8/9 Editorials

AYP testing fails to make

grade as school barometer

It has been more than 4« years since the No Child Left Behind act was signed into law by President Bush.

It offered the promise of improving public education through annual monitoring.

Preliminary results of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) tests have been released for public review. They indicate progress may be made. Not much, but some.

However, there are problems with the test results that make the whole process a waste of everyone's time, money and energy.

First is an inherent problem with statistics. The tests are graded on a pass-fail basis in two academic realms: math/problem solving and English/language arts.

Within each of those areas the tests are graded as well as the number or percentage of students taking the test, their "academic status" and their "academic growth."

In each of those areas the results are further broken down based on the students' racial/cultural background, disabilities, English proficiency and family's economic status.

Failing to meet the benchmark level in any one of those areas is failing the test. That's especially rigorous when you're dealing with a wide variety of disabilities or a classroom with multiple languages being spoken contrasted with one in which a single language is used.

As for the statistical problem, it too relates to the 60 or more categories in which results are judged. Statistically speaking, a certain "population" is required to make a valid statistical comparison or ratio.

Smaller schools often do better on AYP testing because they wind up with many scores drawn from population groups that are too small to be statistically reliable. Those numbers simply aren't considered in passing or failing a program.

AYP scores are unfair to larger schools -- not because those schools aren't doing as well, or better, in educating their students -- but because they're being graded in ways that the smaller schools aren't.

A second problem with AYP tests is that they are being reported by news media as if they were a life and death evaluation of a school's academic program.

AYP results, because of their trying to be fair to all groups imaginable, are flawed. Too many of the results are out of control of the classroom at any given time.

If school districts could choose their students, their families' economic status, their cultural background and so forth, it would place control in the classroom to a greater degree. Public education has never been that kind of place.

Finally it should be recognized that AYP tests are a tool by which some conclusions, over time, may be drawn.

However, the only change that is likely to result is a further loss of local control at the very schools that need it most in addressing the needs of their student populations.


Renewable fuel burns

brightly in Oregon

The governor's support of a "hydrogen economy" was related in a story in last week's I-O.

While it's hard to argue with the concept of using renewable energy we're a little surprised by a couple of statements attributed to the governor:

First is the problem of producing hydrogen efficiently. There's a great deal of research, worldwide, going on. In most cases, if not all, it takes more energy to make hydrogen into a fuel-type product than it can generate. That's a net energy loss -- hardly the underpinnings of a "hydrogen economy."

Secondly, the governor seeks to boost the business energy tax credit to help develop renewable energy technologies in the state. In fact, his stated goal is to reach 25 percent of the state's electrical needs with renewable energy sources by the year 2025.

Whoa! Stop the presses (or the horses).

According to Bonneville Power Administration, more than 60 percent of the electrical energy used in the Northwest comes from hydropower. What's more renewable than the annual stream flow using ever-present gravity to generate electricity?

Sure there's wind and wave power, biodiesel and ethanol. They're all valid energy sources. The governor wants to develop more energy from each of those. But please don't discount that this region's hydroelectric generating plants are already greatly reducing Oregon's dependence on carbon-based fuels (oil, coal, natural gas).

While we applaud the governor's ideas, we think his staff let him down by not doing their research and recognizing the relatively small role that non-renewable power is already playing in Oregon.


Dr. Z is the real deal

TV viewers in recent weeks have probably seen commercials with a mustachioed fellow calling himself "Dr. Z."

While in one commercial the ostensible director of the production mutters "Actors!" under his breath when correcting an apparent oversight by Dr. Z, don't be fooled.

Dr. Z is a doctor -- he earned a doctorate in engineering in 1982 at Technical University of Paderborn.

Dr. Z is the Chairman of DaimlerChrysler.

Dr. Dieter Zetsche is far from the typical German (or American) auto executive. His ability to tell the story he wants told and to tell it in an engaging and entertaining manner is unequaled among corporate bigwigs anywhere.

We'd like to think he may have learned a lot about the American psyche during his time running Freightliner in Portland starting in 1991. Working on Swan Island brought the young executive in touch with the American middle class, his workers and his neighbors like little else.

In 2000, Dieter was back in the USA in Detroit facing a bigger than ever challenge -- bringing Chrysler back to profitability, improved market share and respect.

He succeeded again.

Next stop came this year when he took leadership of the entire company. Jurgen Schremp, who brought Chrysler into the Mercedes fold, resigned. Dr. Z stepped in.

Dieter Zetsche is for real -- and not just his moustache. He can really run a big manufacturing business and he can really make a TV commercial worth watching. That's two big accomplishments.


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