Sunday, September 30, 2007

If you repeat a myth often enough, it is still a myth

Recently the 2006 National Assessment of Education Progress was released, and the public education establishment has been promoting that in the fourth and eighth grades South Carolina is a little below average, not last, in the country.

But they also insist on propagating the myth that, as was reported in the Greenville News, "NAEP scores are often considered a far more accurate representation of student achievement than the SAT. State-by-state comparisons on the SAT are unfair because of the large disparity in the number of students who take the test in each state."

That SC's SAT scores are low because a large number of students take the test is the myth that just won't go away because the public education establishment doesn't want it to go away. The reality is, the better educated the typical SC student’s parents are, the further his SAT scores trail his peers nationally.

That myths like this take on a life of their own and impact public perceptions regardless of what the facts actually are is the reason I reacted so strongly last week to the perception that the Riley Institute study reported, "South Carolinians across the state largely agree about how to improve our schools." The last election for Superintendent of Education was decided by a few hundred votes between opponents who had radically different views for fixing education. That there is a strong consensus about what to do to fix public education just isn't so.

We need recognize that some progress has been made in public education in recent years. We also need to recognize that there are deep and fundamental problems that incremental changes won't fix.

1 comment:

Tom Strange said...

The interview with Wendy Kopp crystallizes the whole issue of education, the underinvestment in education in America. Imagine facing a career where you will work amid a general and constant buzz of distractions, will remain chronically underpaid for your education level, will be subject to directions, restrictions, and evaluations that are Byzantine in nature, and rarely hear anything about your profession that is positive. Now imagine the cross section of the population that thinks this is attractive as an option. We dodge most of the bullets because there are people out there ready to sacrifice all to help better the next generation. Should we be surprised there are others that simply milk the system? This touches on only one aspect of education, the teacher. John is right, we perpetuate the myth, because it is more comforting than facing the reality. The cost of educating our kids in a rapidly more literate world has not kept up with inflation, much less the current needs. This is going to cost real money, and we are unwilling to pay it as a society.