Smarter or dumber?

Smarter or dumber?

A new survey says that the smartest state in the Union is Massachusetts… or is it? The answer depends on what criteria was used to make the determination and provides a good lesson on why you shouldn’t trust news headlines about survey results.

The smartest state in the union for the second consecutive year is Massachusetts.

The dumbest, for the third year in a row, is New Mexico.

These are the findings of the Education State Rankings, a survey by Morgan Quitno Press of hundreds of public school systems in all 50 states.

Massachusetts public school students are the smartest? I bet that’s news to Melanie who teaches the little geniuses when they get to college.

But let’s examine the criteria used to make the determination:

States were graded on a variety of factors based on how they compare to the national average. These included such positive attributes as per-pupil expenditures, public high school graduation rates, average class size, student reading and math proficiency, and pupil-teacher ratios. States received negative points for high drop-out rates and physical violence.

Someone please tell me how exactly the amount of money you spend and the size of the class translate directly to smarter students. The reality is that they don’t. In fact, when you look just at student achievement compared to state spending per student you’ll see that the state’s that spend the most only end up about the middle of the pack, while states that spend about the median amount end up in the top half of ahievement.

In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason student smarts is based on how much money is spent on them (as opposed to, say, what they actually do) is that the study was likely commissioned by teacher unions, who themselves have a vested interest in how much is spent per pupil and class sizes.

Not that the article would tell you that anywhere. That would take real reporting, as opposed to reprinting press releases.

[Thanks to Mere Comments for the link.]
  • There was an episode of the old GI Joe cartoon where Cobra started its own TV network, featuring “Mr. C”, “Father’s No Beast,” and this cartoon series with little green people who are all happy because they’re all alike and no one ever disagrees with each other. . . .

  • John, I get it – that’ll be the new EU battle-cry “Smurf’s Up” (har, couldn’t help myself)

  • Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. . . . “Spend more money, and kids are better educated.”  “Look!  Their kids are better educated—they spend more money!”
    How much money does it cost to teach a kid to read?

  • Dom,
    Remember awhile ago when you and I were at odds. That is no longer the case, but the last line of your posts hints at the why of my reaction. “That would take real reporting, as opposed to reprinting press releases.”

    If the reporters aren’t really reporting then who will really report for real.

    Dom, you have been up at bat for a while now. It is your turn to hit it out of the park. Reporters from the MSM have been writing off of press releases. As you note, some stopped doing real reporting sometime ago. You and the other bloggers are the ones who have been called (yes called) to live out the vocation of journalist that others working for the MSM are not.

    The biggest casualty the MSM suffered in the war against Catholics was their own credibility. As you point out, often they were doing nothing more than writing off of press releases and putting out Voice of the Faithful’s party line.

    (Did you ever figure out who the lawyer was at the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize Party? If Pulitzer is about objective journalism why was he there?)

    There is a whole new form of journalism out there and you are on its front lines, because the others have long ago dropped the ball.

    Dom, you have read my stuff I am sure. It is time for me to put down my jounalistic pen and put away my darts and start talking about the future of the Church.

    We were at odds because, I have been waiting for you to hit it out of the park! There are a whole bunch of people on your team waiting for you to do it because they know you can. After all, the other team, the MSM’s, are all just working off of press releases.

    Remember Dom, I am from a Globe family. My father wrote for the Globe starting in 1942 until his death in 1985. My uncle was a photographer. Cousins were photographers, truck drivers, etc. I know the old pre-NYTimes Globe. Back then you did not need a master’s degree to write for the Globe, you needed simply to know how to write to the people, something that the Globe and those like it has lost. You as a blogger are the new team of journalists who need to take up where the others dropped the ball a long time ago.

    You really are the citizen journalists of old, because the current MSM journalists sold out a long time ago. 

    You have been called if you and those like you don’t do it, who will?

    Finally, Dom, remember what is at stake here, not the RCAB, but the ability of people to hear and understand the Gospel. Without the people who take the place of those writing off of press releases and putting out the VOTF line, the gospel will suffer. Look who wants to take your place:


  • From my wife’s prospective, who teaches HS in LA, the most predictive factor in a child’s success or lack there of is parental involvement.  She can always tell when one of her students has someone at home who cares about their education. 

    For years, everyone has been blaming teachers, and budgets, and books and requirements – and these things can be important – but I never hear about the overwhelming importance of parents that give a s*** about them to the extent that they make them do their homework, turn off the video game and read a book, or ever have a decent breakfast. 

    All the standardized testing in the world will not fix our schools, but fixing the family will.

  • So according to the author of this survey, if two states’ students achieve at the exact same level, the state that spent MORE to achieve the same results is the SMARTER one. 

    That’s pretty DUMB!

  • John, ask any teacher, any student, and any *honest* survey on education, and they’ll all agree with your wife.  The *only* difference a school can make is if a particularly inspiring teacher or administrator can pick up where uninspired parents have dropped the ball (or, ideally, work in tandem with the parents.)
    It’s all about motivation and purpose.  And the best people to instill motivation and purpose are parents. 

  • I am strongly reminded of a TV commercial:

    Insurance Salesman: So you see, from this chart, our insurance company has the lowest rates.

    Potental Customer: But what about X company.

    Insurance Salseman: They’re not any the chart.

    Potential Customer: Why not?

    Insurance Salseman:  Their rates are too low.

    Potential Customer:  But you said your rates were the lowest!

    Insurance Salseman: Yes…on this chart.

    Potential Customer:  Who made the chart?

    Other Insurance Employee: That would be me.  Hi, I’m from selective research.

    Insurance Salseman:  Nice chart.

  • I would dearly love to see a smiliar ad about a bombed out Sesame Street…you know,with a decapitated chicken and yellow feathers swirling about the set…a dismembered Elmo…all narrated by Oscar the Grouch.

  • John: She can always tell when one of her students has someone at home who cares about their education.

    I read in the papers that there is a big push by parents for the creaton of Charter schools throughout MA, among others, as an alternative to the NEA-run public schools in the country.  After several months of heated debates and all, a new Charter school is opening here in Marlboro – as one did in Framingham a couple of years ago.  The pro-Charter parents are very vocal about being most concerned with the failures of standard public schools – a sign that at least a certain portion of the parent population are still very active in their kids progress in learning. 

  • They still won’t let a man marry his dog in Massachusetts. How smart is that?

    At least they managed to send Laurel and Hardy to the US Senate.

  • Yes, bombing those innocent Smurfs on Prime Time BBC TV News would certainly increase Blair’s ratings in the polls.

    Does anyone know if Sesame Street possess WMD’s? We need some justification here.

  • I’ve had the sneaky suspicion for a while that the “Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System” which is designed to make sure the state’s own ‘educational reforms’ are executed is actually designed so that it is much more difficult to find out which state turns out better educated kids. With all/most states implementing their own ‘educational reforms’ based on their own criteria and then doing testing based on their own standards, it is impossible to compete state by state.

    That’s why only the private schools (for instance my Catholic hs junior aged daughter is doing IOWA testing today) take the national tests now.

    I’m a proponant of implementing a general body of knowledge nationwide, say using the excellent E. D. Hirsch Jr. fundamentals (Bill Bennett has a good curriculum as well) and then doing national testing. That’s when you’d get real and valuable information. But the teachers unions and the states/national educational bureaucrats plus the entrenched textbook companies would scream bloody murder.

    Until that happens, I will continue to look at ‘Education State Rankings’ as BS.

    As an aside… in wealthier communities parents routinely employee tutors to help the kids garner extra points for testing, examples would be for the SAT/ACT/GRE.

  • When my kids started college I recall browsing the syllabus and being surprised to find that it included ollege. If you hadnded>
    2005-10-11 11:50:59
    2005-10-11 15:50:59

    2005-10-11 14:13:00
    2005-10-11 18:13:00
    I’m sure the UNICEF will now move on to their next Smurf project where strange Smurfs with funny head gear show up at a big birthday party and blow themeslves and all the other Smurfs up…