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Fact-Checking the Education Olympics 2008

If you saw Mike Petrilli with his red, white, and blue facepaint amid a faux backdrop of China's Great Wall this past summer, you had to see the humor in the video reports for Fordham's Education Olympics 2008. But behind his antics was a serious message about the relative low standing of U.S. students on international comparisons of various achievement measures, from college-going rates to PISA results.

Well, researchers for the Think Tank Review Project didn't find the series so funny. The project is a joint effort by the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University.

They released their own fact-checking review of Petrilli's reports this week and concluded that the "Education Olympics provides no basis for assertion that the nation's students will harm its economic future."

The review looks at the more than two dozen tables Petrilli used, showing how the U.S. ranks compared with other countries, and commentary that accompanied the data.

"While a link between international test rankings and global economic standing may be widely assumed, it is by no means a settled question," the review states. "The Education Olympics report, driven by predetermined positions and lacking any rigorous demonstration of argument, theory, evidence or methods, provides no basis for generating constructive policy for improving our nation's educational performance."

I'm sure Petrilli is polishing his saber as he gets ready to settle this one with authors Edward Fierros of Villanova University and Mindy Kornhaber of Penn State. I'm not sure the U.S. Fencing Association will endorse this match.

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