Part 1—Flunking the journalism: College-bound high school students are sometimes flummoxed, derailed—or even “exposed”—by the SATs.
That said, no high school student has ever flunked the famous tests quite like the Washington Post has.
We refer to the 1120-word, front-page news report which appeared in last Thursday’s Post. The report was written by Nick Anderson, an experienced education writer at the narrative-driven newspaper.
Mercifully, Anderson’s editors went unnamed when the news report appeared. Who knows? Perhaps Anderson submitted competent work! Perhaps his editors created the mess which appeared on the newspaper’s front page.
Here’s the background:
The College Board is the corporate entity which runs the SATs and other testing programs. Late last week, the Board released its annual report providing results from the 2015 tests.
Anderson was attempting to report the results from the SATs. As is required by Hard Pundit Law, his report sounded a note of alarm from its gloomy headline onward.
Perhaps it wasn’t Anderson’s fault! Perhaps he submitted competent work and his editors created this mess!
But the Post had flunked the SATs by the start of its fifth paragraph. On a journalistic basis, this is failing work:
ANDERSON (9/3/15): Sliding SAT scores prompt an alarm over high schoolsAlready, that was failing work. There was more to come, of course. But just consider this:
Scores on the SAT have sunk to the lowest level since the college admission test was overhauled in 2005, adding to worries about student performance in the nation’s high schools.
The average score for the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a maximum 2400, the College Board reported Thursday. That was down 7 points from the previous class’s mark and was the lowest composite score of the past decade. There were declines of at least 2 points on all three sections of the test—critical reading, math and writing.
The steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts. The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high schools, experts say. That means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.
“Why is education reform hitting a wall in high school?” asked Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank. “You see this in all kinds of evidence. Kids don’t make a whole lot of gains once they’re in high school. It certainly should raise an alarm.”
It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores, but educators cite a host of enduring challenges in the quest to lift high school achievement. Among them are poverty, language barriers, low levels of parental education and social ills that plague many urban neighborhoods.
“It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores?”
Actually, it isn’t difficult at all! On the surface, there are obvious apparent explanations for the decline in average SAT scores over the past several years.
Surely, Anderson knows that. Presumably, so does Petrilli, one of the “education experts” to whom the agenda-driven Post will always turn for clueless cries of concern.
(In fairness to Petrilli, we don’t have access to all the things he may have said to the Post. All we have are the gloomy, un-fleshed statements the Post chose to publish.)
“It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores!” Unless we’re parsing very narrowly, that statement is utter nonsense. But the wonderfully worrisome, ludicrous claim helps extend a preferred elite narrative in which nothing works in our public schools, thanks to our ratty teachers.
“It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores?” All week, we’ll consider the obvious question:
What could lead a major newspaper to place such a ridiculous statement on its front page as part of a lengthy “news report?” What can explain the existence of such failing work?
“It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores?” We’re forced to send the following letter to Anderson and his unnamed editors:
“Regretfully, we’re forced to give you a failing grade in journalism for your recent work on the SATs.
“Because Anderson’s name was spelled correctly, you’ll be given a score of 200.”
Tomorrow: Repeat after us, then say it again:
“The SATs are not designed for this purpose. The SATs are not designed for this purpose.”