The basics of math

I really hope that there’s a simple explanation for a quote attributed to Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond, who reportedly said, The school district has done some wonderful things … but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That’s a problem. Unless someone redefined percentile when I wasn’t looking, or there’s some missing information in that quote, Hammond is forgetting that half the students are below the 50th percentile by definition. (seen in Best of the Web)

UPDATE: The Sacramento Bee had a reply, which was then dissected again in Best of the Web. Turns out to be misunderstanding, mostly, on the part of WSJ since it would would be possible for Sacramento to have more than half their kids test above the 50th percentile on state tests, since they would only be a subset of the entire state of California. But again, as the WSJ points out, since percentiles are relative, saying that more of Sacramento’s kids should be above the 50th means wanting more of the kids outside Sacramento to be below the 50th.