elephant 003Sometimes ideas that make sense are not scientifically valid. Here is an example: Hispanic fourth graders did better on fourth grade reading tests than Hispanics in any other state. Does this mean Florida’s high-stakes testing and no child left behind programs are working?

Politifact pointed out in theTampa Bay Times on February 16, 2015, that another possible reason Florida Hispanics did so well is the influence of Florida’s Cuban immigrants who generally come from a higher social class than Mexican immigrants in other states. As pointed out in The Elephant in the Classroom, social class is a powerful variable.

But even if past research shows that fourth-graders who read better are going to be more successful when it comes to graduation from high school, that doesn’t mean that simply pumping up fourth grade reading scores is going to have a significant influence or outcome. This is because the higher scores in the past reflected many other influences including mental ability, family support, self-control, etc. Pumping up the reading scores for all children now, in the fourth grade may not influence the child’s future significantly. Science is tricky, isn’t it?

Another example is IQ testing. One of many subtests on the standard battery is comprised of putting blocks together to form designs. Some people thought this activity represented intelligence and that if children were taught to be proficient in the use of blocks their IQ’s would increase. No, putting blocks together is one of thousands of developmental markers that could have been Incorporated into an IQ test. Getting better at manipulating blocks will not affect the overall IQ.

Life is complicated. This is why I enjoy the saying “Man plans and God laughs.”