In One Eye

Friday, November 14, 2003
This article makes a lot of people look bad.
Although Connecticut's fourth-graders ranked tops in national reading scores released Thursday, more than half of them failed to read at a level the test deemed proficient.
So Connecticut's kids don't look all that great, after all.

But they sure look better than their national schoolmates:
Across the nation, less than one in three schoolchildren scored at or above the proficiency level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a math and reading exam given to a random sample of fourth- and eighth-graders in public schools.
A number of newspapers decried these statistics this morning, essentially indicating that US youth are stupid. However, the truth of the matter is that
The proficiency standards "are just unrealistically high," said Gerald Bracey, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia.
So the Bushies look bad for creating standards that are pretty much unattainable. (Of course, Rod Paige's experience in Houston must have made him know that this would be the case.)

But perhaps the person who looks the most foolish in the article is the state's new Commissioner of Education, Betty Sternberg, who, when asked to comment on the whole notion of "proficiency" vis-à-vis standardized testing, responded with this nugget:
"It's difficult to understand ... but I guess the basic thing is ... you come to the same conclusion no matter which [measure] you use. ... We're among the best."
If this is the kind of sound bite we can expect from the Commissioner, it seems unlikely that Connecticut's students will hold their lofty position for long.