Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Don't Pester Them With Statistics!

Color me astonished by this report in today’s Boston Globe:

First-year students at Massachusetts public colleges who scored well on the high school math and English MCAS exams earn higher grades and more course credits than students with lower scores, and they are more likely to stay in school, a new study by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has found.

The report, which for the first time tracked how Massachusetts high school graduates fared in college, offers evidence that performance on the high-stakes tests is linked to college readiness and bolsters the case that the state's academic standards are helping to prepare students for college.

It might, but the Globe story never gives readers the title of the report (let alone link to it), and you can’t easily find it on the website of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. In fact it looks like they haven’t updated their site much since 2003.

“Some” appears again in this story. This time in the person of a single state hack representative:

Some said the findings were predictable and showed only that brighter, harder-working students were more likely to succeed at college, not that the tests were improving education.

"I don't think anyone is surprised that students who do better on the MCAS exam do better in college," said Representative Carl M. Sciortino Jr. , a Medford Democrat who has filed legislation to stop denying students diplomas based solely on MCAS scores. "That means nothing in terms of producing better-prepared graduates overall."

“Means nothing”?

It means at least that MCAS results are correlated to some degree with college success. Could Representative Carl M. Sciortino Jr.(D-Medford) correctly answer MCAS questions on topics in statistics?

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