Tall Tales

Jon Telford, the interim superintendent at Detroit Public Schools, claims in The Detroit News that in 1999 DPS’s “[standardized test] scores were then at the state midpoint.” This proves completely false based on data available from the Michigan Department of Education.

On the 1999 Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, 71 percent of 11th grade students in DPS failed to meet state proficiency standards in math. The statewide average was 36 percent. In reading, 64 percent of DPS 11th graders were not proficient compared to 33 percent statewide.

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The state also administered a social studies MEAP test to 5th- and 8th-grade students in 1999. The results were dismal on average all the way around, but worse still for DPS. A whopping 81 percent of 5th grade students in the state failed to meet the proficiency standard, but the failure rate in DPS was even higher at 88 percent. In 8th grade, 72 percent of Michigan students fell short of proficiency, while the same was true for 91 percent of DPS students tested.

These data do not account for the fact that DPS served a larger portion of students from low-income households than the statewide average (69 percent to 31 percent, respectively).  Research shows that this discrepancy can affect average standardized test results. Telford makes no mention of this, however, and so one can only assume he meant to compare the aforementioned unadjusted scores. On that count, he is wildly inaccurate. 

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