09 January 2008

Does anyone remember the old adage about comparing apples and oranges?

Yet another education study has been released that ranks DC among the bottom -- in fact, in this study, DC is the bottom -- in the nation. The headline, which is what everyone reads, gives most people all they need to know to fill up their water cooler talking points: "Report: Md. and Va. Schools Rank Among Nation's Best; D.C.'s Are the Worst."

Most people, rushed for time and not necessarily that invested in education issues, will only read that headline, since it confirms for them their preconceived notions that DC schools are an endless pit of violence, leaking roofs, non-flushing toilets, and remedial curriculum. And who can blame them, since the media reinforces this impression through its lazy reporting?

Dig a bit deeper into the article, though, and you find the following:
Swanson [Director of Editorial Projects in Education's research center] cautioned that although his group included District schools in the national report because its leaders set educational policy like a state does, its extremely low performance is more similar to other large cities than to states with a mix of urban, suburban and rural schools.
"D.C. is a combination of a low-performing urban school system and, quite frankly, not the most active policymaking," Swanson said.

Oh. So you included the District even though it doesn't fit the model for the study. Brilliant. So you might say that the District perhaps fares so poorly as compared to states because the District is in fact not a state, but rather a city system. In other words, it's an orange and therefore doesn't taste, look, or feel like an apple.

Basically, the study then is worthless as a comparative assessment as far as the District is concerned. However, even that fact does not excuse the District's spokesperson for ignorance of the report:
D.C Public Schools spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said she had not seen the report and could not comment.

Honestly, there's no excuse for being ignorant of an annual report from a major education research organization. That comment simply reinforces most readers' opinions that the DC schools administration is completely out of touch, unconcerned, and ignorant about educating the children of this city.

1 comment:

m.a. said...

I hadn't really thought of it that way, Cuff. Thanks for setting me straight. I don't think that all of DC's schools are awful, but I do think that that like all city schools they have their cards stacked against them.