also probably do worse because he is raping them.



Yes, as a white male oppressor he is doubly unqualified to teach women of color.

Anonymous said...

Is Our Adults Getting Stupider?

To the extent that, as recently as about 1960, roughly 90% of all births were White babies, whereas very shortly now [in 2010, or 2011], White babies will become a minority of all births, the answer to that question is a resounding, "YES!"

the largest amount of overlooked technical talent is not among, say, black females, but among white males (with Hispanic males next)

I wouldn't get my hopes up for Hispanic males unless they have a significant portion of Caucasian admixture.

I'm not sure about the technical definition of "Mestizo" [10% White? 20% White? 30% White?], but unless they are a good 50% White, then I wouldn't expect them to even be able to pass the AFQT to qualify for careers as enlisted men.

[BTW, do we have race-normed AA in the AFQT yet? If not, then you can be dadgummed sure that it's just around the corner.]

Mortimer Snerdley, Professor of Ebonics said...

Is Our Adults Getting Stupider?

You mean: Is Our Adults Be Gettin' Stupider?

FTFY.

Julien Sorel said...

Some of you don't seem to have noticed the formula used here:

(post-pre)/(100-pre).

A student starting with a high score can see the same percentage level of improvement as one starting with a low score (going from 85 to 100 = 15/15 = 100% improvement).

So the difference is not that the Spellman group started out at a higher base. Also, this Mother Jones-reading professor is agonizing over black women gaining less ground; he'd obviously have considered the possibility of diminishing returns if they had started at a significantly higher level.

Diminishing returns are the likely explanation, but in a more subtle way. There are two likely solutions to the puzzle, both of which are probably somewhat valid. First, the slacker white kids have higher IQs and therefore do better on a g-loaded task; and second, some or many of the hard-working black women already studied the subject (in high school) and learned as much of it as they are capable of learning. In both ways, the hard-working black women are starting closer to the edge of their capacity than the slacker white kids, and therefore have less room to grow.

As for the professor's impression that the Spellman kids are smarter, he's wrong. Black people tend to do relatively well at speaking and making an impression; this and a white liberal's eagerness to think highly of them give rise to his impression that the Spellman kids are smarter. In fact the two groups are roughly comparable in basic knowledge, as the SAT scores show, but his own test shows that the slacker white kids have on average higher IQs. The hard-working black women are probably already getting most of what they can get out of their innate abilities.

So, as Steve suggested, we must send the Teach for America kids out to low-end white suburbs if we want to find untapped ability.

Anonymous said...

"Spelman is a top 75 liberal arts college, according to US News, and top 10 according to the Washington Monthly."

Yeah, sure. Let's see, why might the mighty rankers have given Spelman that rank. Could it be? Might it be? Do ya think? Anything to do with race?


"My personal impression of the students is that the average is generally much higher than it was at Coastal."

But? But? But?

The average is higher and....and....and....the nice word is "unmotivated."

Anonymous said...

"His Spelman students have most likely already had a physics class before and will get a much higher percentage correct on the initial testing because of this background."

I seriously doubt these girls had a physics class in high school. Spelman gals know that the profs will pass them even if they don't give it much effort. It would be hard to fail.

Donors and officials wouldn't want to prove that students really do waste opportunities. After all, the "The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste" ad campaign used to raise money for the United Negro College Fund is not to be proven wrong, right?

Anonymous said...

Well,as Ann Coulter said, white males invented pretty much everything worth inventing. Hell, I'll go one further and say they invented modernity.

My evil theory is that China sends cute coeds to America for the express purpose of marrying every eligible shy white male with an advanced degree. That would pretty much complete their mission of stealing all our technology. Take all the technology producing genes, too.

ben tillman said...

Shouldn't the SAT scores trump the racial/sexual differences? Those are actual data about the student bodies instead of assumption about the populations from which the students are drawn.


As La Griffe du Lion says, "[S]tandardized tests like the SAT tend to overpredict performance for blacks."

Kylie said...

Steve Sailer said..."There are a lot of institutions scouring the land specifically for talented girls and minorities, but white males who maybe don't have the kind of high-powered two parent fammiles ... eh, who cares? What have white males ever invented?"

You mean besides Western civilization?

I was mulling over what exactly the prerequisites are for a civilized society. To me, a civilized society is one in which the weaker and more vulnerable are not constantly at the mercy of the strong and powerful and in which people have a tolerable standard of living and protection against the worst ravages of disease and famine. I concluded the widespread application of technology and the rule of law were the two indispensable elements. More than any other demographic, it has been white men who've developed, implemented and maintained these two foundations for civilized living. It is white men who've enabled people in the Western world to enjoy an incredibly high standard of living for some decades now which, even today, is literally unimaginable in some parts of the world. (You know, those parts of the world where men routinely spend their money getting drunk rather than buying life-saving mosquito nets for their offspring. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/opinion/23kristof.html?_r=1&hp)

It sickens me to see women like, say, Barbara "Don't call me 'Ma'am'!" Boxer patronize a white man, essentially for being a white man, on national television. Were it not for white men, she'd be squatting toothless in a ditch to relieve herself and wishing one of her children had lived to maturity instead of succumbing in infancy to dysentary, malaria or typhoid.

I don't know who non-traditional women and NAMs think they are. However hard they have worked in recent decades, they've never worked without the safety net provided by white men. It's white men who keep the lights on, the food from spoiling, the vaccines ready and the traffic moving. We would all do well to remember that, before it really is too late.

asdadsfasdf said...

Coastal, what a name!!! Along the coast and coast to graduation.

Is Harvard 'Boastal'?

asdfasdfaf said...

"My evil theory is that China sends cute coeds to America for the express purpose of marrying every eligible shy white male with an advanced degree. That would pretty much complete their mission of stealing all our technology. Take all the technology producing genes, too."

It's China which is losing the brains. Far more smart Chinese settle here than smart Americans settle in China. And white/Chinese kids who grow up in America don't have much ties to China.

SFG said...

"There are a lot of institutions scouring the land specifically for talented girls and minorities, but white males who maybe don't have the kind of high-powered two parent fammiles ... eh, who cares? What have white males ever invented?"

You're quite right, but to be honest, I think you're up against anti-intellectual American culture here, where smart is uncool... both the red and blue states are to blame here, albeit in different ways...

Eric said...

My evil theory is that China sends cute coeds to America for the express purpose of marrying every eligible shy white male with an advanced degree. That would pretty much complete their mission of stealing all our technology. Take all the technology producing genes, too.

I, for one, will joyously provide them with as much of my genetic material as humanly possible.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think you're a racist. Because only racists would say things you say. For example, only racists would say that group differences are not due to their group's racism. After all, only racists would argue they are not racist. Steve, just man up to the fact that you're being racist in saying what you say; and start owing up to your racism. What's your problem?

Anonymous said...

Some of you don't seem to have noticed the formula used here:

(post-pre)/(100-pre).

A student starting with a high score can see the same percentage level of improvement as one starting with a low score (going from 85 to 100 = 15/15 = 100% improvement).


Thank you Julian.

"Normalized" means different scores can be compared. All other factors aside, the white surfers are doing twice as well as the smart black women.

Gorbachev said...

There's insufficient data in the proposition to come to a firm conclusion.

But I'll go first for the women being, ... women, ... in a physics class. In my experience, albeit not on the teaching side, males generally outperform females handily.

About being black, then we need more data and we have to start isolating causes statistically.

But this is an interesting observation to follow up.

And when to comes to plucking the smarts out of China, we don't do a bad job of that, either.

Everyone is betting on China. With 1/4 of the world's population, they should be doing what they're doing now.

But don't bank too hard yet. The jury's still out. And they're missing the key: flexible and good governance.

A lot of chickens are about to come home to roost - and start shitting all over everything - in China.

Andrew said...

I went to UMASS Amherst, then to Duke and Swarthmore. The first is a regular state university, and the other two are top-notch private schools.

My observation was that the biggest difference between UMASS and the others was the level of motivation of the students. All three had good classes, equipment and professors, but whereas at UMASS only a handful of kids in a given class would really be interested, at the private schools, especially Swarthmore, the kids were there to learn.

One result of this was that a good professor, who could really capture the interest of his class, could have a far bigger impact at the lower-tier school. All the kids who would normally be goofing off would prick up their ears and start paying attention. Thus, vastly increased test scores.

On the other hand, at the elite schools, the students are operating at or near their potential all the time (they have to, just to be admitted), and the level of change between their before-course and after-course test scores will be relatively lower.

Chris said...

A related unmentionable from this week's news:

The LAPD just arrested the area's latest serial killer, dubbed the Grim Sleeper. He's the fifth black serial killer in a row for the area. The previous four were Chester Turner, Ivan J Hill, Michael Hughes and John Floyd Thomas Jr.

This is for an area that has had a population that averaged ~12% black over the past 2-3 decades.

OhioStater said...

Race and gender aside, adults are getting stupider.

Illegitimacy is high for blacks and whites, and I doubt engineering skills are naturally selected.

On the other hand, we get autism when we try to pair our brightest with the brightest:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html

l said...

Steve Sailer said...
This data, by the way, fits in with my hunch that when everybody like Tom Friedman says that we'll have to stop overlooking young talent if we're going to compete economically with China and India, the largest amount of overlooked technical talent is not among, say, black females, but among white males (with Hispanic males next).


Interesting thought. Hollywood needs to churn out a few movies in which passionate young teachers get jobs in predominately white midwestern high schools and inspire the underachieving C students to study harder. "You can do better than going on to graduate with a 2.5 GPA from a 4th tier state party school and then getting a job as a department manager at a Wal-Mart. You have the potential to go to a 3rd, or even 2nd tier state school, graduate with a 3.0 and then, who knows? Maybe work in a bank."

Anonymous said...

serious question - how can this intentional ignorance (or maybe it's the final result of marxist indoctrination = they CAN't even conceive that that is the answer ) be used to ones personal gain.

with this kind of blatant ignorance, in defiance of reality has to have some angle of profitability.

Anonymous said...

The students seem to have roughly equal SAT scores - but this is not necessarily a good indication of whether they are "equally smart".

As La Griffe du Lion says, "[S]tandardized tests like the SAT tend to overpredict performance for blacks."


I have long wondered whether there is a significant [no-pun-intended] "black" market in high-IQ African Americans who hire themselves out, surreptitiously, to take standardized tests [SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT, law & medical boards] for their, ah, less-advantaged brethren [and sistren].

For instance, I am absolutely convinced that this is the case with African American high school athletes seeking to get around the NCAA's Prop 48 requirements.

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, we get autism when we try to pair our brightest with the brightest"

I'm convinced of this, coming from a New England family with a multigenerational presence at Ivy League universities and engineering colleges. The family tree is well decorated with loonies who remember the weather on June 5, 1952, die in houses stacked floor to ceiling with old Newsweek and Time magazines, believe in UFO abductions, and get hauled away in straight jackets for standing up in the middle of dramatic productions to debate the actors.

Anonymous said...

"It's China which is losing the brains. Far more smart Chinese settle here than smart Americans settle in China."

So how long do you think they plan to stay, sport? There is still technology in the US to steal and send back to the mother country for personal profit. And many Chinese who have careers in the US retire in China where they end up spending their social security and pension money.

The Outsider said...

A few people danced around the simplest explanation, so I'll just state it explicitly, for the record.

Although both colleges have roughly the same average SAT math score, Coastal almost certainly has a much wider distribution of scores. Since it has a mix of men and women, Coastal's average comprises some women who scored below average and men who scored above. Also, men and whites tend to have wider distributions for things like IQ than women and blacks.

The result of this is that the class at Coastal probably comprised students with higher IQ generally and higher visual-spatial specifically than the class at Spellman. As such, you'd expect them to learn more of whatever they didn't know when they started.

Big Bill said...

I lit 'em up at Mother Jones.

Hit all the hot buttons.

You know they are oozing guilt and shame for the failure of Spelman girls to do as well as white kids.

From a leftie point of view, the only possible answer for the Spelman low performance is current or past white racism (stereotype threat, legacy of slavery, no black role model teachers, poverty, etc.).

So I whacked 'em with a couple of leftie-flavored comments. Gave 'em a good chance to ponder their Eternal White Stain of Sin, Shame and Guilt.

It's like hunting baby seals with a baseball bat.

I wonder if any of them will have the b@lls to even whimper in their own defense.

ABP said...

Steve, I think you're a racist.

We're here, we're queerly unmoved by charges of racism (and therefore objectively racist), get used to it.

South Carolina local said...

Steve,
Please give us the answer!

For the past 25 years, I've lived within 150 miles of Coastal Carolina U and never known anyone who attended or admitted it.

Coastal is 15 miles from Myrtle Beach, where waves are very small. View Google images of Myrtle Beach surfing. They have a surf club but no team. Most of the guys aren't surfers.

Tuition alone is expensive. $9k in state. $20k out of state. 56% of first time freshmen are out of state. That's interesting. Must be a bunch of yankees and fur-in-ers.

Steven N said...

with this kind of blatant ignorance, in defiance of reality has to have some angle of profitability.

Virtually every doctoral thesis in the field of education reflects an angle in this profitability. And look what school superintendents make. Now if you can convert your snake oil into a one-size-fits-all GAP reducer and tickle the ears at the highest echelons of the educational establishment; now, yer talking 7 figures... instead of only 6. Alas, the field is already quite packed, but with USG's unrelenting commitment to Education, I'm sure there's still room for yet another angle.

SFG said...

"We would all do well to remember that, before it really is too late."

Hey, it only took us a thousand years to rise from barbarism after Rome fell.

Anonymous said...

with this kind of blatant ignorance, in defiance of reality has to have some angle of profitability

Their nihilism drives them insane.

Literally.

ziel said...

Sorry to come so late to the party, but I was looking at some other SAT data and thought of some important points to present.

The Math SAT results for CCC (490-580) are actually a bit higher than for Spellman - in fact it appears to be right about the white average overall (about 535), which is handy because then we can assume the variance is about the same as well. Given a standard deviation of 103 (based on 2009 SAT's for whites) and applied to the 6400 whites at the school, we can expect about 360 students to have scored over 700 on the math SAT's. We would expect a disproportioinate number of these to have taken physics classes. Note also that this is probably underestimated since I'm using the overall CCC average and applying that to just the white students - their average is probably higher.

Spellman's average is around 525 (25/75 range of 480 - 570), but that is substantially higher than the black female average of 420 overall. The overall s.d. is 93 for all black females, but since Spellman represents an elite slice of this population, we can expect an even lower variance due to restriction of range. But I don't know really how to estimate that. But let's take a guess. Spellman's average at 525 is already well past 1 s.d. above the overall b/f average. So can we say the s.d. at Spellman should be 2/3 of the overall s.d.?

So let's go with that - 525 avg, and a 62 s.d. That would leave us with about 6 girls in the school who likely scored above 700 on the Math SAT.

So that's 360 students in CCC above 700, 6 at Spellman above 700.

Virgil said...

Two Things:
Raised by parents that believe in the Dr. Spock philosophy which I believe is a disaster and they know that they will not be held accountable no matter their score.

Anonymous said...

I see one group of students with high and frequent exposure to vitamin D and one group of students with low and irregular exposure to vitamin D.

That's the difference that jumps out first.

Anonymous said...

What is the Dr. Spock philosophy?

Dingo Hammer said...

I don't think starting scores explain the difference. Lets assume starting scores for Spellman = 90 and Coastal = 60 and a normalized gain of 60 for both colleges.

Then Spellman students only have to improve 6 points while Coastal students have to improve 24 points.

So normalized gains seems like a fair way to compare the improvements for two different groups of students.

Anonymous said...

I am drunk, so probably I am at best equal to a Mother Jones commenter, but as others have said it seems reasonable enough that the preppy students are operating nearer peak efficiency than the surfers.

It also might be that current grades focus more on dilligence than talent, and that sort of thing might backfire badly in physics.

So yeah, I am drunk.

alonzo portfolio said...

I met a Spelman College kid in 1996, in a basketball game in Berkeley. He was
6'6" and couldn't play a lick, by which I mean he couldn't make an open jumper or even a full speed layup. He told me he was on the Spelman team, having just transfered from CS Northridge.

David said...

>and then, who knows? Maybe work in a bank<

So your contribution is to encourage black females to work at the bank instead.

Truth said...

"I met a Spelman College kid in 1996, in a basketball game in Berkeley. He was
6'6" and couldn't play a lick,"

What part of "women's college" confounds you?

Anonymous said...

I met a Spelman College kid in 1996, in a basketball game in Berkeley. He was 6'6" and couldn't play a lick, by which I mean he couldn't make an open jumper or even a full speed layup. He told me he was on the Spelman team, having just transfered from CS Northridge.

Sounds like the Jug-Eared One.

[Who throws an opening pitch like a girl.]

Anonymous said...

Ziel ftw. In practice the variance on the scores will be smaller than this at both schools, because there will be both a (likely soft) lower bound and a (soft) upper bound on SAT scores. The first from admission policies and the second from the fact that students with better SAT schools are more likely to choose to attend better schools. I suspect, too, this effect will be stronger at Spelman since in the first case, it is expensive and somewhat selective, and in the second, the best of its potential applicant pool would be aggressively recruited by other schools.

This is a falsifiable guess btw: we'd just need to see what the distribution of scores looked like at each school.