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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
CNS' Jeffrey Dishonestly Reports on Wis. School Achievement
Topic: editor in chief Terry Jeffrey -- in an apparent attempt to denigrate Wisconsin teachers currently battling a Republican governor who wants to eliminate the right to collective bargaining for most public employees in the state -- penned a pair of articles that dishonestly portray the level of student achievement in Wisconsin.

Jeffrey began his first article began this way:

Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

It's not until the ninth paragraph that Jeffrey notes this:

Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average reading score on the NAEP test was 262 out of 500.

In other words, the level of eighth-graders reading proficiently in Wisconsin is actually above the national average -- not that Jeffrey ever explicitly states that, of course.

Jeffrey kicked off another article in similar alarming fashion:

Only 39 percent of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools are proficient or better in mathematics, according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

This time, Jeffrey waits until the seventh paragraph that he tells the full story:

Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education, public schools are not doing a good job teaching children to be proficient in math. The average American eighth-grade public school student scored 282 out of 500 on the NAEP mathematics test in 2009, with only 25 percent earning a “proficient” rating and only 7 percent earning an “advanced rating.” The other 68 percent of American eighth grader were rated less than proficient in math.

Again, Wisconsin achievement is above the national average -- this time significantly above it. Again, Jeffrey fails to explicitly state that.

There is no reason for writing these stories in this fashion unless Jeffrey was trying to falsely distort the record of teachers in Wisconsin. And there is no reason to think that Jeffrey had any other goal in mind.

UPDATE: Jeffrey repeats the teacher-bashing statistics in his Feb. 23 column, though that he surprisingly concedes that the numbers are "are slightly better than the national average for public-school students."

Jeffrey also portrays students at Catholic schools as doing better on tests, plus Catholic and private schools "can also teach students that there is a God, that the Ten Commandments are true and must be followed, that the Founding Fathers believed in both and that, ultimately, American freedom depends on fidelity to our Judeo-Christian heritage even more than it depends on proficiency in reading and math."

Jeffrey, of course, doesn't mention the fact that private schools, by their selective nature due to their tuition fees, tend to attract a more affluent and arguably better student than public schools, and that students who fail in private schools typically end up in public schools, thus skewing achievement figures.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:02 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 7:27 AM EST

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