Thursday, November 17, 2011

Modern Discourse

The journalist Jay Matthews some years ago came up with the "challenge index", a ratio of AP exams to the number of seniors in a high school.  It may be a useful indicator of whether a high school is challenging its students to take on more difficult work. US News and World Report uses it to offer a linear ranking of America's best high schools, for which it seems a pretty blunt tool. I hear about it now and then, for friends and acquaintances have had children at schools that ranked high. Any inclination to believe in it died when I read that the magazine broke ties up to the 5th decimal place.

I have read criticisms of the "challenge index" saying that it distorts priorities in schools where the administrators wish to get a higher ranking. Recently in The Washington Post Matthews wrote about the movie "Race to Nowhere" by which offers a more fundamental criticism, that "[t]he rigor they impose is mandated memorization and regurgitation of data at the expense of rigor attained through rich and engaging courses and deep learning."

I don't know; they didn't have AP course at my high school, and I quit supervising the next generation's homework after about 8th grade.But I was struck by the second-last sentence of Matthew's article:
Abeles said people who have watched her film say they feel the same way she does.
Of course, this may just be Matthews being naughty. But then the Post web site handily indexes Opinion by "Left-leaning" and "Right-leaning". Was Abeles preaching to the choir?

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