June 5, 2007

Does education make people stupid?

Well, writing about education sure seems to bring out the vapid and credulous in media folks.

Sailer's Law of Triviality says there is an inverse correlation between the importance of a topic and the quality of public discourse about it. Thus, baseball statistics elicit superb analyses while coverage of immigration and education, perhaps the two most important domestic issues for the future of America, is mired in sentimentality, wishful thinking, and anti-empiricism.

For example, the Washington Post trumpets:

Scores Up Since 'No Child' Was Signed
Study's Authors Unsure Whether to Credit Law for Gains
By Amit R. Paley, Washington Post Staff Writer

The nation's students have performed significantly better on state reading and math tests since President Bush signed his landmark education initiative into law five years ago, according to a major independent study released yesterday.

The study's authors warned that it is difficult to say whether or how much the No Child Left Behind law is driving the achievement gains. But Republican and Democratic supporters of the law said the findings indicate that it has been a success. Some said the findings bolster the odds that Congress will renew the controversial law this year. ...

The report, which experts called the most comprehensive analysis of test data from all 50 states since 2002, concluded that the achievement gap between black and white students is shrinking in many states and that the pace of student gains increased after the law was enacted. ... The law requires all public school students to be tested in reading and math every year from grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and it prescribes a series of sanctions on schools that do not make adequate progress. States and the District are allowed to design their own tests and set their own standards.

In similar news, the Kansas City Royals baseball team announced that their record so far this year was 57-1 with a staff ERA of 0.22. And the management of iSteve.com reported today that readership of iSteve.com in May 2007 was 8.7 quadrillion pages served, with an average quality rating by readers of "ineffably exquisite."

Is the concept of "conflict of interest" really that exotic that the Washington Post hasn't yet noticed that it was built into the NCLB? The federal government says it will withhold oodles of money from states that don't report making progress, while telling the states to go grade themselves on tests of their own devising.

The results are predictable.

The New York Times, at least, has the sense to report that these lovely results from state tests are contradicted by the results on the disinterested federal test. Sam Dillon writes:

The study also acknowledged that the increases in achievement recorded by many state tests had not been matched by results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, nationwide reading and math tests administered by the federal Department of Education.

Those results have been mixed. For example, on the national tests given in 2005, fourth-grade math scores showed an important increase over the previous test administration in 2003, and eighth-grade math scores rose slightly. But fourth-grade reading scores were the same on the nationwide test in 2005 as in 2002, and eighth-grade reading scores declined.

No mention is made in either article of the utterly impossibility of the NCLB's mandate that 100% of students are "proficient" (i.e., above average) by 2014.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


TurbineGuy said...

The discrepancy between State scores and NAEP performance has been well covered by the education blogosphere, including takedowns of several NYC articles.

For example.





Svigor said...

Is the concept of "conflict of interest" really that exotic that the Washington Post hasn't yet noticed that it was built into the NCLB?

Haha, I assume this is your babe-in-the-woods routine?

Anonymous said...

Articles on education are meant to sell the articles. They do not need to present really facts or ideas they just need to cater to one of the major groups: those on the left who need to sell the idea that lack of funding has doomed our schools, those on the right who believe that liberalism has doomed our schools and those in power want to show that things has improved while they have been in power. It is obvious which group this article was meant to attract.

BTW As long as I can remember people have been telling me that he USA was getting behind in education and if we don’t turn it around soon we are doomed. Well it has not happened yet. It seems that there are bigger factors than the number of year one spend in school.