Thursday, June 19, 2003

obedience school
A few days ago, Jim Capozzola noted that the best schools in an especially stupid MSNBC high school ranking seemed to be located in rich suburbs [further commentary at tbogg and uggabugga]. I wrote him to elaborate on how back-asswards the methodology [number of AP tests taken per student] was, and he told me to post it. In shortened form, this is why MSNBC sucks:

Each AP test costs $78, $54 with a need-based fee admission. At that reduced rate, students at MSNBC's top schools are still taking over $200 worth of tests. Poor families obviously can't afford that, so some schools* make up the difference. Think poor school districts can spend that kind of money on their gifted students?

Furthermore, the exclusion of schools that accept students based on grades or test scores is doubly retarded, because those schools are where the "smart" [i.e., AP-taking] kids go in urban districts with multiple high schools -- Stuyvesant in NYC is the best-known example, but any urban magnet fits the bill. So MSNBC is telling people to get rich and move to a gated community lest they venture near a city where their kid is too stupid to go to a good school. It is an anti-meritocracy.

The more I think about it, the stupider it is. Good schools, suburban or otherwise, teach specifically to the AP test starting in the 10th grade. They don't have the resources for that in poor districts. Actually they do, if it's a big urban district that sends all the "smart" kids to a magnet school -- which is, naturally, excluded from MSNBC's list. Seems a little more efficient than making every kid in a suburb take 6 tests, doesn't it?

Of course, MSNBC also fails to account for the score of the test, which is the whole point, after all.

Finally, if anyone has ever heard of the "international baccalaureate" (another useless component of MSNBC's methodology), let me know.

*Schools that want to be competitive in the college admissions game do this, because colleges, though much more sophisticated than MSNBC, take AP tests (and scores) into account when calculating how good the school is. Yet another thing that poor schools don't have the resources to worry about.

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