More Challenges to the Index

I’m not sure any more criticism of Jay Mathews’ Challenge Index is really necessary but this article in today’s New York Times is too good to ignore.

Here is just one example cited by the writer for why this ranking is “meaningless,” “ridiculous,” “illegitimate” and “journalistic Barnum & Bailey”. (I love that last one!)

For example, Foshay Learning Center, a high-poverty school in Los Angeles, is ranked No. 414 on Newsweek’s list with a ratio of 1.888 AP tests per graduating senior; Lexington High, in well-to-do suburban Boston, is ranked No. 441, with a ratio of 1.831. For Newsweek, it does not matter that Foshay students failed 83 percent of their AP tests with scores of 1’s or 2’s; while at Lexington, 91 per cent were 3’s, 4’s or the top grade of 5 – qualifying those students for college credits.

And that points up a major problem with a listing like this that receives national attention far beyond its validity. It provides a smoke screen for schools where students are taking lots of tests but not learning.

Read the whole article for Mathews’ defense of his index and of Newsweek calling the schools on it the “best” in America. And imagine the grade you would give a student essay with arguments that weak.

One thought on “More Challenges to the Index

  • May 24, 2006 at 12:22 pm
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    Does seem awfully arbitrary. That said, at least anecdotally, I can tell you he’s moving in the right direction. There is a school in Houston, YES College Preparatory School, which should have qualified under Mathew’s criteria long ago. It is not obsessed with testing for testing’s sake, and their track record is pretty amazing. The YES people clearly compelled Mathews to reconsider them this year, and he did so including them in the top 100. You can actually hear an interview with Chris Barbic, the school’s leader (not to mention a panel video that includes Mathews), at the website of the Charter School Policy Institute (www.charterschoolpolicy.org). Interested to hear what you think.

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