How many words do you need to know?

Number of word families needed to:
Get most things done as a tourist or visitor 1,000 to 2,000
Hold a friendly conversation 6,000
Watch television & movies 3,000 minimum, preferably 6,000
Read fluently (must know 98% of a text’s word families) 3,000 minimum, preferably 6,000

What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? by Paul Nation
Vocabulary Size, Text Coverage and Word Lists by Paul Nation and Robert Waring

“Simple practice effects” and the SAT

Useful article in the Washington Post re: standardized testing and fairness: No one likes the SAT. It’s still the fairest thing about admissions.

I’ll post some of the sections on income and scores in a bit, but this section on tutoring caught my eye:

Highly paid tutors make bold claims about how much they can raise SAT scores (“my students routinely improve their scores by more than 400 points”), but there is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence that coaching can reliably provide more than a modest boost — especially once simple practice effects and other expected improvements from retaking a test are accounted for. For the typical rich kid, a more realistic gain of 50 points would represent the difference between the average students at Syracuse and No. 197 University of Colorado at Boulder — significant, perhaps, but not dramatic.

By Jonathan Wai, Matt Brown and Christopher Chabris | 3/22/2019

Simple practice effects !


I suppose the authors didn’t mean to suggest that practice is a simple undertaking. Still, as written, this passage will leave most readers thinking “simple practice” is a thing to be trifled with. 

Unfortunately, U.S. education seems to share this view. Hence Kumon. Parents hire Kumon to provide the practice their children don’t get at school. 

(This reminds me of the time the math chair in our erstwhile district told my husband and me: “If students need worksheets, you can find them online.” Good times.)

Now that I’m thinking about finding worksheets online . . . how many are aware that Kumon is a practice regimen? There’s very little teaching in Kumon, apart from the fact that the practice sequences are often structured in such a fashion that they teach concepts while also providing practice. 

I wish the old Kitchen Table Math site were still up (have yet to rescue it from Internet oblivion & URL piracy). I’m pretty sure I posted some of Kumon’s instruction-via-practice worksheets there.

Anyway, back to the SAT.

One of the main services you pay an SAT/ACT tutor for is practice. You pay the tutor to know what practice your child needs and to provide that practice. 

Speaking of which, I’m attaching the two practice sheets on adverbial conjunctions that I use in my composition class and in tutoring. Both should be practiced to the point of fluency: students should be able to give the answer as fast as they can read.


Paying student loans in your 60s

GoogleMaster found a passage re: college debt that I hadn’t seen:

Frotman said older consumers need to be better informed about their fiscal responsibility when they cosign student loans. “Quite often we hear from older borrowers that it was never made clear to them that they were essentially co-borrowers,’’ he said. “Many thought they were merely acting as references.”

The whole college funding set-up needs fixing.

Until very recently, I wasn’t aware that with college loans, parents and their children can borrow as much as they like. There’s no need to demonstrate an ability to repay. If you’re a housekeeper who wants to spend $50 to $60K a year to send your child to Syracuse, no problem. 

The sky’s the limit.

Admissions fraud and extra time

In the Wall Street Journal ($):

The number of students getting accommodations, which help them get more time on the SAT and ACT, has more than doubled from 2009 to 2016, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data. Students in affluent school districts are much more likely to get extended times than students in poorer districts, the data showed.

When colleges receive the students’ scores, they don’t know that the students had additional time to take the exam.

“It’s a loophole that some people know how to use and a lot of people don’t,” said Miriam Freedman, a lawyer who has represented public schools in special-education and disability law and has written several books about accommodations. “The system is rigged.”

Mr. Goldberg of the College Board said, “We are not aware of any prior incident where someone has attempted to take advantage of our accommodations policy to evade our test security systems.”

Not aware of any prior incident?

That doesn’t track.

We raised our kids in an affluent school district. Tonight, over dinner, when I read the boldfaced line about parents wangling accommodations for their nondisabled college-bound kids, C. instantly said “That’s how so-and-so went to Columbia.”

Cheating on extra-time accommodations is an open secret in these parts. Last I checked, College Board still has headquarters in Manhattan, which is pretty much the epicenter of extra-time mongering as far as I’m concerned.

They know.

And see:
Admissions fraud, take 1
Admissions fraud, take 2

Admissions fraud and extra time

Admissions fraud, take 2

One of the topics Ed and I enjoy being mutually scandalized over is the fact that people are willing to pay upwards of $70K/year to send their kids to college. Even worse: a fair number of people are willing to go into debt for that amount just to underwrite four years of undergraduate education.

Go to school four years, spend 40 years paying the bill — mind blowing. 

But the admissions fraud story has reactivated our family motto. It’s always worse than you think

Never did it cross our minds that there were parents who, in order to get their children into a good college, were willing to risk going to jail.

I feel wet behind the ears.

And see:
Admissions fraud, take 1
Admissions fraud, take 2

Admissions fraud and extra time

Admissions fraud, take 1

Take 1: they should have hired me to tutor their kids.

Except for the part about bribing coaches, of course. 

I know that’s a flippant reaction, but flippant or no, it was one of the first thoughts I had.

If you want your child to have higher scores, it’s much safer to hire a good tutor than to pay people to take the test for him or her. 

And see:
Admissions fraud, take 1
Admissions fraud, take 2

Admissions fraud and extra time