den beste on education study
USS Clueless has an impressive piece deconstructing the apparent political agenda behind a recent Harvard study of merit scholarships. As always, Den Beste's full piece is worth reading in its entirety, but here are some key quotes:
What Harvard's researchers discovered was that the administrators responsible for these programs were administering them honestly, and awarding the scholarships without regard to race or financial means, based on academic performance and test scores. That's what the Legislators said they wanted when the programs were set up, and that's apparently what the administrators have actually been doing...it's not that these programs are broken, but rather that Harvard's researchers disagree with the goals of the programs
They did their studies of recipients and discovered that since the poor and blacks did worse in school, they also got disproportionately fewer of the scholarships. Harvard's researchers think these programs should not be merit based, but rather be means-tested, and deliberately should seek out non-whites and the poor irrespective of their academic merit.
But that's a political opinion, not a scientific observation. They think that these programs should be changed, but their study doesn't do anything to prove that, because that's not susceptible to proof. Rather, this study is just an attempt to embarrass the leaders of the states with uncomfortable statistics.
Full disclosure: I received a merit scholarship myself, and used it to attend the university of my choice. And frankly, I feel I deserved that scholarship and that my subsequent economic activity has returned its value to the state of Kentucky, which was not part of the Harvard study.