SAT Scores a Good Indicator of Future Success?

ImageWhat?

There are a number of things that SAT scores claim to indicate. It has been argued that the scores indicate a students’ innate ability, knowledge gained in schooling, and potential success in college, among other things. The College Board suggests that the verbal section is meant for students show a comprehension of vocabulary and discourse while the math section is meant to show an understanding of complex mathematical concepts and problem solving. 

The data on SAT scores is collected by Educational Testing Service as well as The College Board and is used by countless institutions. Essentially, new data is collected on SAT scores with every test that is taken. There are a great deal of studies conducted on the data received through SAT testing. For example, some recent studies focused on the correlation between scores and college retention, predicting success at four-year universities, and the relationship between socioeconomic status and SAT scores. It is important that the Board provides this data because it is useful to so many people. 

So what?

SAT scores as an indicator are incredibly interesting because of the importance placed on them by so many people. High school seniors see SAT scores as their ticket into college, university admissions officers view them as a way to judge a students aptitude, and parents of potential students might view SAT scores as a way for their child to receive scholarships and save money. SAT scores draw attention to some of the issues brought on by higher education in general.

The issues brought to my attention are not necessarily directly from SAT scores but more derived from the importance placed on them. There has been great emphasis placed on these scores, and for the most part their significance has only grown. However, some feel that a standardized test is not the best way to conceptualize the abilities of a student. Can a number truly represent the entirety of a person’s scholastic knowledge? It has been suggested by numerous scholars that perhaps all students who have potential to succeed in a college setting do not necessarily test well. These students are therefore forced to attend a lower accredited university, if any. The focus on SAT scores and achieving that 1600 (or 2400 on the newest version of the test), or for achieving whatever score gets a student into any given institution cannot be ignored. 

Now what?

Texas has specifically had a problem with test scores an overall inability to be successful in college. So how do they fix it? MORE TESTS! They’re adding placement tests to the already incredible amount of standardized testing the students and teachers are suffering through. This can’t be the right answer.  We’ve all heard teachers complaining about having to teach to the standardized tests. How much is that hurting our innovative and creative capacities?I feel the answer lies at a much more fundamental level. Change is this arena is a long time coming and it will probably be a while before major change is made, but it’s happening slowly. For example, my hometown has opened a high school that for the more creative type, many of whom have trouble with standardized testing. They allow them invaluable creative outlets while also providing academic lessons on par with the standards of learning seen in traditional schools.

See also: the effects of the pressure to perform 

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What? Concern over healthcare in this country has increased

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What? 

Concern over healthcare in this country has increased greatly over the past decade. As many hot button issues go, the nation is very polarized in its response to the issue. But it is one that cannot be ignored. There must be some balance, a middle ground. If that middle ground is to established, I’m not convinced there will be an significant change to the way things are going. 

So What?

Today, I read an article concerning this debate and was shocked by the numbers I was reading. 53 million who did not go to the doctor? 50 million that did not get their prescription filled? 49 million that failed to follow recommended care? In my opinion, those are staggering numbers. Even doctors are echoing these concerns, stating that prescription prices are just too high and very out of their necessary range. How are they supposed to do their job when their patients are unable to pay for the solution? The Affordable Care Act is supposed to be the answer to many of these problems when it is fully implemented in 2014, but the very obvious backlash from opposers seems to weaken it’s political viability. 

Now what? 

There is a desperate need for some balance between the incredibly divergent opinions concerning this problem. I have friends who are doctors and shared stories about their patient’s families leaving their dying grandmother on life support so that they can cash her welfare check at the end of the month. I’ve also heard stories of women who have died of breast cancer just weeks after their diagnosis because they couldn’t afford to go to the doctor…so they waiting until they were in unbearable pain to go to the emergency room. Where is the balance between these two alternatives? Neither is fair.

As a potential change leader in the field of healthcare, I hope we find that balance soon. But how? Collaboration is an obvious tool in leading social change. And sometimes that collaboration has to take place out of our comfort zone in order to be effective. It might be uncomfortable and it might seem complex, but the collaboration of these two opposing sides brings a level of comprehension of the issue that is necessary for effectiveness. 

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Partnerships That Drive Change

What? 
This week, Goldsmith informed us of Joel Klein and his partnership with Mayor Bloomberg, discussing the relationship between the public and private sector, describing the relationship as a “textbook example of government partnering with civic entrepreneurs to help drive change” (204). I have had the opportunity to research a number of Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) as well as be a part of one through a contract between the City of Roanoke, the Conflict Resolution Center, and the Roanoke Rescue MIssion.  Research and experience has greatly enhanced my knowledge of P3s and their effectiveness. 
So what?
Public-Private partnerships have become increasingly popular over time because of the many benefits that they offer. One of the most sought after benefits deals with the financial aspect of the partnerships. The economic benefits of merging the resources have allowed innumerable tasks to be accomplished that would not have been accomplished otherwise simply because of financial constraints. P3s combine the “knowledge and skills of business, government, planning, and community development in a collaborative manner and in many cases achieves a form of citizen-driven governance” (Suchman, 1995). P3s also enable partners to be better equipped for dealing with multisectoral problems with the expanded area of expertise offered by a greater number of actors. Lastly, the obvious benefits of sharing risk and responsibility for whatever the network wishes to accomplish. 
Because leaders in the community realized the potential benefit of a P3, a partnership was formed (in order to deal with a great deal of conflict arisen). The P3 I was contracted under allowed for openness in the community, a collaborative discussion, a chance for citizens to be heard, and incredible movement toward social change in the community. 
What now? 
As we learned in the readings this week, an important question to ask as a change leader is “How might a community mix exciting and successful social innovations with the best of its existing civic capacity to dramatically improve life for its residents?” (Goldsmith, 199). One of the best ways to understand the civic capacity and understand the life of residents is to get involved with them, be on there level and share your vision with all who are interested. Yes data from constituents is useful and those who have a radical opinion about the proposed change will be sure that their voices are heard. But in order to truly understand what can and should be done, there has be be some connection with the community. A P3 serves as an excellent way to do just that, allowing a network to form and opportunities to grow. 

Police in Schools: What is their role?

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What?
In the wake of numerous acts of school violence, especially in recent decades, many parents, teachers, students, etc. have begged for larger police presence on school grounds. In the hopes of increasing security and safety, law enforcement on school campuses has become the norm for most school districts across the nation. While I do feel that there presence is warranted and necessary, there seems to be some backlash from their being there. 
Hundreds of thousands of students, maybe even millions, are being arrested for things that were once handled in the principles offices. I read a number of stories in which students were arrested for the smallest of “crimes” (i.e. farting in class, spraying perfume, arguing (mind you this level of arguing is more debate-like and did not involve any level of abuse, verbal or physical)). So how did the tables turn so quickly? How did students go from being kids to criminals?  
So what?

As stated previously, the crimes many students are being arrested for were once handled by school officials. Students are still receiving detention, suspension, and other forms of punishment for their actions, but many are being arrested without even considering the consequences their arrest might have on their life. The fines alone can be the difference of some poorer families being able to afford their rent, electricity, food. But even more than that, we know that having a criminal record is a slippery slope for many adolescents. Furthermore, students and parents (many of whom do not have legal aid) plead guilty in the hopes of simply putting the matter to rest, not realizing the consequences it will bring. See the following disconnect between what we should be doing vs. what is happening now for an example of these consequences. 

The Disconnect: 

“Our purpose is to push these kids into college, not into the criminal justice system.” (Eckholm, 2013) – With Police in Schools, More Children in Court

vs.

‘”Once you pay it, that’s a guilty plea and that’s on your record,” said Simpkins. “In the US we have these astronomical college and university expenses and you go to fill out the application to get your federal aid for that and it says have you ever been arrested. And there you are, no aid.”‘ (McGreal, 2012) – The US schools with their own police

There seems to be a difference in the planning for policies for police presence in schools and the implementation of those resources officers. Surely, the policies weren’t intended to have such defective effects, but they have.
What now? 
Perhaps it would be best to reevaluate the policies and the roles of these officers. They are there for a reason, so they absolutely should be used when necessary–but there’s more work to be done in deciding when that should be. In the articles shared, I also read about many police forces that are trying to better equip their men and women to better determine when arrests are necessary, teaching them the difference between a scuffle and an assault. Additionally, the use of student juries and school administrators to better deal with the more trivial issues should be considered. Resource officers can still do their job in reporting them, but an official arrest would not be necessary. With the increasing number of law enforcement officials in school, these options should be considered immediately. 

 

photo source: clutch mag online 

 
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What?
Just last week, my roommate and I were discussing interfaith relationships, undoubtedly perplexed by the notion of spending the rest of your life with someone with whom you would not be spending eternity (whatever that eternity is, according to your religion). Then I stumbled an article on the NYT website that discussed this same dilemma. After this discovery, my inquiries led to a number of other books, articles, etc. that described the many benefits as well as those that explained the potential risks of entering into an interfaith relationship and subsequent marriage. I am pleased to say that this research allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of interfaith relationships, marriages, and families. 
 
So what? 
At a time such as this, the ins and outs, ups and downs, and every detail of what is and what is not a marriage are on the tips of many tongues. Regardless of your beliefs on religion, marriage, and the interplay between the two, it’s hard to ignore the social change that is taking place right now. However relevant, this discussion does not concern marriage rights, DOMA, or Prop 8. That is another conversation for another time. I introduce those ideas to recognize the relevance of this article being published now. The timing of these articles reminded me of Cawsey’s discussion concerning the importance of situation for change to take place. Perhaps that is why I was so quickly to find many recent articles concerning interfaith message, because those in interfaith marriages recognize that people are truly contemplating what “marraige” means and they feel that they have a  voice to be heard during this time. Whether their story is focused on religion, marriage, whatever, they are better able to grab people’s attention. 
 
Now what?
Unlike many of my other posts, this topic does not suggest that change should take place. It is, however, the recognition of change that has taken place over time. Generally, most of the information I found on interfaith marriages suggested that we need to realize how beneficial important conversations can be. As stated previously, I found quite a few articles written by those in interfaith marriages. Many of the authors suggested that they, along with others in interfaith marriages/families, are uniquely qualified to be leaders. They have incredibly differing stories that allow them to relate to a number of groups and able to lead conversations that many others may not be able to. 
 
Please visit these links to hear others’ perspectives on interfaith marriage. 
Winds of Change
IFM in America

End It Movement Part II – Social Media

What?
I’ve already introduced you to the End It movement, their cause, and the incredible leadership ability of their team. After reading Goldsmith this week and discussing the use of social media, I was inspired. Therefore, I would now like to focus you’re attention to their social media presence. 
So What?

It is amazing to see how much information can be shared and how quickly it is shared. End it launched just last month. They currently have 49, 230 “likes” on facebook, 59,916 followers on twitter, and 14,248 on instagram. The information End It posts is immediately shared by hundreds, even thousands of their followers, then by their friends and followers, and so on. Even better, End It has celebrities joining the End It Movement everyday. Celebrities who have millions of followers. As far as I know, End It does not have a building, it exists only in the media. How amazing is that? This movement that I was informed of at a conference just months ago is now constantly growing and raising awareness and money for a wonderful cause. All because of social media.

(Country star Carrie Underwood and Nashville Predator hockey player husband Mike Fisher, Nascar Driver Kevin Bayne, a collage of NFL players, Vampire Diaries actress Kat Graham, and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman)

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Source: http://facebook.comENDITmovement/photostream
What now?
As change leaders, we can use the same media resources used by the End It team to spread awareness and information to countless people. I do feel that it is important to be sure that if you are going to use social media, you need to keep up with it. The End It team has presented an excellent example of doing just that; End It posts something to their facebook, twitter, & instagram at least everyday, often more. They also respond to posts, pictures, etc. sent in by their friends and followers.
There is, however, a bit of a catch-22 to utilizing social media. I have worked for organizations in the past that have really failed at keeping up with their social media. Letting messages go unanswered for months, not responding to posts on facebook, and so on. Failing to keep social media updated is a poor reflection on the organization. Essentially, if your organization is going to use social media, it is imperative that its social media pages are kept up to date and are responsive to the public. 

What? 

In February, Marissa Mayer made the decision to ban work from home programs. What followed? Quite an outrage. In March, Hubert Joly, Best Buy CEO, banned the same programs. What followed? Not much. So what is the difference between these two decisions. The most obvious answer is that one was made by a woman in power and the other by a man. 

So what?

I immediately heard of Marissa Mayer’s decision through numerous media outlets. However, I heard nothing about Best Buy’s policy change without researching it myself. Why is that? Kara Baskin, author of a excellent article on this story, asked Laura Liswood (secretary general of the Council of Women World Leaders), to shed some light on the issue here. “Yet because so few people from historically underrepresented groups are in positions of power, Liswood says, we throw our hopes behind the few who rise to the top. There are just 21 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, according to 2012 statistics from DiversityInc., as well as six black CEOs, seven Asian, and six Latino. When one member of an underrepresented group succeeds, her recipe for it becomes one-size-fits-all.”
What now? 
Essentially, in order to rid of backlash from decisions like Marissa Mayer’s, there needs to be more leaders like her in high power positions. At that point, decisions of business leaders from underrepresented groups won’t be news stories but simply every day business decisions. For this change to occur, there is call for change leaders from underrepresented groups who are equipped to handle the power and culture within these organizations. With time, these leaders will multiply and there decisions will no longer be new stories simply because they are not the carbon copy of the executives we see all too often today. 

 

Good ideas gone wrong? Maybe.

What?
This week I stumbled upon this article and have been contemplating its message since. The title, “7 worst international aid ideas”, caught my attention and I just couldn’t pass over it when a picture 50 Cent (the rapper…just to be clear) surrounded by Somalian children popped up on my screen. Color me intrigued. 
So what? 
I was incredibly conflicted as I read the article. The author discusses a number of ideas that were clearly well-intended and some that seemed incredibly promising. I was especially torn when I realized that TOMS had made the list, feeling a pang of guilt and judgment, knowing I had done more than my fair share to support their company. Although I do recall feeling a bit uneasy after I purchased my first pair and the saleswoman exclaimed “…And you helped a kid in Africa!”. Did I really though? Definitely not as much as I could have through a number of other means. But a little something is better than nothing, right? 
The author suggests that is not true. Most of these individuals or companies truly intend to help the people that they set out to aid. However, their ideas lack the ability to truly make an impact on the issue of poverty. Moreover, they take away any opportunity for economic stimulus if the product were to be produced in the countries that they are attempting to help. Fair Trade company, Sole Rebels, is a footwear company that works to do just that. 
Now what?
Did this article stop me from purchasing TOMS? I’ll be honest, probably not. But I do think there are lessons to learn here as change leaders. It’s pretty obvious that if we want to be influential leaders, the ideas that we support should be effective and efficient in helping to reach our goals. I can’t help but think that these concepts lack the balance of innovation and adaption. It is important to bear in mind the benefits of a team that includes persons from both ends of the spectrum and anywhere in between.  
Perhaps even those of us working in policy could work to ensure that counterproductive red-tape policies such as donor fund restrictions like the one mentioned in the article do not become the norm in domestic and international aid. 

Homelessness, NIMBY, & You–What’s needed and what’s next?

While reading Goldsmith this week, I was immediately reminded of my internship experience this summer. My internship at the Conflict Resolution Center in Roanoke allowed me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the issues of homelessness, “Not in my backyard”, and how it deeply effects you and I. I found the authors discussion of Linda Gibbs and her work to be incredibly inspiring after having to deal with many of the same issues, albeit on a much smaller scale. Something that I found to be lacking greatly in my experience was the managerial aspect of accountability, so I very much appreciate her emphasis on that task. 

What?

My internship came to be through a contract with the City of Roanoke, the Roanoke Rescue Mission, and the Conflict Resolution Center (CRC).  The Rescue Mission (RM) had recently decided to obtain property nearby, with the hopes of that property becoming a new location for their thrift store, which is currently located across the street from the Mission. Some members of the Southeast neighborhood were outraged by the idea of this expansion. They feared that the continued presence of the transient population would decrease quality of life and increase crime in the community, specifically fearing that the change of location for the thrift store would push the homeless persons further into the neighborhood. The Southeast neighborhood called upon city officials to stop the RM from obtaining the new property through code enforcement. The city felt it was best to bring in the CRC to facilitate discussion about the movement, which began in January 2012. 

To read more about the beginning of the facilitation process, visit this story by Jorge Valencia at The Roanoke Times. 

So what?

It is incredibly easy to read this story or others like it and shrug it off because we typically do not have to look into the face of homelessness on a daily basis. We often write it off has a cause that we are interested in but we do not become advocates until the fear of homelessness becomes very real to us or someone we know. Or until situations like the one above actually do take place in our backyard. (Trust me, this is not a soapbox sermon. This is very much the pot calling the kettle black.) However, homelessness is an epidemic that has a long history and is far from over. It could and should be dealt with in a more effective manner, as is demonstrated by Linda Gibbs’ efforts in New York City. 

Now what?

Measurable Results. I quickly discovered that from a holistic perspective, the facilitations were moving along as was expected. Participants were speaking respectfully to each other and trying to come up with a collective approach to homelessness. But there was little to nothing to show for it from a measurable perspective. Yes, the RM had stepped up on security measures and other similar changes had been made but none of these really impacted homelessness in Roanoke. It is important to focus our attention to “using a range of methods that combine research and theory, individual or collective experience, and evidence” (Goldsmith, 2012, p. 125). A more comprehensive approach to homelessness with measurable results will be significantly more beneficial that the attempted quick fixes we see far too often. 

That being said, please read the latest article (by David Ress at The Roanoke Times) about the progress that is being made in Southeast Roanoke. As is made obvious by the previous discussion, there’s a long road ahead…but any progress is a necessary step forward. 

Independent Research: Communication, youth, social change and…

Sooryamoorthy, R. (2011). Communication, youth, social change and… International Sociology Review of Books, 26(5), 604-612. Retrieved from http://iss.sagepub.com/content/26/5/604.abstract

This article presented a synthesis of a number of studies that focused on youth in varying countries and the ways in which they use communication tools such as the Internet and access to media in order to promote social change.  The studies varied in methodology, some researchers using interviews to acquire information, others gathered data by mining through message boards, some even offered workshops in order to obtain data. For example, researchers in Malawi used a series of workshops to learn about youth organizations fighting against HIV and AIDS. In a study of American youth, Felicia Wu Song observed 30 online communities, specifically focusing on “what happens to human beings at the deeper phenomenological level when their experiences are more and more mediated by technology; the assumptions people embraced about political activism and civic participation that make the technology such as internet a medium of political engagement; and the need to know better how the new technologies for communication and media increasingly restructure our everyday lives” (Sooryamoorthy, 2011, p. 605).  This study used three dimensions of the democratic process (dispositional, deliberative, and representational) to analyze the virtual communities and the process under which they operate. Another researcher, Jiwon Yoon, adopted methods of “participatory observation, analysis of blogs, content analysis of sample documentaries…and interviews” to investigate a group of immigrants from South Korea who were attempting to assimilate themselves into North Korean culture (Sooryamoorthy, 2011, p. 609).   These studies, along with a number of others served as the basis for a very brief discussion of evolving methods of communication in relation to youth, and social change.

While Sorryamoorthy a plethora of information, I found the reading to be somewhat confusing and lacking cohesion. The studies and articles that the author analyzed were incredibly different and aside from focusing on the same subject, failed to provide a sense of consistency. The studies were diverse in length, location, and methodology, among other variables. I do not mean to establish that all studies with many variables lack consistency, but the author failed to consider the connections in an effective manner. Additionally, as is made obvious in the previous discussion, not all studies examined included any discourse on the results, nor did all include a detailed methodology. I find it exceedingly difficult to hypothesize upon the relationships of communication, youth, and social change with the information presented. While it was not necessarily the authors intention to compare youth leading social change through communication, namely through internet and the media, it seemed to be an obvious theme. The author could have benefited greatly if he had assessed these themes in a different manner. Nevertheless, if this were the intention, a meta-analysis focusing on the results of the aforementioned studies would be more appropriate.

The subject matter in this article is incredibly interesting and could inspire a more in depth look into a younger generation serving as a catalyst for change. It would be beneficial to complete a longitudinal study that gives more than a brief glance at the state of youth involved in social change currently. This would provide a comprehensive look at the effectiveness of various methods that the world’s youth are using now and their subsequent results and/or consequences. Sorryamoorthy’s analysis offers several case studies that could serve as the subjects in this study. The revised method would also allow the author to discern how variables in different cultures effect the abilities and techniques of youth intending to revolutionize policies within their countries.

It is essential that professionals that intend to accomplish similar work realize the necessity of choosing subject matter appropriately. As stated previously, I felt that the article lacked consistency its discussion, bouncing around from study to study without truly connecting their respective themes. In order to keep the attention of our colleagues and the community we are attempting to reach, we must be sure that the information we present is relevant. In doing so, we also express ourselves as more capable researchers who truly understand the importance of looking at details, ranging from intricate aspects to more obvious qualities.

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