August 14, 2008

Near Illiteracy of MI’s Not College-Bound Ignored in AP Report on ACT Scores

You would think that someone working for the self-described “Essential Global News Network” known as the Associated Press as an Education Writer might go beyond using the Copy and Paste commands in reporting on national college entrance exam test scores.

From all appearances, you would be wrong.

AP Education Writer Justin Pope’s report on the 2008 ACT exam results appears to contain nothing that isn’t already in ACT, Inc.’s press release. For whatever reason, Pope missed a shocking set of results out of Michigan that should deeply worry anyone concerned about the future competency of our workforce.

Here’s most of the early portion of Mr. Pope’s report (bold after the headline is mine):

ACT scores down, but more students college-ready

Average scores on the ACT college entrance exam dipped slightly for the high school class of 2008 as the number of students taking the exam jumped by 9 percent compared to last year.

This year’s results, released Wednesday, reveal that more than three in four test-takers will likely need remedial help in at least one subject to succeed in college. But the ACT’s creators said it was good news that average scores held nearly steady even as more students took the exam. That means the total number who’ve earned benchmark scores showing they’re ready for college-level work is rising.

….. The average ACT composite score was 21.1 for the class of 2008, compared to 21.2 a year ago, on a scale of 1 to 36.

….. A record 1.42 million – or 43 percent – of this year’s high school graduates took the ACT. It was the first time a full grade level of students had been required to take the exam in Michigan, which joined Illinois in Colorado as the only states mandating the ACT statewide.

Pope goes on later to tell us that nationwide, “ACT scores continue to show huge gaps remain between the preparation students receive in high school and what they need to succeed in college. Only 22 percent met a benchmark score for college readiness in all four subjects – English, math, reading and science. That’s a one-percentage-point decline from last year.” It’s hard to see how the headline matches the content, especially given the fact that after at least 13 years in school, so many incoming students need at least some remedial help.

But beyond that, you would think someone, somewhere might be curious about how Michigan’s ACT test results were affected in the first year it became mandatory.

I was. You’ll have a hard time believing what I found.

Here’s the raw data of interest contained at Page 7 of the organization’s Michigan report (link is to list of individual state pages downloadable as PDFs):

MichiganACT2004to2008

Now, let’s apply a bit of the math that many Michigan high school grads apparently are unable to do, in the form of an ACT-like word problem:

Assume that if it weren’t for Michigan’s 2008 mandate, the number of Wolverine State test takers would have been the same as in 2007, and that they would have turned in the same results on each section of the test as the similar group did in 2007. Also assume that the rest of the test takers would thus be those who only took the ACT because it was required.

Refer to the former group as College-Bound, and the latter group as Not College-Bound.

If the percentage of the College-Bound shown to be ready for college was the same in 2008 in the four primary subjects and “Meeting All Four Parts” as in 2007, what percentage of Not College-Bound test takers was ready for college in each of these five areas? Round your answers to the nearest 0.1%.

Here are the shocking answers:

MichiganACTresultsCBvNCB2008

In words, the chart shows that:

  • Less than 28% of high school grads who aren’t going to college have the English skills necessary to be ready for college.
  • Barely 5% of them have the requisite math knowledge and skills.
  • Barely 15% can read well enough to be described as ready for college.
  • Less than 6% have the requisite knowledge and skills in science.
  • Less than 2% (less than 800 out of 45,000!) are college-ready in all four areas, i.e., 98% of them would need remedial help in at least one area if they chose to try going to college.

Although it would be easy, this isn’t a stab at Michigan. The Wolverine State’s switch to mandatory ACT testing provided a rare window into what those not going to college know and can do after being run through the educational sausage factory. I don’t doubt for a minute that similar depressing results for the Not College-Bound could be found in many, if not most, other states.

Look, we can argue all day long about how imperfectly the ACT test measures how ready someone who has no college plans is for the workplace. But can anyone deny that the required skill set necessary to go beyond the most menial of jobs, and thus to have a meaningful work career, is growing, and that the massive failures seen above — especially in English, math, and reading — are anything short of a disaster? In the global marketplace for labor, if employers can’t find the necessary skills here, they will find them somewhere else, and America’s dangerous slide into job-skills mediocrity will accelerate.

If the alleged journalists at AP like Mr. Pope would do some reporting and stop merely parroting press releases, maybe news like this would get out, and something might be done. Maybe.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Comment (081408, Morning)

Geez, just yesterday, I wrote (sixth item at link), “Despite the marvelous athletic heroics, so much about the “Olympic Movement” is so deeply disappointing on so many levels.” Here’s a new level. There’s little doubt that some of China’s female gymnasts are below 16 years of age, the minimum allowable age, have competed and hauled off medals. The IOC won’t investigate. Would they have done so if China weren’t the host?
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An “unforeseen” problem: “Two weeks after announcing they had sold every one of the record 6.8 million tickets offered for the Games, Olympics officials expressed dismay at the large numbers of empty seats at nearly every event and the lack of pedestrian traffic throughout the park, the 2,800-acre centerpiece of the competition.” Stop the presses — The Communist government of China, host country to the BizzyBlog Internet Wall of Shame, lied (/mock surprise).
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The outrageous harassment of Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn for “unethically” delivering babies for free continues.
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So Nancy Pelosi is mad about this from Joe Lieberman: “Campaigning for Republican John McCain in York, Pa., on Tuesday, Lieberman appeared to question Obama’s patriotism when he called the election a choice ‘between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put his country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate that has not.’” The truth hurts, San Fran Nan.
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Allahpundit lets loose on the extreme “pro-choiciness” of “The One” I refer to as “Mr. BOOHOO-OUCH” (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama – Objectively Unfit Coddler of Haters) — “But say this for him: His liberal logic is consistent. If the mother’s intent is to abort and the baby somehow survives the procedure, why should its stroke of luck (or the doctor’s negligence) thwart her ‘choice’? She came there to kill it, she has a constitutional right to kill it, so she gets to kill it. Anything less would be insufficiently ‘progressive.’”
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The totally misnamed Fairness Doctrine, if revived, may apply to bloggers. Gee, “someone” saw this possibility early last year — “….. you can rest assured that ‘progressives’ would like nothing better than to push the absurd ‘equal time’ concept down as far as possible — even to the blogs and the forums if they can.”

New Pajamas Media Column (‘The Pernicious ‘No Real Economic Progress’ Myth’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:23 am

It’s here.

Its subheadline is, “The Bush years have been better for Americans’ wallets than most critics admit.”

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Saturday morning (link won’t work until then) under the same title (yeah, I finally gave ‘em one they liked).

Positivity: The premature baby who was kept alive by tickling her feet

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From the UK:

Last updated at 7:46 AM on 04th August 2008

It wasn’t the banks of lifesaving medical technology which worked the miracle when tiny Emma Young lay fighting for survival.

It was her mother tickling the soles of her feet.

Emma was born at 25 weeks weighing just 1lb 3oz. Her parents faced weeks of agony as she repeatedly stopped breathing, her tiny lungs battling to keep pumping.

Emma was born at 25 weeks weighing just 1lb 3oz. Mother Angela Young faced weeks of agony as she repeatedly stopped breathing

Amazingly, nurses and her mother Angela Young discovered that stroking the bottom of her feet appeared to jump-start her body and get her breathing again.

The therapy has had astonishing results. Emma has just celebrated her first birthday and has already reached the normal height and weight for her age.

‘My daughter is alive thanks to her feet being tickled,’ said Mrs Young, 29, a human resources assistant who lives in Washington, Co Durham, with her husband Andrew, 28. ‘It really is a miracle that she is still with us.’

Mrs Young’s pregnancy had gone smoothly until May last year. She started experiencing shooting pains and doctors realised she was in labour.

‘They gave her steroid injections into her womb to try to develop the baby’s lungs and she gave birth the following day.

‘She was so tiny that she fitted into the palm of Andrew’s hand,’ said her mother. ‘I just watched her in intensive care, hoping that she would survive, but she was so tiny it seemed impossible.

‘Her head was the size of a plum and her skin was so transparent that I could see all her veins.’

Being so premature meant that Emma’s heart had not fused together properly, so at six weeks old she had to have surgery to correct it.

The operation was a success, but afterwards Emma was faced with another life-threatening problem. She would suddenly stop breathing dozens of times each day.

Mrs Young said: ‘The first time it happened Emma’s face went white and I thought we had lost her. But then the nurses leapt into action and tickled the soles of her feet.

‘Suddenly her little chest started to go up and down again.

‘The nurses told us that because she had been so premature, her body kept forgetting how to breathe.’

For another eight weeks Emma would stop breathing several times each day.

Each time Mrs Young would tickle her feet  -  which were the size of a postage stamp  -  to stimulate her body again and start her breathing.

The problem faded away when Emma reached the age of 15 weeks. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.