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January StandOut® Challenge Interview Levels College Admissions by Probing Directly for the Independent Variables of Academic and Career Success

Top Three FocusRing Candidates Win Scholarships Totaling $50,000 in the January StandOut Challenge Interview

Portland, Or., February 7, 2024

PORTLAND, Ore. – (BUSINESS WIRE) – According to a popular myth, to reach mastery and expertise you must first put in 10,000 hours of practice. Pioneering Human Performance researcher at Florida State University, Dr. Anders Ericsson, recently stepped forward to clarify this myth. According to Ericsson’s book “Peak,” what counts towards building expertise is what he calls “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice distills to four independent variables: practice, consistency of practice, tracking your practice, and “mental mapping.” Staged on CollegeNET’s new, patent-pending FocusRing technology, the StandOut Challenge Interview competitions are proving that it is possible to probe for and assess these performance variables at scale. FocusRing presents candidates with a video question script probing for the independent variables of practice, and then gives each candidate the task of scoring the video answers submitted by other randomly assigned candidates. Peer review and evaluation requires each candidate to listen to, learn from and make judgments about what others are saying. These key academic and pro-social engagement skills — listening to and evaluating the ideas of others — are neither exercised nor tested through traditional siloed assessments such as the SAT or ACT.

Solving the Problem of Equal Opportunity in College Admissions

Using traditional achievement scores such as the ACT/SAT in college admissions presents a basic problem for schools seeking to enhance equality of opportunity: higher scores correlate most closely with higher family income. According to a recent study at Penn-Wharton, “High school GPA and class rank each have weakly positive correlations with household income, falling between 0.06 and 0.07, whereas SAT scores, especially on the math section, have correlations with household income roughly 3 times as large. Thus, selecting on national measures will bias more towards wealthier students than selection solely on school-specific measures.”

Research suggests that if an institution could better identify and admit students who demonstrate greater determination and skill around work and practice it would enhance its graduation rates. According to Science Connected Magazine, reporting on work done by Angela Duckworth and her team, “The reason high school grades have been such strong predictors for college graduation and academic success in general is because they are powerful indicators of personal attributes such as determination, emotional-regulation, and persistence to obtain goals in the face of obstacles. Dr. Duckworth’s team has now uncovered that what really predicts timely college graduation is self-regulation: the determination and perseverance to complete tedious and difficult tasks that are asked of them.”

So far, there is no research proving that by directly measuring the independent variables of practice—variables that indicate determination and perseverance—FocusRing can level the socio-economic playing field in college admissions. 1) Is it true that students growing up in poorer households are forced to strive and thereby develop more determination around work and practice? Or 2) is the opposite true: that students who develop greater determination and skill at practice come from richer families? Or 3) is family income non-correlative to the development of these key traits? While we don’t yet know the answer, if we can assign equal probability to these three outcomes, then tools like FocusRing have a better than even chance of solving the equal opportunity problem in college admissions.

The World’s First Subjective Supercomputer

FocusRing is called the world’s first “subjective supercomputer” because it is the first technology to extend a person's cognitive “Evaluation” skill as he/she answers a question to the subsequent task of evaluating answers given to the same question by others. FocusRing provides for shared and unlimited scalability of the peer-scoring and engagement function. The scoring phase of FocusRing requires students to listen to and learn from others as they perform their assigned evaluations. By contrast, traditional siloed college assessment tests such as the SAT or ACT require test takers to hide their work from each other, thus cutting off their opportunity to learn from the answers given by others.

As computer scientist and FocusRing co-inventor Jim Wolfston explains: “Regardless of whether we find ourselves in a casual social situation or a formal business setting, when we prepare to answer a question posed by others we immediately and subliminally invoke three real-time cognition skills: Configuration; Evaluation/Self-Editing; and Delivery. During Configuration, we choose from our own base of ideas, evaluate those ideas, and arrange them for delivery. During Delivery we extend our evaluation through internal and auditory feedback plus the feedback, if any, we receive from our listeners. This real-time evaluation forms a question-specific mental bridge that spans the configuration and delivery of our own answer. Having already answered a given question, a student is well positioned to apply their own mental evaluation bridge to the task of assessing answers to the same question given by others. Further, as a student assesses the answers given by others, they learn from them and thus extend their personal base of ideas.”

The Paradox of Traditional Academic Testing

The fundamental deficiency in traditional assessment testing is that these tests measure only the dependent variables of academic performance (e.g., how much math does a student already know?). This creates a paradox from an educational perspective. At the same time a college is aiming to teach a subject, it is constrained by traditional assessments to favor and select candidates who already know the most about that subject, not necessarily those who would attack and learn the subject with the highest persistence and discipline. Although assessing a dependent variable such as a student’s math skills provides indirect evidence that high-scoring candidates may also possess the independent skills around persistence and struggle that drive math skill acquisition and learning, this causation is by no means certain. Particularly in today’s era of SAT super-scoring where students take standardized tests multiple times and both the student and the school choose the highest score, irrelevant factors such as guessing, statistical anomaly, expensive test coaching, and the family’s capability to pay for multiple tests all blur away the ability of the school to discern the key behavioral traits around consistency, discipline and practice that drive academic and career performance. These test prep techniques and strategies—all overwhelmingly available to richer students and families—thus bias educational testing to the wealthy, further exacerbate our national decline in social mobility, and suppress recognition and educational opportunity for less well-off students who may, in fact, possess superior skills and discipline around practice and struggle.

As the January candidates answered questions on video and then watched and assessed the answers given by others through FocusRing™, they not only proved their own authenticity, they also made judgements about the credibility of others in the competition. Unlike essays that can be written and edited by others or standardized tests that can be gamed, the human minds arrayed in a FocusRing collectively ensure authenticity in the results and outcome.

Curiosity, Persistence, and the Ability to Explain and Engage

The winners of the January StandOut Challenge Interview competition demonstrated curiosity, drive, and self-confidence. For example, first place winner Bethany Rockett described the importance of trusting one’s own abilities and resisting self-doubt when learning new skills. Second place winner Gabriela Rodriguez Campos reminded us about the value of pursuing opportunities while following your passion. Emrys Alfaro Haugen, third place winner, explained how he benefits from focusing on “spacing” when writing.

These three top-scorers in January’s StandOut Challenge Interview competition won the following scholarships:

First Place: ($25,000) – Bethany Rockett

Second Place: ($15,000) – Gabriela Rodriguez Campos

Third Place: ($10,000) – Emrys Alfaro Haugen

Watch the winners’ responses during the January FocusRing scholarship competition

The February 2024 StandOut Challenge Interview competition is now underway. CollegeNET is awarding a total of $200,000 in scholarships to students who plan to attend schools participating in the StandOut Admissions Network. Schools wishing to join other institutions in the StandOut Admissions Network are welcome to contact CollegeNET.

About CollegeNET

CollegeNET, Inc. has been a prime mover and developer of important new product markets for higher education, including the world’s first automated classroom scheduling system and the first patented system for serving institution-branded web-based admissions forms. Today CollegeNET is pioneering new AI/Supercomputing/Video markets that enhance learning and career opportunities for students and citizens. The company’s new suite of Opportunity Drivers includes StandOut® Intelligent Mirror and StandOut Classroom. Intelligent Mirror provides patented AI voice analysis technology and self-guided practice for job seekers, professionals, and others who want to improve their speaking skills and self-confidence ( StandOut Classroom solves the long-standing “degree pathways” problem by introducing a new, asynchronous learning environment that requires no specification of time or place. CollegeNET systems are now used by more than 1,000 institutions worldwide for event and academic scheduling, virtual classroom instruction, career preparation, college admissions, campus hiring, candidate recruitment, and course evaluation.

Media Contact:
Jill Thacker