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Linking of Scores, Funding Said 'Shoddy Reasoning'

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Washington--The Reagan Administration's practice of linking increased federal spending for education during the 1960's and 1970's with a decline in student performance on college-entrance tests during the same period represents "shoddy reasoning at best, and might even qualify as voodoo reasoning," a high-ranking official of the College Board told a House education subcommittee last week.

Daniel B. Taylor, a senior vice president of the organization that sponsors the Scholastic Aptitude Test, added that the group was "dismayed" by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell's recent decision to publish state-by-state average scores on the test in a widely distributed chart outlining the relative educational status of the states. (See Education Week, Jan. 11, 1984.)

"I would suggest that Secretary Bell send over to the White House the concluding sentence from his news release of January 5, which read as follows: 'This means that all should refrain from jumping at con-clusions that often result from trying to draw simplistic generalizations from complex circumstances,"' Mr. Taylor told members of the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education.

Scope Broadened

The subcommittee's chairman, Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, had originally called the hearing to examine the propriety of Mr. Bell's use of test-score averages to measure the status of education in the states.

The scope of the hearing was broadened, staff members said, to examine President Reagan's observation in his State of the Union address that "a 600-percent increase in federal spending on education between 1960 and 1980 was accompanied by a steady decline in sat scores."

"This Administration is repeatedly inferring that there is no correlation between education spending and education achievement, and using that as a justification for their dismal budget requests for educa-tion," Representative Perkins said. "We need to look at the Secretary's numbers more carefully to see if that is the case."

Mr. Bell was unable to appear before the panel because he was involved in the press conference that preceded the official release of the President's fiscal 1985 budget request to the Congress. The Administration is proposing a $15.48-billion appropriation for the Education Department--about $100 million more than the appropriation for the current fiscal year. (See related story on page 1.)

Mr. Taylor told the panel that an examination of test-score averages over a number of years can be "suggestive" of changes in the academic performance of college-bound students only; as used by the Administration, he said, "[the] scores are by no means definitive."

"You can imagine our dismay when we find that data we have produced for legitimate educational purposes are being cited by the executive branch as evidence for conclusions about American education that are faulty and misleading," he said. Archie E. Lapointe, executive director of the federally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress, added that few of the federal dollars spent on education during the past two decades were meant to help groups of students who typically take the sat

"On the other hand, we know that several federal projects during that period were specifically targeted to help minority and disadvantaged students improve their basic skills," Mr. Lapointe continued.

'Abandoned or Ignored'

Data collected by the naep from 1970 to 1982 indicate that student performance in curriculum areas targeted for federal aid, such as mathematics and reading, improved during that period, while performance in curriculum areas "abandoned or ignored by federal efforts" declined or remained stable, he said.

"While this litany sounds convincing, I must remind myself and the [subcommittee] that the data are not overpowering," Mr. Lapointe told the panel. "It is fair to observe, on the other hand, a regular and persistent consistency that suggests a bit more than coincidence."

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