Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Wealth of Education Articles



The New York Times, under the ever-present claim that it contains “All the news that’s fit to print,” published no less than four full articles and one sidebar about education in its Wednesday, August 29, 2007 issue.

The College Board, the nonprofit organization responsible for the SAT and other assorted tests, released its 2007 results for students taking their most famous test. It seems scores this year dipped slightly.

The average score for the critical reading portion was 502 out of a possible score of 800, “a decline of one point from last year” according to the Times. It was also the lowest average in the last thirteen years.

Math fared no better, declining three points to 515 out of 800.

On the writing portion, added two years ago, students scores dropped three points as well to 494.

The article quotes Wayne Camera, vice president for research and analysis at the College Board as saying that the declines from 2006 to 2007 are “statistically insignificant.” Yes, but in the long view, over several years, can he make the same claim?

The article goes on to discuss how the scores break down by race, and not surprising, of the 1.5 million students taking the exam, white students did the best with critical reading, math, and writing averages of 527, 534, and 518 respectively.

At the bottom of the list, after American Indians, Mexican-Americans, and Puerto Ricans, were “other Hispanic” at 459, 463, and 450 for reading, math, and writing.

The article is an interesting statistical data base. The question, however, remains clear: what does the SAT score really represent? A few years ago, the University of California system was ready to drop the test as a measure for admitting students. This is what led the College Board to revamp the test and add a writing portion. Some colleges do not require the test scores any longer when considering students for admissions.

What might be indicated by the minority breakdown of scores is that ethnic students in this country still suffer from insufficient education. The other side of the coin is, are we testing our students to death, and do the results of such tests as the SAT really indicate anything. I have seen numerous incidents in my time in the classroom where very bright students do not test well on the SAT. How fair is this test? It is a long and contentious debate.

On the subject of minority education, the second article, under the title of “Face Book: A New Role, but for Her, Familiar Turf, profiles the new New York City deputy chancellor of teaching and learning, Marcia V. Lyles. Ms. Lyles, an African-American, is not your average educator. In her sophomore year of high school, she was caught ditching class at her high school in Harlem. According to the article, she is still embarrassed about her conduct. The article is a good piece about a dedicated educator who is hoping to bring some measure of reform to the school system in the city.

Next to Ms. Lyles’ profile, is an article by Samuel G. Freedman on the uproar over New York education officials’ decision to open a school this fall where half of the classes would be conducted in Arabic, and the curriculum would include studies of Arab culture. Khalil Gibran International Academy is still scheduled to open, but has faced overwhelming negative criticism. The appointed principal, Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim immigrant from Yemen, resigned recently to try to stifle the uproar to no avail.

Finally, as the nation heads back to school, we have a sidebar that focuses on statistics. The total number of children enrolled in nursery school through college in October, 2005: 75.8 million. Number of teachers in the United States: 6.8 million. Average salary: $46,800, with the highest amount being paid in Connecticut, and the lowest in South Dakota.

Interesting reading on this back-to-school week for most of us. The articles can be accessed at nytimes.com.