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.]