Monday, March 13, 2006

Bob Somerby Is Not Making This Up

Hard to believe, but apparently true.

It seems that Christmas came early for Maury Elementary of Alexandria, Virginia last year. In the spring of 2005, only 5 of Maury’s 19 third-graders passed the state’s “Reading/Language Arts” test, a passing rate of 27 percent. (Statewide, 77 percent of third-graders passed. We’ll call this test “reading” from this point on.) But yes, Virginia—there is a Santa Claus! Thanks to bizarre statistical manipulations, the state ended up reporting that 17 of Maury’s 19 third-graders had passed—and Maury was soon at the top of the Washington Post’s front page, hailed as “a study in pride, progress” (full links below). How did five out of 19 become seventeen? How did an abysmal passing rate become a source of community “pride?” Simple—according to Alexandria testing director Monte Dawson, an undisclosed number of Maury fourth-graders also were given the third-grade test. When 12 fourth-graders passed the third-grade test, they were added to the third-grade total. We know, we know, it sounds impossible—but no, we’re really not making this up. Indeed, Dawson sent us a lengthy excerpt, apparently from a technical manual, which outlined the absurd procedure. What do you do when a school’s passing rate exceeds 100? The excerpt even explained that!

(tip from Stunt Woman)