Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies

Princeton University Press
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Uneducated Guesses challenges everything our policymakers thought they knew about education and education reform, from how to close the achievement gap in public schools to admission standards for top universities. In this explosive book, Howard Wainer uses statistical evidence to show why some of the most widely held beliefs in education today--and the policies that have resulted--are wrong. He shows why colleges that make the SAT optional for applicants end up with underperforming students and inflated national rankings, and why the push to substitute achievement tests for aptitude tests makes no sense. Wainer challenges the thinking behind the enormous rise of advanced placement courses in high schools, and demonstrates why assessing teachers based on how well their students perform on tests--a central pillar of recent education reforms--is woefully misguided. He explains why college rankings are often lacking in hard evidence, why essay questions on tests disadvantage women, why the most grievous errors in education testing are not made by testing organizations--and much more.

No one concerned about seeing our children achieve their full potential can afford to ignore this book. With forceful storytelling, wry insight, and a wealth of real-world examples, Uneducated Guesses exposes today's educational policies to the light of empirical evidence, and offers solutions for fairer and more viable future policies.

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About the author

Howard Wainer is distinguished research scientist at the National Board of Medical Examiners and adjunct professor of statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. For twenty-one years, he was principal research scientist at Educational Testing Service. His many books include Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display and Graphic Discovery: A Trout in the Milk and Other Visual Adventures (both Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 8, 2011
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Pages
200
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ISBN
9781400839575
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Administration / General
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / Evaluation & Assessment
Education / Philosophy, Theory & Social Aspects
Education / Statistics
Education / Testing & Measurement
Law / Educational Law & Legislation
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Howard Wainer
Good graphs make complex problems clear. From the weather forecast to the Dow Jones average, graphs are so ubiquitous today that it is hard to imagine a world without them. Yet they are a modern invention. This book is the first to comprehensively plot humankind's fascinating efforts to visualize data, from a key seventeenth-century precursor--England's plague-driven initiative to register vital statistics--right up to the latest advances. In a highly readable, richly illustrated story of invention and inventor that mixes science and politics, intrigue and scandal, revolution and shopping, Howard Wainer validates Thoreau's observation that circumstantial evidence can be quite convincing, as when you find a trout in the milk.

The story really begins with the eighteenth-century origins of the art, logic, and methods of data display, which emerged, full-grown, in William Playfair's landmark 1786 trade atlas of England and Wales. The remarkable Scot singlehandedly popularized the atheoretical plotting of data to reveal suggestive patterns--an achievement that foretold the graphic explosion of the nineteenth century, with atlases published across the observational sciences as the language of science moved from words to pictures.

Next come succinct chapters illustrating the uses and abuses of this marvelous invention more recently, from a murder trial in Connecticut to the Vietnam War's effect on college admissions. Finally Wainer examines the great twentieth-century polymath John Wilder Tukey's vision of future graphic displays and the resultant methods--methods poised to help us make sense of the torrent of data in our information-laden world.

Howard Wainer
During the course of the rhetoric surrounding the 1984 Presidential election campaign in the United States there were a variety of statements made that gave me pause. For example, I heard candidate Ferraro explain her poor showing in pre·election polls by saying. " I don't believe those polls. If you could see the enthusiasm for our candidacy 'out there' you wouldn't believe them either. " Obviously, trying to estimate one's popularity in the entire voting population from the enthusiasm of your supporters at political rallies is not likely to yield accurate results. I suspect that trying to statistically adjust the " rally estimate" through the use of the demographic characteris· tics of those who attend would not have belped enough to be usefuL A modest survey on a more randomly chosen sample would surely have been better. At about the same time, Secretary of Education Terrell Bell released a table entitled State Education Statistics. Among other bits of information, it contained the mean scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (the SAT) for 22 of the states. The College Board had previously released these mean scores for all states. At this point the mass media began carrying reports inter preting the differences. The Reagan White House pointed out that spending more money on education was not the way to improve educational outcomes. To support this they pointed to the mean SAT scores of Connecticut and New Hampshire. New Hampshire had modestly higher SAT scores but lower . . per pupil expenditure.
Howard Wainer
During the course of the rhetoric surrounding the 1984 Presidential election campaign in the United States there were a variety of statements made that gave me pause. For example, I heard candidate Ferraro explain her poor showing in pre·election polls by saying. " I don't believe those polls. If you could see the enthusiasm for our candidacy 'out there' you wouldn't believe them either. " Obviously, trying to estimate one's popularity in the entire voting population from the enthusiasm of your supporters at political rallies is not likely to yield accurate results. I suspect that trying to statistically adjust the " rally estimate" through the use of the demographic characteris· tics of those who attend would not have belped enough to be usefuL A modest survey on a more randomly chosen sample would surely have been better. At about the same time, Secretary of Education Terrell Bell released a table entitled State Education Statistics. Among other bits of information, it contained the mean scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (the SAT) for 22 of the states. The College Board had previously released these mean scores for all states. At this point the mass media began carrying reports inter preting the differences. The Reagan White House pointed out that spending more money on education was not the way to improve educational outcomes. To support this they pointed to the mean SAT scores of Connecticut and New Hampshire. New Hampshire had modestly higher SAT scores but lower . . per pupil expenditure.
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