Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tough luck 

Suppose 36% of fourth-graders are tested to have an IQ below 95. Charles Murray argues that such a group might have a hard time passing standardized exams, and that it's a waste of resources to try to get them above that line.

But I held off on posting that waiting for former Scholar Kevin McGrew to post on this issue, as a fellow who devotes his life to understanding intelligence testing. He's weighed in, and I'm glad I waited. He says there's more to school performance than IQ.
I refer readers to a report I previously wrote re: this issue. It is often referred to as the "Forrest Gump" report. The report, IMHO, points out a serious flaw in Dr. Murray's logic...namely, that a specific IQ (esp. low IQ dooms a person to a lower set of achievement expectations). The bottom line...there is a normal distribution of achievement around any IQ score, whether it be below the 50th percentile or above. My point in the Gump report is that for any individual person, their general IQ score is not accurate enough to deny any individual to reasonably appropriate and high academic expectations.

However, Dr. Murray's position does fit with the extant body of group (vs individual) based intelligence research that suggests that, on the average, interventions to raise IQ and achievement have meet with limited success. This is one reason why the mastery learning experiment (which I have always maintained has conceptually been reborn in the form of NCLB) ran up against a major dilemma in individual differences/learning research....the "time-achievement equality dilemma." ...

In simple terms....educational psychology research has repeatedly shown us that at the group level (not to be confused with my individual Forrest Gump expectations report), education policy can either hold instructional time constant, and then achievement will vary as per the normal curve, or can attempt to hold achievement constant (standard expectations for all), and time will then vary as per the normal curve. This is the rub against which NCLB is now bumping up against. ...The educational research suggests, IMHO, that we can likely move the mean level of educational achievement (I'm not sure how far) via attention to variables "beyond IQ", such as instructional time, quality of instruction, high standards and expectations, interventions focused on non-cogntive/conative characteristics of students, etc., but that there still will be a normal distribution around the new mean. This is still a laudable goal.
The below-average will always be among us.