Monday, September 26, 2005

I Wuz Fooled by the New York Times: Statistical Shenanigans

I posted earlier about apparent dramatic increases in minority student performance in the Wake County Schools, as reported by the New York Times.

I wuz fooled.

After being alerted by a corrective post at The Daily Howler (via Instapundit), I discovered that Wake County's scores were comparable to those all over North Carolina. And after I followed the Howler's links to all North Carolina End of Grade results, I discovered that Guilford County's increases were just as dramatic:

  • In 1993-4, only 36.5% of 3rd-grad black students in Guilford County were scored as "proficient" in math. But in 2003-4, 78.1% scored "proficient."
  • And only 33.7% of Guilford County black students were scored as proficient in reading in 1993-4, but 71.8% did so in 2003-4.
Wow! Either Guilford County has been doing a really, really good job, or . . . the tests have gotten easier?

At any rate, my apologies for jumping on the local media in my earlier post for missing the the story that the NY Times reported. Because that story really wasn't a story, was it?

Might I suggest, however, a story trying to account for the dramatic rise in EOG scores all across NC? Are the schools really doing a great job? If so, let's have some appreciation! If not, let's find out what's really going on . . .


Darkmoon said...

I wonder if this is similar to back in 1994-1995, when it was found that American high school students do poorly on the SATs, so they artificially bumped the scores. So the fact that your child scores 1350 on his/her SATs these days have that artificial bump in it. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

Why do I keep letting The New York Times sucker me? There's all this evidence against them everyday of their biases and prejudices, yet I can't help it. I get pulled in. I'm like this happy fly buzzing around in the morning and the spider beckons, "Hey, drop in for coffee, little fly." "I'll be right there," I say, "I'd like mine with cream."

Anonymous said...

I absolutly hate standardized tests. So much, in fact, that I refused to take the SAT's when I was in high school. I think that they prove nothing, except how well you perform on a particular day. Many of my friends spent HOURS in classes just to prepare for the SAT's. They stressed out about them for months and thought they had to do well or they wouldn't be able to go to college. They thought I was nuts for refusing. Well, they all took the test, and yes, they all went to college. I did not take the test. Guess what? I have a diploma on my shelf indicating that I have a Bachelor of Arts degree. Where is the degree from? Syracuse University. So, I am proof that you DO NOT need to take those stupid tests to do well! ARGH!!!

Joe Killian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Killian said...

This is anecdotal, but I believe any of the teachers I know in North Carolina could tell you what they think is going on.

According to a high school teacher friend of mine in Greensboro the school system is forcing teachers to cut anything that doesn't teach directly to these standardized tests and, when their test scores aren't high enough, people are brought in to monitor the teachers to be sure they aren't deviating from the "all test all the time" approach.

This has forced my friend, an English teacher, to cut a good deal of the reading she thinks her students need and almost all of the classroom discussion of literature except as it pertains to standardized testing and how they'll need to answer. The result, she says, is that they generally know how they should answer questions on a test and have been taught what to look for but their actual analytical skills are nearly non-existent and it's impossible to have an actual conversation with them about anything they've read.

I know exactly four people who graduated with degrees in teaching in the last four years and, after their experience teaching in NC schools, all but one of them have opted to either move to other states or quit teaching altogether.

Anonymous said...

Instead of forcing teachers to teach so kids can do ok on those STUPID TESTS, I would recommend a portfolio type system. Students keep a portfolio of all their work throughout high school. I think that would be a much more accurate reflection as to what the kids are learning and know. It also gives a better idea of how well they can perform.

Brian said...

Freakonomics has an interesting take on standardized tests. Not only "teaching to the test" but also some teachers cheating by giving students answers during the test or completing/correcting student tests in the time between students turning them in to the teacher and the teacher turning them in to the office. We all respond to incentives, and teachers have an immediate, substantial, and tangible incentive to get students to perform well on meaningless bubble tests.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the charts, it appears that the tests were 'reset' in 94-95 and 00-01, those are the years with the biggest bumps in test scores (and relatively flat in between).