“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.

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