Friday, February 5, 2010

Dealer's Choice

It's interesting how stories sometimes get shaded in the press. Take this article about AP test passage rates from USA Today. The headline reads: Failure Rate for AP Tests Climbing. If you just read the headline you might think that everything was terrible with education in this country. However, if you read to the eighth paragraph (in a 13 paragraph story) you might also see that the absolute number of kids passing the tests has increased as well. See, there's a lot more kids taking the tests now than used to and that means that two indicators are increasing. On the one hand, we're seeing kids take the test who in the past probably wouldn't have taken the test even though they were ready and would have passed. They're taking and passing the tests now, which is why the number of kids passing has increased. On the other hand, you've got kids being put into the classes and sitting for the tests who aren't ready for that kind of work. That's why the passage rate is declining.

The headline obviously emphasizes the negative, but do the facts support a negative story? Yes and no. The facts can support either a positive or negative spin. The headline could just as easily have read "More Kids Than Ever Passing AP Tests." That would have been equally accurate. But remember, this is in the papers and it is about education. So was there ever really a choice on the angle?

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