"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Colleges Are Ripping Off.. ...What We Do With Numbers

A friend on Facebook brought to my attention an article from a conservative website, Intellectual Takeout. The article, How Colleges Are Ripping Off a Generation of Ill-Prepared Students, was a commentary authored by a professor of economics at George Mason University, Walter Williams. It was originally published in another right-wing site called The Daily Signal. In the article, Williams was accusing colleges of admitting students who could not even read nor write nor do arithmetic. Williams arrived at this conclusion by comparing scores in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), high school graduation rates, and enrollment in colleges. Williams noted that the fraction of students entering college is far greater than the fraction of students reaching proficiency in either math or reading NAEP exams. Obviously, Williams did not know what the levels in an NAEP exam really meant, or he was simply misleading readers.

Here is the description on the NAEP website regarding the meaning of proficient in its exams:
Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).
Using the proficient level as a mark for grade level completion is obviously wrong. Williams is therefore making a great error when he writes:
Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math.
Perhaps, it would have been better if Williams used the "basic" level instead. About 70 percent of students reach this level in math and in reading, which is more in line with the percent of students graduating from high school. But even this comparison is not valid since obtaining a high school degree is not decided merely by scores in a standardized test. This is not the purpose of the NAEP. The NAEP is just one way that puts all schools in the US under a common measure, but its application should never be extended to gauging whether a student should graduate high school or enter college.

But Williams did not stop at this point. He continued and accused colleges of admitting ill-prepared students. His argument was based on the fraction of students entering college. He cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed 67% of high school graduates enrolling in college. One should take note that only 80% graduates high school. Thus, the percentage of high school students continuing into college is only 54%. Furthermore, only two out of three students in this group enroll in a 4-year college, bringing it down to 35%, a number that is actually very close to the percentage of high school students scoring at or above the proficient level in math and reading.

There is indeed a lot of information on the internet. Unfortunately, most have an agenda. Most are misleading. We have sites like Media Bias/Fact Check that can help us weed misinformation from correct information. We should use these resources as much as possible.

Above copied from Media Bias/Fact Check

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