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Are Four-Fifths of U.S. High School Graduates Not Ready for College? - pierrerosen [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Are Four-Fifths of U.S. High School Graduates Not Ready for College? [Aug. 18th, 2006|07:00 am]
According to Bloomberg News, the ACT reported that, "almost four-fifths of U.S. high school graduates failed to pass this year's standard examinations designed to show their readiness for college".

This is not accurate. I think the ACT failed statistics class. Bloomberg should also have its knuckles wrapped with a ruler, since it has been caught in a classic type of journalistic bias by relying heavily on a press release without thinking about the statistics carefully and spinning the story to make the situation look dire.

The problem with this study is that there are numerous confounding variables which weren't taken into consideration by the ACT. These variables are "hidden" in the study model and affect the known variables, but are not known or acknowledged, and thus potentially distort the data.

Some facts:

*The ACT is taken by the majority of high school graduates in 25 States. That is half of the United States.
*Approximately 40% of U.S. high school graduates took the ACT tests.
*The other 60% of students do not take the ACT. They take the SAT or another entrance exam or none at all.
*The States where the majority of high school graduates take the test are mostly in the midwest and southeast.

Is it possible that students from the Midwest and Southeast are less prepared in HS than Northeasterners and Westcoasters? Is it possible that the 60% of high school students who don't take the ACT are better prepared for college? Is it possible that your average student is very well prepared in three out of four subject areas, but is very weak in one area? These and other lurking variables destroy whatever meaning the statistics have.

Thus, the headline "Four-Fifths of U.S. High School Graduates Not Ready for College?" is pure fear mongering by Bloomberg.

It would be accurate to say only one in five met or exceeded the College Readiness Benchmark scores on all four ACT exams. It would also be accurate to say that the reason why they did not meet this Benchmark was because of sub par math and science scores on the ACT. It would also be accurate to say that most students are prepared for college with good reading, writing and social sciences skills.

The blogosphere has been buzzing with this story. Many bloggers have been using these statistics to say that 'the public school system' has failed and vouchers for private schools and homeschooling are the answer. Hogwash. Private school students also take the ACT and standardized tests and are included in the ACT statistics.

Please read the press release by the ACT and the selected state data that are linked below. The horrible interpretation of these statistics provide a fine lesson in reading news stories and press releases without critical reading and reasoning skills. Skills that the ACT and journalists should have mastered a long time ago.

read more | press release | selected state data | digg story

[User Picture]From: pierrerosen
2006-08-25 12:58 pm (UTC)

Reply from Bloomberg Author

I received the following nice email from Paul Basken, the author of the Bloomberg news story:

"Thanks. I understand the point, and it certainly could have been worded better. I don't always have the luxury of space that you might. But is it your suggestion that the portion of high school students who don't take the ACT are likely higher achieving than those who did? Curious theory. Happy blogging."

In response to his email, I edited my post to more clearly emphasize that the problem with the study is with confounding variables and not the sample size.
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