Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Led Zeppelin teaches us about school reform

Have you ever listened to a Led Zeppelin song backwards?


I hear they say all kinds of evil things.

Simon Singh has listened to Led Zeppelin songs backwards. He doesn't hear anything but gibberish.

Yet he is able to get me to hear things that are not there.

Listen to his talk. Then play your Led Zeppelin album backwards! Oh my!

Singh states, "Combine bad data with a big bias and the brain fills in the holes and you end up hearing something that's not there."

Which brings me to this editorial in the Detroit News. The writer states without qualification and without hesitation that only 17.8% of Michigan high school graduates were prepared for college. This data comes from the ACT College Testing data.

ACT in their "Reality of College Readiness" report state benchmark scores on ACT subject area assessments that "represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of earning a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses." (page 3)

Michigan's education dashboard promotes this number. Governor Snyder in his 2013 State of the State address stated that "only 17% of our kids are college ready." The Michigan School Data portal has a link to the ACT College Readiness results. Again, only 17.7% of students are viewed as college ready.

As Singh states: "Combine bad data with a big bias and the brain fills in the holes and you end up hearing something that's not there."

The state of Michigan could promote other data.

For example, they could promote the number of students who attend Michigan colleges after graduation from high school. Over 60% of the graduates of 2011-12 (the latest year for which data is currently available) enrolled in college. And this is just the students who went to Michigan colleges. The percentage would rise if students who went to out-of-state colleges were included.

Some might counter that "I'll grant you they went to college but I bet they needed to take those remedial courses when they got there!"

Not really.

The same Michigan School Data portal shows how many of the 2012 high school graduates needed remedial assistance when they entered college.

What's your guess?

Well if only 17% of the graduates are college ready it must mean that 83% needed remedial assistance.

NOT TRUE!

The numbers don't lie. And they are pretty good. (Click on the percentage tab under the title.)

Only 17% of the 2012 graduates took a remedial course in math, less than 10% took a remedial course in reading, 11% took a remedial course in writing, and less than 10% took a remedial course in science.

So why would the Governor, the state of Michigan's education dashboard, and the Detroit News continue to promote this idea that only 17% of our high school graduates are college ready?

If I were the Governor I would promote the idea that our students are ready for college. I would promote that when our graduates go to college only a small percentage need remedial assistance. I would promote that our public schools are doing wonderfully well educating our students.

As Simon Singh says: "Combine bad data with a big bias and the brain fills in the holes and you end up hearing something that's not there."

So why does the Governor promote that our schools are doing so poorly?

Maybe there is an agenda and a bias against public schools. Maybe if public schools look like they are not doing a good job it will be easier to promote agenda items that favor schools of choice, charter schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, online learning, and other so called educational reforms.

I for one believe in our public school system. I think the numbers demonstrate that we are doing well.

Can we improve? Absolutely!

But to suggest that we are not preparing students to be successful once they leave high school is, in my opinion, irresponsible.
 

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for stating this so clearly and emphatically. When I read that figure in The News I questioned it, knowing that it couldn't possibly be true. The one person who should be promoting our state in a more positive fashion and our governor uses facts and figures to promote his own agenda. The Detroit News is another story..never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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  2. Amen! Well stated, factually correct and much needed common sense.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. But you make how much?

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