Category Archives: Education

University of California to drop the SAT and ACT testing requirement

Yes! This is a permanent elimination:

The University of California board of regents, in a landmark move that could reshape the college admissions process across the country, voted Thursday to drop the SAT and ACT testing requirement.

Source: UC regents unanimously approve plan to drop SAT and ACT from admissions – SFChronicle.com

My own state has also eliminated SAT and ACT tests for public college admissions, starting this fall.

As the victim of a GRE testing failure decades ago that shaped my entire life, I am thrilled to see the end of these absurd testing regimes.

In the case of the GRE, the year I took the exam they introduced a new section to evaluate a student’s “logical reasoning” ability. Even though I scored above the 90th percentile on English and Math, I scored 28th percentile on this new section. That’s a failing grade.

Years later I learned, hidden in a footnote, that  colleges had been instructed to ignore the “logical reasoning” score the year I took the exam, as there were errors in the test. GRE never notified students of these errors in their test. Consequently, I made wrong decisions, with life time impacts, based on their incompetence.

Numerous graduate programs are now dropping the GRE requirement too! 

This is fantastic news!   Standardized testing grew out of tests given to military recruits in the early 20th century – the tests were designed to filter out minorities. Some think the tests have continued to do that – we know that SAT scores correlate very well with household income, for example.

The tests appear to filter out students based on cultural backgrounds and household income – something that is not good for anyone.

Disease: Good summary of coronavirus COVID-19 situation

Summarizes possible impacts to the U.S. and economic issues. CDC is planning for possible school and business closure mandates, summer Olympics could be canceled, and hoping the disease, like many, subsides during warm summer conditions.

The total number of COVID-19 cases climbed above 80,200 as of Tuesday with deaths climbing to at least 2,704.

Source: Coronavirus live updates: US confirms 53 cases, CDC outlines pandemic planning

U.S. firms discouraging or prohibiting travel by employees to affected areas now including China, Italy, South Korea and southeast Asia including Australia.

Increases in student loan availability lead to increases in tuition and fees

Stated another way, the more money poured in to student loan programs, the higher the tuition charged. Tuition goes up because of student loans rather than the view that student loans go up in response to higher tuition.

Consistent with the model, we find that even when universities price-discriminate, a credit expansion will raise tuition paid byall students and not only by those at the federal loan caps because of pecuniary demand externalities. Such pricing externalities are often conjectured in the context of the effects of expanded subprime borrowing on housing prices leading up to the financial crisis, and our study can be seen as complementary evidence in the student loan market.

From: Lucca, D., Nadauld, T., Shen, K. (2015, 2017). Credit supply and the rise in college tuition: Evidence from the expansion in Federal student aid programs. Staff Report no. 733. Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

As the authors note, this is similar to other areas where a third party supply of money causes prices to rise – such as the effect of cheap mortgages causing home prices to rise.

A similar effect occurs in health care where third party “insurance” benefits are an enabler of higher priced health care services.

Whenever the cost of goods are services are subsidized such that their immediate direct costs are lower than the market clearing price, demand for those goods and services will increase. As demand increases relative to supply, the prices charged increase to a new actual and higher market clearing price.

Student loan programs are a major cause of tuition hikes. Cheap mortgages are a major cause of rising home prices. Health “insurance” is a major cause of higher prices charged in health care.

STEM: Software development was “dominated by women”- No it was not

Software development was a nascent field, struggling to gain traction and be taken seriously. It was also previously a field dominated by women, and sadly, a new influx of men wanted to come in, take over and make it a “proper, masculine” discipline. So they pretended they were all engineers and they were all building things, like men wearing hardhats in factories in an engineering or manufacturing context.

Source: Software development is a design activity – Extreme Uncertainty

I stopped reading at the bold faced text because that is not true. And if that easily verifiable fact is not true, what does that say about the rest of this report?

Programming hasn’t always been such a male-dominated field. By the 1960s, women made up 30% to 50% of all programmers.

30% to 50% is not “dominated by women”. I entered the field in the early 1980s when women were up to about 40% of the software work force. By the late 1980s, that began to shift and steadily decreased in the 1990s. Now it is under 20% even though for two decades there have been numerous programs to encourage more women to enter STEM. Surprisingly, they have entered STEM but not TE. They use STEM interchangeably with TE when they really mean TE.

What changed? No one has a coherent answer.

One possibility, never discussed, is the advent of the H-1 visa.

In the early 1990s, the H-1B visa was introduced and almost all H-1B visa tech hires were young men. Unfortunately, the government claims not to know the gender of those working on H-1B visas and we have only estimates. By the year 2000, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study, 28% of jobs in the field requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree were H-1B workers (who were almost all male). This skewed the gender distribution of the work force but is one that we do not publicly talk about.

Regarding women in STEM, last I had looked at NSF data, women were just over 50% of STEM graduates. But it depends on how you define “STEM” and many choose to define steam as “TE” – technology and engineering and not as Science – Technology – Engineering – Math.

I have seen surveys that omit women in the health sciences (nursing is about 90% female), veterinary medicine (majority of new grads are women) and even medicine. Consequently, the public has no idea about any of the underlying data. We are spun by propaganda messaging from those wanting to adopt their agenda.

Note – Over a ten year period I have personally mentored numerous young women in high school through the FIRST Robotics program. They went on to pursue (and complete) degrees in computer science and engineering fields. This is how we can make a difference.

When Women Stopped Coding : Planet Money : NPR

For decades, the share of women majoring in computer science was rising. Then, in the 1980s, something changed.

Source: When Women Stopped Coding : Planet Money : NPR

NPR makes an assertion that 1984 is when personal computers in the home emerged and that parents only bought personal computers for their sons. The first assertion is false and the second assertion is made without any supporting evidence.  The latter assertion provides no meaningful explanation for women in computer science prior to the mid-1980s nor that most young women today have a personal computer but still are, apparently, not going into computer science.

The above NPR report is one that makes you think you have just learned something but in fact, fails to explain anything.

Here is a chart I made showing the percent of homes with a PC, from 1984 to 2012. Data provided by the US Census up through 2012.  Data was not collected every year so some years have no data.

You can see that home PCs went from 8% in 1984 to 15% in 1989. Both are small values. This does not explain why fewer women students pursued computer science after the mid-1980s, contrary to the NPR report’s claim.

In roughly the last 20 years, access to personal computers, by gender and age, is widespread but there was no upsurge in computer science enrollment by women which would be expected if the NPR thesis were true.

Another issue is to understand what is being measured. Most discussions of “women in STEM” are referring to “women in computer science” or sometimes “women in computer science and engineering” – and are mistakenly presented as a proxy for women in science.   Many STEM metrics specifically omit degrees in (especially) the health sciences as “STEM” when they are also science-based degrees.

Women represent about 90% of all nursing (and elementary school teaching) jobs – fields that employ far more people than are employed in the computer sciences.  In terms of overall degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, women graduates were just barely above 50% (last I checked NSF data – It depends on how you define “STEM”). Women are way above 50% in terms of overall 4 year college degree graduates and have been since the early 1980s. 49.8% of medical school students are women and are 78% of veterinary school students.

(From National Girls Collaborative Project)

This shows the same information as trend line over time:

But there is no concern – and instead, silence – about diversity and balance in fields outside of computer science. There is a problem in computer science but unsound assertions, as described in the NPR report, do not lead to useful solutions.

High school #Drones #Quadcopters racing as part of #STEM curriculum

A group of high schools in Hawaii have spent the past year studying physics, aerodynamics and learning how to build quad copters, culminating in a multi-high school competitive quadcopter racing program. Very cool!

Students participate in first interscholastic drone race

In some ways, this is similar to FIRST Robotics, also an awesome program for students interested in learning more about engineering, planning, fabrication and organizing complex projects. There are now many similar programs – nice!

MIT Study finds that online learning works

Some have been saying online courses do not work but an MIT study finds otherwise:

Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what’s being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

via MIT Study: How Do Online Courses Compare to Traditional Learning? | BostInno.

Scratch – Imagine, Program, Share

Historically, programming could be described as labor intensive, time consuming, error prone – and delivering projects late with defects and incomplete features. The failed Cover Oregon health exchange project suggests this is still a mostly accurate description 🙂

I have long been interested in software development improvement strategies. Back in MBA school, we were taught process improvement strategies used in manufacturing, and I saw the possibilities for software. Simultaneously, others saw this too and they invented the agile methodology.

New methods like Test Driven Development came along.  Tools like JUnit and NUnit made TDD practical.

New programming systems like Scratch (Scratch – Imagine, Program, Share) and App Inventor provide quick-to-learn, quick-to-build and generally easy systems for defining user interfaces and program behavior. But these are oriented towards teaching children to program, using graphical programming systems. Lego Mindstorms is another example, for constructing educational robots programmed in ROBOLAB. (ROBOLAB is built in LabView. LabView is a graphical data flow programming language used for professional applications, especially those involving control systems, such as running lab equipment or manufacturing systems.)

Some, like App Inventor, are reaching the point where they are quite usable for creating real-world apps – not just games and toy apps for educational examples.  We are seeing good progress towards better tools for different types of developers, ranging from children through adult learners to professional developers.

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Teaching 1st year programming using MIT App Inventor

Good news and bad news: Reflections on Using AppInventor to Teach First-year Programming | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

MIT App Inventor is a graphical programming system that runs in the cloud via your Internet browser. Programs are developed in the browser and then offloaded to an Android phone or tablet, or emulator, to execution and testing. App Inventor is likely the fastest and easiest way to create Android apps, certainly for the novice developer.

Good news: Beginners really take to using App Inventor to create Android apps.

Bad news: Advanced students found App Inventor stifling and preferred using Android SDK and Eclipse once they reached that level of ability. App Inventor 1’s limitations hindered the advanced students development of the apps they wanted to produce.

Observations

  • Instructors found the training materials good but did not always work as expected: “Sometimes students told me that they worked through the exercises mechanically, without really absorbing the material“. Students learned better when they came up with their own project ideas. App Inventor 2, which is now available, is a significant advance over AI 1.
  • Students like the instructional materials but they were not challenging – in fact, the materials seem to me to geared to late elementary to middle school level.
  • They were using App Inventor 1 (version 2 is out now), which was known to have limitations and defects. Version 2 might yield different results.

Recommendations

They recommend that App Inventor be used for an initial introduction to programming for college students. Beyond that, App Inventor is good for teaching complete novices and non-computer science students, and younger students. Advanced students and computer science students will likely wish to migrate to Java programming in Eclipse and the Android SDK, relatively early on in their learning experience.

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