Friday, September 4, 2009


Chicago Public Radio reporter Mark Rivera quotes Sarah Mendez, the coordinator of bilingual education in Evanston:

And it’s 96 point something, its close to 97 percent meets and exceeds on the ISAT [Illinois Standards Achievement Tests] test. Which means, they are not only doing well, they are soaring.

Let's assume that 97 percent of the students in the program meet or exceed standards, and let's assume these children are soaring (hope it's true; although in keeping with blog policy I have no opinion on bilingual education, I only wish these students well). Even if both of these assumptions are true, it is not true that the 97 percent success rate implies that the students are soaring. If all those students met standards by one point, they wouldn't be soaring, but the 97 percent statement would be true. Of course, this depends on how you define "soaring." You could reasonably say that a student who meets standards in a once-unfamiliar language is soaring compared to what some may expect. But that clearly isn't how Mendez was using the word; as she said, "they are not only doing well, they are soaring."

It might be safe to say that Mendez's program is soaring with such a high achievement rate, and I hope that the students are soaring as well. My point is that we need to be careful when evaluating numbers and the claims about them.