TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2013
Part 2—Williams continues the scam: Last Thursday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a major report. For part 1 in this series, click here.
Most news orgs simply ignored this major new report. Truth to tell, this made some sense. In the main, the new report simply described the continuation of a long, ongoing trend.
There was nothing much new in this new report, although it included the newest data. But two major news orgs described the report.
This created a startling contrast:
On NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams described “a grim report card on our nation’s high school seniors,” who were said to be “leaving high school no better in reading or math than students in the 1970s.”
At NBC, the new report involved major gloom. But how odd! At the Washington Post, life was massively different.
In a major news report, Lyndsey Layton said the new NCES report “paint[s] a picture of steady student achievement that contradicts the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.” (Our emphasis.)
"When you break out the data over the long term and ask who is improving, the answer is everyone,” a well-known educational expert was quoted saying. The Washington Post and NBC News were living in two different worlds.
Which news org was more correct—NBC News or the Washington Post? To answer that question, we have to describe a widely-praised federal testing program called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The NCES reported new data from the NAEP last week. But what do those NAEP data show?
More precisely, the NCES was reporting the latest data from one of the two major studies the NAEP conducts. The NCES was reporting the latest results from the NAEP’s so-called Long-Term Trend Assessments, a periodic assessment of reading and math skills which dates to 1971.
There is little doubt what NAEP data show over that forty-year period. Especially when test scores are “disaggregated”—broken into demographic groups— American students have shown massive score gains in both reading and math.
The Long-Term Trend study tests 9-year-old, 13-year-old and 17-year-old students. (Contrary to Williams’ suggestion, the 17-year-olds are not all seniors in high school.)
In this major long-term study, today’s 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds are scoring massively better than their peers from the 1970s. Slickly, Williams glossed and obscured that fact in a fleeting aside.
We offer one example below.
Today’s 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds are scoring massively better. But even among 17-year-olds, today’s students are scoring much higher than in the 1970s once you disaggregate test scores. This is what the data show, even before we attempt to adjust for a change in drop-out rates:
According to the new data, black 17-year-old students are outscoring their peers from the 1970s by about two academic years. Hispanic 17-year-old students show score gains which are almost as large. And these score gains have been achieved despite a lower drop-out rate, which tends to disguise the size of the gains attained over time.
In another murky aside, Williams acknowledged the effect of the lower drop-out rate. Having spent 68 words on this topic, he then moved to the day’s more important news—the way “the old gang” got “back together” for James Gandolfini’s funeral.
A society which cared about low-income kids would demand to see Williams fired. Citizens would tell him to take his $10 million per year and shove it right up his ascot.
You don’t live in that kind of society, which helps explain the scam.
To what scam do we refer? We refer to the ongoing, decades-old scam which Williams continued last week, even as the Post declared that the scam was over.
The Washington Post was certainly right in one major respect. Those new data do “contradict the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.”
But crackers, please! NAEP data have been “contradicting that notion” for a great many years. We have endlessly described that fact right here at this incomparable site. Until last Friday, getting others to mention this fact has been an impossible task.
For some reason, the Post decided to give up the ghost last week. At long last, it told its misused readers what the NAEP data actually show:
The new data “paint a picture of steady student achievement that contradicts the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled,” Layton reported. She failed to say that NAEP data have been painting that picture for well over a decade.
Layton belatedly told the truth, but Williams kept pushing the scam. The NCES had issued “a grim new report card,” he said, thus maintaining a long-running act of overt public deception.
Why did Williams say what he did? Why did he offer such a grossly misleading account of this new report?
We can’t tell you that, but people like Williams have played it this way down through many long years. Endlessly, the public has been misled about NAEP data, or told nothing at all.
For what it’s worth, grossly misleading accounts of those data have fueled a set of political movements. Teachers and their infernal unions have been widely assaulted. Various forms of privatization have been hailed.
Last Friday, the Washington Post finally quit. After decades of pimping this overt public scam, its reporter correctly explained what the NAEP data actually show.
Williams just kept pimping the scam—and he could be secure in one thought. The fiery “progressives” at NBC’s cable arm will never discuss what he said.
They are paid not to notice such things. They are being paid not to care—and the money is spending real good.
Tomorrow: Technical accuracy and a demographic explosion
The very large size of those score gains: The size of these score gains is really quite large. In a remarkable ongoing scam, the public has never been told this.
Let’s consider one example. Let’s consider the average math scores attained over time by 13-year-old black students. To examine the relevant data, click here, scroll to page 39.
From 1978 through 2004, the average math score attained by such kids went up by 32 points. In 2004, the NAEP made a minor technical adjustment. From 2004 through 2012, the average score of such kids went up by 7 more points.
That’s an overall gain of 39 points from 1978 through 2012—and yes, that is a giant score gain. Consider:
By a very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the NAEP scale is often said to represent one academic year. In our view, that is a very rough rule of thumb. But journalists apply that rule of thumb with great joy when it produces gloomy outcomes—that is, when it’s used to state the size of the “achievement gap.”
This is all part of the scam.
That is a very rough rule of thumb. But the average math score attained by black 13-year-olds has risen by 39 points since 1978. That is an astonishing gain—and the American public has never been told that it has occurred.
Quite the contrary! People like Williams just keep pimping “the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.” They do so knowing that cable progressives will never say even one word.
Last Thursday, Williams kept pimping that “popular notion.” His ascot should have been fired so fast that he couldn’t even take all his hair products with him.
You don’t live in that kind of a world. You live in a world run by scams.