Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 25, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

TEST SCORES UP!....STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT STILL SUCKS!....It's time to review our annual school testing results. I'll let you be the judge of how we're doing in California based on the following two quotes from the LA Times story about it:

  • "67% of high schools met the state goals, compared with 30% last year."

  • "Just 33% of 10th-graders and 32% of 11th-graders were deemed proficient in English this year."

Riddle me this: how can 67% of high schools be meeting state goals if only 32% of their students are proficient in English?

The answer appears to be that the state goals emphasize progress: 67% of our high schools improved a bit compared to last year, even if their absolute performance still wasn't very good. The problem is that the LA Times doesn't mention this until the 13th paragraph of its story, which comes after a virtual hailstorm of miscellaneous statistics that have probably long since caused most of its readers to flee to the comics page.

So here's some advice to Duke Helfand and Cara Mia DiMassa. Instead of this lead:

More than two-thirds of high school campuses met test score goals set by the state, twice as many schools as last year, the new statistics showed.

How about this one?

More than two-thirds of high school campuses showed a 5% improvement in their test scores, twice as many as last year, but despite this progress a large majority of students were still deemed nonproficient in English.

See? It's not so hard to tell the whole story in a small number of words.

(Complete test results are here if you want to dig through them to see how your school did.)

Kevin Drum 12:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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