Shame on Tribune, others

It is a sad day when two very knowledgeable educators — Chad Dumas of Hastings Public Schools and Josh Lewis of Adams Central — are in the position of responding to a poorly researched article in the Tribune comparing the 2013 NeSA writing test results just made public by the state Department of Education. (Voice of the People, June 10)

The education department is very clear about comparing schools/districts test scores (from the State of the Schools Report):

“We discourage using any one ranking to make a judgment about any district just as we discourage using one test score to make a judgment about any one student. As always, your school district officials can best explain their data and what it means.”

But the education department knows the media and knows that this material will be presented as if it were a football score simply to sell papers.

I’m in the process now of comparing the Omaha Public Schools to other large schools districts on a fair basis that takes account of the diversity and poverty that OPS has that few other districts in the state face.

When just raw scores are compared, the suburbs beat OPS by around 20 points. Yet when the levels of poverty are accounted for, OPS actually outperforms the wealthy suburbs in reading and ties them in math and under-performs the suburbs by a small amount in science.

The bottom line is that comparing raw scores is totally unfair to the students, the teachers and administrators and can lead parents to wrong conclusions.

Yes, shame on the Tribune, but more importantly shame on the department of education for not qualifying these results more and even shame on Dumas and Lewis for not saying what they really know about this “gotcha” mentality of our testing mania.

Bert Peterson

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