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December 10, 2008



Read Charles Murray's "Real Education" last month. In one section he mentioned the decline in American students scores on the Math portion of the SAT since the sixties, but then starting in the 80's, there was a slight bump in the decline in math, but not in verbal. Since Murray was talking about only very, very small numbers of students neccessary for this slight math score uptick, (Such as just a handful getting perfect SAT math scores to swing the curve) it immediately struck me that a possible solution for that bump was the influx of Post Vietnam Asians, primarily the Boatpeople. I did an 18 month stint in the mid-late 80's as a Military Recruiter for Officers. I had access to and was well familiar with SAT scores and college transcripts of Science Majors throughout Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Washington State. It seemed that about half of every transcript reflecting a 3.6 or higher in math or physics had a name like Nyguyen or Cao or Bao attached to it. It became sort of a joke in the business, so that if you got one that wasn't a Vietnamese kid, you were humerously shocked. Unfortunately, since they were first generation immigrants, their English skills were generally very weak, oftentimes so weak as to prevent me doing much with them.

This also jibed with the AQT/FAR miliary test that we administered in the office or in the field and that we shared with the Corps; plenty of outstanding Vietnamese kids with outstanding math scores but very weak English comprehension abilities.

At least in this country anyway, I think the influx of new Asian immigrants, restricted by language inadequacies to the hard sciences, and pushed by immigrant parents to achieve excellent in those hard sciences, is what is responsible for Murrays's noted uptick. I think that somewhat applies to this story you linked TM.

Crunchy Frog

I'm sure the much-hated No Child Left Behind Act had absolutely nothing to do with the increase.


I also don't think we should forget the new private math courses available to interested parents as alternatives or aditives to public education. For instance, my two, (a 10 and a 12 year old) have been enrolled in Kumon Math programs since they were 3. Kumon is an extracurricular Japanese program which evaluates your kids math ability, and thereafter, by continuous daily math problem repition, builds the kids confidence and understanding of mathmatics, all the way up through calculus. My kids in Kumon are 2 grades above their public school levels and breezing along. We have 3 Kumon Centers in Anchorage alone and already it is essentially a waiting list to get in. If we are doing that in hicksville Alaska, I would suspect that it or similar programs are going on big time in the lower 48, and again might be responsible for recent slight mprovements in National math scores among younger kids.

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