Now that the Dark Ages of American Science (January 20, 2001-January 19, 2009) are over and we are all basking in the bright light of reason, the New York Times reports that miracles are occurring due to psychic emanations from Obamessiah`s puissant aura:
Educators and policy makers, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said in recent days that they hope President Obamaâ€™s example as a model student could inspire millions of American students, especially blacks, to higher academic performance.Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obamaâ€™s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results.â€?Obama is obviously inspirational, but we wondered whether he would contribute to an improvement in something as important as black test-taking,â€? said Ray Friedman, a management professor at Vanderbilt University, one of the studyâ€™s three authors. â€?We were skeptical that we would find any effect, but our results surprised us.â€?The study has not yet undergone peer review, and two academics who read it on Thursday said they would be interested to see if other researchers would be able to replicate its results. Dr. Friedman and his fellow researchers, David M. Marx, a professor of social psychology at San Diego State University, and Sei Jin Ko, a visiting professor in management and organizations at Northwestern, have submitted their study for review to The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Friedman said.â€?Itâ€™s a very small sample, but certainly a provocative study,â€? said Ronald F. Ferguson, a Harvard professor who studies the factors that have affected the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students, which shows up on nearly every standardized test. â€?There is a certainly a theoretical foundation and some empirical support for the proposition that Obamaâ€™s election could increase the sense of competence among African-Americans, and it could reduce the anxiety associated with taking difficult test questions.â€?Researchers in the last decade assembled university students with identical SAT scores and administered tests to them, discovering that blacks performed significantly poorer when asked at the start to fill out a form identifying themselves by race. The researchers attributed those results to anxiety that caused them to tighten up during exams in which they risked confirming a racial stereotype.In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last yearâ€™s presidential campaign.In total, 472 Americans â€” 84 blacks and 388 whites â€” took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obamaâ€™s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap â€?statistically nonsignificant,â€? he said.â€?Itâ€™s a nice piece of work,â€? said G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association, who read the study on Thursday.But Dr. Kingsbury wondered whether the Obama effect would extend beyond the election, or prove transitory. â€?Iâ€™d want to see another study replicating their results before I get too excited about it,â€? he said.