Do higher test scores mean higher intelligence?

We score much higher on intelligence scores now than our grandparents. Does that mean we're smarter, or is it something else? (Public domain photo via Unsplash.com)

We score much higher on intelligence scores now than our grandparents. Does that mean we’re smarter, or is it something else? (Public domain photo via Unsplash.com)

As an eighth grader, I was part of a program where I took the SAT test. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I gave it a shot.

Then the results arrived.

I wasn’t totally sure what the scores meant as an eighth grader, but it all became clearer when my mom saw them.

“I think that was my score when I was in high school,” she said. We checked and verified it — I scored the exact same as an eighth grader as my mom when she was a junior in high school.

I was feeling pretty good about myself until we started talking about it. We rationalized that the test must have changed since then. Students learn more complex material earlier on. After that, I didn’t feel like quite the Einstein I thought I was!

Turns out, there’s research evidence to back this up. I recently heard James Flynn’s TED Talk and there’s a phenomenon — called the Flynn effect — that we’re “smarter” than our grandparents. Well, our test scores are largely higher than theirs, at least — since the 1930s to be specific.

How is this? We’re all still humans, right? What has changed so drastically?

There are many hypotheses. One: Students are more familiar with the test-taking process and have an advantage. They’re constantly taking tests, and the act of test-taking is a skill that’s more developed in students these days.

Another: Work and school are more cognitively complex today than they were decades and decades ago. Manual labor was more common in the 1930s. Today, doctors, lawyers, software engineers and other cognitively complex jobs make up a significant part of the workforce.

Regardless, the numbers show that something is changing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re smarter, said Ulric Neisser, deemed the “father of cognitive psychology.”

Test scores are certainly going up all over the world, but whether intelligence itself has risen remains controversial,” Neisser said.

So, what does this mean in the classroom? We can draw plenty of conclusions here, but this is the one I keep coming back to.

Simple information is no longer at a premium. We can’t just be brokers of facts and details. The world just doesn’t value that as much anymore. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t learn facts anymore; knowing nothing and Googling everything you need is inefficient and no way to live. (Especially if your cell phone battery dies.)

What matters is what we do with information. I think one of the key ways we can do this is to focus on asking good questions or — maybe even more important — helping students find the questions that really drive them. If students are passionate about tracking down a solution to a problem that really intrigues them, they’re more equipped than ever to make it happen.

The bottom line, though, is this — education can’t be the same today as it was in the 1930s. The world has changed. We have limitless information and access to people whenever we want.

If we continue to teach as we did in the 1930s, we’re robbing students of a bright future that won’t look anything like today.

Question: What does the Flynn effect mean to you? What do you think causes it? What impact should it have on schools? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

  Date Event / Event Details City / More Info
+ 01/19/2015
Western Wayne (Ind.) Schools Pershing, IN
  Full-day Seminar:Ditch That Textbook: Why and How?Private Event
+ 01/31/2015
9:00-12:00 p.m.
U. Indy's Power of Education Conference Indianapolis, IN
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook: My JourneyPublic Event
Sponsor:University of Indianapolis Student Education AssociationRegister to attend
Venue:University of Indianapolis Schwitzer Hall Basement
Indianapolis, IN
+ 02/03/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
World Languages Workshop @ Lafayette Jeff HS Lafayette, IN
  Venue:Jefferson High School
1801 S. 18th St.
Lafayette, IN 47905
765-772-4700
Private Event
+ 02/26/2015
9:00-4:05 p.m.
Indiana Conference on Learning Indianapolis, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook (et al)Public Event
Sponsor:American Student Achievement InstituteRegister to attend
Venue:Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel
2544 Executive Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46241
317-248-2481
Get more information
+ 03/18/2015
08:00-04:00 p.m.
Fall Creek Intermediate School Workshop Fishers, IN
  Venue:Fall Creek Intermediate School
12011 Olio Road
Fishers, IN 46037
(317) 915-4220
Private Event
+ 03/19/2015
7:30-3:00 p.m.
Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) Schools Fishers, IN
  Full-day Seminar:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
+ 04/09/2015
04:00-06:00 p.m.
PVETI Social Media Workshop Rockville, IN
  Sponsor:Parke-Vermillion Education and Training Interlocal (PVETI)Private Event
Venue:Rockville High School
506 N. Beadle St.
Rockville, IN 47872
765-569-5686
+ 04/11/2015—04/12/2015
08:30-05:30 p.m.
Indiana Google Apps for Education Summit Franklin, IN
  Sponsor:EdTech TeamPublic Event
Venue:Franklin Community High School
2600 Cumberland Drive
Franklin, IN 46131
317-346-8100
Register to attend
+ 05/01/2015
09:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ CIESC Indianapolis, IN
  Venue:Central Indiana Educational Service Center
6036 Lakeside Blvd., Building A
Indianapolis, IN 46278
317-759-5555
Public Event
+ 05/08/2015—05/09/2015
Education On Air by Google for Education  
  Sponsor:Google for EducationPublic Event
+ 05/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop (CIESC)  
  Sponsor:Central Indiana Educational Service CenterRegister to attend
+ 05/11/2015—05/13/2015
Ivy Tech Community College Tech Workshop  
  Sponsor:Ivy Tech Community College of IndianaPrivate Event
+ 06/02/2015—06/03/2015
PowerED Up Conference Leopold, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Perry Central Jr/Sr HS
18677 Old State Road 37
Leopold, IN 47551
812-843-5576
+ 06/04/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
HSE Summer Learning Fair Fishers, IN
  Sponsor:Hamilton Southeastern SchoolsPrivate Event
Venue:Fishers High School
13000 Promise Road
Fishers, IN 46038
(317) 915-4290
+ 06/08/2015
Greencastle EdTech Conference Greencastle, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
+ 06/10/2015
08:00-04:00 p.m.
Connecting the 4 C's Conference @ Mt. Vernon (Ind.) Mount Vernon, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Mount Vernon High School
700 Harriett Street
Mount Vernon, IN 47620
812-833-5136
Register to attend
+ 06/11/2015—06/12/2015
8:00-3:00 p.m.
Yorktown WeLearn Conference Yorktown, IN
  Keynote:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningRegister to attend
Venue:Yorktown High School
1100 S. County Road 575 West
Yorktown, IN 47396
(765) 759-2550
Get more information
+ 06/15/2015—06/16/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Summer Spark Symposium Milwaukee, WI
  Venue:University School of Milwaukee
2100 West Fairy Chasm Road
Milwaukee, WI 53217
414-352-6000
Public Event
+ 06/17/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
eLEAD Madison County Anderson, IN
  Sponsor:CAPE of Madison CountyPublic Event
Venue:Anderson University
1100 E. 5th St.
Anderson, IN 46012
+ 06/22/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Seymour Schools Tech Workshop Seymour, IN
  Sponsor:Seymour Community SchoolsPublic Event
Venue:Seymour High School
1350 W. 2nd St.
Seymour, IN 47274
812-522-4384
+ 06/23/2015—06/24/2015
Digipalooza 2015 Scottsburg, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Scottsburg Middle School
425 S. 3rd St.
Scottsburg, IN 47170
812-752-8926
+ 06/25/2015—06/26/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
South Vermillion trAnSfoRM Conference Clinton, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:South Vermillion High School
770 Wildcat Drive
Clinton, IN 47842
765-832-3551
+ 06/27/2015
09:00-03:00 p.m.
#ReadTL15 Conference Reading, West Berkshire, UK
  Sponsor:Reading College (Reading, West Berkshire, United Kingdom)Public Event
Venue:Reading College
King's Road, Reading, West Berkshire RG1 4HJ
Reading, West Berkshire, UK
United Kingdom
+44 800 371434
Register to attend
+ 06/28/2015—07/01/2015
ISTE Conference 2015 Philadelphia, PA
  Full-day Seminar:Sharing Is Caring: Collaborative Google Apps ActivitiesPublic Event
Sponsor:International Society for Technology in EducationRegister to attend
Venue:Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
800-428-9000
Get more information
+ 07/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
USD 242 Weskan Schools Staff Development Weskan, KS
  Venue:Weskan Schools
219 Coyote Blvd.
Weskan, KS 67762
785-943-5222
Private Event
+ 07/22/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Northeastern Middle School Workshop Fountain City, IN
  Venue:Northeastern Middle School
7295 U.S. 27 North
Fountain City, IN 47341
(765) 847-1331
Private Event
+ 07/24/2015
08:00-3:00 p.m.
Greater Clark Connected Conference Jeffersonville, IN
  Sponsor:Greater Clark County SchoolsPublic Event
+ 07/28/2015—07/29/2015
Catching the Wave of eLearning Lafayette, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
+ 07/30/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Seymour Schools Tech Workshop Seymour, IN
  Sponsor:Seymour Community SchoolsPrivate Event
Venue:Seymour High School
1350 W. 2nd St.
Seymour, IN 47274
812-522-4384
+ 08/10/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Idabel Public Schools  
  Sponsor:Idabel (OK) Public SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 08/13/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Palmer ISD (Texas) Palmer, TX
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Venue:Palmer Independent School District
Palmer, TX
+ 08/18/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Brandywine Heights Area School District Topton, PA
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATE 
Sponsor:Brandywine Heights Area School District
+ 09/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Cascade Middle School Clayton, IN
  Venue:Cascade Middle School
6423 S. County Road 200 West
Clayton, IN 46118
(317) 539-9285
Private Event
+ 09/15/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ SIEC Jasper, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook Public Event
Sponsor:Southern Indiana Education Center
+ 09/23/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ WVEC West Lafayette, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
+ 09/24/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ CIESC Indianapolis, IN
  Workshop:DItch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Central Indiana Educational Service Center
+ 09/25/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
MSD of Steuben Co. (Ind.) Angola, IN
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Sponsor:MSD of Steuben County
Venue:Angola High School
350 S. John McBride Ave.
Angola, IN 46703
260-665-2186
+ 10/03/2015—10/03/2015
weLEAD Symposium Islamabad, Pakistan
  Venue:Margalla Hotel
Islamabad, Pakistan
Pakistan
Public Event
+ 10/06/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Anderson (Ind.) Schools Anderson, Indiana
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Sponsor:Anderson Community Schools
+ 10/07/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ Region 8 ESC Decatur, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Region 8 Educational Service Center
+ 10/08/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ NIESC Plymouth, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Northern Indiana Educational Services Center
Venue:Christo's Banquet Center
830 Lincolnway E, Plymouth
Plymouth, IN 46563
+ 10/12/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Tyler ISD Tyler, TX
  Sponsor:Tyler Indpendent School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 10/15/2015—10/16/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference (Indiana) Noblesville, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Connected Educators ConferencePublic Event
Venue:Noblesville High School
18111 Cumberland
Noblesville, IN
Register to attend
+ 10/22/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Mt. Vernon CSC (Indiana) Fortville, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Sponsor:Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation
+ 11/10/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Cascade Middle School Clayton, IN
  Venue:Cascade Middle School
6423 S. County Road 200 West
Clayton, IN 46118
(317) 539-9285
Private Event
+ 11/11/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hamilton Southeastern Schools (Indiana) Fishers/Noblesville, Indiana
  Full-day Seminar:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Sponsor:Hamilton Southeastern Schools
+ 11/14/2015
09:00-02:30 p.m.
Northeast Literacy Retreat Fort Wayne, IN
   Public Event
+ 11/17/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ ECESC Connersville, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:East Central Educational Service Center
+ 11/18/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook @ WCIESC Greencastle, Indiana
  Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:West Central Indiana Educational Service Center
+ 11/19/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Elgin Local Schools (Ohio) Elgin, OH
  Sponsor:Elgin Local SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 01/13/2016
8:00am-3:00pm
Madison eLearning Madison, IN
   Private Event
+ 01/18/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hudson ISD (Texas) Lufkin, TX
  Venue:Hudson Indpendent School District
6735 Ted Trout Drive
Lufkin, TX 75904
936-875-3351
Private Event
+ 01/26/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
South Putnam Greencastle, IN
  Sponsor:South Putnam SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 02/03/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Sheridan MS/HS Sheridan, IN
  Sponsor:Sheridan Community SchoolsPrivate Event
+ 02/09/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Southern Indiana Education Center Jasper, IN
  Sponsor:Southern Indiana Education CenterPublic Event
Venue:Southern Indiana Education Center
1102 Tree Lane Drive
Jasper, IN 47546
812-482-6641
Register to attend
+ 02/15/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Educational Service Unit #13 Scottsbluff, NE
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
Sponsor:Educational Service Unit #13
+ 02/16/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Rockford Public Schools Rockford, MI
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Private Event
Sponsor:Rockford Public Schools
+ 02/24/2016—02/25/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference St. Charles, IL
  Sponsor:Illinois Computing EducatorsPublic Event
Venue:Pheasant Run Resort and Conference Center
4051 E. Main St.
St. Charles, IL 60174
(630) 584-6300
Register to attend
+ 02/25/2016—02/26/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference (Illinois) St. Charles, IL
  Sponsor:Illinois Computing EducatorsPublic Event
+ 03/07/2016
01:15-03:30 p.m.
Mandan Public Schools Mandan, ND
  Sponsor:Mandan Public School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 03/09/2016—03/11/2016
MACUL Conference Grand Rapids, MI
  Sponsor:Michigan Association for Computer Users in LearningPublic Event
Venue:DeVos Place
303 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 742-6500
Register to attend
+ 03/14/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Concordia Lutheran HS Fort Wayne, IN
  Sponsor:Concordia Lutheran High SchoolPrivate Event
+ 03/23/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Westwood Community School District Sloan, IA
  Sponsor:Westwood Community School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 04/13/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Wabash Valley Education Center West Lafayette, IN
  Workshop:Ditch That Textbook!Public Event
Sponsor:Wabash Valley Education CenterRegister to attend
Venue:Wabash Valley Education Center
3061 Benton Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906
(765) 463-1589
+ 04/18/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Monroe #1 BOCES (New York) Fairport, N.Y.
  Full-day Seminar:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
Sponsor:Monroe #1 BOCES
+ 04/26/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Caesar Rodney School District Camden, DE
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook Private Event
Venue:Caesar Rodney High School
239 Old North Road
Camden, DE 19934
+ 05/03/2016
Paoli Community School Corporation Paoli, IN
  Venue:To be determined
Paoli, IN
Private Event
+ 05/25/2016
09:00-09:45 a.m.
Pacific Northwest Apprenticeship Education Conference Portland, OR
  Sponsor:The Bureau of Labor and Industries, Oregon Building Congress and Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.Public Event
Venue:DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Center
1000 NE Multnomah Street
Portland, OR
Register to attend
+ 05/31/2016
10:30-12:00pm
West Central Career Cooperative Crawfordsville, IN
  Venue:Crawfordsville Country Club
Crawfordsville, IN
Private Event
+ 06/06/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
PowerED Up Conference Leopold, IN
  Venue:Perry Central Schools
18677 Old State Road 37
Leopold, IN 47551
(812) 843-5576
Public Event
+ 06/07/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Making a Splash with Digital Learning Conference Batesville, IN
  Venue:Batesville Community School Corporation
626 N. Huntersville Road
Batesville, IN 47006
(812) 934-2194
Public Event
+ 06/08/2016—06/09/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ignite Your Superpower Lafayette, IN
  Venue:Sunnyside Intermediate School
530 N 26th St
Lafayette, IN 47904
(765) 771-6100
Public Event
+ 06/13/2016—06/14/2015
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Summer Spark (Wisconsin) Milwaukee, WI
  Sponsor:University School of MilwaukeePublic Event
+ 06/15/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
REMAST Conference (South Dakota) Brookings, S.D.
  Sponsor:South Dakota State Noyce Scholarship ProgramPublic Event
+ 06/20/2016
Indianapolis Sister Cities Int'l Conference Indianapolis, IN
  Keynote:Connecting Your Classroom to the WorldPublic Event
Sponsor:Indianapolis Sister Cities InternationalRegister to attend
Venue:Covenant Christian High School
7525 W. 21st St.
Indianapolis, IN 46214
+ 06/22/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Western North Dakota ESA Dickinson, ND
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
+ 06/26/2016—06/29/2016
ISTE Conference Denver, CO
  Venue:Colorado Convention Center
700 14th St.
Denver, CO 80202
Public Event
+ 07/12/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
MSD of Martinsville Martinsville, IN
  Sponsor:MSD of MartinsvillePrivate Event
+ 07/13/2016—07/14/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Pulaski County Special School District Little Rock, AR
  Sponsor:Pulaski County Special School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 07/18/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Sheridan/Hamilton Heights Sheridan, IN
   Public Event
+ 07/19/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Launching INquiry Fishers, IN
  Venue:Fishers High School College & Career Academy
13000 Promise Rd
Fishers, IN 46038
Public Event
+ 07/20/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Blended Learning Summit Salina, KS
  Sponsor:Smoky Hill Education Service CenterPublic Event
Venue:Smoky Hill Education Service Center
605 E. Crawford
Salina, KS 67401
785-825-9185
+ 07/21/2016
08:30-04:00 p.m.
iPadpaloozaEastTX Longview, TX
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Public Event
Sponsor:Region 7 Education Service CenterRegister to attend
Venue:Pine Tree High School
900 Northwest Drive
Longview, TX 75604
(903) 295-5031
Get more information
+ 07/22/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Tyler ISD Tyler, TX
  Sponsor:Tyler ISD 
+ 07/25/2016—07/26/2016
E3 Technology Conference Warsaw, IN
  Venue:Warsaw High School
1 Tiger Lane
Warsaw, IN 46580
(574) 371-5098
Public Event
+ 08/01/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Catholic High School New Iberia, LA
  Sponsor:Catholic High SchoolPrivate Event
Venue:Catholic High School
1301 de La Salle Drive
New Iberia, LA 70560
+ 08/05/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools Partnership Fort Wayne, IN
  Sponsor:Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools PartnershipPrivate Event
+ 08/09/2016
Southwest School Corporation Sullivan, IN
  Venue:Southwest School Corporation
110 North Main Street
Sullivan, IN 47882
(812) 268-6311
Private Event
+ 08/11/2016
Groesbeck ISD Tech Conference Groesbeck, TX
  Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Private Event
Venue:Groesbeck Independent School District
1202 N. Ellis
Groesbeck, TX 76642
(254) 729-4100
+ 08/15/2016
Beggs Public Schools Beggs, OK
  Venue:Beggs Public Schools
1201 West 9th
Beggs, OK 74421
(918) 267-3628
Private Event
+ 08/16/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Etoile ISD Etoile, TX
  Sponsor:Etoile ISDPrivate Event
+ 08/17/2016
8:00-3:00 pm
Tech Academy  
   Private Event
+ 08/22/2016—08/23/2016
West Central School District Hartford, SD
  Venue:West Central School District
705 E. 2nd St.
Hartford, SD 57033
(605) 528-3217
Private Event
+ 08/24/2016
8:00am-3:00pm
Walled Lake Consolidated School District  
   Public Event
+ 08/25/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hillsboro School District Hillsboro, OR
  Sponsor:Hillsboro School DistrictPrivate Event
+ 08/29/2016
8:00am-3:00pm
Service Learning School District Detroit, MI
  Sponsor:Service Learning School District 
+ 09/16/2016
New Prairie High School New Carlisle, IN
  Venue:New Praire High School
New Carlisle, IN
Private Event
+ 09/19/2016
Big Walnut Local Schools Sunbury, OH
  Workshop:The Digital PIRATE: Tech Like a PIRATEPrivate Event
Venue:Big Walnut Local Schools
36 Harrison St
Sunbury, OH 43074
(740) 965-3205
+ 09/20/2016
08:00-03:00 p.m.
NH Best Practices in Curriculum, Assessment and Assessment Conference Concord, NH
  Sponsor:New Hampshire School Administrators AssociationPublic Event
Venue:Grappone Conference Center
Concord, NH
+ 10/12/2016—10/13/2016
Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency Betterdorf, IA
  Sponsor:Mississippi Area Bend Education AgencyPrivate Event