The recent fiasco involving the entrance test was brought back to my mind when doing my semi-annual paper sorting, filing, and tossing at the end of each term. I came across a paper distributed by the Language and Literature chair some time ago detailing the University of Michigan point system. The paper reminded me that we probably do a disservice to our high schools and the hard work done by their students when we do not take into account factors such as the student's high school grade point average, the student's personal achievements in leadership or community service, the difficulty of the curriculum attempted in high school, or the overall quality of the high school. I was also reminded that other schools reward alumni for sending their children.
The following is the University of Michigan system:
|GPA||High School Quality||Points (Maximum 40)|
|2.1||42||1||2||6||Underrepresented Michigan county|
|2.4||48||4||8||4||Legacy (parents, stepparents)|
|2.5||50||5||10||1||Other (grandparents, siblings)|
|2.6||52||Difficulty of Curriculum||Essay|
|3.4||68||4||8||Leadership and service|
|3.8||76||Miscellaneous (choose one)|
|4.0||80||20||Underrepresented racial/ethnic minority identification or education|
|Test Scores||5||men in nursing|
When passed around the admission's board meeting the University of Michigan system was interesting, but without significant work on implementation the proposal was simply an interesting concept.
The following is a first attempt at modifications that might lead to an implementable version of the above. Up front I would note that such point systems are used quite broadly in the United States, if not nearly universally within the United States.
In the following document I will have to speak quite bluntly and without sugar-coating the reality that is the educational landscape of the FSM. I do not in this case apologize for my forth rightness. The future of young people is on the line in education. There are schools and systems that destroy the hopes and dreams of their youth in this nation, I cannot fix that reality.
This section dominates the University of Michigan point system. Any point system the college might adopt would have to temper the strength of the grade point average. Just as an "A" at a a Xavier or Pohnpei SDA class school is not the same as an "A" at Southern Nomeneas or Pentecostal Lighthouse, so too do "B's", "C's" and other grades represent different levels of capability. There might be a need to do some form of mathematical adjustment based on the high school quality rating, possibly the use of a high school quality multiplier (technically called a coefficient in mathematics). Valuing the grade point average, however, is worthy and would also value student academic achievement in the high schools.
While the actual scores vary from year to year, the relative rank order of the high schools is quite stable. This is why when I saw some anomalous averages in the TOEFL averages back in April I resorted to reporting only the rank order. I knew something was amiss but it was not until Kosrae Campus analyzed their own odd results that we determined our error. A key point here is that although the raw TOEFL scores were wrong in April, the relative rank order was stable versus the previous year because the error affected all schools equally. A rising tide lifts all the boats, and that is what happened.
The rank order is unaffected by the correction factor. Constructing a rank order that is insulated from changes in the sea level and hence from errors requires the use of a z score: z = (x - mean)/standard deviation. This formula means that a school at the average has a z-score of zero. Schools above average have positive z-scores and schools below average have negative z-scores. Changes in the average, as happened this year, do not affect the z-score directly as the zero effectively "floats" with the average.
The average this past year jumped some 42 points due to the use of an incorrect table, but this disappeared in a z-score analysis. Of course we would hope to never again make any errors, but there is statistical comfort to be taken in knowing that such errors need not impact the resulting coefficient.
The following table provides the z-scores for the past three years and the rank order for 2003:
|HS||2001||2002||2003||Rank 01||Rank 02||Rank 03|
An alternate mechanism would be to use the essays to rank the schools and build a coefficient based on that rank order. Having marked essays, the essays do appear to provide solid ground on which to build a meaningful rank order.
The math test also provides a basis on which to rank schools, with the order here provided by the number of students who placed into college level mathematics.
A scan of the rank order indicates that schools tend to place at about the same rank in the various systems. Some form of average rank could be derived, or a simpler system of tiers could be established. A three tier system of upper, middle, and lower tier schools could be developed and utilized. The later would be the simplest and most stable over time.
How would a tier system work? Schools that have a z-score greater than or equal to one are upper tier. Schools with a z-score greater than negative one and less than one are middle tier. Schools with a z-score equal to or less than negative one would be lower tier. Bear in mind that if all the schools performed at the same average level then all would be middle tier.
Using a tier system the coefficient for a middle tier school might be one, for upper tier school 1.5, and lower tier might be 0.5 or some such system. This could then be entered as raw points. Thus a 4.0 GPA from Xavier would be worth 6.0 points and a 4.0 GPA from Weno would be worth 2.0 points.
Note my use of raw points: this is intentional and is an eye towards using the raw essay score (1 to 6 or 0 to 6) in the final point system.
High schools such as PICS have academic, business, and vocational-technical-agriculture curricula. Other schools have similar structures. A modified Michigan system might be used to assign points. My preference would be to not use negative points, although Michigan must have some special cases where negative points make sense. A system such as 3 points for academic, 2 for business, and 1 for vocational education might be appropriate. While the business instructors at the college might quibble with this, the reality at the high schools is that the academically less capable or less motivated students are channeled out of the academic stream and into the business or vocational education stream.
Here citizens of the FSM might be awarded two points, citizens of the freely associated states might be awarded one point, and the rest of the planet gets none.
Two points for a legacy student (child of alumni), one point for being a grandchild or sibling. Big question: the alumni organization includes graduates and non-graduates. Would points be awarded for children of non-graduates, those who attended but did not complete their education? Pardon me for being facetious, but a child might claim that their mother did not complete her education because the mother became pregnant with said same child while living in the dormitory. Surely such a student is a born in the wool COMFSM shark? I would award such a student two points.
This would take some hashing out or every student would be awardable. We might make a short list such as students in sponsored programs like Gear Up, Talent Search, Upward Bound, etc. These students are all ready "our" students and deserve some preferential recognition in the admissions process. If they are not ready for college then it is OUR fault, they were in our college preparatory programs.
Understanding this proposal and how the entrance test interfaces with the proposal really requires seeing the point system table:
|High School Quality||Geography|
|Difficulty of Curriculum||2||Legacy (parents, stepparents)|
|Score||Points||1||Other (grandparents, siblings)|
|A||3||Leadership, service, achievement|
|B||2||2||Trio participant, Close-up, etc.|
|35||2.92||0||No attempt made|
|20||1.67||3||Elementary algebra level|
|10||0.83||1||Conceptual math level|
The reading and structure tests, whatever they may be now or in the future, would be worth a maximum of five points. A simple linear conversion would convert from a sixty point or forty point scale to a five point scale. If the reading test is 60 questions then the conversion is 5*(reading score/60). If the reading test is 50 questions, then the conversion would be 5*(reading score/50). A forty question structure test would be converted to a five point scale using 5*(reading score/40).
The essay test would be worth 0 to 6 points with the score coming from the raw essay score. The math test would be worth 1 to 4 points depending on placement of the student. This would put math back into the entrance equation.
This section has generated significant controversy in Michigan and led to a lawsuit due to the first two items. Both are affirmative action related. In the lawsuit forty other colleges filed briefs in support of Michigan's inclusion of these affirmative action points. Apparently this is a way schools bring in minority students.
Although, as seen in the table above, this section has been removed, there is still an issue of under representation at the college. The national campus is roughly 62% Pohnpeian, but Pohnpei is only 32% or so of the national population. The Pohnpeians are represented at the national campus at twice their share of the national population. Kosrae and Yap are typically closer to their national share, with Kosrae slightly over represented and Yap under represented. Chuuk is usually seriously under represented with their national campus share being half or less of their share of the national population.
The argument that this is damaging runs along the following lines: the national campus has the most diverse programs and arguably the best facilities, the campus also has the largest and most diverse faculty. The national campus may be most likely to produce the future leaders of this nation, hence access to the national campus is important to the make up of future leadership. Thus Chuukese citizens are statistically less probable to be likely to rise into leadership positions. Obviously this is contentious ground, this is the core of the affirmative action argument in the states. The other side is that all opportunities should be awarded on individual merit alone.
There is, however, another factor that comes into play that favors Pohnpeian students. The campus is on an island beyond driving distance from Chuuk. This is a unique situation: Pohnpei students can attend college from home, Chuukese students cannot. Pohnpeians literally have home field or home court advantage. The language spoken out on the lawns amongst lower ranked staffers is typically Pohnpeian. This is home turf for Pohnpei, and that has a meaning deeper than any mehnwai can probably appreciate. As I was once cautioned, "You were not born here, so you should not make noise in this place." To "attract" students to come from the shelter of their home islands we might want to give some kind of bonus point for being from off-island.
A 4.0 valedictorian super-genius child of alumni graduate of Xavier who was in Close-Up might have the following perfect score:
GPA points: 4.0 * 1.5 = 6.0 Curriculum: 3 Geography: 2 Alumni: 2 Achievement: 1 Essay: 6 Reading: 5 Structure: 5 Math: 4 34
With twenty of the thirty-four points belonging the entrance test, the entrance test would comprise 59% of the total points. The entrance test would still be a pivotal component at nearly 60% of the points.
At the other end of the spectrum might be Illimerateleen from a lower tier school and a business program with a "B" average, no special programs, no alumni parents (of course maybe we want to give someone points for being a first generation college student in their family):
GPA points: 3.0 * 0.5 = 1.5 Curriculum: 2 Geography: 2 Alumni: 0 Achievement: 0 Essay: 1 Reading: 5* 19/60 = 1.58 Structure: 5*8/40 = 1 Math: 1 10.08
The above is a purely hypothetical student, but based on actual test scores of a real applicant. The student placed into our certificate programs.
The suggestion is that real cut points could be established to sort students into certificate, IEP, and associate degree programs. The new system would have to be pilot run one year in parallel with the current system to establish appropriate cut points. That is, in one particular year both the current and proposed systems would need to be run.
The new system would be a lot more work: we would need the high schools to provide us with GPAs for their students, we would need to gather lists of students in sponsored programs, etc. Yet would this not also integrate us better with the educational systems around us? Are we not something of an ivory tower ignoring everything the rest of the educational system has done to our students? Ignoring grades, ignoring personal achievement? Yes, it is extra work, but it would also link us better to the world of education in the FSM.
A major complaint of our very own sponsored programs is that we do nothing to track and follow their alumni. This process would for the first time specifically gather such information necessary to tracking as part of the entrance process.