"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, February 26, 2006

New York Times Goes Stupid Once More

Today's NY Times editorial says this:
The most recent findings from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy revealed distressing declines in literacy, especially among those with the most education. For example, fewer than a third of college graduates — down from 40 percent a decade ago — were deemed "proficient" in terms of literacy as defined by the ability to read and understand lengthy passages placed before them. A small but still alarming percentage of college graduates scored "below basic," meaning that they were incapable of all but the simplest tasks.

The truth is that the percentage of college graduates that were below average did increase by 1 point (from 2% to 3%) in prose literacy. Howver, it did not change in document literacy (2% to 2%), and actually went down one point in quantitative literacy (5% to 4%) (from page 15 of NAAL--Download the complete report, view and print the report as a pdf file.) Only the propagandists at ED who are owned by Business Roundtable and their dupes at the NY Times could find that disturbing.

What the NY Times does not say anything about is that AIR, the same outfit that published the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, came out with another study in January 2006 based on the same data set. Does the NY Times know that this document exists, or is just taking the sheaf of Ben Feller articles and the other crap that is being handed to them by ED?

The American Institutes of Research says this in the Press Release on January 19, 2006, when it announced the findings of the National Survey of America's College Students:
The AIR study found there is no difference between the quantitative literacy of today’s graduates compared with previous generations, and that current graduates generally are superior to previous graduates when it comes to other forms of literacy needed to comprehend documents and prose.
The following is taken verbatim from p. 24 of the AIR Literacy Study, for pdf (click here)
Students in 2- and 4-year colleges had higher prose and document literacy than adults in the nation with similar levels of education (Figure 2.3).3 On the document scale, the scores for graduating seniors in 4-year institutions were 20 points higher than the scores of all adults in the United States who previously received a degree from a 4-year college or university. For quantitative literacy, however, differences between current and former college graduates were not significant. Moreover, with one exception, the percentage of students in 2-or 4-year colleges with Proficient literacy (Figure 2.4) was comparable to the percentage of college graduates in the nation with Proficient literacy (the percentage of students in 4-year institutions with Proficient document literacy was significantly higher than the percentage of college graduates in the nation with Proficient document literacy). Underscoring the struggles that current college students have with quantitative literacy, the percentage of graduating students with Basic quantitative literacy was comparable to the percentage of college graduates in the nation with Basic quantitative literacy.

From p. 25:

Chapter Highlights:

This chapter compared the literacy of U.S. college students with the literacy of U.S. adults by key demographic groups. The results revealed the following:


The average prose, document, and quantitative literacy of students in 2- and 4-year institutions was significantly higher than the average literacy of adults in the nation.


Students in 2- and 4-year colleges struggled the most with quantitative literacy. Approximately 30 percent of students in 2-year institutions and 20 percent of students in 4-year institutions have Basic or below quantitative literacy.

Across colleges and universities, the average literacy of male and female college students was higher than the average literacy of men and women in the nation.


The literacy gap between men and women in the nation largely disappears among college students. With the exception of Asian students in 2-year institutions, college students from each racial or ethnicgroup outperformed adults from the same racial or ethnic groups in the nation.


The literacy gap between Whites and minorities in the nation remains among students in colleges and universities.


In 4-year colleges, students with a non-English language background had higher average literacy than adults in the nation with an English-only language background.


Students in 2- and 4-year colleges had higher prose and document literacy than adults in the nation with similar levels of education, although differences in quantitative literacy between current and former college graduates were not significant.

Here is the way that the paper of record ends its "fair and balanced" editorial that looks no further than the secondary sources being handed to them:

Colleges and universities should join in the hunt for acceptable ways to measure student progress, rather than simply fighting the whole idea from the sidelines. Unless the higher education community wakes up to this problem — and resolves to do a better job — the movement aimed at regulating colleges and forcing them to demonstrate that students are actually learning will only keep growing.

A better job?? If I were the Editorial Board of the Times, I hope that I would be taking my own advice, which would entail something quite different from the past five years of whoring for the Bush Administration on every issue, while the public is left to deal with the real threat of a fascist takeover.

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