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Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Cut the Knot Insights
An absolutely absorbing book. Feels like a must for politicians, reformers, educators—math educators in particular.
Metro
Renowned statistician and research scientist Howard Wainer applies the tools of his trade to answer a question that affects every American: What is wrong with our education system? . . . Wainer pokes holes in almost every aspect of conventional education policy—college rankings, admissions, aptitude tests—including a scathing critique of No Child Left Behind.
— Bruce Walsh
Education Gadfly
[Wainer's] overall message rings clear and true for much more than assessment: Policy that is formed without full analysis of the breadth of data available on a topic is policy that will fail.
— Laurent Rigal
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tired of yelling at the TV when he saw news accounts of policy changes based on flawed evidence, Wainer uses his book to present evidence to help assess 11 such trends, including the entrance-exam-optional policies in many colleges and teacher evaluations based on student performance. . . . Wainer applies more than statistical evidence to education policy; he also brings common sense to bear.
— Maureen Downey
Tulsa World
With its timely reminder that high stakes decisions often rely on anecdotes, laden with emotion, and that 'the plural of anecdote is not data,' Uneducated Guesses ought to be read by anyone who is concerned about the weaknesses (and wrong-headed assumptions) in current educational policies.
— Glenn C. Altschuler
MAA Reviews
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in testing, especially for college admissions or advanced placement. . . . Wainer is a gifted writer with a notable talent for analyzing and presenting data.
— Bill Satzer
Education Review
The book provides a model for the development of rational public education policies, something that America needs desperately.
— Robert A. Bligh
Metro - Bruce Walsh
Renowned statistician and research scientist Howard Wainer applies the tools of his trade to answer a question that affects every American: What is wrong with our education system? . . . Wainer pokes holes in almost every aspect of conventional education policy—college rankings, admissions, aptitude tests—including a scathing critique of No Child Left Behind.
Education Gadfly - Laurent Rigal
[Wainer's] overall message rings clear and true for much more than assessment: Policy that is formed without full analysis of the breadth of data available on a topic is policy that will fail.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Maureen Downey
Tired of yelling at the TV when he saw news accounts of policy changes based on flawed evidence, Wainer uses his book to present evidence to help assess 11 such trends, including the entrance-exam-optional policies in many colleges and teacher evaluations based on student performance. . . . Wainer applies more than statistical evidence to education policy; he also brings common sense to bear.
Tulsa World - Glenn C. Altschuler
With its timely reminder that high stakes decisions often rely on anecdotes, laden with emotion, and that 'the plural of anecdote is not data,' Uneducated Guesses ought to be read by anyone who is concerned about the weaknesses (and wrong-headed assumptions) in current educational policies.
MAA Reviews - Bill Satzer
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in testing, especially for college admissions or advanced placement. . . . Wainer is a gifted writer with a notable talent for analyzing and presenting data.
Education Review - Robert A. Bligh
The book provides a model for the development of rational public education policies, something that America needs desperately.
Mathematics Teacher - Denise G. Brassell
Educators and education policymakers interested in helping students realize their potential will benefit from reading Wainer's book because the implications reach beyond postsecondary school instruction. Teachers and administrators at all levels can follow the logic of Wainer's ideas as they seek to use evidenced-based pedagogical strategies in their classrooms.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2014 AERA Division D Significant Contribution to Educational Measurement and Research Methodology Award, American Educational Research Association

"[T]hought-provoking. . . . He questions the anecdotal and statistical evidence that underpins many of today's education policies and reform efforts."Library Journal

"An absolutely absorbing book. Feels like a must for politicians, reformers, educators—math educators in particular."Cut the Knot Insights

"Renowned statistician and research scientist Howard Wainer applies the tools of his trade to answer a question that affects every American: What is wrong with our education system? . . . Wainer pokes holes in almost every aspect of conventional education policy—college rankings, admissions, aptitude tests—including a scathing critique of No Child Left Behind."—Bruce Walsh, Metro

"[Wainer's] overall message rings clear and true for much more than assessment: Policy that is formed without full analysis of the breadth of data available on a topic is policy that will fail."—Laurent Rigal, Education Gadfly

"Tired of yelling at the TV when he saw news accounts of policy changes based on flawed evidence, Wainer uses his book to present evidence to help assess 11 such trends, including the entrance-exam-optional policies in many colleges and teacher evaluations based on student performance. . . . Wainer applies more than statistical evidence to education policy; he also brings common sense to bear."—Maureen Downey, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"With its timely reminder that high stakes decisions often rely on anecdotes, laden with emotion, and that 'the plural of anecdote is not data,' Uneducated Guesses ought to be read by anyone who is concerned about the weaknesses (and wrong-headed assumptions) in current educational policies."—Glenn C. Altschuler, Tulsa World

"I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in testing, especially for college admissions or advanced placement. . . . Wainer is a gifted writer with a notable talent for analyzing and presenting data."—Bill Satzer, MAA Reviews

"The book provides a model for the development of rational public education policies, something that America needs desperately."—Robert A. Bligh, Education Review

"Educators and education policymakers interested in helping students realize their potential will benefit from reading Wainer's book because the implications reach beyond postsecondary school instruction. Teachers and administrators at all levels can follow the logic of Wainer's ideas as they seek to use evidenced-based pedagogical strategies in their classrooms."—Denise G. Brassell, Mathematics Teacher

"In sum, this book is a wonderful compilation of concrete examples from educational testing that amply illustrate the importance of evidence-based policy-making. I recommend it as an interesting, entertaining, and most worthwhile read."TCR Books

Library Journal
Research scientist Wainer's experience working at the National Board of Medical Examiners and formerly at Educational Testing Service shows in this thought-provoking book. He questions the anecdotal and statistical evidence that underpins many of today's education policies and reform efforts. He takes on numerous issues, including achievement vs. aptitude testing, college rankings, consequences of optional SAT scores for college admissions, using student test scores to assess teachers, computerized adaptive tests, advanced placement courses, No Child Left Behind, multiple-choice questions vs. performance-based tasks (constructed-response essays, proofs, experiments, portfolios, etc.), and examinee choice in answering questions. Some of the chapters were adapted from previously published articles. The work is enriched with many real-world examples, e.g., Jaime Escalante's success preparing disadvantaged students to take the Advanced Placement Calculus examination and the scoring of the decathlon at the Olympics. Figures, tables, extensive bibliographic references, and a brief index finish off the book. VERDICT Highly recommended for educators, education reformers, and policymakers.—Elizabeth Connor, The Citadel, Military Coll. of South Carolina, Lib., Charleston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691149288
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 995,121
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: O n the Value of Entrance Exams: What Happens When the SAT Is Made Optional? 8
Chapter 2: O n Substituting Achievement Tests for Aptitude Tests in College Admissions 20
Chapter 3: O n Rigid Decision Rules for Scholarships 29
Chapter 4: The Aptitude-Achievement Connection: Using an Aptitude Test to Aid in Allocating Educational Resources 32
Chapter 5: C omparing the Incomparable: On the Importance of Big Assumptions and Scant Evidence 57
Chapter 6: O n Examinee Choice in Educational Testing 73
Chapter 7: What If Choice Is Part of the Test? 103
Chapter 8: A Little Ignorance Is a Dangerous Thing: How Statistics Rescued a Damsel in Distress 110
Chapter 9: A ssessing Teachers from Student Scores: On the Practicality of Value-Added Models 120
Chapter 10: S hopping for Colleges When What We Know Ain't 139
Chapter 11: O f CAT s and Claims: The First Step toward Wisdom 147
Epilogue 156
References 159
Index 165

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