Federal File: Lies, damned lies, and statistics; Koop pulls strings; A snail

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Statistics may not lie, but Education Department officials manipulate statistics, the Educational Testing Service says.

The company, which administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test, accuses ed officials of twisting data to bolster their argument that spending more money isn't the answer to educational woes.

In question is a bar graph purporting to show that sat scores have declined sharply since 1962, while expenditures on precollegiate education have increased just as sharply.

The chart shows a steep rise in spending because outlays are shown without being adjusted for inflation, ets argues.

Similarly, according to ets, a relatively small decline in test scores is made to seem precipitous because the graph uses a narrower, 800-to-1,000 scale, rather than the 400-to-1,600 scale used to score the sat

The sat "is an inappropriate measure of overall educational productivity," adds a recent article in ets Policy Notes.

U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, whose bearded visage and stern warnings against promiscuity in the age of aids have created the image of a modern-day Old Testament prophet, recently made an uncharacteristic appearance before more than 1,300 public-health and special-education experts--waving a puppet of himself.

The setting was a conference on improving services for seriously ill children and their parents. The smaller, stuffed Surgeon General shared the stage with puppets portraying a wheelchair-bound child and a child with asthma.

Conference participants were later asked to sing, to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic": "Family-centered, community-based, coordinated care ... Surgeon General Koop leads the way!"

The National Organization for Women's project on equal education rights recently gave departing Secretary of Education William J. Bennett his third "silver snail" award for "sluggishness" in promoting equality, inducting him into the "Snail Hall of Fame."

This year, he was cited for an "ethnocentric focus on Western culture and literature to the exclusion of women, minorities, and non-Western culture."

Also "honored" was Robert E. Reynolds, the principal of Hazelwood (Mo.) High School, whose censorship of articles about teenage pregnancy and divorce from the school newspaper was backed by the U.S. Supreme Court.--jm & ef

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