ADULT ABUSE: What the Times should report!


Part 4—Return from Gilligan’s Island: Does anyone at the New York Times know jack-spit about schools?

Certainly, very few readers do. Consider the way of the Times:

Last month, the former executive editor, Bill Keller, wrote in his weekly op-ed column that the United States has experienced “decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education.”

Among journalistic elites, such claims are very familiar. They’re also extremely hard to square with our best educational data.

That said, who gives a dang! Last Sunday, the Times handed the keys to the gloom machine to Robert J. Gordon, a self-regarding economics professor who doesn’t seem to know a lot about the public schools.

Beneath a visual of a broken-down school bus, beneath a headline which announced “the great stagnation of American education,” the self-regarding economics professor rattled a list of familiar scripts about “the poor quality of our schools.”

He failed to mention the last two decades of NAEP scores, which show large gains in reading and math by black and Hispanic students. Also by white kids!

Those large score gains didn’t get mentioned. But then, they never are!

Does anyone at this upper-class newspaper know jack-spit about schools? In fairness, they all seem to know the standard scripts, which all bring in the gloom.

More on the clueless Times:

Last year, the former editorial page editor, Gail Collins, staged the most embarrassing excursion since Gilligan attempted to stage his now now-famous three-hour tour. In support of a snark-laden book about Texas, Collins paraded about the land, warning crowds about the way the clownish red state was failing to educate its Hispanic kids.

The red-state failure had Collins upset. In Chicago, she warned a collection of blue-state liberals:
COLLINS (6/10/12): [Texas is] not doing the job of educating young Hispanic children that it needs to do if they’re going to become critical skilled workers for the next generation.

Right now, Texas imports college graduates. It imports as many as it creates on its own. So when you are paying to help make the universities in Illinois top-tier universities, you are paying to help staff businesses in Texas because a lot of your graduates are going to wind up down there.

Now, unless Texas antes up and really, really, really steps up to the education plate—

In the future, ten percent of the work force of America is going to be Texas born, bred and educated. And unless they do a better job than they’re doing now, that’s when we all go south.
Poor Illinois! The state was funding top-tier universities while Texas was frumping around!

Using evocative tribal language, Collins warned the Chicago crowd that, if Texas didn’t improve its schools, we might “all go south.” She showed no sign of knowing that Hispanic students in Texas schools strongly outscore their peers in Illinois on the National Assessment of Educational Testing, the federal testing program she had praised at length in her thoroughly clueless book.

In short, the New York Times is a clueless disgrace when it comes to the public schools. From its most famous players on down, the paper pimps the gloomy scripts which constitute upper-class conventional wisdom—gloomy scripts which advance conservative political themes and corporate privatization strategies.

Its readers are rarely—actually, never—exposed to even the most basic data about the state of the schools. If you read the New York Times, you are the victim of adult abuse with regard to this major part of American life.

Keller and Collins should crawl on their knees, begging forgiveness from Times subscribers for their absurd presentations. After that, someone should explain why Gordon was invited to rattle the scripts about a topic he seems to know little about.

Someone should also awaken the children, the horrible children at The One Liberal Channel, to ask them why they sleepwalk through life concerning the state of the schools. If they complained about the endless spewing of corporate-laced nonsense, the New York Times might be forced to perform some real reporting for once.

That said, the children aren’t going to complain. These topics don't exist on The One True Channel. The adult abuse will continue.

Still and all, a person can dream! If the Times got off its big fat asparagus aspic and did some reporting about public schools, what would that reporting look like?

The schools are constantly in the news. If the Times decided to do its job, this is what several series of front-page reports might attempt to cover:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress: What has been happening in public schools over the past few decades? At newspapers like the New York Times, everybody praises the NAEP, the gold standard of domestic testing.

Nobody ever tells the public what NAEP data show.

Check that: Reporters frequently cite the “achievement gaps” found in NAEP data. Those data enable the gloomy tales which constitute the memorized upper-class line.

But alas! Big newspapers never report the large score gains among all major groups in the student population. Readers are never told about the large score gains in reading and math recorded by black and Hispanic students.

Darlings, that would sound like good news! In the world of the Times, good news about schools is withheld.

If a paper like the New York Times decided to do its job for once, it would start by telling the public about those NAEP data. This couldn’t be done in a single report. The issues are too complex.

Times readers would finally hear about those very large score gains. Through interviews with NAEP officials, the Times would try to explain how large the gains in achievement may actually be.

The Times might even inform its readers about the different scores achieved by different states. (Don’t forget to disaggregate!) By the way, is there any chance that higher scores in some states result in part from retention procedures? Are fourth- or eighth-graders in some states older than those in the others?

We’d like to see that report. We can't find a way to tease that out through the NAEP’s public data, which are quite voluminous and are almost wholly ignored.

Might there be problems with the NAEP data? A real newspaper would examine that question—would have done so long ago. But alas! During those years, the Times has been off on Gilligan’s Island, clowning around with the Thurston Howells and advancing their upper-class dreck.

The Times has been dishing the adult abuse, has done so for a long time.

The PISA, the TIMSS and the PIRLS: As everyone knows, newspaper readers are constantly told about our nation’s gruesome performance on international tests. Last Sunday, the self-impressed Professor Gordon made a standard presentation:
GORDON (9/8/13): Then there is the poor quality of our schools. The Program for International Student Assessment tests have consistently rated American high schoolers as middling at best in reading, math and science skills, compared with their peers in other advanced economies.
According to Gordon, results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show “the poor quality of our schools.” In a rather standard move, he didn’t mention results from the other major international tests, on which American students have sometimes performed rather well.

The most recent PISA results are from 2009. But uh-oh! In 2011, American students did rather well on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), a major international assessment of fourth-graders’ reading achievement.

How well did American students do? They outscored their peers in Canada, England, Germany and France, four well-known large nations. They outperformed Spain, Italy, Australia and Taiwan, four other famous countries. (Technically, Taiwan is still part of China.)

They outscored every smaller European nation save one, including Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. They outperformed the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. They outscored New Zealand and Israel.

They were outscored by only two nations—Russia and Finland—and by Singapore and Hong Kong, two small, wealthy city-states. Other than that, they outscored all comers.

Following established practice, Professor Gordon said good-bye to all that. But then, such strong performances almost never get mentioned. Based on the quality of Gordon’s piece, we wouldn’t assume that he’s ever heard of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) or the PIRLS.

What is the overall picture on the PISA, the TIMSS and the PIRLS? If the New York Times ever returns from its stay on Gilligan’s Island, that would make for a fabulous, highly relevant series of front-page reports.

Is the PISA a better test battery than the TIMSS and the PIRLS? Does that explain why the Times tends to ignore the stronger performance on the latter tests while screeching about the lower scores on the PISA?

And by the way: Did the PISA over-represent low-income kids in its 2009 American test group? We don’t know the answer to that. A real paper might want to report it.

Such a series of reports would include the truly gloomy news about what happens when you “disaggregate” American scores on international tests. The scores by white kids look pretty good. The scores by black and Hispanic kids don’t.

The Times might also report what happens when you disaggregate scores by income. In short, there is a slew of information Times readers have never heard.

The Times could fill its front pages for weeks with reports on these seminal topics. Readers of the famous newspaper might start acquiring some information. At some point, the Times might even develop the types of skill which would let it examine the sorts of programs occurring within our schools.

At present, the Times is simply too unskilled to tackle such topics. Last month, the paper created a world of confusion trying to report a bone-simple matter—the transition to more difficult statewide tests in New York based on the new Common Core standards.

That was a stunningly hapless performance by a grossly incompetent newspaper. But the Times is persistently over its head when it tries to discuss even the simplest classroom topics.

In short, if the world were split into reading groups, the New York Times would be grouped with “the buzzards,” not with the robins or bluebirds. On average, American students may not be half bad. The American press is a mess.

What is the actual state of our schools? What could we possibly do to help our low-income and minority kids improves their performance faster? Enjoy their lives in school more?

At the New York Times, they don’t seem to know and they don’t seem to care. But then, the career liberal world doesn’t seem to give a rip either.

Welcome to the horrible world through which the Dowdism crept! In this world, the news is mainly entertainment, although it’s also a way of driving plutocrat scripts.

Like the Times, MSNBC is off on that three-hour tour when it comes to the public schools. So is the gang at Salon; so too for “career liberal” writers.

Relentlessly, public school teachers get trashed as the swells suppress those rising NAEP scores. We’re told that the teachers have ruined the schools through their infernal unions.

We’re told we need to privatize schools. We need to bring in the Princeton kids. We’re told the government can’t do anything right, not even in “government schools.”

We aren’t allowed to know about the large score gains achieved by our black kids. We ought to be pleased by what seems to be happening. But by the current rules of the game, we can’t even be told!

That said, the children at the corporate liberal orgs are talented with their R-bombs. They love to flounce about, announcing that we’re The Very Good People and The Others Are Just Very Bad.

The public schools and their kids can go jump in the lake. Who gives a shit about scores by black students?

The adult abuse has been widespread. But also, who cares about kids?


  1. Bob's criticism of liberal talking points and policies in the area of minority education illustrates Conquest's first law:
    Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

    If Bob were an expert in economic policy or foreign affairs or climate change or health care, he might be conservative on those issues, too.

    1. Pearls of wisdom from former faculty at Fairly
      Dickensian Univeristy.

      What would Martin Luther King, Jr. have said about that were he alive today?


    2. As we all know most, if not all, the experts on climate change are conservative on that issue

    3. DAinCA,

      Naturally, Conquest's First Law doesn't mean what you think it means. It isn't a political statement; it's a statement about human inertia. The more you know about operations in your area of expertise, the less likely you are to want to change things. Partly that's because experts can more easily spot flaws in proposed changes, and partly that's because familiarity comes with blinders.

      A couple of examples: Paul Krugman is an expert economist. I'm sure he's as dedicated to his point of view as anyone else, but he's not a conservative in the current Republican teahadist sense.

      Back in the heyday of Regan's SDI initiative, otherwise known as "Star Wars," no one with the slightest knowledge of the required technology thought the plan workable, but it was a key "conservative" cause.

    4. Conservatives bash unions. Somerby doesn't. Conservatives hate government schools. Somerby doesn't.
      Conservatives promote charter schools. Somerby is neither pro- nor anti-charter.
      No, Somerby isn't conservative.

    5. deadrat -- here's Roger Scruton's view of what Conquest's 1st law means:

      In his new book The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope Roger Scruton quotes and discusses the first of Robert Conquest’s three ‘laws of politics which states:

      [E]veryone is right-wing about what he knows best.

      Scruton continues:

      By ‘right-wing’ Conquest means suspicious of enthusiasm and novelty, and respectful towards hierarchy, tradition and established ways. One sign of ignorance, according to Conquest, is the preference for originality over custom and radical solutions over traditional authority.

      Lastly, Scruton adds:

      Of course, we need originality, just as we may need radical solutions, when circumstances radically change. But we need these things when conditions are exceptional, and it is against the desire to see all cases as exceptional that Conquest was warning.

      I think SDI wasn't "conservative" in the sense Conquest meant, since it represented a radical change in policy.

    6. From the Guardian's Kevin Maguire and Julian Borger, January 24, 2002:

      "Professor Roger Scruton, darling of the moral right, asked one of the world's biggest tobacco companies for L5500 (Pounds) a month to help place pro-smoking articles in some of Britain's most influential newspapers and magazines.

      The controversial conservative academic offered to use his Fleet Street contacts to get pieces published in his own name and those of others on major topics of current concern to the tobacco industry.

      In a leaked e-mail to Japan Tobacco Int'l seeking a L1000 rise [sic] on his existing L4500 monthly fee, Prof. Scruton argued that in a business largely conducted by shysters and sharks, he represented value for money."

      He ought to know all about shysters and sharks.


  2. "But alas! Big newspapers never report the large score gains among all major groups in the student population. Readers are never told about the large score gains in reading and math recorded by black and Hispanic students."

    "Such a series of reports would include the truly gloomy news about what happens when you “disaggregate” American scores on international tests. The scores by white kids look pretty good. The scores by black and Hispanic kids don’t."

    1. Are you implying that the two passages above contradict each other? If so, you are wrong. Black and Hispanic students can make large gains, but still score below average on international tests. It depends on the baseline you're starting from.

    2. I don't know what he was implying, cacambo.
      But is BOB implying education testing is showing something "gloomy"? Sure looks like it.


    3. There are large NAEP score gains for blacks and Hispanics, but the "achievement" gap between whites and blacks and Hispanics remains.

  3. Good News! Someone from the BOBfan front has taken me up on my challenge in yesterdays education thread to spread the gospel of BOB over at
    Slatesquatdoosh. cacambo alerted us to a bad old Dahlia Lithwick post, and a commented named Democracy is wowing the rubes with NAEP scores straight from the Somerby playbook.

    KZ (always gets results)

    1. It is good news that someone is telling Slate readers the truth.

  4. NAEP scores have been rising since the mid-1990s, but the rate of increase has been lower since NCLB came into effect, and in many cases there has been recent stagnation, overall and for most grades, subjects and demographic groups. The scores that ought to matter the most, grade 12, does not show increases by any demographic group in a very long time. See for details. BTW, the largest scores gains generally came way back in the late 70s into the 80s, esp for Blacks.

    1. Thanks. Interesting report even though you are tooting your own horn, so to speak.

  5. Somerby says,”And by the way: DID the PISA over-represent low-income kids in its 2009 American test group? We don’t know the answer to that. A real paper might want to report it.”

    Well, a real blogger who's obsessed with education issues might want to report it. Or maybe Somerby “just doesn't care about black kids”.

    It took me less than five seconds to find the following, which certainly goes a long way to answering the question posed by Somerby (and not for the first time!!):

    “Carnoy and his coauthor Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute also contend that low-income students were oversampled in the U.S. results on the 2009 PISA test. About 40 percent of American PISA-takers attended a school where half or more of students were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch, although nationwide only 23 percent of students attend such schools.”

    1. Derp. No kidding. That was the point of Bob's question.

    2. Eligibility for reduced-priced school lunches is not an indicator of poverty.

    3. Anonoderp, I believe the implication, but perhaps not the intent of Winterchill's comment is that Somerby is either lying or lazy when he said "we don't know the answer to that." Lying or lazy is a critique often made by Somerby of journalists not knowing less easily obtained answers. Since Bob has actually alluded to the studies before, one can conclude he is being honest like Rachel Maddow is often honest. Derp is so endearing.

      Anon. at 10:37. Eligibility for free and reduced lunch is an indicator of relative income with very high statistical correlation
      to both poverty and test scores over time.

      Winterchill, what you found in 5 seconds is
      a misrepresentation of what Conroy and Rothstein show in their own work. They did
      indeed find that students attending schools with high levels of free/reduced lunch eligibility were overrepresented, but they did not "conclude low income students were oversampled." They in fact found the income distribution factor in the sample consistent
      with US students as a whole. They "seem" to conclude that just the presence of so many students associated with high levels of free/reduced lunch among their classmates must have had some negative effect on scores overall. Their case is pretty weak on this point. This is, of course, my take on their work. Others are free to read the whole thing and reach their own conclusions.


  6. Terrific post. This is the examined assumption of every news report about public schools: they are failing. No they aren't! Schools in high poverty areas are failing (because we don't give a shit about poor kids.)

  7. I just stumbled on something that, if true, simultaneously explains the “schools are failing, we're losing our competitiveness” mantra we've heard for so many years, and utterly discredits the major claims of Somerby—actually, it doesn't merely discredit his claims, it exposes him as a despicable liar.

    Yes, I'm uncharacteristically genuinely angry, both at Somerby for his willful distortions and myself for naively believing Somerby when he presented the “evidence” about US educational achievement even though I recognized he was a highly unreliable reporter in other realms.

    What has Somerby been stating (and re-stating, and re-stating again and.....) as his Ultimate Takeaway in the Fiasco of Education Reporting? That the data, contrary to all the media misrepresentations, shows math and reading performance has improved across all demographic groups in this country for forty years, and, consequently, the ubiquitously-voiced fear that America is losing its competitiveness because of flagging achievement is utterly meritless.

    But in data Somerby hasn't breathed a word about, there IS a powerful reason to believe exactly what Somerby has denied—out schools ARE failing and we ARE losing our competitiveness where it counts the most.

    Somerby has incessantly discussed the NAEP, his acknowledged 'gold standard', with respect to fourth and eighth graders. But he doesn't mention the NAEP results from Grade 12, arguably the most relevant, since it measures performance in public school's finished product, and at an age closer to employment and competition in the real world. Some people want to ignore Grade 12 results because of the supposedly confounding effect of the dropout factor—as the dropout rate changes (which particularly affects the disadvantaged) the number of lower-class, poorer performing students in the testing pool changes, so comparisons are supposedly more difficult. But disaggregation of the results allows us to determine the role played by changing dropout rates.

    So, here's the data that Somerby has withheld from his readers. The long-term (40 year) NAEP scores by Grade 12 students have been utterly flat. But when you disaggregate the results you see that the disadvantaged students have improved, the middle of the road ones have shown mixed results, BUT THE TOP STUDENTS' PERFORMANCE HASN'T BUDGED IN FORTY YEARS. Meanwhile, in many other countries, the top students have improved dramatically, so that there's been a widening gulf between the top US students and those elsewhere. And obviously, a country's competitiveness is determined disproportionately by how its “best and brightest” are performing. According to Carnoy (who wrote a paper fiercely defending the performance of YOUNGER American students) the international data show exactly what you see when you study the data from the NAEP—as Carnoy puts it, “The problem is at the top. U.S. top students are way behind top students in other countries.”

    Imagine that height were as important as intellectual performance and we measured it as zealously as we do the latter —it might be interesting if eight-year-olds and twelve-year-olds were taller than their counterparts ten years ago, who in turn were taller than their brethren ten years before, etc. but if all the eighteen-year-olds were the same height for forty years, who would dare ignore that fact and instead chirp incessantly about the taller eight- and twelve-year-olds? It would be an act of either madness or deceit.

    1. NAEP tests aren't given overseas, so it's hard to say there's a "widening gulf between the top US students and those elsewhere."

      In other countries, top students may "have improved dramatically," but that doesn't tell us how they compare with US high school seniors. We have to know where both cohorts started.

      US 12th grade NAEP reading scores have stagnated at the 287 level, but we don't know what that means unless we know whether past and current cohorts are similar. In any case 265 is basic level performance; 302 is proficient level.

      Is it "obvious" that a country's competitiveness is determined "disproportionately" by the "best and brightest"? Is it possible that the country can remain competitive because it attracts the best and brightest foreign high school graduates to its colleges and universities? In any case, the latest available national reading score (2009) for 12th graders at the 90th percentile (presumably the b&b) is 335.

      None of this means that the US doesn't have a problem with public education; it just means that the data doesn't support the narrative of decline.

    2. Sure, our educational system is so rotten, so horrific, so horrible, the teachers are so evil, those teacher unions are demonic that the USA is a tenth rate economy, there is no innovation in this country, we are not the richest and most powerful country on earth because we are behind the rest of the universe in educational outcomes. All those Mars missions were created by foreigners and charter school graduates, don't you know.

  8. "Imagine" suggests CriticalJudgement. Unfortunately all we can do is imagine since CJ provides no links. In fact the only source is supposedly a quote from Carnoy. Unfortunately that quote comes from a blog which provides no source other than to say Carnoy said those words "at a seminar" the blogger attended.

    KZ (never eager to defend the BOB)

  9. KZ says, quite preposterously, "Unfortunately all we can do is imagine since CJ provides no links."

    Really, KZ? You can only "imagine"? Are you suddenly so inept at using the internet that you can't find the NAEP Grade 12 results and/or competent analysis of those results by independent parties? But you must just be pretending to be stymied, because I see that you tracked down my Carnoy quote to a blog post which you obviously read. And guess what? That very blog post has a lovely graph of the not-at-all-elusive NAEP Grade 12 results you claim not to be able to find--disaggregated, displaying the entire 40-plus year history, and vividly demonstrating exactly what I described in my post.

    And if by "we" you didn't intend to convey your own problems in obtaining the data, but were nobly speaking on behalf of the other readers of this blog, I think they'd be pretty insulted that you evidently regard them as helpless dimwits unable to find information that is ubiquitous online.

    1. I'm pretty sure KZ regards me as a helpless dimwit, but I'm not insulted. Partly because I have no feelings, and partly because this is blog commentary, fercryanoutloud.

      As dimwitted as I may be, I still managed to track down the 12th grade results on the NAEP tests, and as I noted above, those results do support your conclusions.

      By the way, I was fairly tall in my high-school senior year. Alas, not so much now.

    2. Don't sell yourself short, passedrodent. I regard you as a helpful dimwit!

      You are certainly right about the NAEP data not showing all that CriticalJudgement alleges it shows. But it does show our smartest smarty pants aren't scoring any higher than they did way back when. I doubt that is because our schools are failing. If they were those poor braniacs's scores would be going down.

      KZ (Cain't help but Praise BOB)

    3. KZ, overmastered by your eagerness to disparage my comment, you foolishly resorted to the ultimately self-defeating gambit of distorting my words. Why “self-defeating”? Because in an internet comments-section it is so quick and easy for the distortee to demonstrate to all interested parties what the distorter has done—as I will now illustrate.

      You say that the NAEP data does not show “all that CriticalJudgment alleges it shows”. No, KZ, the NAEP data shows exactly what I alleged it shows, because even the most distracted skimming of my comment reveals that all I claimed it showed was that (quoting from my post) “the top students' performance hasn't budged in forty years”, and in fact I put those words in ALL CAPS, so really, your getting that wrong is inexcusable. The part of my comment about the widening gulf between the top students here in America and in some other countries was based on Prof. Carnoy's comments, whose own research on the performance of students elsewhere in the world corroborated and extended the NAEP results. I'll have more to say on this in my reply to deadrat.

    4. To the perhaps slightly physically (but not, in any perceptible way, intellectually) shrunken deadrat:

      You raise some valid and interesting points that are worth considering.

      First, let me emphasize that the very fact that until the other day I was gulled by Somerby into believing things about US student performance that I now realize are clearly false makes it apparent that I myself have no expertise in these matters.

      Second, we all agree (KZ, deadrat, and myself) that the NAEP data on 12th graders that Somerby has taken pains to withhold shows that the top students have not improved their performance over the forty year span of the NAEP.

      Third, I don't think one should lightly regard my invocation of Prof. Carnoy's summary assessment. Note: The Carnoy quote came from Jill Barshay, who is not merely some “blogger” KZ, but a graduate of Brown, the London School of Economics, the Columbia School of Journalism, has worked extensively as a journalist, is the founding editor and writer of Education By The Numbers, The Hechinger Report's blog about education data, and attended a seminar given by Prof. Carnoy where she recorded the quote I cited—so I think we can trust that quote's accuracy!

      Prof. Carnoy, a Stanford professor, has devoted himself in recent years entirely to the question of exactly how well educated American young people are compared to the rest of the world. And note that he is NOT someone who has staked out an “American schools are failing” position—on the contrary, his Jan. 2013 extensively-researched, data-filled paper sounds almost Somerby-like in its praise of the improvements in YOUNGER American students. So when he says “The problem is at the top. U.S. top students are way behind top students in other countries” I think it's overwhelmingly likely to be a statement supported by a great deal of evidence. So, to you, deadrat, and to KZ, I say that if both the NAEP data and Prof. Carnoy's statement are true, then I've reached a valid conclusion in stating that to have the top US students' performance stagnate for forty years, while top students elsewhere flourished during the same span presents a worrisome problem. (And if the top students in these other countries were ALWAYS vastly superior to the top US students, that's even more worrisome!!)

      Several crucial points: Nowhere did I myself blame our SCHOOLS for this. I merely said it made the “our schools are failing” mantra understandable, since most people would consider the schools the likeliest culprit. Yet it may turn out that it's a non-school cultural issue, or even (dare I say it!) a genetic one. If, as I suspect, many of the top students elsewhere that Carnoy describes as better than ours are in Asian countries, cultural factors could well explain it.

      For example, NYC has two quite famous “elite” high schools that you must take a combination achievement/IQ test to gain entry to. In recent years, the population of the schools has gone from overwhelmingly Jewish to overwhelmingly Asian, largely due to fascinating cultural factors—see an article in the NY Times “For Asians School Tests Are Vital Steppingstones” by Kyle Spencer. Now imagine a country filled with parents like those of the NYC Asian youngsters!

    5. Dare you say it, "genetic ones"? More like you've been dying to say it. Which, if ture indicates the weakness of Caucasian folk intellectually when matched against a Asians, and physically, when matched against the athletic ability of the Negro race. And they sure as heck lack the workplace and reproductive abilities of the mixed breed Latinos.

    6. Good thing for us that we own everything, eh?

  10. CriticalJudgment bases his criticism of Bob Somerby's reporting of NAEP scores (which,by the way, are accurate), focusing only on 12th grade NAEP scores, which really, are the only ones he might possibly use. ANd they are bogus.

    And the NAEP governing board knows it. The NAGB has investigated the 12th grade scores, commissioning a number of studies, most of which came with a set of recommendations. For example, a 2005 paper for NAGB by Jere Brophy and Carol Ames examined 12th-grade motivational issues related to NAEP tests. Most anyone with an ounce of sense knows that motivators at 4th, 8th, and 12th grade are not the same. Those are very different physical, social, emotional and intellectual stages.

    Brophy and Ames clarified it thusly: "it would be important to encourage the students to perceive participating in NAEP as a worthwhile thing to do, to feel that they are acting autonomously when choosing to do so, and to understand the purpose."

    "This is a tall order, given the content of NAEP, the traditional NAEP procedures, and the attitudes of most twelfth graders toward tests and test taking. Consequently, the most direct extrapolations from our motivational analysis favor the negative case (drop twelfth-grade NAEP testing). Neither students nor school personnel are likely to perceive value in NAEP participation. Tests are not intrinsically interesting to most students, and although some may value rewards that successful test performance might bring, they usually do not value the process of test taking itself. This is especially true of high school seniors in their spring term, who are disengaging from the series of evaluation hurdles that is built into our high school culture. Because NAEP does not align with their school’s curriculum and does not lead to feedback that would allow students to improve their school performance levels, and because there are no prospects for rewards either for participating in the assessment or for attaining some qualifying score, there is no rational incentive for students to participate."

  11. By the way, CriticalJudgent, the 12th grade population today is not the same population it was 40 years ago.

  12. Besides a baseless criticism of Bob Somerby over NAEP scores, CriticalJudgment makes a very silly argument about test scores (NAEP or otherwise) and economic competitiveness.

    As I've noted elsewhere, the World Economic Forum evaluates and ranks countries on economic competitiveness each year.  The U.S. was typically ranked 1st or 2nd each year, but recently has started to slide down;  it dropped to 4th last year (2010-11) and to 5th last year (2011-12).

    When the U.S. dropped from 2nd to 4th in 2010-11, four factors were cited by the WEF for the decline:  (1) weak corporate auditing and reporting standards, (2) weak (poor) corporate ethics, (3) big deficits (brought on by Wall Street's financial implosion) and (4) unsustainable levels of debt.  

    More recently, major factors cited by the WEF are a "business community" and business leaders who are "critical toward public and private institutions,"  a lack of trust in politicians and the political process with a lack of transparency in policy-making,  and  "a lack of macroeconomic stability" caused by decades of fiscal deficits, especially deficits and debt accrued over the last decade that "are likely to weigh heavily on the country’s future growth."  

    It's interesting that the WEF cites the top economic competitors –– those ranking higher than the U.S. –– for  efficiency, trust, transparency, ethical behavior, and honesty.

    Corporate "reformers" seem to take absolutely no notice. They're too busy offshoring, lobbying for more tax cuts and give-aways, fighting against transparency in financial dealings, refusing to take any responsibility for their culpability in wrecking the economy, and lying about most all of it while laying the blame on the public schools.

    Much of the mainstream press has been a willing accomplice.


    1. To democracy, who I can safely assume is the author of all three posts that appeared between 7:49AM and 8:03AM Sept.18

      Your two principal points suffer from the same fatal defect: they are completely non-responsive to my argument because both of them deal with AVERAGES, while my focus was exclusively on the top percentiles. So, you may well be correct that the average student's performance as a 12th grader on the NAEP may suffer due to a lack of motivation and so may be dismissible. And you may be right that the competitiveness of the US when taking the whole population into account is not impaired by any lack of proficiency in necessary school-acquired skills. But that's irrelevant because my argument concerned only the best-performing students (and the very special kind of competitiveness they can provide to a country in terms of profound expertise, which usually underpins brilliant innovation) and there my quote from Prof. Carnoy stands unchallenged by you: “The problem is at the top. U.S. top students are way behind top students in other countries”.

      I would love to have attended the seminar that Prof. Carnoy gave, the one where Jill Barshay heard the words she, and I, quoted. I would love to see all the evidence Prof. Carnoy used, and all the analysis of that evidence he did, to arrive at his disturbing conclusion. But pending that, I'm tending to believe that a man of his ample credentials, great conscientiousness and intellect (as evidenced by the Jan. 2013 paper of his I perused), and lack of an “American schools are failing” axe to grind (on the contrary, he's an advocate of the idea that average American students are doing well compared to other countries) is probably correct in his statement, “The problem is at the top. U.S. top students are way behind top students in other countries”.

      Even people who are believers in the United States' moral “exceptionalism” cannot blithely presume that we are exceptional more generally, and particularly should not delude themselves that this country is somehow exempt from transcendent historical forces. Any study of the past shows that the supremacy of all empires is, temporally, very finite indeed. And one factor that hastens the demise is a complacent “everything is fine” attitude—the very one that you are exhibiting, democracy—where all adverse evidence of decline (relative to others) is explained away, and no serious effort is made to rectify the situation until it is far too late.