There’s a new study out, and it proclaims that Massachusetts is the smartest state, while New Mexico is the dumbest. (Cow Hampshire ranks 12, by the way, just making the first quartile.) That seemed a bit odd to me, so I thought I’d take a closer look at the study.
The Morgan Quitno Press took their numbers from public schools all across the nation and ran them through their magic formula to come up with their list. I’m no statistician, so I’m not going to even bother looking at that. But I will take a look at the 21 factors that they consider relevant in “smart” rankings.
The first three they mention are purely economic: Public Elementary and Secondary School Revenue per $1,000 Personal Income,Per Pupil Public Elementary and Secondary School Current Expenditures, and Percent of Public Elementary and Secondary School Current Expenditures used for Instruction.
In other words, how much of people’s money is taken by the government to spend on schools, how much per student that works out to, and how much of that actually gets spent on the kids. Because everyone knows that the more you spend on education, the better an education the kids get. That’s why Washington, DC students are consistently at the top of the rankings, and our kids here in New Hampshire do so abysmally in the SATs.
Whoops, no they don’t.
In fact, it seems to be an inverse relationship between money spent on education and actual results. But let’s not let uncomfortable facts get in the way of ideology, shall we?
Here’s another factor they took into account: #13, Average Teacher Salary as a Percent of Average Annual Pay of All Workers. I guess that means… oh, hell, just read above. The same reasoning applies.
And here’s #14, Percent of School-Age Population in Public Schools. After all, what’s the difference between dropouts, private school students, and home-schooled students? They all do SO much worse than public school students. That’s why we keep seeing the public school students winning spelling and geography bees, scoring perfect on the SATs, and… no, never mind.
Hey, let’s do some double-dipping! Let’s count the dropouts AGAIN, at #15: High School Drop Out Rate.
(Update: somehow this paragraph got dropped.) So, that’s 6 questions of 21 that really have very little to do with student performance. Without even trying, I’ve put a significant dent in nearly 30% of their source data. It makes me wonder what someone who actually knows what they’re doing could do with the rest of it.
Again, I’m no statistician, but I think I can see what guarantees high scores on this test. All a state has to do is spend big bushels of money on public schools. It’ll help if they also keep down private schools, and make it harder and harder to home-school. Just follow their magic formula, and pretty soon every child will be above average.