Timesday: The Times tries reporting some test scores!


Jess being semple: In this morning’s New York Times, Sam Dillon reports some important test scores—the new results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP), the federally-administered “gold standard” of educational testing.

For our money, Dillon does a very poor job in one extremely significant way. That said, we’ll postpone our full review until we can go over the data.

In the meantime, we had to chuckle at one of the ways Dillon helped New York Times readers handle some challenging numbers.

Nothing actually turns on this. But we don’t think we’ve ever seen a pair of test scores reported in this easy-reader fashion:
DILLON (11/2/11): In 1990, 13 percent of fourth graders scored at the proficient level in math; this year, 40 percent were proficient, a gain of 27 percentage points.
There’s nothing “wrong” with that at all. But we had to chuckle as Dillon did the basic math for his New York Times readers.

According to Dillon, if we go from 13 percent to 40 percent, we have gained 27 points! In his next paragraph, he did the subtraction for his readers again, this time with easier numbers:
DILLON (continuing directly): Reading performance, in contrast, has seen much smaller improvements. In 1992, 29 percent of fourth-grade students were proficient in reading; this year, 34 percent scored at the proficient level, a gain of five percentage points.
Once again according to Dillon, if you go from 29 percent to 34 percent, you have gained five points. We’ve never seen a major journalist do the math in this fashion.

Kidding aside, there’s a woeful shortcoming to Dillon’s report. But then again, what else is now?

We’ll return to Dillon's report next week. We think this morning's report is just flat-out bad.

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