Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Schools-Are-Awful Bloc Still Busy in 2008: Mr. Bracey Digs into the Story Behind Various "Facts" and Uncovers Explanations That Shed a Different Light on the State of Education in the U.S

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Schools-Are-Awful Bloc Still Busy in 2008: Mr. Bracey Digs into the Story Behind Various "Facts" and Uncovers Explanations That Shed a Different Light on the State of Education in the U.S

Article excerpt

THE SCHOOLS-are-awful bloc has become so dominant that people don't even think about challenging it. Even though the year isn't over yet, there's plenty of evidence that the fear mongers who reared their ugly heads in 2007 have been hard at work during 2008.

Misinformation, distorted information, deliberate attempts at obfuscation, sloppy thinking--all of those nasty habits have attracted the ire of the 18th Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education.

MAKING EDUCATION A PRIORITY

Businessmen philanthropists Eli Broad and Bill Gates were the masterminds of EDin08, a $60 million effort to inject education into the 2008 presidential campaign. But much of that effort is clouded by misinformation.

In May 2008, EDin08 cited a Pew Research Center poll that showed education as the #2 priority for Americans and another poll from Rasmussen in which 90% of voters called education an "important issue." Not quite.

The signal finding of the Pew survey of registered voters--a group probably quite different from the nation as a whole--was that only 18% of respondents are satisfied with the way the country is going, an all-time low in the 20 years of Pew polling. Whoever becomes president will inherit a mess.

And, in the Pew poll, education was not a clear second--it tied with health care and jobs at 78% concerned, and behind the economy, which drew a full 88%.

Finally, EDin08 implies a vast change that hasn't happened: Education has long been considered important. In fact, concern about education increased a slight 3%, from 75% in 2004 to 78% this year. But much larger changes since 2004 occurred in energy as a concern (77%, up 23%); budget deficit (69%, up 12%); the economy (88%, up 10%); Social Security (75%, up 10%); the environment (62%, up 9%); taxes (68%, up 9%); and health care (78%, up 5%) (www.people-press.org/reports/pdf/425.pdf)

Of course, these surveys are remarkably sensitive to the way the questions are framed. In late July, when Pew asked, "What is the most important problem facing the nation," education barely registered, being so designated by 5% of Democrats and 1% of Republicans. The economy (31%), energy/gas prices (19%), Iraq (17%), inflation/cost of living (6%), and unemployment (5%) all caused more anxiety than education (www.people-press.org/reports/pdf/438.pdf ).

The Rasmussen survey shows education rated "very important" or "somewhat important" by 85% of respondents (as in the Pew poll, voters), not the 90% that EDin08 claims. Without combining these categories, one doesn't come close to the 90% figure-61% rate it very important. But, again, education is outranked by the economy (96%), government ethics and corruption (92%), taxes (89%), national security (88%), social security (87%), and health care (86%) (www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/issues2/trust_importance_on_issues).

Another example from EDin08's "Get the Facts About America's Schools" flyer: "70% of eighth graders are not proficient in reading--and most

will never catch up." The top-ranked nation in reading is Sweden (Finland did not participate in the study) but two-thirds of Swedish students are not proficient. (1) This should tell someone that something is wrong with their measure.

Also on the EDin08 site: "Compared to students in 30 industrialized nations, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science. Even America's top math students rank 25th out of 30 when compared with top students across the globe."

These numbers are taken from the PISA ranks but ignore TIMSS or PIRLS. PISA has been widely criticized in Europe but, oddly enough, not in the U.S. (See page 108 to learn more about PISA's less than sterling reputation.) TIMSS 2003 results would reveal that American students were 9th out of 45 countries in science and 15th out of 45 in math. No one who reports in ranks ever acknowledges that ranks create large-looking differences out of insignificant differences. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.