June 12, 2005

"Smart" and "dumb" states.

Wisconsin's #5, so should I approve of this silliness? We love rankings and we love lists, so here I am linking. I haven't checked the blogs on this, but I'm expecting a lot of "red state"/"blue state" observations. I wonder if anyone's saying smart people voted for Kerry and dumb people voted for Bush. Note how you have to go all the way to #25 before you see a southern state.

17 comments:

Mark said...

Some of the factors in the rankings: per-pupil expenditure? class size? rates of physical violence?

Yeah, right.

Steven said...

Texas a whole quintile "smarter" than California.

Simon Kenton said...

Yup, New Mexico might be stump-dumb, but it manages a pretty high rate of bi- and even tri-lingualism. This is considered an impressive attainment when the people who manage it are pre-defined as smart, but when it's a bunch of little brown maids and mechanics, we somehow overlook it as evidence of intelligence. The state also has one of the highest ratios of PhDs, especially hard-science PhDs, to population.

leeontheroad said...

Warning: stat watch rant again

Ranking states based on these:

"per-pupil expenditures, public high school graduation rates, average class size, student reading and math proficiency, and pupil-teacher ratios"

conflates quality and cost of living. The states that rank high also have high per pupil expenditures, in part because the teachers' and other staff salaries are higher than in states where the ocst of living is lower. Take for example, NJ: whether one agress with the decision or not, NJ's Supreme Court rules the public school system unconstitutional, for goodness sake. (Abott decision) That only aspplies to blighted urban districts, but still, there are quite a number of those there.

Meanwhile,

"States received negative points for high drop-out rates and physical violence."

Sounds like folks are twice penalized for drop-out, unless it's the tricky name game again. Attrition (drop-out) plus graduation should approximate the number who began as frosh (the other possibilities are transience and death). But the study provides two stats that consider the success of the schools in doing what they say is their goal. So does a "graduatuon rate" consider only the size of the senior class and the number of THEM who graduate- and only in the traditional track?

The "smartest" states would have the best student success rates for the least money spent. Giving folks "points" for spending money rewards the the Boards of Ed and administrators who send themselves to "conferences" in Aruba and don't bother even to pretendthey're doing business.

Tim said...

Virginia is ranked 12th and is pretty southern--Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, after all!

Mark said...

I propose using these factors weighted in order:

standardized test scores
parents' IQ
rates of parental involvement
rates of home-schooling
graduation rates

(inverse factors)
per-pupil expenditure
political clout of state teacher’s union

Renee said...

All of the west coast blue states are pretty far down in the rankings.

John said...

I honestly expected to see Mississippi and Louisiana way down there on the list for one simple reason: all the smart kids go to private school. People work two jobs to pay for it because the ancient public school system is just getting worse. it's proof that school vouchers will work.

(as an aside - boy, Democrats ran the school system in the South for a long time, didn't they?)

John said...

I honestly expected to see Mississippi and Louisiana way down there on the list for one simple reason: all the smart kids go to private school. People work two jobs to pay for it because the ancient public school system is just getting worse. it's proof that school vouchers will work.

(as an aside - boy, Democrats ran the school system in the South for a long time, didn't they?)

Troy said...

New Mexico...

Being illiterate in three languages is not tri-lingual.

Having lived in Texas and now CA I can vouch for the quintile. Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi drag it down overcoming the Victor Davis Hanson Thomas Sowell bump.

Ann Althouse said...

Tim: Ooh, sorry. I overlooked Virginia.

I must say I expected to see Mississippi last.

Ann Althouse said...

Renee: Yeah, Oregon should be especially ashamed!

Steven said...

Well, the most interesting thing to me about the Texas-California bit is that California has higher per-capita income and higher taxes, which give the state a lot more money to throw at "per-pupil expenditures . . . average class size . . . and pupil-teacher ratios."

Not that the study necessarily means anything, but it's certainly a counter-intuitive result that Texas is ranked higher. And the "We're dragged down on other measures by undocumented immigrants" excuse for California doesn't pass the smell test for this resident of El Paso -- it could explain the ranking relative to Oregon, sure, but relative to Texas?

SteveR said...

Well I guess I should feel like an idiot, being raised and educated in New Mexico and living here now. But then I think about the beautiful scenery, open spaces, great culture and wonderful climate. Its not worth a two hour commute and six months of winter to feel "smart".

John Thacker said...

I'm reminded of the following quote:
"It happens I take some pride in having demonstrated in 1992 that while the correlation between per-pupil expenditure on education and average score on the national eighth-grade math exam was a derisory .203, the strongest correlation, a negative .522, was the distance of a state capital from the Canadian border. In the place of all the nostrums being bandied about concerning national education policy, I proposed a simple one-step program: move states closer to Canada."
-- Former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) ( Academic Medicine, 1998 by the Association of American Medical Colleges, "On the Commodification of Medicine")

In fairness, I know that Alaska is a real outlier (they have to pay their teachers a lot to live there), but they're not enough.

Slac said...

Ann, do you think a lot of people are scratching their heads, thinking "Wisconsin??"

I really don't know what kind of impression the rest of the country has of us, other than that we love cheese and football, and are probably overweight.

We might as well be #2 under central New England.

Ann Althouse said...

Slac: People should know we have a world class university, with stature far exceeding the size of the population. We support education here, which we do because we're smart and which helps keep us smart. When I think Wisconsin, I don't think cheese or beer or football. I think education!