9/26/13, No. 81
Commonly Cored: I sure as hell don’t believe in fact-checking, but I do believe God travels in a spaceship and that soft drinks left in the desert sun are what caused Gulf War Syndrome. That’s why I support the governor’s move to withdraw our state from the 45-state Common Core assessment: Gov. Scott reverses course on Common Core assessments
Common Core is an Obamanation and must be stopped.
Before the governor issued his order halting participation, Common Core would have created a basis for state-by-state comparison of educational quality that would have included our state. My God! Can anyone blame Gov. Scott for pulling us out? Common Core would have been embarrassing for him and the other politicians running Tallahassee. These leaders have been keeping Florida parents in a state of blissful ignorance, having them believe their children are receiving an education roughly equivalent to what kids in other states get. The FCAT has been an effective fig leaf. The governor’s order insures that this blissful ignorance will not be disturbed.
Blissful ignorance is a precious gift. It should not be squandered, for, once it is gone, one can only pine without hope for its return. To quote Lady Bracknell, “Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone.”
Unfortunately, leaders in other states are not as committed to nurturing ignorance as ours are. These other states with more rigorous curriculums and testing standards tilt the educational playing field to their students’ advantage. Then, when their students apply for admission to prestigious universities, theirs beat out ours. They are not playing fair!
Which states tilt the playing field? The 2012 SAT rankings indicate who some of them are: Illinois (#1), Iowa (#2), Wisconsin (#3), Minnesota (#4), South Dakota (#5), etc. 2012 State Education Rankings: SAT Scores
The 2012 ACT rankings list a slightly different line-up: Massachusetts (#1), Connecticut (#2), New Hampshire (#3), Maine (#4), New Jersey (#5), etc. 2012 ACT Average Scores by State
(Elsewhere I have argued that our state’s students should be entitled to an automatic forty-point boost to their SAT scores: Handicap the SAT)
Without Common Core, the SAT and ACT remain the only devices for measuring state-by-state educational quality. The SAT and ACT are far from perfect; for example, they combine public and private school students’ test results. Still, currently they are all we have for comparing states one to another. (Not enough students take the National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] for it to matter.) What do they tell us? Some contend that SAT/ACT scores don’t tell Floridians anything meaningful and that, because they don’t, the schools in our state are satisfactory. They maintain that because our state mandates high-school students to take either the SAT or ACT (many other states do not), a larger percentage of high school juniors and seniors enter the test-taking pool in our state than in other states. Consequently, a larger number of non-college-bound students take the test, and so the quality of the test pool supposedly diminishes, and this diminution accounts our state’s poor SAT and ACT performances.
Let’s test out this idea. Sixty-six percent of our state’s juniors and seniors take the SAT in 2012. However, our state also has a very high drop-out rate: it ranks 44th of the 50 states when it comes to drop outs—only 68.9% graduate in four years. (U.S. Dept. of Education: Trends in High School Dropout and Complete Rates in the United States, 1972-2009 p. 25) Given this relatively high rate, our state has more college-bound students taking the SAT than the 66% figure suggests. Why? Students who already have dropped out don’t suddenly return to school to take the SAT. Therefore, those remaining in the pool are more likely to be college bound than if the drop-out rate were lower.
Moreover, while it is true that the high-achieving SAT states in the Midwest have drastically lower participation rates than our state (Why the Midwest Rules on the SAT), it also is true that, among the forty-one states ranking higher than Florida in combined SAT score, a number also have higher participation rates, some considerably higher. As I said, 66% was our state’s SAT participation rate. In New Hampshire (ranking 25th in combined SAT score), 75% take the test. In Massachusetts (ranking 27th), 89% take it. In Connecticut (ranking 31st), 88% take it. In Virginia (ranking 32nd), 72% took it. In New Jersey (ranking 34th), 78% take it. In Maryland (ranking 37th), 74% took it. In summation, a lot of states with higher SAT participation rates outscored Florida.
With regard to the ACT, 70% was Florida’s 2012 participation rate, and the state’s students ranked 46th nationally. By contrast, in Minnesota (ranking 10th), 74% took the ACT. In Iowa (ranking 16th), 63% took it. In Wisconsin (ranking 18th), 71% took it. In Nebraska (ranking 20th), 78% took it. In Kansas (ranking 21st), 81% took it. In Illinois (ranking 31st), 100% took it. And so forth. The Conclusion? A lot of states with higher ACT participation rates outscored Florida.
People defending the Florida status quo respond that our state’s large minority population depresses SAT/ACT results. Their argument is that the higher scoring states have more homogenous populations. Let’s consider Georgia, which, like Florida, is home to a sizable minority population. It ranks 45th in drop-out rate (only 67.8% graduate in four years)—close to our state’s rate. In 2012, 81% in Georgia took the SAT. Yet the difference between that state’s and Florida’s SAT combined scores was a paltry 8 points (1460 vs.1452)—a .55% difference. In other words, the only variable between the two states was that a far higher percentage of students in Georgia took the test, yet their test result was about the same as Florida’s. Which is to say, Florida’s lower score can’t be attributed to its minority population, at least when comparing Florida to Georgia.
If similar percentages of Florida and Georgia students were to take the SAT, that would create a true, apples-to-apples comparison. Suppose, then, that in 2012 only 66% of Georgia’s students had taken the SAT, rather than the actual 81%.
Suppose also that an ever higher percentage of a state’s students taking a national test should lead to an ever lower test score (because larger test-taking pools include more non-college-bound students). The opposite also should be true, that a smaller percentage should lead to a higher statewide score. So, a 15% reduction in Georgia’s test pool (81-66=15) should translate into an increased SAT score for that state. A cross reference with the ACT bears this out. In 2012, only 52% of Georgia’s students took the ACT, and the state’s national ranking was a respectable 33rd. This result warrants the speculation that, if 66% of Georgia’s students had taken the SAT, the Georgia score would have far exceeded Florida’s score of 1460. What does this tell us? That Georgia’s students score better on national standardized tests. Does this mean Georgia students are inherently smarter? No, it just means that they are better educated.
Hey, wait! . . . what just came over me! . . . Never in a million years would I have said the things I said above↑, as though I believed in a better tomorrow . . . . Isn’t it usually me saying the opposite, that ‘the schools are fine the way they are’? That ‘my kids are grown—why should I have to pay for schools’? That ‘you can’t fix the schools by throwing money at them’? That ‘calls for higher taxes are the ravings of madmen’?
Pardon me, dear editor, but just now I must have been possessed . . . . demonic women with beards made me say things I didn’t intend and don’t believe . . . .
. . . . witches cast a spell on me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . putting me under the influence of a charm . . . To quote Richard, Duke of Gloucester, “Then be your eyes the witness of their evil. Look how I am bewitched . . . . by their witchcraft thus have they marked me” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What I was trying to say before wicked spirits took over my brain is this: if Common Core is implemented, our leaders in Tallahassee are going to be exposed as thieves, frauds, hucksters, and nihilists. (I don’t mean thieves, frauds, hucksters, and nihilists in the bad sense, but in a good way.) Common Core will reveal the achievement gap between our students and those in the rest of the U.S.—a gap our leaders have been covering up with the FCAT. Once awareness of it spreads, there’ll be hell to pay. The Party in Remission will be voted into office. Then our taxes will go up. OH, THE HORROR!
Who really cares anyway about competing in the global economy. I certainly don’t. Competing in the American one is hard enough. In fact, now that I’ve brought it up, Florida shouldn’t even be in the U.S. With Florida as a separate, sovereign nation, our young people would not have to compete with peers from other states. They would be peerless! However, I am not insane. I realize that Florida independence is not likely to happen in the coming year.
Now, if you will please excuse me. I have other things to do. I must be off. There are nine layers of air, but I have only been to seven of them. I must see now about the other two.