Standardized testing

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on

I don’t know about you, but I find talent markets fascinating. They have several characteristics that make them quite distinctive from regular old goods and services markets:

  • Talent is extremely heterogeneous; it’s not as if there’s another Honda Accord where that one came from.
  • Talent is what economists call both “excludable” and “rivalrous,” meaning that if I hire you Suzie can’t hire you at the same time. (Knowledge is the classic non-rivalrous and non-excludable good; everyone can know the same thing at the same time without its impairing anyone else’s knowledge of that same thing, and without shutting off anyone else’s access to it.)
  • Talent is notoriously difficult to judge in advance, without actually experiencing it, that is to say, without actually hiring the individual and putting them to work in your organization. Some other markets approach this condition of “ignorance until purchased,” such as attending performing arts events or taking a vacation to a previously unknown locale, but the stakes tend to be much higher for all parties concerned in talent markets.
  • Once talent is hired, it’s stickier than most other purchases. You can walk out of the movie theater or reconfigure your travel plans, but once you hire someone, short of felonious or otherwise appalling behavior, you’re stuck with them for a decent interval.

All this leads to a number of devices and stratagems that attempt to mitigate uncertainty and delay serious resource commitments until some firsthand evaluation can be performed.

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Apparently, this is the kind of image that is just too confusing for the children of New York.

I mentioned this yesterday, but I think it deserves further discussion. In a move that can only be characterized as bizarre, the New York State Department of Education has decided to ban words — lots of words — from standardized tests that cause children to feel bad, confused, or bring up “controversial” topics. Yep, the NY Regents was apparently just too controversial for some parents.

And we’re talking about some very common words here. Words like dinosaur. Dinosaur is deemed “controversial” because it brings up evolution, according to a report in the New York Post. Words like “birthday” are banned because Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays.

I didn’t know Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t celebrate birthdays. Maybe instead of banning the word “birthday,” they should ask a question like: “Which of the following groups don’t celebrate birthdays?” That way, our children might learn something about other cultures instead of being protected from ever having their precious points of view challenged because of f***ing PC helicopter parenting idiots who are trying ruin America one stupid goddamn rule at a time. It’s not that I don’t care about the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Creationists or poor little children who don’t know what a Mercedes is (“Mercedes” is another banned word). It’s that banning words IN NO WAY ADDRESSES THE PROBLEM and is freaking stupid.

In a multicultural society, words are our friends….

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Josh is a very smart kid. I really doubt he would be involved in anything like that. He works hard, and he’s earned everything he’s gotten.

David Chefec, a “prominent” lawyer, commenting over a week ago on his son’s alleged involvement in the New York SAT cheating scandal. Chefec’s son, Joshua Chefec, surrendered to authorities yesterday morning and was arraigned that afternoon.

Ann Althouse did it. So can you. (Photo by Richard Lawrence Cohen.)

We are getting very close to bar exam time. Some of you might be thinking that there’s not enough time left. Some of you might be resigned to the fact that you will fail the bar and all your friends will know about it and make jokes about you when you’re not in the room.

Well, if you do fail, jokes will be made at your expense. But there’s still more than enough time to pass. Above the Law received an email from a reader who passed the California bar exam on his first try. The reader took the time to document just how long he spent studying for the test. The total commitment? Under 90 hours.

And that’s for the California February bar, a test that has a passage rate just north of “utterly pathetic.”

So how did he do it? The reader shares his study plan with all of you who are coming into bar prep crunch time…

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In our little world, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a career-defining moment. A few points on the test can mean the difference between going to a law school that can get you a job, or going to a law school where you’ll be locked in gladiatorial combat with every other student in order to finish in the top 10%.

But does this test really tell us anything about a person’s logical reasoning ability? Does it tell us anything about one’s ability to be a lawyer? It’s been well-documented that the LSAT is a great indication of past performance, a solid indicator of law school performance, and a very poor judge of future legal success.

So what is the LSAT really testing anyway? We all know really smart people who didn’t do too well on the LSAT, and we all know incredibly dumb people who got a high score.

On the Huffington Post, Noah Baron argues that the LSAT is really testing one thing: whether or not you are wealthy enough to spend the time it takes to prepare for the exam…

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