Compared to What? Or, My Students Are Awesome.

Yesterday I had my first-year seminar students read and comment on the Emma Brown piece I mentioned in my previous post.  They were far less generous than I in their responses.  Two international students asked if the lack of analysis is typical of American newspapers.  One American student thought the author, while appearing to be objective, was intending to make the D.C. education officials look bad.  Several had astute comments about the genre; the first few paragraphs are obviously written to stand alone in the likely event that the reader doesn’t make it to the end, for example.

A student who attended D.C. public schools made a reference to A.Y.P.; we explained to those who didn’t know the term that it stands for Adequate Yearly Progress.  How, we wondered, can a school district shift to a new (and better) set of standards in the midst of a testing regime that requires them to compare one year’s performance to the next?

At the end of the conversation, one student said, “Can I just say one more thing?  She gives the numbers — the points more or less — without saying how many total points the exam has.  Those numbers are meaningless without something to compare them to.”  Bingo.  Am I so jaded by poor reporting on educational matters that I’m willing to let that one go?

It must be time for another listen to this:


About Priscilla Bremser

Professor of Mathematics Middlebury College
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