Archive for October 17th, 2011

October 17, 2011

‘self-control is a better predictor of students’ college grades than IQ or SAT scores’

by Grace

The importance of willpower

Should one need a more practical sales pitch for the importance of willpower, Messrs. Baumeister and Tierney point to empirical work showing its over-riding importance for academic, personal, career and financial success. (Remarkably, for example, self-control is a better predictor of students’ college grades than IQ or SAT scores.) So crucial is self-discipline to individual flourishing, the authors suggest, that “research into willpower and self-control is psychology’s best hope for contributing to human welfare.”

In “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,”, authors Roy F. Baumeister and  John Tierney report that willpower can be viewed as a  “moral muscle”, with similarities to a physical muscle.

  • It can be overused and temporarily depleted.
  • It is fueled by glucose, so hunger can weaken our willpower.
  • It can be strengthened by training.


But  “mind over matter” also plays a role in willpower.

Recent research suggests that “Willpower” may exacerbate the very problem it is trying to reduce by promoting the idea of self-control as a limited resource. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues have found, both in the laboratory and in the real world, that one’s willpower is depleted through exertion only if one thinks it will be. Losses of self-control may sometimes “result not from a true lack of resources after an exhausting task,” Ms. Dweck and her colleagues wrote last year, “but from people’s beliefs about their resources.”

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October 17, 2011

Teacher intervention inflates New York Regents exam scores

by Grace

New York has a long-standing problem with inflated state test scores, including repeated citings of questionable grading practices but no concrete action to address the problem.

In 2003-4, the testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill rescored a sample of Regents exams and found that its scores were generally lower than the scores awarded by the schools, a sign that score inflation was taking place, according to a 2009 audit of Regents scoring by the state comptroller’s office….

… 2004 e-mail in which a state education official cited statistics that showed how teachers statewide appeared to be helping some students over the bar….

And in 2005, a team of the State Education Department’s own experts rescored some June Regents exams and found a “significant tendency for local school districts to award full credit on questions requiring scorer judgment, even when the exam answers were vague, incomplete, inaccurate, or insufficiently detailed,” the comptroller’s audit reported, adding, “These inaccuracies have tended to inflate the academic performance of students and schools.”

Teacher intervention is skewing the normal statistical distribution of grades

… about three times as many students scored exactly at the passing mark than at each one of the scores below it, a result not in keeping with a standard statistical distribution.

A New York State deputy commissioner of education:

“Obviously, teachers look for points to get kids to pass.”

Despite concerns about conflict of interest, teachers still score their own students’ or school’s test.

“We are relying more than ever on state exams — to measure student achievement, to evaluate teacher and principal effectiveness, and to hold schools and districts accountable for their performance,” Merryl H. Tisch, the Regents chancellor, said last month, in support of tightened grading practices. “If we’re going to use the tests in these ways, we need to be absolutely certain that our system is beyond reproach.”

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