April 14, 2012

Manhattan IS Lake Wobegon

If you are ever feeling in the need for a laugh, just look up the latest news from New York City on the Kindergarten Admissions Wars. Year after year, it's pure comedy gold. Amazingly, this NYT reporter, Anna M. Phillips, appears to be starting to get the joke:
After Number of Gifted Soars, a Fight for Kindergarten Slots 
By ANNA M. PHILLIPS 
Nearly 5,000 children qualified for gifted and talented kindergarten seats in New York City public schools in the fall, 22 percent more than last year and more than double the number four years ago, setting off a fierce competition for the most sought-after programs in the system. 
On their face, the results, released on Friday by the Education Department, paint a portrait of a city in which some neighborhoods appear to be entirely above average. In Districts 2 and 3, which encompass most of Manhattan below 110th Street, more students scored at or above the 90th percentile on the entrance exam, the cutoff point, than scored below it. 
But experts pointed to several possible reasons for the large increase. For one, more middle-class and wealthy parents are staying in the city and choosing to send their children to public schools, rather than moving to the suburbs or pursuing increasingly expensive private schools. And the switch to a test-based admissions system four years ago has given rise to test-preparation services, from booklets costing a few dollars to courses costing hundreds or more, raising concerns that the test’s results were being skewed. ...
Of the children who scored high enough on the entrance exam to be eligible for a gifted program, more than half — 2,656 — qualified for the five most selective schools by scoring at or above the 97th percentile. But those schools — three in Manhattan and one each in Brooklyn and Queens — have only about 400 kindergarten seats. The rest of the 4,912 children qualified for one of the dozens of gifted programs spread throughout the five boroughs. 

A.K.A., the Loser Gifted Programs for Loser Children of Loser Parents who Don't Love Their Children Enough to Figure Out How to Get Them into the Golden 400.
Gifted programs generally offer an accelerated curriculum, as well as the opportunity to be around other high-performing children.

Keep in mind, we're talking about high-performing kindergarteners here.
The city did not provide a racial breakdown of students who qualified, but as in years past, the more affluent districts — 2 and 3 in Manhattan, in neighborhoods west and south of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and in northeastern Queens — had the most students qualify. In District 2, 949 children qualified for a gifted program, far more than in any other district.
District 2 starts at about 96th St. on the Upper East Side and includes all of Manhattan south of Central Park, except, amazingly enough, Alphabet City on the Lower East Side. (And even that's gentrifying.)
In District 3, 505 children qualified. By contrast, in District 7, in the South Bronx, only six children qualified for gifted placements and none for the five most exclusive schools.

Two orders of magnitude difference.
Every year since 2008, when the city put the current testing program into effect and 2,230 students qualified for seats in gifted and talented kindergarten classes, the number of children scoring at or above the 90th percentile has steadily grown. The chancellor in 2008, Joel I. Klein, made the change to standardize the admissions process, replacing a system in which each district set its own standards for entry, a process that drew criticism from parents who said favoritism sometimes played a role.

When school supremo Joel Klein made the switch to pure test-based admissions, using tests would obviously have a huge disparate impact effect. But, Klein didn't know or didn't care, because kindergarten admissions is serious stuff where testing is too crucial to be sacrificed on the altar of racial equality. This isn't something trivial like saving people from burning skyscrapers, this is NYC kindergarten admissions, and don't you forget it. Different rules apply.
But the new process has come under scrutiny for its complete reliance on the test — actually two exams, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, a knowledge test. 
In January, the city awarded Pearson a three-year contract for roughly $5.5 million to replace the Bracken exam with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, which city education officials contend will better measure ability.

Isn't it weird that this is a golden age for the psychometric industry? Standardized tests are constantly denounced, yet governments keep shoveling more money to testing firms to create new tests that will Finally Get It Right. These firms have achieved the perfect marketing equilibrium.
The contract places restrictions on Pearson’s ability to sell its test materials to anyone outside the Education Department, to make it harder for test-preparation companies to get their hands on them.

Oh, well, that will stop New York City test prep firms dead in their tracks.
... Always on the alert for changes to admissions policies, some tutoring companies, true to the nature of their profession, are prepared for it. 
One of the companies, Aristotle Circle, already offers a $300 “test preparation and enrichment kit” designed for the Naglieri and similar exams. 
“You can build a better mousetrap, it doesn’t matter,” said Suzanne Rheault, one of Aristotle’s founders. “There’s no way you can stop it because now the idea of preparing for the kindergarten test is totally the norm. The stakes are so high.”

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

There’s no way you can stop it because now the idea of preparing for the kindergarten test is totally the norm. The stakes are so high.

Anyone on this board who isn't homeschooling his children needs to turn in his paleocon decoder ring in exchange for a pair of birkenstocks.

KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AWAY FROM THESE KOOKS!!!

Anything less amounts to criminally incompetent parenting.



PS: I didn't just fall for an Onion parody, did I?

gum said...

Occupy Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Chicago said...

One has to feel sorry for the kids, coming under pressure to perform from such an early age. They'll really be neurotic later. Meanwhile, in other places like India it'd be a matter of having the right family or connections rather than having the kids turned into trained capuchin monkeys jumping through higher and higher hoops.

Big Bill said...

I [heart] New York, don't you?

The sheer desperation of these folks is mind boggling. Ten years ago, they could afford to wait in line at 3 AM to get application forms for Miss Manner's School For Perfect Children ($20,000 per annum).

Now, however, the banker bonuses are coming up a bit short and they are compelled to get NYC to pay for their segregated schooling.

Not that I have a problem with segregated schooling, mind you, just their desire to reserve it for themselves.

Like President Barry, who keeps his girls at Sidwell Friends School -- safe from bruthas who (like his dad) pump-and-dump any schoolgirl they can get their hands on.

Anonymous said...

The rise of individualism also makes people colder. This goes for parents too.
The less individualistic Southern Italian parents(at least in the old days)hugged their kids and showered them with affection. There was no shame in familial love, devotion, affection, and etc. It was a wet culture where family members were sticky in their emotions.

But in UK, emotions became dry than wet. Even parents, though loving their kids, maintained a distance. British ladies didn't hug and wetly kiss their kids like Italians did. It was even considered gauche for parents to be too close to kids. Kids were raised in a dry way and when they came of certain age, were pushed out of the roost to do their own thing. So, there was likely to be less bond between parent and kid, thus less dynastiness.
Take the film WILD STRAWBERRIES. The relation between father and son is cold.

Anonymous said...

Chinese and Indians may not be passionate like Italians of old, but it seems family emotions are very strong and deep among them. It becomes a problem when it spills into political and social affairs.

gumnasty said...

In a non-competitive order, dynasties are likely since the privileged won't lose out by favoring its own kind even if they are untalented. Take the Polish nobility. Most of them were a worthless lot, but they were privileged as nobility. So, they could totally suck, but they were not gonna be challenged by the lower masses since the lower masses didn't have the freedom to rise up. This is why rotting Poland was eaten up by its more powerful neighbors. Masses couldn't rise up but neighbors could rain down on Poland.

But once societies became freer and fairer, dynastiness was a disadvantage cuz while your competitors were hiring the best, you were stuck with your own kind who were dumbass.

But a paradox sets in over time.
Though freedom and fairness undermine dynastic system by making the dumb-elites decline while allowing smart-poor to rise up, over time, the new elites eventually become filled with naturally-smart people. So, talent becomes not only socially but genetically concentrated at the top.

I think this was Charles Murray's point in COMING APART. Meritocracy, which once allowed the smart-poor to rise to the top, is now about those at the top remaining on the top since they are genetically advantaged. It's genepotism.

Anonymous said...

When school supremo Joel Klein made the switch to pure test-based admissions, using tests would obviously have a huge disparate impact effect


Where if the DOJ on this? If somebody name "Jed Kirk" took a similar action in a southern state, the federal government would be taking control of the schools there.

There is one standard for very rich Democratic Jews, and another for white Republicans.

Anonymous said...

So, in the end there was no need to check the date on the NPR April Fool's joke article. It was real after all.

Kylie said...

"Manhattan IS Lake Wobegone"

Great news, if true.

Now we know where to send all those Somali refugees.

Thrasymachus said...

Manhattan is different. It's different from a law enforcement perspective- "stop and frisk", which would screamed down as racist and unconstitutional any place else, is the little challenged norm there. We can see from this story, if we didn't know it already, that its public education system is far different. All those elite high schools with admissions based on exams, no way would those be tolerated anywhere else. And certainly not kindergartens.

Manhattan is a special place for special people, and they make their own rules.

Anonymous said...

I think that these parents are loonies. Above certain threshold, the enriched environment hardly even matters. I went to an elite university in another Wobegonish place (Moscow, Russia) and there was a good number of kids there that went to "specialized" schools for gifted. Truth is, on average this cohort did not stand apart from the rest of the class. IOW, their elite environment did not make them any smarter or more determined than similarly smart kids that experienced no enhanced environment.

Anonymous said...

OT, but related - you can now look at the national merit scholar database if you received a scholarship. Interesting to see who does and does not appear:

https://www.memberconnections.com/olc/membersonly/NMS/old/old.cgi?FNC=SIMPLESEARCH__Aindex_html

For instance, there is a certain Steven E. Sailer from Studio City, CA who graduated from Notre Dame High School. On the other hand, there is no one with the last name Obama (no Eric Holder or Newt Gingrich or Thomas Friedman or David Brooks or Bryan Caplan or Tyler Cowen either).

Mitt does not appear, nor do any of his progeny far as I can tell. No Ron or Rand Paul.

Bill Gates is there, but Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are not (Peter Thiel is)

Ben Bernanke is there of course. John Roberts is there, Sam Alito is not, nor is Sonia Sotomayor.

Anonymous said...

More like Central Park is the new Versailles.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Anon, that list may not tell you what you want to know. I was a Finalist, but took no scholarship because my paranoid stepfather preferred paying to filling out a FAFSA. In the 1970's people kept their financial info secret a lot more.

Hillary Clinton was a finalist, BTW, but not Bill.

As for the kindergartens, Lots of geniuses were autodidacts who grew up in odd circumstances, and lots of others went to Montessori schools that stress such self-learning rather than early academic "performance."

Odie and Noxie said...

How odious and noxious!!

Anonymous said...

Might I suggest a kindergarten version of the HUNGER GAMES in Central Park? "The Aristotle Circle" already sounds ominous as hell.

I know an NYU professor who lives with his wife and kid on Avenue D, so I'd say "gentrified" is more like it now.

Maya said...

A nonverbal ability test, eh? They are on the right track. There should be a non-communicative ability test- something that measures the soul of a child. You know, some sort of a device to capture an aura.

Anonymous said...

This isn't something trivial like saving people from burning skyscrapers, this is NYC kindergarten admissions, and don't you forget it. Different rules apply.
i am sure there will be 'special' fire units that just happen to be located in BLoomberg/SWPL neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Lake Wobegon, people like Garrison Keillor are from a world very different from that in which most Americans live.

While it was never the Upper West Side, the Upper Midwest was once a world unto itself... where it was Norwegian vs. Swede vs. German, not white vs. black vs. brown.

Today, Keillor is probably more comfortable in Manhattan than in his home state, where things are changing fast. His old isolated world is disappearing.

The Twin Cities have been getting more "vibrant" for decades, but now even rural Minnesota is experiencing the effects of an exploding Hispanic population.

In a sense, Keillor's line about all the children being above average had some truth to it, at least with respect to old Minnesota. That's not the case anymore.

Anonymous said...

The NMS database is a bit spotty. Some people I know are missing. But I did find Peter Shor, Seth Lloyd, Lisa Randall, Steve (Stephen) Hsu, Ron Unz, Cosma Shalizi, ...

No S. Brin or L. Page, though.

Get Off My Lawn! said...

Anyone on this board who isn't homeschooling his children needs to turn in his paleocon decoder ring in exchange for a pair of birkenstocks.

KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AWAY FROM THESE KOOKS!!!

Anything less amounts to criminally incompetent parenting.


That depends on what you're preparing them for - a productive, happy life or ideological purity. Isolating your children from society might work if you find a large enough community of like-minded people to build a new society (or subculture) with. Isolating your children while living in the middle of the mainstream makes you feel better but won't help them in the long run.

See, here's the thing: The chances are pretty high that your kids are going to want to live in the mainstream when they grow up. They're probably going to want to fit in and be part of general society because most people do. Their hearts are probably not going to burn with the same ideological flame as yours, or indeed burn with any ideology. Eccentricity regresses to the mean just like intelligence.

If you handicap them by making it harder for them to fit in and live the live they want, then you aren't doing them any favors, no matter how just you think your cause is.

Besides, there's a big gap between, on the one hand, the insanity Steve's post describes and home-schooling on the other. If all you want is to keep your children away from this level of over-competitiveness, leave the city and move to a nice suburb with good schools.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the pups get a chance to romp around before they have to join the hunt? The whole idea sounds revolutionary - is there really any correlation between a rigorous kindergarten program and success 20 years later, if not the coming generation might be called the Fatigued Generation.

ATBOTL said...

This is another example of how America's new post-WASP elite is pursuing one set of rules for themselves -- straight IQ based school tracking -- and another set for the rest of America -- busing, integration, dumbed down curriculum etc.

Pretty soon, we're going to be reading about how people in Manhattan now own slaves and have declared themselves royalty.

Anonymous said...

The "security" around the testing industry was compromised about eighty years ago. But your supposed to believe it's a Fort Knox of fairness.

Each year connected tutors disseminate the keys to the kingdom. Of course the students aren't told they are getting the keys.

Massive corruption is now right in our faces (banking, real estate, sports, politics, medicine) when the hell are people going to wake up?

Anonymous said...

"But I did find ... Steve (Stephen) Hsu"

Look again. There are several Stephen Hsus in the database, but none appears to match up with the biographical information Steve Hsu has revealed.

Anonymous said...

Loser - a title you can now don at 5 years old. Stop the secular, Darwinian world, I want to get off!

Anonymous said...

Secret Service hire prostitutes in Colombia!!
But didn't Netanhayu hire a lot more prostitutes in Congress and in the Oval Office when he came to America?

Anonymous said...

"Look again. There are several Stephen Hsus in the database, but none appears to match up with the biographical information Steve Hsu has revealed."

Scratch that. Steve does show up in the database (showing a Hawaii address for some reason, but with his high school matching the one he says he graduated from).

Svigor said...

Manhattan is different. It's different from a law enforcement perspective- "stop and frisk", which would screamed down as racist and unconstitutional any place else, is the little challenged norm there. We can see from this story, if we didn't know it already, that its public education system is far different. All those elite high schools with admissions based on exams, no way would those be tolerated anywhere else. And certainly not kindergartens.

Manhattan is a special place for special people, and they make their own rules.


Like how NYPD is now basically doing the job the FBI won't do. Even as far away as western Asia, apparently.

Anonymous said...


Nightline on the Brave Goo World

Anonymous said...

From babysat to olsat.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand lives... in the secret souls of liberals.

Anonymous said...

"I know an NYU professor who lives with his wife and kid on Avenue D, so I'd say "gentrified" is more like it now."

There are several public housing projects between Ave. D and FDR Drive. I wouldn't live on a street that literally faces the projects.

Anonymous said...

To be sure... what really guarantees a kid's successful entry into the elite is less which kindergarten he enters as which egg he entered as a sperm.

Anonymous said...

You know, Michelle Obama looks like a black Karen Black.

Anonymous said...

The Washington Post declared a jihad on Fairfax County magnet school Thomas Jefferson a few moths ago (Steve, you have written about this a few times). The school is over 50% Asian and about 40% White with a smattering of Blacks and non-White Latinos. The Post wants all measurable standards for entrance erased and those hot, new "holistic" standards introduced. "Holistic" standards are immeasurable, though being darker than a brown paper bag will probably suffice.

Bring holistic admission standards to NYC and solve this simple problem.

Anonymous said...

The database had everyone from my high school that I thought might be there. Is it just scholarship winners? Finalists? Semifinalists? It does not seem to include Achievement, since those that I know are missing.

Anonymous said...

@5:09 - did you see this today?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/education/edlife/pre-meds-new-priorities-heart-and-soul-and-social-science.html?_r=1&ref=edlife

Thankfully, our holistically admitted doctors will have much empathy for us when they can't figure out how to cure our ailments

Anonymous said...

ATBOTL,

You mean the Hondurans living under the stairs working for pennies a day aren't slaves?

I'm not shocked at this, really. Diversity, multicult, etc have always been for Others, not for the Enlightened. When they hear Arizonans getting upset over illegal immigration, they don't think about the higher crime and economic crash that comes with poor meztiso labor. Their paradigm is "they have brown skin, ergo they must be racist".

This ignores the fact that your average hispanic citizen (La Raza racial agitators are not "average") doesn't want the problems south of the line. They don't want to have to compete with Oaxacans who do labor for a few bucks an hour, or worry about the neighbor's cousin "el Flaco" running north to escape a child molestation beef who then starts sniffing around the 13 year old girls.

Though to be fair, it'll come as much as a surprise when they're dragged out into the street by an angry mob, when that time comes.

DYork said...

What percentage of these kids and their parents are NOT Jewish or Asian?

Anonymous said...

@Anon @5:39PM citing NYT:

Last year, nearly 44,000 people applied for about 19,000 places at medical schools in the United States

Holy cow! Only a little over of 1 in 2? That low? Was it always so low? A local nursing school has ~ 1 in 5 admission rate (I know, not representative). This high admission rate is scary - it basically means that anyone can get into medical school given enough drive and patience. And now, with the MCAT watered down with Marxist psychobabble and "diversity" playing increasingly high role in admissions, the future of a good analytical doctor (already a rarity) looks bleak.

Dr Cattle said...

Svigor said..."Like how NYPD is now basically doing the job the FBI won't do. Even as far away as western Asia, apparently"

NYC has become more like a city-state, living under it's own rules.

The NYPD now operates air-defense missiles.

Anonymous said...

Where's the evidence for this claim that homeschooled kids end up doing worse in life than government-schooled kids? No personal anecdotes, please. I want to see solid data for this claim.

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/IEvt07RgTCM

silicon valley kindersity

Anonymous said...

It's funny how the ABC Nightline segment kept showing the little black girl over and over.

Anonymous said...

"Shouldn't the pups get a chance to romp around before they have to join the hunt?"


I don't thing there is any real evidence that lots of homework makes students do any better down the road, other than, of course, getting them though those important gatekeeper window tests. In fact, just the opposite, it kills their interest.

The notion that society is like a pyramid, ruled by an intellectual elite, explicitly selected by testing, is a giant step backwards for the US into the 3rd world. (Incidentally, when military elites (officers) have been selected this way (in Russia, for instance) it has proved weaker than systems that let talent rise from the bottom by in-the-field evaluation, "doing, not testing" (such as in Germany, for instance).

Selecting for the pyramid by testing is what countries do that have one big university in one big capitol city and can't afford to do the equivalent of field evaluation. (Make this one/state for suitably sized countries.)

There was a time in the US (what Steve refers to as Heinlein's America) when the US nearly achieved the first-world ideal of adults pursuing their own interests, independent of external control, be it government or parental, and, due to the ability and desire of the unfettered population to truly take advantage of this, in innumerable beneficial ways, civilization rushed past what controlled peoples could achieve. Even past what civilizations ruled by more intelligent people than all the adults exercising their intellectual freedom could achieve, apparently. In short, Heinlein's America reflects a traditional dream of Western civilization and culture. It has proven it's worth. It does work better.

That is, instead of a pyramid, a uniform wall or flood. The flood results in a much more powerful civilization, because searching for solutions and opportunity (for a way forward, for progress) is exercised in a parallel, distributed fashion, rather than by a single, central hierarchical control point. Parallel algorithms can search for solutions faster than centralized algorithms, thus making more rapid progress. Centralized civilizations can fail if they just make one mistake at the top. (Witness capitalism vs. communism).


But going the Western distributed way, with a lack of real central control, requires "an informed, intelligent citizenry" with the ability to tolerate a great deal of ambiguity. Humans usually find this induces a great deal of anxiety... It's simpler to have a game to play, rather than play the reality game. It's not clear the first-world dream is possible for lots of populations, too much anxiety and ambiguity.

We're all the worse off for this pyramid business. People need to consider the possibility it's a step backwards into the 3rd world that will result in things becoming more like they are in places where it's been a traditional practice.

Jim Bowery said...

The Lake Woebegone reference is no joke, despite the best intentions of Garrison Keillor:

The post 1960s decimation of the midwest's gene pool has been catastrophic. Shoving the best and brightest into urban fertility sinks has taken a demographic that was once the top in the world for scholastic aptitude, when counted as a separate country, to what the Atlantic gloatingly portrays as a state of obese geriatric tweakers terminally clinging to their guns and Bibles.

Congratulations, NYC! You really are on your way to finally beating Lake Woebegone!

Mr. Anon said...

"gum said...

Occupy Mr. Rogers Neighborhood."

That's good.

Anonymous said...

It appears to be just the scholarship winners in the NMSC database, which would be anywhere from around 40-50% of semifinalists depending on the year. To be a scholarship winner requires good grades, perhaps extracuriculars, and a letter from the school guidance counselor, so it eliminates some smart but less conscientious students. The database also includes "achievement scholars," which is basically minorities who did well relative to other minorities, but not well enough to qualify as semifinalists. To the person who said you need to fill out a financial aid form (FAFSA) to receive a scholarship - that's false. The scholarships are not need-based. My parents didn't want to fill out a FAFSA either, and I received one.

In any case, Hilary Rodham, Chelsea Clinton, Jonah Goldberg, and Rich Lowry are not on the list. Steven Levitt and Andrew Gelman are on it...

Anonymous said...

No way there's a black market for test scores in America, especially in the state of NY!

Arthur Andersen has been auditing that industry ... oh wait. Enron.

Surely the NY governors past and present would've clamped down ... oh wait. Spitzer.

What about all of the FBI offices and their huge manpower in the northeast ... oh wait. Whitey Bulger.

Well there's always the Secret Service! Those guys can't be compromised ... oh wait.

Well the SEC could probably assert jurisdiction. I'm pretty sure the employees there can no longer spend the day watching porn as per a new department directive. They have extra time now for crackdowns on white collar crime. The days of black market test scores in America are numbered!

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks for the link on the National Merit Scholars database. My question concerns whether it's inclusive of all high scorers:

My recollection was that I was a Semifinalist because of my PSAT score.

I, like most Semifinalists, made Finalist because my SAT score and graders weren't so bad as to cast doubts on my PSAT score.

But moving from Finalist to Scholar in 1975 seemed kind of arbitrary. I got a National Merit Scholarship paid for by Lockheed as the child of a Lockheed employee. I went to a little ceremony at Lockheed with about five other children of Lockheed employees. My vague recollection is that if you didn't qualify like that, then you went into the pot with all the other Finalists and only some of them got scholarships from NMSC while other Finalists didn't get scholarships.

If that's still true, that might explain why the Scholars tend to be supersmart guys like Gates, Unz, Levitt, Gelman, etc. but it could be that others were Finalists who didn't happen to make Scholar because their parents didn't work at the right place or whatever.

Does anybody know if this hunch is true?

Steve Sailer said...

Perhaps what undermined Heinlein's America was, ironically enough, space travel: Sputnik set of a huge effort in America to find young talent and centralize it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the NMSC database is comprehensive of high scorers, unfortunately. When I took the test in the mid-90's, about 6000 scholarships were awarded to 14,000(I think) semifinalists. About 2,000 were awarded by corporations to semifinalists who were childen of employees, about 2,000 were awarded by colleges to students who matriculated at those colleges (the Ivies didn't award these scholarships nor did many other schools), and 2,000 were awarded by NMSC based on criteria other than just one's psat score, such as GPA, extracurriculars, etc.

Anonymous said...

You can progress from Finalist to Scholarship holder in 3 ways:

1. Attend a school that funds scholarships as a way to recruit good students. Most state schools and even some semi-elite privates do this (for example, Carlton College). Any Finalist is eligible.

2. Get a company-sponsored NMS (like Steve did - from Lockheed, apparently). My guess is any Finalist with the right corporate connection can get one of these.

3. Be in the tippy top group that gets one of the scholarships directly funded by the NMS corp. If you don't have a corporate connection and attend HYPSM or similar top school, this is the only way to get a NMS. Lots of people who attend top tier schools were finalists but didn't receive a scholarship because they didn't make this final cut.

1&2 are only evidence of top 1% type ability, but not necessarily much more. #3 is evidence for higher level ability.

Anonymous said...

"#3 is evidence for higher level ability."

False. Why do you keep repeating this misinformation, Yan Shen, when I doubt you were even a semi-finalist? The "$2,500 scholarship winners" are selected from among Finalists based on essay/grades/extracurricular activities, not test scores.

Of the 15,000 Finalists, about 8,200 receive Merit Scholarship awards. All Finalists are considered for one of the 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, which are awarded on a state representational basis.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Merit_Scholar


An important component of the Scholarship Application
considered by Selection Committees when choosing NMSC
scholarship winners is the Finalist’s essay
. A well-written es-
say in the Finalist’s own words can give extra insight about
the applicant not gleaned by classes taken, grades earned,
honors received, or participation and leadership in extracur-
ricular and community service activities.

http://www.nationalmerit.org/annual_report.pdf

Aaron B. said...

A commenter objects to homeschooling:

Isolating your children from society might work if you find a large enough community of like-minded people to build a new society (or subculture) with.

Homeschooling != isolation. I could understand people repeating this old lie a couple generations ago when the Amish were probably the largest homeschooling group. But come on, it's not 1975 anymore. The homeschoolers I know participate in 4-H, Scouts, their churches, sports (sometimes being on the local public school teams), and numerous other activities. The only thing they're "isolated" from is the indoctrination and tedium of government-directed, age-segregated education. It's not hard to make the case that being locked in a room for several hours a day with a couple dozen other kids your age and lectured on topics important to the kind of people who run education colleges is far more isolating.

Eric Rasmusen said...

400 spots? That's just too much of a coincidence to be accidental. By now, maybe, it's just an inside joke:

"McAllister coined the phrase "the Four Hundred". According to him, this was the number of people in New York who really mattered; the people who felt at ease in the ballrooms of high society. ("If you go outside that number," he warned, "you strike people who are either not at ease in a ballroom or else make other people not at ease.") The number was popularly supposed to be the capacity of Mrs William Backhouse Astor Jr.'s ballroom."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knickerbocracy

Aaron B. said...

For what it's worth, I was a semi-finalist after doing well on the PSAT, but didn't take the SAT. (My seminary high school was only connected to a couple colleges that required the ACT, so that's what we took senior year, and since I was the oldest, my folks didn't know enough about the system to have me take the SAT privately.) My sister did take the PSAT and SAT, though, and I'm almost sure she was a finalist and got a scholarship out of it. Neither of our names are on the list.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the essay might count for something, and grades too.

But suppose you are NMS corp and you have hundreds of top 1% Finalists from a particular state to choose from. The SAT (at least pre-1995) had a much higher ceiling than top 1%. Don't you think the people who are well above 99th percentile have higher odds of getting scholarship #3? Or, consider the admits to HYPSM or Caltech who actually get NMS (which is likely to be #3, excluding some number of #2's). Don't you think they are a cut above most of the #1 and #2's?

There's a lot of room at the top above 1%. Just ask the principal at a school like Stuyvesant or Thomas Jefferson, and they'll tell you that over the years the #3's are usually much smarter than the average Finalist. Many (most) of the famous/smart people listed above on the thread went to schools that don't give out #1 (Gelman = MIT, Shor = Caltech, Bernanke = Princeton, Unz = Harvard) -- what type of NMS do you think they had?

ben tillman said...

But moving from Finalist to Scholar in 1975 seemed kind of arbitrary. I got a National Merit Scholarship paid for by Lockheed as the child of a Lockheed employee. I went to a little ceremony at Lockheed with about five other children of Lockheed employees. My vague recollection is that if you didn't qualify like that, then you went into the pot with all the other Finalists and only some of them got scholarships from NMSC while other Finalists didn't get scholarships.

I don't remember how it worked for me, and I wasn't sure I had received a scholarship, but my name's on the list, so I guess I did.

Iowa Boy said...

It seems, as an IQ tests, the following holds for the National Merit System:

Semi-Finalist(16k) =
Finalist(15k) =
Scholarship Winners

Nearly every Semi-Finalist who is able to apply becomes a Finalist.

Scholarship winners(8.2k) depend more on connections and special status than superior academic qualifications signifying no better academic achievement than semi-finalist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Merit_Scholarship_Program#Steps_in_the_competition

I took the PSAT as a prep for the ACT which nearly everyone in my midwest HS took instead of the SAT. One can only advance to a Finalist by submitting SAT scores and other info so me and all my classmates fell into the sizable fraction that couldn't advance even though my ACT scores were on par with my PSAT scores.

After we got our Semi-finalist PSAT scores, neither our parents nor school did any followup to even inform us that there was an option to advance to further stages. We just assumed our scores were the final and only determinate of whether we were semifinalists, finalists or scholarship winners.

Note the following breakout of scholarships that are offered (8,200 accepted):

4,600 by colleges for students enrolling in their institution

2,500 by merit by state rep basis

1,500 by ANTI-MERIT for students BELOW the FINALIST level

1,100 by companies for employee's children or other social goals (geography, career plans, etc)

As most people will naturally assume that there is a clear academic winning between each stage culminating at the Scholarship peak, this database is misleading.

Steve's post made me look into this after over 20yrs being misinformed on the issue.

Aaron B. said...

"After we got our Semi-finalist PSAT scores, neither our parents nor school did any followup to even inform us that there was an option to advance to further stages."

Yes, we were so naive back then (1986, in my case). We just assumed that if you proved you were smart, colleges would come looking for you. And they did, to some extent -- I had a whole pile of brochures from what seemed like every college in the country plus the military academies, and it was clear that the better your score the more colleges you heard from. But that was the end of it; a great test score didn't send anyone to your door the way a great athletic performance would. By the time we got our ACT results senior year and started actually applying to schools, most scholarships were gone and the best colleges were already filled for the year. Nowadays, even uninterested parents know you have to get started sooner than that.

Anonymous said...

"But going the Western distributed way, with a lack of real central control, requires "an informed, intelligent citizenry"


you forgot 'non violent and industrious'

Even smart folks who are lazy without impulse control are just... liberals

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps what undermined Heinlein's America was, ironically enough, space travel: Sputnik set of a huge effort in America to find young talent and centralize it."

Also, so many people had had positive personal experiences in WWII with the military, education, and research, that extending the highly centralized approach seemed natural during the Cold War. People had seen organization work, so it was natural to try to apply more.

(I recall hearing it said that living in the US military was living in the best socialist system on earth... I didn't find it that great, but not that bad either, and I never lived under real socialism to compare...)

One can't avoid thinking that in many ways the defender's of the West during the Cold War couldn't really bring themselves to trust in their own system. I'm convinced that to some degree modern open immigration and multi-culturism throughout the West started as a "weapon of the Cold War", introduced to counter the seductiveness of communist ideology. ("Join our side and we'll give you whatever you want!")

But now it's become a Cold War Zombie Weapon that continues to stagger along and it might become the death of us yet.

Aaron B. said...

"Also, so many people had had positive personal experiences in WWII with the military, education, and research, that extending the highly centralized approach seemed natural during the Cold War."

Yes, the MST3K guys had fun with this when they'd watch monster movies from that era. If a character was wearing a lab coat or a uniform, he could round up some troops and command them to fire blindly at something, and no one would bat an eye. And then there are the movie shorts from that time, in which everything from keeping your lawn free of pests to lunchroom hygiene was somehow linked to patriotism and working toward a better future.

You really get a sense from the entertainment and advertising of the time that they thought Science and Organization were going to be the answer to everything.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we were so naive back then (1986, in my case)... By the time we got our ACT results senior year and started actually applying to schools, most scholarships were gone and the best colleges were already filled for the year.

I had the same sort of experience as a senior in college - nobody bothered to tell me that the NSF deadline was like in September of my senior year, and I had never even heard of a Hertz fellowship when I arrived in graduate school.

H*ll, I didn't get sh*t for guidance in college whatsoever - I was basically self-taught after about my sophomore year - and what little that I did hear from the department faculty was invariably the WRONG advice.

David said...

Years ago, Alfie Kohn told us in his book No Contest that competition per se is not other than poison; its ultimate end is war, or the madhouse. Did we listen? Listen to that loser? Are you kidding? America, f yeah! My dog is smarter than your honor student!