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, 1992-2013On 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.
National Assessment of Educational Progress
Grade 4 math: 37.04 points
Grade 8 math: 26.61 points
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.