kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/15/13 - 9/22/13

Friday, September 20, 2013

GPA and the Numbers Game

I went to a meeting at our school the other night where they said that they were changing from an unweighted GPA to a weighted GPA. Although our school calculates a class rank based on weighting courses, it's not in a typical GPA format. Actually, it's more accurate because it doesn't use buckets. However, many colleges look at whatever GPA is shown on the transcript and an unweighted GPA based on 4.0 rarely looks good against a weighted GPA based on a maximum of 5. An admissions person from our state university gave an example of how the head of admissions once said that he was "not comfortable" with someone's GPA even though he should have known it was unweighted. I was surprised to learn that many colleges value GPA, but don't bother (probably a money issue) to calculate their own even though they know there is no national standard even for weighting. It's also interesting that some people can make bad holistic decisions.

They said that across the nation, many colleges are ignoring class rank even if it is adjusted for class size. If the class rank is the only thing that reflects the difficulty of the courses taken, it will be ignored and the college may just look at the unweighted GPA. So much for holistic consideration. The admissions person said that one might get rejected in the first cut and never get to any sort of holistic evaluation. And even in the holistic process, your numbers can help or hurt. So the goal is to maximize your numbers to get into the highest holistic academic/EC bucket you can.

One formula is the Academic Index used by Ivy League colleges. Apparently, it dropped its rank portion (dependent on class size) and added in one based on GPA, although it requires recalculating the GPA into a standard form.

Academic Index

There is also this, which gives a spreadsheet calculator.

AI Calculator

Although AI was developed for athletes, they calculate it for all students.

The first part is based on your SAT scores, the second part is based on your SAT II scores, and the third part is based on your GPA. The link above talks about a GPA table supplied to the eight universities, but it doesn't explain how the GPA is calculated. It appears to use a weighted scale where the top score is 4.3. I haven't found out how this number is calculated. The spreadsheet then proceeds to choose the higher score associated with each of the two GPA numbers. It's always struck me that the SAT scores make up two-thirds of this index. Colleges might include a fudge factor if they know something about a high school, but no option for that shows up in the example spreadsheet.

The problem with rank is that you can't correct for it based on whether it uses weighted or unweighted GPA. Recalculating the GPA is good because it isolates the variable of grades. Some colleges are calculating unweighted GPAs using just the core academic courses. Then they can provide a factor for how much you challenged yourself given what your high school has to offer. Then they can correct again if they know something about the difficulty of your high school. At our meeting, they repeated the nugget that "it's best to get A's in AP classes." My nuanced view is that it's best to have the highest unweighted GPA while still looking like you are challenging yourself. Colleges want 'A' students. It's better to have them think you could have challenged yourself more rather than to do so, but slip.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Why nobody knows how to teach writing

"How Student Writers Develop: Rhetoric, Psychoanalysis, Ethics, Erotics" by T.R. Johnson

What are the odds an article with this title will provide an adjunct teaching freshman composition  substantial help teaching students where to put periods and where to put commas?

I'm starting a prediction market.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary

The US economy in 2000 had really, really full employment — it was an era when labor was so scarce that McDonald’s was actively trying to recruit senior citizens, when the joke was that you could get a job as long as your breath would fog a mirror, that is, as long as you were actually alive.
Slackers at the Fed


Like so many young Americans, Derek Wetherell is stuck.

At 23 years old, he has a job, but not a career, and little prospect for advancement. He has tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, but no college degree. He says he is more likely to move back in with his parents than to buy a home, and he doesn't know what he will do if his car—a 2001 Chrysler Sebring with well over 100,000 miles—breaks down.

"I'm kind of spinning my wheels," Mr. Wetherell says. "We can wishfully think that eventually it's going to get better, but we don't really know, and that doesn't really help us now."

Mr. Wetherell is a member of a lost generation, a group that is only now beginning to gain attention of many economists and employment experts. From Oakland to Orlando—and across the ocean in Birmingham and Barcelona—young people have come of age amid the most prolonged period of economic distress since the Great Depression.

Most, like Mr. Wetherell, have little memory of the financial crisis itself, which struck while they were still in high school. But they are all too familiar with its aftermath: the crippling recession, which made it all but impossible for many young people to get a first foothold in the job market, and the achingly slow recovery that has left the prosperity of their parents' generation out of reach—perhaps.

"This has been for quite a while now a hostile environment for young people," said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, which has studied the impact of the recession on young people. "This is all they've really known."

The financial crisis that struck five years ago this month opened up a sinkhole in the U.S. economy that swallowed Americans of all ages and backgrounds. Retirees lost life savings. Families lost homes. Millions of Americans lost their jobs.

Wanted: Jobs for the New 'Lost' Generation By BEN CASSELMAN and MARCUS WALKER
Five years after the 2008 crisis, younger adults still struggle to find work | Updated September 14, 2013, 4:26 p.m. ET

Employment-Population Ratio Ages 25-54
Data extracted on: September 15, 2013 (5:46:00 PM)

Ed says he remembers McDonald's recruiting seniors and, come to think of it, I have a vague memory of McDonald's scrambling to find workers, too. I certainly recall jokes about elderly greeters at Walmart. In fact, I recall the elderly greeters themselves.

Most of all, though, I remember reading scores of articles expressing panic over the coming mass retirement of baby boomers -- not because baby boomers would be so expensive to support but because who would replace them?

That was the horror story circa 2000.

Where will we find people to fill all the jobs?

Last spring Ed ran into an an Irvington parent who complained that the high school was still telling students SAT scores don't matter. She told Ed that when she graduated from college, with a B.A. in English, I believe, she got a good job on Wall Street "walking in off the street." No M.B.A., no training, no experience of any kind. She was alive, she was intelligent, she had a college degree, so--bam--she had a job. A good one.

That's the way things work in a thriving economy.

How a Market Crisis Unfolded