Education Letter to the Editor

Manipulating Data to Make Bad Results Look Good

January 22, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

A savvy businessman like former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts knows how easily data can be manipulated to make a bad situation look good. And that goes for pass rates on his state’s high school exit exam (“Governors Cite Education Records,” Dec. 19, 2007).

It certainly seems impressive that the pass rate for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System jumped from 55 percent of 10th graders in 2000 to 85 percent in 2004. But those numbers hide some very important information. First, one reason the rate was only 55 percent in 2000 was that students knew the test did not count toward graduation. Second, Mr. Romney neglects to mention the more than 10,000 high school students who dropped out in 2003-04. That was an increase of 13.5 percent from the previous year, the year the MCAS became a high school graduation requirement.

For the class of 2005, the state reported a 94 percent pass rate, but when student attrition was taken into account, the real pass rate was only 76.6 percent. Real pass rates for black and Hispanic students were even lower, at 62 percent and 51 percent, respectively. These numbers reflect similar problems and disinformation found in other states.

Massachusetts’ cities and towns will be dealing with the societal costs of the state’s dropout crisis, exacerbated by the high-stakes test, for years to come, whoever becomes president.

Sheila Decter

Executive Director

Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action

Boston, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2008 edition of Education Week as Manipulating Data to Make Bad Results Look Good


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week
Education Briefly Stated: August 30, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 23, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 16, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read