Policy barrages: Misrepresenting Maine schools' achievement

In a column in today's Press Herald, Ron Bancroft again wheels out the cannons to explain why Maine needs to close schools and increase class sizes.

...Eighth-grade math scores have gone from first in the nation 10 years ago to 24th in 2007. Maine 11th graders scored below the national average on the SATs, a national standard for college entrance readiness.

Here is a text-book example of how to misrepresent statistics to suit an argument. Here, Bancroft seeks to create the impression that mathematics achievement in Maine schools is declining. But the truth is that Maine's 8th grade Math scores are now higher than they've ever been.

Bancroft also is well aware that Maine's average SAT scores are below the national average only because Maine is the only state that requires every student to take them. The average scores from other states are drawn from the self-selected subset of students who are applying to colleges. The comparison is simply invalid.

Any time you see average SAT score employed to represent Maine's relative educational achievement you can be certain that the author wants to build an impression that public education is failing in ways that it is not.

Then to go on and suggest this as evidence that to increase achievement Maine needs to spend less per pupil in fewer schools with larger classes is simply dishonest.

Per-pupil spending rank.

I also would like to know the source of Bancroft's figure of $13,500 per student.

According to the most recent federal data, with K-12 spending at $11,572 per pupil, Maine ranks 15th out of 50 states. 17 states exceed the national mean of $10,259 per pupil, which puts Maine relatively near the average.