Another way to play the numbers game
Posted August 14, 2012on:
I hate the people who play the numbers game and manipulate it to their favour. These might include politicians, policymakers, and researchers.
If you have any data, you can do all sorts of analysis to make yourself look good and someone else look bad (even though the opposite is true). Researchers might do this to get continued funding, policymakers to push an agenda, and politicians to strike fear.
One such figure is the average PISA ranking of students in the USA. It is in the murky middle and this is used to justify changes in schooling to better test scores.
In raw numbers, the U.S. produces many more high-achieving students than any other OECD nation—more high-achievers than France, Germany, and the UK combined (both in reading and in math).
On the downside, in raw numbers, the U.S. also produces many more low-achieving students (both in reading and in math) than any other OECD nation, including Mexico and Turkey.
If you examine the report in Petrill’s article, it notes that:
In math, the total number of highachieving students in the U.S.—over 417,000—is nearly as great as the number of all high math achievers in Japan and Korea combined. In reading, the total number of high-achieving students in the U.S.—about 415,000—is greater that of Japan, Korea, and France combined.
The fact is that the USA might rely on its high-achieving students to maintain its competitive edge. Even those who do not score well in tests might have the creative edge that students from other countries do not [my reflection on this].
Trying to extrapolate economic competitiveness from test scores is like trying to predict how many great CEOs or inventors a country will produce. It took one Bill Gates and one Steve Jobs to shake the world up and neither were scholars.
I am not recommending that we throw good statistics away. I am saying that we tell a more complete picture and that we teach people to be critical thinkers.