Friday, December 18, 2015
Do Statistics Lie? When It Comes To The Regents Passing Rate The Answer Is Yes.
During my 20 years of teaching in the New York City schools, I have worked with many Science teachers. Most of them I can say were caring, nurturing, and had the best interests of their students at heart. However, there were a select few who did not particularly care about their students and I wrote about one colleague years ago, who is now a rotating ATR and loves the fact that he doesn't need to know his students.
There were also another group of Science teachers that I encountered at schools where I was provisionally assigned for the school year who would brag about their Regents passing rate. One even claimed she had a 100% passing rate! However, I must admit this group of Science teachers did have an unusually high Regents passing rate. These passing rates were high because of the large amount of students who these teachers excluded from taking the Regents.
What these Science teachers did was to ban the low achieving students from taking the Regents by giving them low marks on their weekly laboratory reports or discourage them from even attending lab! In either case these struggling students would give up and stop attending the Science lab class and therefore be banned from taking the Science Regents. In one outrageous case (the teacher who claimed to have a 100% Regents passing rate) a teacher had banned 50% of her classes from taking the Regents! Worse, their Assistant Principals will crow about these Regents passing statistics, knowing full well that the high Regents passing percentage was due to the large amount of students banned from taking the Regents due to the lack of lab reports from students who were discouraged from completing the lab requirements.
Why doesn't the Assistant Principals confront these teachers? Because the Regents passing percentage is part of the school report card and teacher evaluation grade. Therefore, its not how many students were in Regents classes but the percentage eligible to take it!. Hence, the reason the school administration will look the other way when these teachers exclude large number of low performing students from taking the Regents and the easiest method is to encourage them to ignore the lab requirement.
Do statistics lie? They certainly do. Just ask Mark Twain who was quoted in saying the following:
Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
- Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review