This Letter to the Editor was published by the Robesonian on October 21, 2014.
To the Editor,
In Chris Fitzsimon’s published in The Robesonian on Saturday, he offered a litany of cuts to education since 2008-09. Kay Hagan has used some of these same numbers in her campaign ads. The left-leaning Washington Post in its Fact Checker column (Sep. 16) has given these data “two pinocchios” for “significant omissions and/or exaggerations.” However, this letter is not about politics.
It is about evidence and modern techniques of analysis. Mr. Fitzsimon is using an antiquated type of analysis that focuses exclusively on “inputs” (spending) and doesn’t report one word about “outcomes” (graduation rates, etc.). For more than a decade now, the education and nonprofit world has modernized to assessing outcomes to determine effectiveness. This is because we know spending doesn’t equate to outcomes. For example, one of the lowest-spending states, Utah, has among the highest outcomes, and one of the highest-spending, the District of Columbia, has among the lowest outcomes.
Here are some outcome numbers for North Carolina from 2008-09 to 2013-14, a period of time in which Fitzsimon reports so-called devastating spending cuts. Reading SAT scores went from 495 to 499; math from 511 to 507; four-year graduation rate from 69.5 percent to 83.9 percent. In 2008, 46,104 students scored 3 or above on AP tests. In 2014, 58,539 did.
A proper analysis reveals quite different results from a politically-motivated one. I encourage Mr. Fitzsimon to use modern methods of analysis when reporting about a topic such as K-12 education.