Category: Education

The shell game of Berkeley’s holistic admissions

By Razib Khan | August 3, 2013 3:36 am

The title refers to the basic thrust of a piece in The New York Times, Confessions of an Application Reader. The piece ends with a paragraph like so:

Underrepresented minorities still lag behind: about 92 percent of whites and Asians at Berkeley graduate within six years, compared with 81 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of blacks. A study of the University of California system shows that 17 percent of underrepresented minority students who express interest in the sciences graduate with a science degree within five years, compared with 31 percent of white students.

You may or may not agree with this particular type of admissions policy (I do not, because I do not care if minorities are underrepresented at universities if that underrepresentation is due to transparent academic deficiencies, which I believe to be the case). Rather, I want to focus on the term ‘underrepresented minorities’ and ascertain how underrepresented minorities truly are at Berkeley. That’s easy enough to do. About ~80% of UC Berkeley undergraduates are California residents. The Census allows us to query the racial makeup of a range of age brackets for various localities. What I did was look for the percentage of individuals between the ages of 15-19 in the 2010 Census for California, approximately the source population of students who are freshman in the 2012 class.

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Cultural sorting in the University of California system

By Razib Khan | January 25, 2013 11:18 am

My question is simple: why so few Asians at University of California Santa Barbara? Freshman admissions profiles are easy enough to get for the UC system, while Ron Unz has put his demographic data online. For what it’s worth 27 and 9 percent of the children in the California educational system (primary and secondary) were non-Hispanic white and Asian in 2010-2011.

Freshmen admitted profile:

GPA ACT SAT Reading SAT Math SAT Writing White Asian
Berkeley 4.16 30 674 701 692 30.3 37.4
Davis 4.03 28 611 658 632 33.6 37.7
Irvine 4.02 27 588 645 611 20.2 49.1
UCLA 4.11 30 659 702 681 31.5 34.3
Merced 3.57 23 525 559 533 19.5 29.3
Riverside 3.7 25 550 595 566 15.6 37.6
UCSD 4.07 29 639 691 661 24.3 45
UCSB 3.96 28 614 654 635 44.6 15.9
UCSC 3.78 26 573 597 586 42.4 20.8

My impression is that Santa Barbara is relatively weak in the sciences in comparison to an equivalent school like Irvine. Note that at four of the UC’s non-Hispanic whites are underrepresented, using the source population profiles as the benchmark (and in fact, if I limited it to just 18 year olds, a cohort which probably has more than 27 percent non-Hispanic whites, then they may be underrepresented at a few other campuses).

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The “Asian quota” and implicit cultural knowledge

By Razib Khan | December 22, 2012 8:31 pm

The Myth of American Meritocracy, Ron Unz

A recent conversation I had with a friend whose parents are immigrants from Germany made me reconsider and reflect on the power of implicit information in shaping one’s life; that information being culturally mediated. Though my friend was raised in the United States, because of her parents’ immersion in the German expatriate community her upbringing was very bicultural. In fact, she is much more German than I am Bangladeshi. Despite the fact that to anyone who is a Baby Boomer or older she looks American, and I do not, there are many similarities in outlook due to our 1.5 generation background. Both of us are from families where graduate educations in the sciences are the norm. We succeeded in academics and pursued higher education without much effort or obstacles. This is not a story of overcoming the odds in a conventional  sense. In explicit terms we are entirely American, but there are nevertheless implicit aspects of being American of a particular social class which we had to experience after leaving home at 18.

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The power of home environment

By Razib Khan | October 6, 2012 11:01 pm

Before a Test, a Poverty of Words:

Things are very different elsewhere on the class spectrum. Earlier in the year when I met Steven F. Wilson, founder of a network of charter schools that serve poor and largely black communities in Brooklyn, I asked him what he considered the greatest challenge on the first day of kindergarten each year. He answered, without a second’s hesitation: “Word deficit.” As it happens, in the ’80s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley spent years cataloging the number of words spoken to young children in dozens of families from different socioeconomic groups, and what they found was not only a disparity in the complexity of words used, but also astonishing differences in sheer number. Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4.

This makes sense. It certainly explains the dearth of the children of working class Korean immigrants in higher education, seeing as their parents often have rudimentary English vocabularies. Oh wait…. These tales of the power of upper middle class homes to give their offspring a leg up are commonly distributed because they appeal to common sense, as inferred from cultural presuppositions. One of them is that parents matter, a lot. To some extent this is certainly true. If your parents have the income and wealth to give you a university education so that you don’t need to take out student loans, then that’s a major leg up. Perhaps even more importantly it is critical in many fields if you come from enough money so that you can toil away in unpaid internships.

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The law school scam as a cognitive bias

By Razib Khan | July 1, 2012 11:57 pm

I’ve been aware of the whole “law school scam” genre for years. The basic issue is pretty straightforward: all the problems of higher education with easy loans and inflated tuition for credentialing are manifest writ large in law schools. Here are some plausible numbers, Law Grads Face Brutal Job Market:

The numbers suggest the job market for law grads is worse than previously thought. Nationwide, only 55% of the class of 2011 had full-time, long-term jobs that required a law degree nine months after graduation. The ABA defines “long-term” jobs as those that don’t have a term of less than one year.

Read the whole article, and you see how law school deans try to present weasel explanations for the damning statistics. There’s also a nice interactive graphic. Whittier College of Law has a 40% unemployment rate for the class of 2011. The bar passage rate is 66%, and the tuition is $38,000. In contrast, Columbia 2011 grads have an unemployment rate of less than 1%, with a tuition of  $51,000. Obviously the inputs matter here. Columbia professors aren’t that much better than Whittier professors. Rather, Whittier is probably taking $38,000 a year from individuals who are marginal lawyer material. They’re selling people a dream.

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Do consumatory scholars need tenure?

By Razib Khan | June 28, 2012 12:27 am

John Hawks pointed me to this really strange article, Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working:

We have no concise term to describe what we spend much of our time doing. Our colleges are focused on scholarly products that can be peer-reviewed and published, but the reality is that many of us spend much of our time on being scholarly, not on producing scholarship. We are, and should be, consuming the scholarship of others. Consuming scholarship includes preparatory time for teaching but is much broader. We need a name for this ubiquitous activity. I offer “consumatory scholarship.”

I suppose the arguments is that by consuming the production of others you become a better teacher and communicator. But is this good bang-for-the-buck? One could argue that argue that I’m a “consumatory scholar,” but at least I have 10 years of a huge amount of text production of commentary which is widely circulated (e.g., I’ve been cited in a few books, just query “Razib Khan”).

Obviously there is some truth to the charge that publish-or-perish leads to a surfeit of crap. Quantity over quality. But this seems to take it to the extreme level. Publications do end up being a way to maintain careers, but the reason publishing is important is that you become part of the record of scholarship. Consumatory scholarship has much more individualized and evanescent outcomes.

MORE ABOUT: Academia

The invisible academic Asian

By Razib Khan | June 18, 2012 11:38 pm

In Chris Hayes’ piece in The Nation, Why Elites Fail, there is a particular lacunae which I noted: he does not make it clear to a non-New York audience which is well known to any New York based reader: elite public schools in the city are dominated by Asians. I pointed this out to both Hayes and Matt Yglesias on Twitter. Hayes makes much of the advantages accrued to the wealthy via test prep, but neglects to mention the racialized cast of this: test prep and competition for these public school slots is driven by the children of Asian immigrants. Consider, Test Fuels Anxiety—And An Industry:

The challenging test, known as the “Sci-Hi” exam for short, consists of a math and verbal sections. More than 27,000 kids took the test last fall. Only about one in five students wins admission to the specialized high schools. Asians and South Asians were 57 percent of the students who learned in February that they’ve been admitted to one of the eight competitive specialized high schools.

The city’s Department of Education offers free prep classes for economically disadvantaged students. But many immigrant families pay for private test prep classes despite having incomes that in many cases are low: In the case of Bangladeshis, their per capita income in New York City was reported in the last census as $10,479—less than half of the citywide figure of $22,402. Mostly by word of mouth over the years, the Bangladeshi community of New York City picked up on the importance of these schools, valued by previous generations of working class immigrants as a stepping stone to American mainstream.

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Physical education teachers are not smart

By Razib Khan | January 20, 2012 1:51 am

So there is a website out there, Educational Realist (via Steve Sailer), which made me aware of some statistics from ETS on the intellectual aptitudes of those who passed a teaching certification. This is relevant because those who major in education at university are notoriously rather weak students. The implication here is that teachers are substandard as a whole, a narrative long favored on the American Right, but now spreading in some parts of the Left.

Below are the verbal and mathematical scores by licensing domain. The solid line represents the average SAT score of a college graduate.

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MORE ABOUT: Education, Teachers

Which state has the most PhDs in the legislature?

By Razib Khan | June 13, 2011 4:08 am

Josh Rosenau points me to a new infographic from The Chronicle of Higher Education. A lot of the stuff isn’t too interesting or surprising. Are you surprised that 25% of the state legislators in Arkansas don’t have a college degree, the highest in the nation? The lack of public investment in education Arkansas has deep historical and cultural roots, back to its founding in the 19th century. On the other hand there are a few surprising nuggets. You are surely aware of the preponderance of Esquires in the profession of lawmakers in these United States. But can you guess which state has the highest proportion of lawyers in their legislature?

Don’t mess with Texas! They’ll sue you!

How about doctorates? This one might surprise you too:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis, Education
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