The girl is somewhat above average, but not stellar. She found high school math very easy, which tells me that on the plus side she did everything that was asked of her, and on the minus side that she was never challenged. Then she gets to college and takes a statistics class (and I will go out on a limb and guess that the intro stats class taken by nursing majors is not as hard as the one taken by statistics majors...) and stumbles. Badly. I don't really fault her. She came up through the system and was apparently conscientious about doing what was asked. But a cruel joke was played on her. Kind of like the kid whose story started this thread. She was told by her high school that she was prepared for college, the ease with which she aced the math tests given by her school seemed to confirm it, so she went and enrolled in her state's flagship. And then she learned something...And then, a month into the school year, Vanessa stumbled. She failed her first test in statistics, a prerequisite for admission to the nursing program. She was surprised at how bad it felt. Failure was not an experience she was used to. At Mesquite High, she never had to study for math tests; she aced them all without really trying. (Her senior-year G.P.A. was 3.50, placing her 39th out of 559 students in her graduating class. She got a 22 on the ACT, the equivalent of about a 1,030 on the SAT — not stellar, but above average.)
Oh, and the NYT reporter might also want to enroll in that statistics class:
You mean to tell me that when you hold one variable (nearly) constant the difference in outcomes depends (mostly) on variables that weren't held constant? NO FUCKING WAY!!!! SOMEBODY NOMINATE THIS REPORTER FOR A FIELDS MEDAL BECAUSE THEY JUST BLEW MY MIND WITH THEIR NEW STATISTICAL INSIGHTS!!!!The second trend is that whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t. Or to put it more statistically: About a quarter of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will manage to collect a bachelor’s degree by age 24, while almost 90 percent of freshmen born into families in the top income quartile will go on to finish their degree.
When you read about those gaps, you might assume that they mostly have to do with ability. Rich kids do better on the SAT, so of course they do better in college. But ability turns out to be a relatively minor factor behind this divide. If you compare college students with the same standardized-test scores who come from different family backgrounds, you find that their educational outcomes reflect their parents’ income, not their test scores. Take students like Vanessa, who do moderately well on standardized tests — scoring between 1,000 and 1,200 out of 1,600 on the SAT. If those students come from families in the top-income quartile, they have a 2 in 3 chance of graduating with a four-year degree. If they come from families in the bottom quartile, they have just a 1 in 6 chance of making it to graduation.
It may very well be that in multiple regressions one can find that test scores have almost no predictive power when parental income is held constant, at least in some settings and for some subsets of students. I'm a bit skeptical of that proposition, but I can't rule it out. What I can say is that this NYT reporter utterly failed to articulate such a case.