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

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bloomberg News as Spellings Spin: Fake News and Testing Fantasies

The Orlando Sentinel offered this factual summary of the ACT results just released: ". . . the national average was the highest of any class since 1991 and the biggest annual increase in 20 years."

Another story from AP goes with this lead: "ACT Scores Highest Since 1991":

UNDATED (AP) — Give the members of the high school class of 2006 a hand: they've just posted the highest scores on a national college exam in 15 years.

The ACT college entrance test results also mark the biggest score increase in two decades.

The national exam measures students' readiness for college-level work.

ACT officials called the increase significant, since it's measured across a record 1.2 million test-takers nationwide — or 40 percent of graduating seniors.

National average scores rose from 20.9 last year to 21.1 this year. Both boys and girls posted gains, as did all racial groups — except Hispanic students, whose scores held steady.

Some of the improvement may come from the ACT's growing popularity in states where the rival SAT exam had been more popular. The ACT focuses more on material covered in high school classes than on general ability.

SAT competitor? Hmm. Now take a look at how Bloomberg News covered the same news story. It clearly is intended to channel Margaret Spellings' unending and unwavering negative spin on the public schools and her unending remedy of more AP courses, brought to you, of course, by the same non-profit company (posting over a $500 million in profits last year) that brings you the SAT--the College Board. Headline:
"Four-Fifths of U.S. High School Graduates Not Ready for College."

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Almost four-fifths of U.S. high school graduates failed to pass this year's standard examinations designed to show their readiness for college, test designer ACT Inc. reported.

Scores on the four-part ACT test, taken this year by more than 1.2 million U.S. students, ranged from only 27 percent passing in biology to 69 percent in English, the company reported. A total of 21 percent met the benchmark in all four subject areas, including algebra and social science, it said.

The nationwide average total score on the ACT test rose the fastest in 20 years, yet the overall performance remains unacceptable, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said.

``The ACT findings clearly point to the need for high schools to require a rigorous, four-year core curriculum and to offer advanced placement classes so that our graduates are prepared to compete and succeed in both college and the workforce,'' Spellings said in a statement.

The ACT tests, based on curriculum surveys of high school and college instructors, serve as a competitor to the SAT test administered by the New York-based College Board. ACT's benchmark for passing is designed to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a grade of ``B'' or higher in the college-level course.

More than 40 percent of U.S. high school graduates took the ACT tests this year, said Richard Ferguson, chief executive of the Iowa City, Iowa-based company. Yet the low pass rate suggests that many college students will ``struggle or need some remediation along the way,'' Ferguson said.

``We have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed at the next level of education,'' he said in a briefing on the results.

Here is a remarkable lesson here in how to take good news from a competitor (ACT) and turn it into bad news that can profit your own product choice (SAT/College Board). This would be great strategy in the corporate board room, but as news, it fits in the same category as the fake news produced and distributed by Bush Co. that continue to be the subject of investigation by the FCC.

See Karen Arenson's story from yesterday's Times on the roll-out of a whole new line of products by the College Board to replace state and local curriculums around the country--all aligned, of course, with their own AP tests that Spellings is so high on. With Bill Gates, the unelected, yet Elect, chairman of the unofficial National School Board signed on in support, how can anyone say no to what is emerging as America's own dystopic version of Exam Hell, as the Japanese quaintly refer to their schools.

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