Brief asides


POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009


Still discovering our world

A quick Rorschach quiz: “;Air supply.”;

For some, that phrase will evoke the 1980s soft-rock, hit-making duo from Australia. But for researchers just back from a monthlong reef expedition of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, air supply is all about trimix, an exciting combo and use of oxygen, nitrogen and helium that allowed entry into a whole new water world. The mix and technology allowed divers to explore gap depths of 200 to 275 feet, where they saw new coral reefs and marine life, including a species of striped butterfly fish that had never before been collected—until now.



Exactly what kids needed to hear

The talk Barack Obama gave to the nation's schoolchildren was exactly what American kids need to hear, and it's a shame that some parents prevented their children from hearing it. It was vintage Obama: exhorting students to set high goals and make no excuses as they toil toward success. The overriding message of personal responsibility was no surprise, as he has shared similar sentiments with diverse groups since arriving on the national scene.



High school grades a better guide

College-entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT can make or break a high school student's dreams. But an influential analysis of graduation rates at 21 flagship public universities says such tests are poor predictors of whether a student will graduate from college in four years. High school grades are better predictors, which should encourage college admission officers to weight applications in favor of prospective students who have excelled in demanding courses throughout high school.

Excelling in high school for four years gives students not only the knowledge they need to ace the SAT, but also the self-discipline to succeed in college. So the research in “;Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities”; seems like common sense.

What's surprising is that standardized tests became such a powerful gatekeeper in the first place.