Ripples: Your Daily Howler keeps getting results!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2013

To his credit, Bill Keller backs down: Incomparably, your Daily Howler just keeps getting results!

This morning, right there in the New York Times, Bill Keller starts backing down:
KELLER (11/18/13): The decline of our education system is exaggerated but real, especially in the scientific and technical fields.
Say what? “The decline of our education system is exaggerated?” Where in the world did that come from?

Back in August, Keller was saying this about our K-12 schools. His column that day concerned the new Common Core:
KELLER (8/19/13): This is an ambitious undertaking, and there is plenty of room for debate about precisely how these standards are translated into classrooms. But the Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable.
Say what? Have we experienced “decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education?”

We don’t blame Keller for thinking we have, given all the clueless young people who pose as “education reporters.” But actually, no—we have not experienced such a decline, if our most basic data can be trusted at all.

Here’s what the math scores of black students look like over the past twenty years:
Score gains, black students, 1992-2013
National Assessment of Educational Progress

Grade 4 math: 37.04 points
Grade 8 math: 26.61 points
On the NAEP scale, ten points is often compared to one academic year. We regard that as a very rough rule of thumb. But it’s often applied by “education reporters” when it can be used to spread the gloom about our achievement gaps.

Does that look like an embarrassing decline? On average, our black kids have a long way to go. (Don’t we all? Many black kids are doing brilliantly, of course.) But that doesn’t look like any kind of K-12 “decline” to us.

It looks like major K-12 improvement! Imagine that!

We don’t blame Keller for thinking what he apparently thought. The cluelessness is everywhere in the “mainstream press;” understandably, people like Keller believe what they read. This morning, to his credit, the gentleman starts to back down.

We’ve spent quite a few weeks on various aspects of Amanda Ripley’s ballyhooed book, The Smartest Kids in the World. Scripted people like Ripley have misled people like Keller over the past many years.

This morning, Keller pulls back from that earlier statement! In an exciting new feature called “Ripples,” we’ll do a short post each day right through Thanksgiving, adding to our award-winning review of Ripley’s widely-praised book.

40 comments:

  1. Color me curious. Reading this post one would think the only measure
    of progress and performance of American K-12 education is the performance of black students on the NAEP math test over the years. Can that be correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "One would think" -- or profess to think -- that... if one were a troll.

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    2. I guess a non troll such as yourself can identify some other evidence in this post?

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    3. @ 9:32 and 1:00

      Given that students of every single race and ethnicity showed substantial improvement over the same time period, and that Bob has posted about this improvement several times in the last few weeks, I fail to understand your point.

      You are either a troll, or you can't read, or both.

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    4. I am so sorry. I am a casual reader who was attracted to this blog today by a link involving the race fight between Oprah and the Nation magazine.

      I did not realize the author assumes everyone reads all his previous work and therefore salient facts, like the performance of 90% of the students he does not mention, can be left out.

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    5. Does it seem logical to you that scores for black kids would have improved so dramatically withou the scores for other kids going up as well?

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    6. I am so sorry. I am just a casual troll, er, casual reader!!

      I did not realize thinking was required, er, I mean that the author assumes everyone can think, I mean, er, reads all his previous work.

      Fine, it's true, I'm useless except for clicking a link!

      Delete
    7. Anon. @ 4:10 Does it seem logical that if black kids scored better so did everyone else? No. Explain why that must logically be true. I'd be careful.

      Delete
  2. How is it that Keller says the decline is real, if there is no decline?

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    Replies
    1. How is it that TDH claims this statement as anything other than a reiteration of previous Keller claims?

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  3. @ 9:33 AM: "How is it that Keller says the decline is real, if there is no decline?"

    If that is a sincere question, the answer is that it is a riddle of the Zen master, Bill Keller.

    @9:32 Both black and white scores have risen, especially in math, but black scores, which started from a much lower position, have risen more slowly.

    The decline is not real. It is a lie. What is real is a gap in income and attainment.

    However, that does not mean there is no room for improvement. Our public schools and teachers do need more support. We could start by reforming our health delivery, and public transportation. Funding the the arts, scientific research, public universities, orchestras, and libraries. Also by providing more civil service jobs and reining in real estate and financial speculation and commercialism, especially that directed at children. -E

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    Replies
    1. Yes!! An appropriate number of civil service jobs for eighth graders coupled with strict regulations on hedged derivatives in the futures market for black fourth graders ought to do the trick. Our teachers will perform superbly!

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    2. Thank you Ellen, that was a sincere question. I think Bob is being overly optimistic about interpreting this as a victory. Keller doesn't seem to me to be acknowledging that there is no decline. He seems to be clinging to his previous statement by insisting there is a decline.

      Anon@10:30, do you really not understand that student performance is strongly related to parent income? Ellen is saying we need to fix our economy in order to fix our schools. Your comment isn't funny -- it is very sad, even from a troll.

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    3. Thanks Ellen. I did not know black scores have risen more slowly. I guess unless we fully fund the arts, scientific research, public universities, orchestras, and libraries that gap will keep getting even wider.

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    4. Without the funding Ellen calls for, no one will benefit, white or black.We probably don't want to decrease the gap by making everyone dumber.

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    5. Both white scores and black scores have risen. It is not that black scores have risen more slowly. It is that there was a gap when they started. In fact, black scores have risen quite remarkably since the 1960s. But white scores have also risen during that time. This is good news. However, the black scores are still behind the white scores, although less so than before.

      As for whether that demonstrates black inferiority. The answer is that it does not. When I was young, it was a commonplace that black northern children scored higher on IQ tests than white southern children. For one thing, malnutrition and parasites were big problems in the rural South. Putting vitamin B in bread and corn meal has made a significant difference in intellectual performance. For another, the South has never had a strong tradition of compulsory education, as New England, for example, did from the time of the founding colonies.

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    6. When you growed all up you were still scoring down there at the level of those corn pone eating crackers. At least based on that dumbass response.

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  4. Bob, instead of spending so much time fretting about "all the clueless young people who pose as education reporters" why don't you do a series about Common Core and the enormous controversy it has generated?

    You will find in there the classic debate over role of government, as well as a perfect example of how the right-wing argues with emotion against what should be well-accepted reason based on fact.

    But of course, that wouldn't be as easy as going on for weeks on end about "clueless young people" would it?



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please take note of the purpose of this blog, as stated at the top of the page: "musings on the mainstream 'press corps' and the american discourse."
      In other words, your request is not in the scope of this blog.

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    2. As Bob has discussed previously, improving or changing the standards doesn't matter when there are kids having such difficulty meeting the existing standards. Adopting a new set of tougher standards that they will not be able to meet isn't going to change their lives.

      On the ground, teachers have been adapting to revised cores and new curriculums and improved standards since public education began. They regard this as just the latest fad to come down the Pike. For many teachers it is not going to change what they do in the classroom because that would require a lot of retraining and supervision and that just isn't going to happen given today's financial realities for schools. It IS going to change the tests and there will be new arguments about the scores and the consequences of those scores. So, why discuss Common Core?

      Classic debates over the role of government in education are irrelevant to everyday education of kids. However, these things concern people engaged in political wars a lot, because they care more about making education a proxy for their other political battles than they do about helping children learn.

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    3. Oh, for lordy's sake! The controversy over Common Core is all over the "mainstream press corps." Google it up.

      But I guess the "scope of this blog" is only if has reached the op-ed page of the NYT, or the MSNBC evening gab fests.

      After all, we wouldn't want Somerby taxing his brain too much writing about a huge national controversy that has been flying for quite some time under his rather limited radar.

      That there is a controversy over Common Core at all is a classic example of false equivalence that dominates "mainstream media" in which "both sides" are given equal weight, regardless of evidence.

      For example, the classic "earth is round/earth is flat" followed by the headline "Controversy over earth's shape."

      We also saw that in the whole "birther" debate as well, which required a sitting president of the United States to produce his "long form" birth certificate.

      On one side of Common Core, you have a movement that bubbled up from the states to set a certain "floor" of standards for competency for all high school graduates across the nation.

      On the other side, you have "concerned mothers" who bombard their local school boards about a federal takeover of their kids school, engineered by that commie, Obama.

      Never mind that the federal government and the Department of Education has absolutely nothing to do with Common Core.


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    4. "So, why discuss Common Core?"

      Ummm, because 45 states, both red and blue, have adpoted it and are now implementing it?

      That hardly sounds like a "fad" to me.

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    5. Here today, gone tomorrow, that is the definition of a fad, not how many states adopt it.

      Delete
    6. "On one side of Common Core, you have a movement that bubbled up from the states to set a certain "floor" of standards for competency for all high school graduates across the nation.

      "On the other side, you have "concerned mothers" who bombard their local school boards about a federal takeover of their kids school, engineered by that commie, Obama."

      That is just about as bullshit an "explanation" of where Common Core comes from, why it's supported or opposed, and by whom, as one is likely to find anywhere.

      Delete
  5. "we’ll do a short post each day right through Thanksgiving, adding to our award-winning review of Ripley’s widely-praised book."

    Somebody gave the bone-gnawer an award?

    Citation?

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    1. I do beleive one commenter gave it the Sominex award a few posts back, but that commenter has not awakened from deep sleep to respond here.

      Delete
    2. "that commenter has not awakened"

      For Which Slumber we are eternally grateful. Now if you'd only go check on him and not come back, that would be super!

      Delete
  6. If you want to look at the Common Core, look over at Anthony Cody's blog
    http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/11/the_door_we_open_when_we_defea.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you. Wonderful work.

    Next, you can address the egregious "skills gap" nonsense they're pushing, and after that, the ridiculous "stem worker shortage" they invented.

    My eldest is actually a STEM worker. He hires other STEM workers and he tells me there isn't any STEM employee shortage. He knows how to read and is of normal intelligence so I tend to believe him over Mr. Keller.

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  8. Given the rough rule of thumb, Mr. Somerby, are today's fourth grade black students performing at grade level in math, or are they way above it?

    ReplyDelete
  9. AnonymousNovember 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM
    " changing the standards doesn't matter when there are kids having such difficulty meeting the existing standards. Adopting a new set of tougher standards that they will not be able to meet isn't going to change their lives."
    Adopting standards which they are incapable of meeting certainly qualifies as a significant change, hm ? This is called frustrating and discouraging effort, not encouraging it.
    New challenges are arriving regardless.
    http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2013/1114/Multitasking-What-a-professor-knows-that-students-don-t

    ReplyDelete
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