Tuesday, August 12

Spinning the numbers

Interesting to see how the grad-rate report is presented by local media. Facts are facts, but how they're spun reflects how they're seen.

For starters, the Post notes the upward trend -- but sets the NYC data against even greater apparent progress in long-troubled cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. The Sun describes "an uptick" in state and city scores (and a brief moment of mayoral pique), while the Daily News, incredibly, says "the gap between black and white students closed" -- somehow overlooking the 21 percentage points that separate both groups' graduation rates. The Times' headlines the on-time graduation of "most" city students, for the biggest "hunh?" moment of the morning's news. No argument, 52% is more -- but most? Could a student who scored a 52 on a 100-point exam celebrate getting "most" of the questions right? (Would you accept that, as a parent? The DOE doesn't think twice about calling a 52 a failure on a Regents exam.)

The mind reels, as do the perceptions of readers, decision-makers, and parents citywide.


Ted said...

The first line of the NY TImes article in question begins, "For the first time, more than half of New York City’s high school students are graduating on time..." Your point is absurd. The reason a Regents exam score of 52 is a failure is because they have tested each of those questions and know that the mean will be about a 75.

helen said...

5:15, I'm content to disagree on what you see as "absurd" -- and still believe that calling just over half "most," even (or especially) in a headline, misleads readers who may not be as ed-savvy or -steeped as you.