Perry gets credit for amend­ing his state­ment on SAT

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Ciara O’Rourke AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN STAFF

Gov. Rick Perry State­ment: ‘We have more kids take the SAT than any other state in the nation. I mean a high per­cent­age of our kids take the SAT.’

As CNBC pro­nounced Texas the nation’s best state for do­ing busi­ness, Gov. Rick Perry of­fered rea­sons why Texas is “still on top” dur­ing an in­ter­view with the busi­ness news net­work. One of them: the num­ber of Texas stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in a na­tional col­lege ad­mis­sions exam.

“We have more kids take the SAT than any other state in the nation,” Perry said on the July 13 CNBC broad­cast. “I mean a high per­cent­age of our kids take the SAT.” Which is it? Bill White, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for gover­nor who has stressed ed­u­ca­tion as an im­por­tant is­sue, thinks it’s nei­ther.

“Rick Perry proved again yes­ter­day that he sim­ply can’t tell the truth when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion,” a July 14 news re­lease from White chided, say­ing that Perry gave “bla­tantly false in­for­ma­tion about SATs.”

Later that day, the gover­nor’s of­fice is­sued

See POLITIFACT, back page

a news re­lease point­ing re­porters to a July 14 For­tune mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle that of­fered four rea­sons why “Texas beats Cal­i­for­nia in a re­ces­sion.” How­ever, the ar­ti­cle also notes that “SAT scores in the state have de­clined over the last few years, and the state ranked 34th among the 52 states and ju­ris­dic­tions graded on the Na­tional As­sess­ment of Ed­u­ca­tional Progress (NAEP) last year.” Con­fused? When we checked with Perry’s cam­paign, spokes­woman Cather­ine Frazier tweaked the first of Perry’s CNBC state­ments by say­ing Texas has more stu­dents tak­ing the SAT than “nearly” any other state.

Ac­cord­ing to the Col­lege Board, which man­ages the SAT ex­ams, Texas ranked third in 2009 in the num­ber of SAT-tak­ers — 141,733 pub­lic and pri­vate school stu­dents. Of course, Texas was also the sec­ond-most-pop­u­lous state. Cal­i­for­nia, the most pop­u­lous state, had the most SAT par­tic­i­pants (207,301), fol­lowed by New York (159,886).

We turned next to the sec­ond part of Perry’s state­ment, that a high per­cent­age of “our kids” take the SAT — ar­guably a pow­er­ful talk­ing point be­cause a state’s per­cent­age of SAT tak­ers sig­ni­fies its share of po­ten­tial col­lege stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the Col­lege Board in 2009, Texas had the 22nd high­est SAT par­tic­i­pa­tion rate (21st if you don’t count the District of Columbia): 51 per­cent of Texas stu­dents in the class of 2009. The na­tional av­er­age was 46 per­cent. Maine had the high­est par­tic­i­pa­tion rate (90 per­cent), fol­lowed by New York, Mas­sachusetts, Con­necti­cut and D.C.

In re­cent years, nei­ther the per­cent­age of SAT-tak­ers in Texas nor the state’s place in the Col­lege Board rank­ings has changed much. In 2008, Texas again came in 22nd, with 50 per­cent of stu­dents tak­ing the test. In fact, as long as Perry has been gover­nor, Texas has ranked 20th, 21st or 22nd. Its share of stu­dents tak­ing the test has ranged from a high of 57 per­cent (2003) to, most re­cently, a low of 51 per­cent.

So how does the gover­nor’s two-part state­ment score?

We’ll cut him slack for say­ing Texas has the most stu­dents tak­ing the SAT, since he im­me­di­ately backed off when ques­tioned. And Texas did have the third-high­est num­ber of high school stu­dents who took the SAT in 2009.

Perry’s state­ment that Texas has a high per­cent­age of stu­dents tak­ing the SAT raises the ques­tion: High com­pared with what?

Al­though the share of Texas stu­dents who took the test in 2009 ex­ceeded the na­tional av­er­age, 20 other states had greater shares of stu­dents tak­ing the test, in­clud­ing sim­i­larly high-pop­u­la­tion states such as Florida, Penn­syl­va­nia and New York. Cal­i­for­nia had a smaller share: 49 per­cent.

We fig­ure “high” means bet­ter than barely above av­er­age. To stick with the school metaphor, 51 per­cent is a fail­ing grade.

We rate Perry’s state­ment as Barely True.

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