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Source: (consider it) Thread: Affirmative Action, or "Positive" Discrimination
saysay

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quote:
Originally posted by lilbuddha
Not sure who one can get from what is written here to claiming he doesn't think women are biologically inferior.

Huh.

I'm not sure how anyone can get the idea that he does think women are biologically inferior from what he's written.

But then I've actually read the memo, not just the headlines.

--------------------
"It's been a long day without you, my friend
I'll tell you all about it when I see you again"
"'Oh sweet baby purple Jesus' - that's a direct quote from a 9 year old - shoutout to purple Jesus."

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Erroneous Monk
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quote:
Originally posted by saysay:
quote:
Originally posted by lilbuddha
Not sure who one can get from what is written here to claiming he doesn't think women are biologically inferior.

Huh.

I'm not sure how anyone can get the idea that he does think women are biologically inferior from what he's written.

But then I've actually read the memo, not just the headlines.

I think that saying women are on average more neurotic (high anxiety, low stress tolerance) is saying that women are biologically inferior. I also can't find any research supporting it.

In any case, the outcome of any research would depend on whether it measured reported experience of anxiety and stress or devised proxies for these. As a manager, I'm concerned of course by a team member reporting feeling stressed, but I'm equally concerned about manifestations of stress that aren't accompanied by reports of feeling stress.

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And I shot a man in Tesco, just to watch him die.

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Hiro's Leap

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quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
I think that saying women are on average more neurotic (high anxiety, low stress tolerance) is saying that women are biologically inferior. I also can't find any research supporting it.

The memo linked to a Wikipedia subsection discussing gender differences in neuroticism. You could easily miss it because Gizomodo stripped out all of the links to supporting evidence before posting the memo, which strikes me as a dishonest trick.

Alternatively, you might not be able to find the evidence because as soon as the story went viral, an edit war broke out on the Wiki page. Currently the entire section is missing but it comes and goes. [Roll Eyes]

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
I think that saying women are on average more neurotic (high anxiety, low stress tolerance) is saying that women are biologically inferior.

I'm commenting only on this one small point, not the OP and rest of thread.

He could indeed be saying women are biologically inferior. He could also be saying women are inferior as a result of years of social pressure and deformation, not biology. And then there's the question of whether neuroticism is, in and of itself, a kind of inferiority....

I can think of some fields where neuroticism is an advantage.

So it's rather slippery.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
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Erroneous Monk
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
I think that saying women are on average more neurotic (high anxiety, low stress tolerance) is saying that women are biologically inferior.

I'm commenting only on this one small point, not the OP and rest of thread.

He could indeed be saying women are biologically inferior. He could also be saying women are inferior as a result of years of social pressure and deformation, not biology.

You're right. I've taken that section of the memo as flowing from "On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways." But the memo is so structured that it's hard to tell if that really is his intention.

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And I shot a man in Tesco, just to watch him die.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

I can think of some fields where neuroticism is an advantage.

'Neuroticism' is not normally used in a positive sense.
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Erroneous Monk
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quote:
Originally posted by Hiro's Leap:
The memo linked to a Wikipedia subsection discussing gender differences in neuroticism. broke out on the Wiki page.

Thanks HL. From there it seems that the research supporting it is all based around five factor model tests. I'm now trying to think of a way that five factor model testing could be done in a gender blind way.

Obviously a person couldn't rate themselves, as this would be affected by what they have been *told* their traits are/mean.

I suppose you could collect huge quantities of data (recorded interactions, transcripts etc) and feed it into some sort of analysis programme, get it to rate against the five factors, and then match the results back against the gender of the data source. But that seems a bit impractical.

I'm unpersuaded though that they've been used in a way that tells us anything about biology.

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And I shot a man in Tesco, just to watch him die.

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orfeo

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Regarding university admissions: I would highly recommend people listen to 3 episodes from the first season of the podcast "Revisionist History" that are all about American education and disparities and what does and doesn't work in addressing them.

You might not agree with everything the presenter Malcolm Gladwell says, but it will sure make you think.

The episodes are called:

1. Carlos Doesn't Remember
2. Food Fight
3. My Little Hundred Million


The "Food Fight" episode particularly struck me, but they're all good and from memory the first 2 are both highly relevant to university admissions.

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Technology has brought us all closer together. Turns out a lot of the people you meet as a result are complete idiots.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Moo:
He says that unequal numbers of men and women in software engineering is not necessarily proof of discrimination. If fewer women than men apply for these jobs, there will be fewer women in them.

But even that is not necessarily unbiased. I recently heard about research done by one of the job recruiting websites that showed how particular words being present in a job ad would have an impact on the proportion of women applying - and this was not restricted to a particular profession such as software engineering.

So if a bunch of males keep putting the "male-positive" words in their ads, they will get more male applicants and keep recruiting more males.

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Technology has brought us all closer together. Turns out a lot of the people you meet as a result are complete idiots.

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
What's harder is to decide who's the best candidate when you have person A from a privileged background where statistically academic performance is better with 2As and a B at A level, and candidate B from a less privileged background with 2Bs and a C - both of whom could be equally able, and indeed the candidate with lower grades could be better.

At the university where I work there is a noticeable correlation between qualifications on entry and likelihood of achieving a first class degree. This would seem to suggest that on average the candidates with lower grades are not better than those with higher ones.

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Hail Gallaxhar

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
What's harder is to decide who's the best candidate when you have person A from a privileged background where statistically academic performance is better with 2As and a B at A level, and candidate B from a less privileged background with 2Bs and a C - both of whom could be equally able, and indeed the candidate with lower grades could be better.

At the university where I work there is a noticeable correlation between qualifications on entry and likelihood of achieving a first class degree. This would seem to suggest that on average the candidates with lower grades are not better than those with higher ones.
Not really. It could just as equally suggest that the person who starts a race 10 metres in front only has to run at the same pace, or slightly slower, in order to maintain their lead. Running faster, being a better runner, is not in fact required if you have a head start.

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Technology has brought us all closer together. Turns out a lot of the people you meet as a result are complete idiots.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
At the university where I work there is a noticeable correlation between qualifications on entry and likelihood of achieving a first class degree. This would seem to suggest that on average the candidates with lower grades are not better than those with higher ones.

But that's not a useful comparison. Presumably your good grade and poor grade groups both contain a selection of those from different backgrounds. In the comparison you're making, you average over educational background.

The question you want to ask is: of candidates that came to you with top grades, are the underprivileged more or less likely to get first class degrees.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
And the rest of us aren't being swayed from the position:-
a. that we didn't agree with you to start off with, and

this is a problem. You are starting from a bias. This is natural, humans are bias machines. However, one needs to be at least open to a concept before it can be evaluated. ...
Yebbut, lilBuddha if that applies to either of us, it applies to you as much as to me.

You have started from your position. You have tried to persuade me to agree with you. You have not succeeded.

I likewise have started from my position and tried to dissuade you from yours. I haven't succeeded either.

Impasse, perhaps, but the word you used was 'biased'. Either neither of us is or we both are.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
And the rest of us aren't being swayed from the position:-
a. that we didn't agree with you to start off with, and

this is a problem. You are starting from a bias. This is natural, humans are bias machines. However, one needs to be at least open to a concept before it can be evaluated. ...
Yebbut, lilBuddha if that applies to either of us, it applies to you as much as to me.

You have started from your position. You have tried to persuade me to agree with you. You have not succeeded.

I'll not deny that I can be biased. Though, in this case, I began with the same position as you; merit will rise and better in = better out. It is life that has shown me otherwise. This is not about my own path, but those I have observed along the way. Best is an illusion and better doesn't always matter.

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Hiro's Leap

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quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
Thanks HL.

Sure. [Smile] I was blackly entertained how the Wikipedia page changed drastically every time I clicked on it - it summed up online ideological battles nicely.
quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
I've taken that section of the memo as flowing from "On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways." But the memo is so structured that it's hard to tell if that really is his intention.

The memo is confusing, largely because it covers way too much ground. It's also very off-putting to people who aren't already in his camp - talking about "neuroticism" was particularly tone-deaf and cringey, even if it was the right technical term.

It doesn't seem like the author (James Damore) ever intended the memo to be widely read: it was just a glorified feedback form. Damore says he'd been in a confidential Google summit where they discussed strategies to increase diversity. He believed the management's suggestions were discriminatory and potentially illegal, so he wrote the document as feedback on the meeting. After hearing nothing back for nearly a month, he forwarded it to an internal Google+ group called "Skeptics" and asked their opinion. It went viral in the company from there, then someone leaked it to Gizmodo.

Overall, Damore strikes me as very naive.

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
At the university where I work there is a noticeable correlation between qualifications on entry and likelihood of achieving a first class degree. This would seem to suggest that on average the candidates with lower grades are not better than those with higher ones.

But that's not a useful comparison. Presumably your good grade and poor grade groups both contain a selection of those from different backgrounds. In the comparison you're making, you average over educational background.

The question you want to ask is: of candidates that came to you with top grades, are the underprivileged more or less likely to get first class degrees.

In addition, there is the question of whether the same bias towards those from advantaged backgrounds continues to apply. Does the student with good grades because she had a place to study at home continue to be able to afford a decent student house? Does the student with poor grades because he had to share the dining table with his siblings continue to struggle, unable to afford a decent house and needing a bar job to make ends meet?

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Hiro's Leap:

Overall, Damore strikes me as very naive.

Yeah, perhaps Google should weight inter-personal skills more heavily when they recruit.
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Golden Key
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I read Damore's e-mail yesterday. Mixed feelings and understandings. I need to read it again.

But I found this yesterday:

"An open letter to James Damore" by Kim Scott (SF Chronicle).

From the beginning:

quote:
James,

As a woman who led a 700-person team at Google, I can knowledgeably — and vehemently — disagree with what you wrote in the memo questioning Google’s efforts to diversify its workforce.

But I’m glad you wrote it. You gave others a chance to challenge your thinking. In return, I am open to you challenging mine. Like you, I care about psychological safety, yours in particular.

To that end, in the spirit of radical candor, I’m offering some ideas for sharing your opinions more productively in the future.

Let’s start with where we agree: “We all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow.” Amen!

It's a really good, mature response.

--------------------
Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

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stonespring
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I think one of the issues specific to the US is that there is no nationwide official college entrance exam, and even if there were, there is no nationwide curriculum to prepare students for it. The SAT, which is prepared by a nonprofit with no government oversight whatsoever, is supposed to measure college readiness rather than mastery of any particular set of subjects, and it often measures one's level of privilege (money spent on test preparation) better than it predicts anyone's future college performance. The ACT and SAT II subject area tests do address more specific academic subjects, but among people who have acquired knowledge in a subject area, these tests still heavily favor those who have mastered test-taking strategies over those who have best mastered the material. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations are better measures of academic achievement related to a specific curriculum, but the courses that prepare for them are much more available in school districts where privileged people tend to live (quite a few schools do not offer them at all), and even in those school districts where many of these courses are offered, admission to the curriculum "tracks" that prepare for these courses, which often begins in primary school when students have very little on their CV to demonstrate their academic potential, heavily favors those with privilege.

In addition, grades from different schools represent very different curricula and very different standards of grading, so comparing them is almost meaningless.

A graduating student's rank among their classmates (measured by grade point average) could be very different from one school to another for a student with the same level of academic ability, just because of who they are competing with or how GPA is calculated. Schools that have A minuses and B pluses, etc., versus having only A's and B's, versus having one's exact class marks out of 100, and not just a general letter grade, contribute to GPA, will have very different outcomes.

At my school, AP and IB courses (and the "honors" classes that prepared for them) had weighted grades, meaning that an A or B in them was worth more for a student's GPA than an A or B in the same subject in a non-advanced course. But all students still had to take subjects like physical education, health/sex ed that did not have weighted letter grades. If a student managed to avoid taking these classes because of a medical or religious excuse that, at least in my school district, did not necessarily need to involve a letter from a doctor or clergy, then that student could have a higher GPA than another student who had the same academic performance but took those classes. Also, a student who wanted to be in choirs, bands, orchestras, etc, at my school had to take classes for those activities that did not have weighted grades, so participation in these activities, even if you take just as many advanced classes as another student, could pull down your GPA (the reason this works is that at my school at least, you could opt to take more than the minimum number of classes. A student who took the minimum number of classes, all of which were advanced, would have a higher GPA than a student with the same academic performance who took the same number of advanced classes and one more class that was for choir and hence did not have weighted grades). Being from a privileged background often means having access to networks of people who offer advice on how to best to navigate systems like this so that one's college application looks the best.

For reasons like this and many more, even huge public universities here have to be deeply subjective in evaluating students that apply. Some (but by no means all) states have their own graduation exams that public universities can look at, but these exams are often made by for-profit companies and teachers and curricula at individual schools are often very imperfectly aligned with these tests. Even in states that have their own graduation exams, public universities still make heavy use of looking at school grades, GPA, class rank, and scores on SAT, SAT II, ACT, AP, and/or IB exams, in addition whatever distinctions or awards a student might earn in academic competitions, sports, arts, and extracurricular activities (the US is one of the few countries where being a good athlete or musician makes a student more likely to be admitted to a university where that student intends to study science, medicine, anything other than sports or music!).

So even if a public university does not have every applicant looked at in detail with essays, interviews, etc., by an admissions committee, like happens at elite private schools, and uses a shortcut system of points to determine what students are admitted, this system of points is based on haphazard measurements from very different schools and school districts (not to mention often from students from other states and countries who apply), and is also often based on non-academic indicators even when race, gender, income, geographical origin, whether one is the first in a family to attend college, etc., are NOT taken into account.

And I'm sure people have mentioned on this thread that at private universities, including the most prestigious ones, being a family member of alumni/ae of the university or being the child of someone who has very generously donated to the university is a huge factor in admissions. When I graduated high school (in 2003), Columbia University, a private Ivy-League university in New York City, only admitted about 11-13% (I don't remember the exact number) of all applicants but admitted 60% (or was it 80%? Regardless, it was well over 50%) of applicants who were children or siblings of alumni/ae (so called legacy applicants).

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Golden Key
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# 1468

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New wrinkle with Damore/Google:

"The fired Google engineer wrote his memo after he went to a 'shaming,' 'secretive' diversity program" (Business Insider).

I'd wondered what set him off-- feeling/being ignored, passed over for promotion, hating that other people went off to sessions for their particular diversity? This is at least one puzzle piece.

--------------------
Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
... At my school, AP and IB courses (and the "honors" classes that prepared for them) had weighted grades, meaning that an A or B in them was worth more for a student's GPA than an A or B in the same subject in a non-advanced course. But all students still had to take subjects like physical education, health/sex ed that did not have weighted letter grades. If a student managed to avoid taking these classes because of a medical or religious excuse that, at least in my school district, did not necessarily need to involve a letter from a doctor or clergy, then that student could have a higher GPA than another student who had the same academic performance but took those classes. Also, a student who wanted to be in choirs, bands, orchestras, etc, at my school had to take classes for those activities that did not have weighted grades, so participation in these activities, even if you take just as many advanced classes as another student, could pull down your GPA (the reason this works is that at my school at least, you could opt to take more than the minimum number of classes. A student who took the minimum number of classes, all of which were advanced, would have a higher GPA than a student with the same academic performance who took the same number of advanced classes and one more class that was for choir and hence did not have weighted grades). Being from a privileged background often means having access to networks of people who offer advice on how to best to navigate systems like this so that one's college application looks the best. ...

Stonespring, I've probably not understood this, but the way you have described it, what you've described reads like a system designed by a moron to reward mediocrity, the unadventurous and the unimaginative.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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Marvin the Martian

Interplanetary
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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
Not really. It could just as equally suggest that the person who starts a race 10 metres in front only has to run at the same pace, or slightly slower, in order to maintain their lead. Running faster, being a better runner, is not in fact required if you have a head start.

Well for one thing, if I had to bet on such a race then you'd better believe I'd back the person who starts 10 metres in front. Because at that point it doesn't matter why they're more likely to win, only that they are.

But academic excellence is not the same as a race, and differing levels of achievement up to the end of compulsory schooling are not the same as distance handicaps. By the time you get to age 18, it is usually not a case of two individuals of similar ability starting from arbitrarily different points. It's a case of two individuals of differing ability starting from the points appropriate to that ability. Yes there will be some geniuses with lower grades, just as there will be some idiots with higher ones. But on the whole the grades don't lie.

Most universities want to recruit the students who will be most likely to get good honours degrees and go on to good graduate-level employment, because those are the things that determine our position in the various university league tables. And again, it doesn't matter why the students are more likely to achieve those things, only that they are. As long as the league tables are based on outcomes (as opposed to, say, value added between entry and graduation*) then that will remain the case.

.

*= this would, of course, be a hideous way to rank universities as it would make students with the best A-Level grades the least desirable for universities as there is no improvement possible with them. That idea may please those who wish to see everyone made artificially equal - those for whom the "perfect" race would see every sprinter cross the line at exactly the same time whether they are Usain Bolt or Marvin the Unfit Martian - but it has no place in any institution seeking to promote and foster academic excellence.

--------------------
Hail Gallaxhar

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Arethosemyfeet
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# 17047

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
*= this would, of course, be a hideous way to rank universities as it would make students with the best A-Level grades the least desirable for universities as there is no improvement possible with them. That idea may please those who wish to see everyone made artificially equal - those for whom the "perfect" race would see every sprinter cross the line at exactly the same time whether they are Usain Bolt or Marvin the Unfit Martian - but it has no place in any institution seeking to promote and foster academic excellence.

That's actually not borne out by the experience of schools - selective schools often have very high value added scores, because more able students tend to progress faster. In mathematics, for example, a mediocre student can be expected to progress the equivalent of one GCSE grade over the course of a year of study, and able one two, a less able one perhaps 1/2 or less.

In any case, grades do lie. All the time. And they're more likely to lie in a certain direction for certain groups of people. Universities know this and many take it into account for socioeconomic factors (albeit somewhat bluntly).

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chris stiles
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# 12641

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:

*= this would, of course, be a hideous way to rank universities as it would make students with the best A-Level grades the least desirable for universities as there is no improvement possible with them.

You don't have to go to extremes of rating improvement alone, it can be introduced in as part of a mix of things.

I assume some American universities/private schools rate themselves this way - hence their interest in scholarships targeted at students from disadvantaged communities.

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orfeo

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Marvin, it seems to me you're inserting what you were seeking to prove into your starting conditions.

People do not arrive at university shaped purely by their innate academic abilities. They arrive shaped by the opportunities they actually got to improve and develop those abilities. And I cannot see a justification for naively believing that everyone got the same amount of opportunities. Otherwise the entire notion of trying to send your child to a "good school" wouldn't exist.

"More likely to succeed" is one thing. "Better" is quite another.

[ 11. August 2017, 12:29: Message edited by: orfeo ]

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
People do not arrive at university shaped purely by their innate academic abilities. They arrive shaped by the opportunities they actually got to improve and develop those abilities.

Yes, that's what I said.

quote:
And I cannot see a justification for naively believing that everyone got the same amount of opportunities. Otherwise the entire notion of trying to send your child to a "good school" wouldn't exist.
That's not something I've said. I know people get different levels of opportunity, but by the time you get to university-level education that doesn't really matter. Someone may well be less academically talented because of lack of opportunity, but they are still less academically talented.

If you want to fix that, look to the schools. Saying universities should take less academically talented students just because they never got the opportunity to develop their talents before that stage is like saying the Olympics should let me race in the 100m final despite being slow as hell, because I never got the opportunity to train as a sprinter during my childhood.

quote:
"More likely to succeed" is one thing. "Better" is quite another.
Er, no. You are better at drafting legal documents than me, which is equivalent to saying you are more likely to succeed in a job that requires that talent.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:

If you want to fix that, look to the schools.

That is a more complicated issue involving reduction of poverty and/or spending money on schooling in poorer areas.

quote:

Saying universities should take less academically talented students

Universities have admissions standards. Anyone who meets them is qualified.
quote:

just because they never got the opportunity to develop their talents before that stage is like saying the Olympics should let me race in the 100m final despite being slow as hell, because I never got the opportunity to train as a sprinter during my childhood.

Poor analogy. It is more like preventing you from exercising, prohibiting you from proper training before the trials, preventing your descendants from the same and making their start conditional on your performance.

Your position perpetuates the class system.

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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orfeo

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This is a very well written article about the Google memo.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:


If you want to fix that, look to the schools. Saying universities should take less academically talented students just because they never got the opportunity to develop their talents before that stage is like saying the Olympics should let me race in the 100m final despite being slow as hell, because I never got the opportunity to train as a sprinter during my childhood.

Poor analogy. The 100m final is a competition to see who is fastest at that moment; university is meant to develop talent, not just filter and measure it. A better analogy might be a football talent scout - they'll pick kids who've been having professional training since 3 and have wonderful skills, but they'll also be on the look out for good footballers who've picked it up from observation and school PE lessons because they'll know they can improve a great deal with a little proper training.
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Ohher
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
At the university where I work there is a noticeable correlation between qualifications on entry and likelihood of achieving a first class degree. This would seem to suggest that on average the candidates with lower grades are not better than those with higher ones.

Qualifications? What are those, and where do they come from? Secondary school grades are determined by human beings who are subject to quirks, biases, and failings. In the US, standardized "objective" college entry tests like the SATs and the ACTs routinely show higher scores for white, male, high-family-income students; inner-city low-income women of color routinely do far less well. Is this because of inherent differences in these groups of test-takers, or because of bias inherent in the test?

While I grant that there has to be some way of at least appearing to be fair in admitting students to college, I doubt that we have found one. Tests and grades are created, administered and applied by human beings, and if we agree on nothing else, we can surely agree that human beings, consciously or not, deliberately or not, are subject to making biased judgments. The idea that "qualifications" like school grades and test scores are some sort of objective measure of an individual's ability to learn and think and discover is nonsense.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Ohher:
Qualifications? What are those, and where do they come from? Secondary school grades are determined by human beings who are subject to quirks, biases, and failings. In the US, standardized "objective" college entry tests like the SATs and the ACTs routinely show higher scores for white, male, high-family-income students; inner-city low-income women of color routinely do far less well. Is this because of inherent differences in these groups of test-takers, or because of bias inherent in the test?

While I grant that there has to be some way of at least appearing to be fair in admitting students to college, I doubt that we have found one. Tests and grades are created, administered and applied by human beings, and if we agree on nothing else, we can surely agree that human beings, consciously or not, deliberately or not, are subject to making biased judgments. The idea that "qualifications" like school grades and test scores are some sort of objective measure of an individual's ability to learn and think and discover is nonsense.

I think there might be a pond difference at work here. In the UK (and in many other places) exams taken at school are marked at a national level to national standards. Serious quality control measures are in place and these days the marking is largely anonymous. I mark for a couple of the major exam boards (one English, one Scottish) and there is little room for personal bias to creep into the marking (I can point you to an exam and its mark scheme if you'd like). The issue is that people from deprived backgrounds are, on average, less well prepared for these exams even though they may have potential to do as well as someone from a more privileged background. Part of this is family circumstances, part of this is the racism (and indeed classism) of low expectations.
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Ohher
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
I think there might be a pond difference at work here. In the UK (and in many other places) exams taken at school are marked at a national level to national standards. Serious quality control measures are in place and these days the marking is largely anonymous. I mark for a couple of the major exam boards (one English, one Scottish) and there is little room for personal bias to creep into the marking (I can point you to an exam and its mark scheme if you'd like). The issue is that people from deprived backgrounds are, on average, less well prepared for these exams even though they may have potential to do as well as someone from a more privileged background. Part of this is family circumstances, part of this is the racism (and indeed classism) of low expectations.

There may -- or may not -- be room for bias in marking; you know better than I. The problem is that there is often bias in the test itself. Who makes up the test items? How are the questions framed and phrased? This is typically where bias shows up.

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Gee D
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As I read Ohher's post, I took it as meaning that the very nature of a test was discriminatory - a woman in a poor neighbourhood will do less well because she does not bring the same set of skills to sitting for the test, regardless of its subject matter, as a male in a more comfortable area of the country. I have no idea how you compensate for that sort of difference.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
As I read Ohher's post, I took it as meaning that the very nature of a test was discriminatory - a woman in a poor neighbourhood will do less well because she does not bring the same set of skills to sitting for the test, regardless of its subject matter, as a male in a more comfortable area of the country. I have no idea how you compensate for that sort of difference.

Well, in the UK girls out perform boys by quite a margin (and this was the case even 50 years ago when "intelligence tests" were used for grammar school admissions at 11). I'm surprised to hear that US tests are biased in favour of men.

As to bias in questions, it's inevitable that tests of what is taught in schools will favour those who've done well in school. Just as an example, these are the mathematics papers for the Scottish qualification most commonly used for university entry here (the Higher):
http://www.sqa.org.uk/pastpapers/papers/papers/2016/NH_Mathematics_all_2016.pdf
I'd be interested to see where the bias is in these questions, or where it's likely to arise in the marking:
http://www.sqa.org.uk/pastpapers/papers/instructions/2016/mi_NH_Mathematics_all_2016.pdf

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Gee D
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I took Ohher's comparison and can't comment as to biases in the tests. But to go back, I understood Ohher to be saying that the wrong is having the test in the first instance as tests in general are biased against the poor and ill-educated.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
I took Ohher's comparison and can't comment as to biases in the tests. But to go back, I understood Ohher to be saying that the wrong is having the test in the first instance as tests in general are biased against the poor and ill-educated.

Ohher seemed to be saying that there was some aspect of how the tests were set (by people) that was introducing bias. Certainly poor people, on average, do less well than rich people, but tests still give a pretty good idea of which people are best suited to university. It would, however, be wise to make a correction to those results to account for unrealised potential due to socio-economic differences (which many UK universities already effectively do).
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Curiosity killed ...

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The 11 plus was notorious for class bias. In the 1950s questions about servants and classical composers disadvantaged working class candidates.
The current version is being criticised for bias against BME candidates.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
I took Ohher's comparison and can't comment as to biases in the tests. But to go back, I understood Ohher to be saying that the wrong is having the test in the first instance as tests in general are biased against the poor and ill-educated.

Ohher seemed to be saying that there was some aspect of how the tests were set (by people) that was introducing bias. Certainly poor people, on average, do less well than rich people, but tests still give a pretty good idea of which people are best suited to university. It would, however, be wise to make a correction to those results to account for unrealised potential due to socio-economic differences (which many UK universities already effectively do).
Ohher said:
quote:
In the US, standardized "objective" college entry tests like the SATs and the ACTs routinely show higher scores for white, male, high-family-income students; inner-city low-income women of color routinely do far less well. Is this because of inherent differences in these groups of test-takers, or because of bias inherent in the test?

Now, I took the reference to the tests being objective as a reference to any test; you took it as being the test as composed. I can see your reading as possible. Let's wait and see a clarification from Ohher.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
I took Ohher's comparison and can't comment as to biases in the tests. But to go back, I understood Ohher to be saying that the wrong is having the test in the first instance as tests in general are biased against the poor and ill-educated.

Ohher seemed to be saying that there was some aspect of how the tests were set (by people) that was introducing bias. Certainly poor people, on average, do less well than rich people, but tests still give a pretty good idea of which people are best suited to university. It would, however, be wise to make a correction to those results to account for unrealised potential due to socio-economic differences (which many UK universities already effectively do).
You seem to be assuming facts not in evidence. There's a good deal of evidence that the SAT, as currently composed, is a fairly poor predictor of college performance. Women, in particular, seem to perform better in college than men with similar SAT scores. Or men are underperforming in college relative to women with similar SAT scores, if you want to look at it from that perspective. At any rate, the low degree of correlation between test scores and college performance would seem to indicate that current standardized tests aren't measuring what we think they're measuring.

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Ohher
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In the US, we seem to have developed what amounts to a mythology about testing in general: we "believe" in them. We take, on faith, that tests actually measure what they claim to measure, and that there's some sort of objectivity in test results.

A couple of decades ago, a neighboring state developed and administered a standardized test for newly-graduated teachers. Some substantial majority of those taking the test failed it. Outrage and outcry followed: WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR TEACHER TRAINING PROGRAMS? No one appears to have raised a different valid question: what was wrong with the test?

Tests are composed by human beings. How questions are worded can skew results. What happened when the Affordable Care Act had been in place for a bit? Ask members of the public whether they were for or against Obamacare, you collect lots of negative responses. Ask them how they feel about the ACA (exact same legislation, different name), you get lots of positive responses.

What did our test questions actually measure? We may disagree about what we think we learned by asking those two questions in those particular ways, but I think we have to admit that we have NOT discovered much about whether people approved of the new health care legislation.

Take a different example: the simple word "dinner." Insert this word into an arithmetical word problem, where the test-taker has to figure out something about time. For many US test-takers, "dinner" is a main meal which happens midday, usually after a morning of heavy physical labor. For many other US test-takers, "dinner" is a main meal which happens in the evening. If the test-taker is asked to compute how much time is available to complete an activity "after dinner," you're going to get some pretty confusing results.

Multiply such seemingly small & unimportant possibilities over dozens of test questions across several disciplines, and you end up with a test far more likely to represent the test-creators' linguistic and cultural "pre-sets" than a test which measures anything particularly revealing about those taking the test.

Add to this already-skewed picture the actual test-taking conditions.

A flu epidemic is sweeping through a large high school where students are sitting for the SATs. Can the school alter the testing date? No. Can they negotiate scaling the results? No. A substantial percentage of sick kids will sit the exam and do poorly, pulling down the whole school's averages, and possibly derailing college plans for many individual students. Tough luck.

Testing is an industry in this country, and its primary purpose appears to be to screen the poor, the colorful, and other "outliers" out of any chance at upward mobility.

On a personal level, I have been suspicious of standardized testing since becoming a "National Merit Scholar" several decades ago. This was in part on the basis of math scores (800 out of 800) I pulled off, after completing one year of geometry with near-failing grades and two years of algebra with average grades. No trig, no calc, and a complete lack of interest in the material. Apparently I'm a good guesser. Based on this score, I was put in advanced placement at university in upper-level math classes, all of which I promptly flunked, as I didn't even recognize the symbols being written up on classroom screens and blackboards.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
As I read Ohher's post, I took it as meaning that the very nature of a test was discriminatory - a woman in a poor neighbourhood will do less well because she does not bring the same set of skills to sitting for the test, regardless of its subject matter, as a male in a more comfortable area of the country. I have no idea how you compensate for that sort of difference.

Bias is generally towards the dominant culture. In most cases this will be along race and class lines. You fix this by reducing classicism, racism and poverty. Redesigning the tests can help, if potential is preferred over base proficiency, but the ultimate problem will only be completely solved if the source is fixed.

As to Ohher's statement, I had thought that black males in America had the lowest achievement rates.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Ohher
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That may depend on how the numbers get crunched, and who does the crunching.

In either case, if we're determined to discover who wins the race to the bottom, women of color generally come last in most measures of "achievement." That fact may be less visible due to women of color getting hired more frequently than men of color, hence are more visible in workplaces. Not visible: the fact that black males get incarcerated at staggeringly higher rates, which hurts employment chances, and the fact that women of color get paid staggeringly less money than any other group except possibly Latinas.

But, back to the SATs, this may prove of interest.

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Formerly Foolhearty. Back after somewhat less than 40 years in the wilderness.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
You seem to be assuming facts not in evidence. There's a good deal of evidence that the SAT, as currently composed, is a fairly poor predictor of college performance. Women, in particular, seem to perform better in college than men with similar SAT scores. Or men are underperforming in college relative to women with similar SAT scores, if you want to look at it from that perspective. At any rate, the low degree of correlation between test scores and college performance would seem to indicate that current standardized tests aren't measuring what we think they're measuring.

First off, I'm not talking about predicting university grades, just whether somebody can hack university or not, and secondly I'm talking about UK qualifications, not US-style standardised tests. Broadly speaking, if you can't pass A-Levels or Highers (particularly in the subjects related to your area of study), you're going to struggle at university. I think you'd struggle to argue that, given two people one with As in Physics and Maths at A-Level, one with Cs, that the former isn't more likely to be successful studying Physics at university. Now they're certainly not perfect: I have 3As and a B at A-Level; didn't stop me getting a 2:2 in my degree.
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Barnabas62
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Exams are a measure of present attainment, surely. They may or may not be a very good measure of that, and it's certainly a good idea to subject exam processes and marking to critical review to minimise bias.

Present attainment may indeed be hindered by social inequity, teacher competence, illness, family stress, etc. To that extent, using exam results as a major determinant of entry to higher education, or work, has always been, and will always be, a bit of a blunt instrument.

The same arguments also apply to predictions of future attainment, in further exams or at work.

No doubt there are statistical correlations between examination results and future attainment. I'm not sure that those corrrelations tell us a lot, that we don't already know. For example that ability, motivation and hard work, taken together, may help anyone succeed. But sometimes success is based on who you know, not what you know. And there is luck involved as well.

[ 14. August 2017, 08:19: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
First off, I'm not talking about predicting university grades, just whether somebody can hack university or not, and secondly I'm talking about UK qualifications, not US-style standardised tests. Broadly speaking, if you can't pass A-Levels or Highers (particularly in the subjects related to your area of study), you're going to struggle at university. I think you'd struggle to argue that, given two people one with As in Physics and Maths at A-Level, one with Cs, that the former isn't more likely to be successful studying Physics at university. Now they're certainly not perfect: I have 3As and a B at A-Level; didn't stop me getting a 2:2 in my degree.

Ironically, the history of the Open University says you are wrong. Lots of people have degrees from the OU having started without A-levels, and the OU stands against the prevailing mindset that thinks somehow attainment at A-levels is any kind of benchmark as to performance at degree level or beyond.

A-levels are only tangentially related to degree performance - and the universities know it. Given that very few people study at A-level the subjects they then go on to study at university (and evidence suggests that those who do study subjects like Law or Engineering at A-level actually do worse if they then go on to study them at university) they're really little more than a type of currency the university application system uses to sort students.

Put at its most basic, the OU shows that a much wider intake of university students is possible and that the main thing holding back people with is grit determination.

To me it makes much more sense to arrange universities in this way rather than force 18 year olds to try to navigate the pointless UCAS system.

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Barnabas62
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People can learn a lot in the "school of hard knocks". The OU evidence points that way.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
People can learn a lot in the "school of hard knocks". The OU evidence points that way.

Yes, indeed - but you actually have to go.

Some time ago, I taught a "Foundation" year at a UK university (a year before the regular degree, for people who didn't have the background required to start the degree.)

We had two kinds of students - mature students, who had mostly left school at 16, got jobs, and decided they wanted a degree, and 18-year-old school leavers with bad A-levels.

The first group were a joy to teach, and without exception worked their arses off. Most did very well, a couple stayed on and got PhDs, and every now and then you found someone for whom no amount of effort and willing was going to overcome the fact that he was as thick as two short planks.

The second group? It was obvious that they had bad grades because they'd spent their A-level years partying, and they wanted to spend their university years in a similar fashion. One or two turned in to reasonable students, but the vast majority continued to do no work, and usually failed to get a degree.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:

The second group? It was obvious that they had bad grades because they'd spent their A-level years partying, and they wanted to spend their university years in a similar fashion. One or two turned in to reasonable students, but the vast majority continued to do no work, and usually failed to get a degree.

Absolutely. A part of growing up. Some people only learn the self-discipline involved in study as a result of the cost of not practising it. Part of the school of hard knocks.

And of course some just blame the system. The cost of such denial is also a part of the school of hard knocks. The penny may drop after a while.

And some people never learn. Transferring blame can do that.

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mr cheesy
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But the other half of the equation is also true - namely that some people do better at university than their A-level grades suggest they should.

Partly this is about where they start from, because it is harder to get good A-level grades in a low-status (for whatever reason) sixth-form college than a top-performing independent or grammar school. Partly it is because the style of learning at degree level is different to learning at A-level. Partly it is because people mature at different times and some people peak too early, others only get into their stride at university.

Hence it is really pretty shocking that there are still graduate employers out there who make decisions based on A-levels. I've heard of some who reject graduates because their A-levels are too low. That can only be about social and class candidate selection.

But then the whole thing is pretty messed up. The "best" candidates are sorted into the "best" universities by A-level grade. And yet I've heard it said on more than one occasion that a candidate from a "lesser" university who has performed better than expected is quite likely to be (for example) a better researcher than someone who has been to a "top" university. I don't think this is a universal rule as some of the best performing academics I know are Oxbridge educated, but then a good number I know are from "second" division universities and some exceptional people went to "lower" universities without good A-levels.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Ironically, the history of the Open University says you are wrong. Lots of people have degrees from the OU having started without A-levels, and the OU stands against the prevailing mindset that thinks somehow attainment at A-levels is any kind of benchmark as to performance at degree level or beyond.

No, not if you read what I actually wrote. I'm pretty sure that anyone capable of taking an OU degree could have sat down previously and done the relevant A-Level courses (note that I talked about being able to pass the courses, not whether they actually had or not). The fact that they don't have to is good, but a quick google suggests that the OU has a 87% drop-out rate which seems to me to indicate that past academic performance may be relevant. Also note that while the OU doesn't require A-Levels or equivalent, only 1/3 of their students start with 1 A-Level equivalent or less. Now, you can argue that the OU drop out rate is affected by other factors, such as working while studying or the difficulties of distance learning but it does mean you can't argue convincingly that the OU model is effective at selecting those candidates who can succeed - indeed they make little attempt to do so.
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