The "Arkansas Benchmark Exams" and the Secular Trend

(After you read this, you should know that Arkansas’s solution to solving this problem

is to make the public school buildings equal.)

Added in support:

"The relationship between testosterone levels and cognitive ability patterns"

"The cognitive performance of normal men and women was studied, grouped according to whether the subjects had relatively high or low salivary testosterone (T) concentrations. Men with lower T performed better than other groups on measures of spatial/mathematical ability, tasks at which men normally excel. Women with high T scored higher than low-T women on these same measures. T concentrations did not relate significantly to scores on tests that usually favor women or that do not typically show a sex difference. These results support suggestions of a nonlinear relationship between T concentrations and spatial ability, and demonstrate some task specificity in this respect. (Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1991; 16: 323-34)


Copyright ã 2003, James Michael Howard, Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.

The "Arkansas Benchmark Exams" contain an important finding which has gone unnoticed. When math and literacy data are plotted, using 4th-grade and 8th-grade data, essentially every line declines for every district. This may be evidence the problem is in our children, not a result of disparate teaching methods and finances. (Schools have never been able to produce this kind of duplication, even under court order.) The scores are higher before puberty, fall during puberty, and continue to fall following puberty. I suggest this is part of the "secular trend," the increase in size and earlier puberty in our children.

In the early 90’s, I produced an explanation for this decline: "Simple Explanation for Out-of-Hand Kids," Northwest Arkansas Times, "Opinion," April 15, 1993. I suggest increasing testosterone participates in human evolution (Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum 2001; 94: 345-362). Periodically, testosterone increases too much; this may be one of those times. People of higher testosterone are increasing. People of higher testosterone are more aggressive and sexual; they make babies faster. Given time, they will increase in percentage within a population. This increase in the percentage of individuals of higher testosterone is, I suggest, the cause of the secular trend. (Some say the "trend" is due to increased nutrition; increased calories simply accelerate reproduction.) As the percentage of individuals of higher testosterone increases, their characteristics increase. I suggest this is why we are seeing yearly declines in education.

It is known that testosterone is significantly connected to learning disabilities: "Salivary testosterone levels in 264 children without learning disabilities (133 males, 131 females) were measured and compared to that in 32 children with learning disabilities (25 males, 7 females). The presence of learning disabilities was significantly associated with higher salivary testosterone." (Physiology & Behavior 1993; 53: 583-6). Another study, with the caveat that the subjects were 47,XXY males, found a relationship quite similar to the findings of the literacy section of the Arkansas Benchmark Exams: "The findings indicated that verbal IQs measured prior to puberty, during puberty and at mid-adolescence were strongly related to relatively early pubertal onset and testosterone levels." (Clinical Genetics 1992; 42: 31-4).

I suggest a continuum exists with very high levels of testosterone causing "learning disabilities" and lesser amounts adversely affecting the ability to learn. [At some point, testosterone levels are actually beneficial to learning; this may be why women are now doing better in mathematics and sciences at colleges and universities than in the past.] This will affect individuals, groups, and genders differently. Blacks and males produce more testosterone than other groups and educational achievement directly parallels these levels. Before we use our scarce money to make children from small towns leave their homes to go to large towns, lets make sure we are right. I do not think negligent teachers, lack of money, or "the boys are doing poorly at school because we want them to do well in sports" are the real reasons for the ongoing decline in education in Arkansas and the U.S.A. Environmental "fixes" are not going to solve this problem or make all children equal.