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      Hacking the High School Grading System

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Tuesday, 10 October, 2023 - 20:45 · 1 minute

    Interesting New York Times article about high-school students hacking the grading system.

    What’s not helping? The policies many school districts are adopting that make it nearly impossible for low-performing students to fail—they have a grading floor under them, they know it, and that allows them to game the system.

    Several teachers whom I spoke with or who responded to my questionnaire mentioned policies stating that students cannot get lower than a 50 percent on any assignment, even if the work was never done, in some cases. A teacher from Chapel Hill, N.C., who filled in the questionnaire’s “name” field with “No, no, no,” said the 50 percent floor and “NO attendance enforcement” leads to a scenario where “we get students who skip over 100 days, have a 50 percent, complete a couple of assignments to tip over into 59.5 percent and then pass.”

    It’s a basic math hack. If a student needs two-thirds of the points—over 65%—to pass, then they have to do two-thirds of the work. But if doing zero work results in a 50% grade, then they only have to do a little bit of work to get over the pass line.

    I know this is a minor thing in the universe of problems with secondary education and grading, but I found the hack interesting. (And this is exactly the sort of thing I explore in my latest book: A Hacker’s Mind .

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      Publisher’s Weekly Review of A Hacker’s Mind

      news.movim.eu / Schneier · Friday, 20 January, 2023 - 22:32 · 1 minute

    Publisher’s Weekly reviewed A Hacker’s Mind —and it’s a starred review!

    “Hacking is something that the rich and powerful do, something that reinforces existing power structures,” contends security technologist Schneier ( Click Here to Kill Everybody ) in this excellent survey of exploitation. Taking a broad understanding of hacking as an “activity allowed by the system that subverts the… system,” Schneier draws on his background analyzing weaknesses in cybersecurity to examine how those with power take advantage of financial, legal, political, and cognitive systems. He decries how venture capitalists “hack” market dynamics by subverting the pressures of supply and demand, noting that venture capital has kept Uber afloat despite the company having not yet turned a profit. Legal loopholes constitute another form of hacking, Schneier suggests, discussing how the inability of tribal courts to try non-Native individuals means that many sexual assaults of Native American women go unprosecuted because they were committed by non-Native American men. Schneier outlines strategies used by corporations to capitalize on neural processes and “hack… our attention circuits,” pointing out how Facebook’s algorithms boost content that outrages users because doing so increases engagement. Elegantly probing the mechanics of exploitation, Schneier makes a persuasive case that “we need society’s rules and laws to be as patchable as your computer.” With lessons that extend far beyond the tech world, this has much to offer.

    The book will be published on February 7. Here’s the book’s webpage. You can pre-order a signed copy from me here .