The world in which we actually live!

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2013

The actual New York Times: For people who don’t like longer posts, we’ll repeat a point made in the long post below.

This excerpt from today’s New York Times was written and edited by functional illiterates. In this passage, Al Baker and Motoko Rich describe New York City’s score gains on the NAEP over the past ten years:
BAKER AND RICH (12/19/13): More than a snapshot of achievement, the scores released Wednesday illuminate overall increases the city’s fourth and eighth graders have made in math and reading since 2003, the year after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office.

For New York City’s fourth graders, the average reading score rose to 216 out of 500 this year, up 10 points from 2003. Nationally, the average fourth-grade reading score rose by four points, to 221. On math tests, the city’s fourth-grade average score rose to 236, up 10 points from 2003; the national score rose by seven points, to 241.

In the past decade, the city has chipped away at an achievement gap with the national average, even as cities with similar proportions of children from low-income families have risen from far lower bases of performance...
We’re told that New York City students have gained ten points in both reading and math. But is that a lot or a little?

Baker and Rich make no attempt to say. Meanwhile, in the hard-copy Times, this boxed sub-headline appears:

“Small but steady improvements in the Bloomberg era.”

Really? Small improvements? By a conventional rule of thumb, a ten-point gain on the NAEP scale is actually rather large—a full academic year. But Baker and Rich give readers no way to assess the size and significance of the gains they report.

You have to be a functional illiterate to write a news report like that. There’s no point in reporting a “ten point gain” if you don’t make any attempt to explain how significant such a gain is.

On the SATs, ten points is a meaningless rounding error. On other scales, it might mean a lot.

How much is ten points on the NAEP scale? Baker and Rich make no attempt to say.

It’s hard to grasp the sheer dysfunction of our elite intellectual culture. That passage in this morning’s Times was composed by functional illiterates.

This is the world in which we all live. This is the real New York Times.

Imagine a report like this: Imagine a report about teacher salaries in Siberia. The report would read like this:
BAKEROFF AND RICHSKI: Teachers in Siberia are receiving their highest pay in years. Last year, starting salaries hit a new high, with first-year teachers being paid 15,000 Eastern Ruble Units per year.

Despite the raise, Siberian teachers complain that they lack a living wage.
From that passage, you would know that salaries went up. But you would have no earthly idea how generous the salaries were.

How much is an Eastern Ruble Unit? You would have no idea!

The value of “15,000 Eastern Ruble Units” would need to be explained. The same is true when we are told that test scores rose “ten points.”

On the SAT, ten points is nothing. How much is ten points on the NAEP?

Illiterate minds at the New York Times don’t seem to want to know.

21 comments:

  1. If you actually go into the mind-numbing stuff, the blogger is also incompetent:

    " For New York City’s fourth graders, the average reading score rose to 216 out of 500 this year, up 10 points from 2003. Nationally, the average fourth-grade reading score rose by four points, to 221. On math tests, the city’s fourth-grade average score rose to 236, up 10 points from 2003; the national score rose by seven points, to 241.

    In the past decade, the city has chipped away at an achievement gap with the national average, even as cities with similar proportions of children from low-income families have risen from far lower bases of performance...

    We’re told that New York City students have gained ten points in both reading and math. But is that a lot or a little?"

    We are told PRECISELY what happened

    Reading rose from 206 out of 500 in 2003 to 216 out of 500 this year.

    Around 5 pct over 10 years is noise really.

    The blogger assumes that his KoolAid drinkers go AMEN on auto-pilot - utterly stupid arguments to score gotcha!s against the target(s) du jour are fine with him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Podesta just used the terrible analogy used here, which tells us about the nature of Democratic enforcers:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/podesta-likens-house-gop-to-jonestown-cult/2013/12/18/e1898444-6815-11e3-a0b9-249bbb34602c_story.html

      December 18, 2013

      Podesta likens House GOP to Jonestown cult
      By David Nakamura - Washington Post

      Delete
    2. Anon 12:01,

      Somerby made the point that 5% is not noise, but rather correlates roughly to a full academic year's worth of learning. Do you wish to dispute that point? Please proceed. (Careful, though--your grasp of statistics seems pretty weak. e.g. "Around 5 pct over 10 years is noise really." That's cute.)

      Delete
    3. b. somerby says,

      “According to Baker and Rich, New York City schools gained ten points in both reading and math during the Bloomberg decade. But would that be a lot or a little?”

      >>> 206 (216-10=206) divided by 500 (500 is the maximum score) is 41.20%. 216 divided by 500 is 43.20%. so the the reading score improved by 2.00% (43.20-41.20).

      226 divided by 500 is 45.2%. 236 divided by 500 is 47.2%. so the math score improved by 2.00% (47.20 -45.20) as well.

      2% divided by 10 (years) is .2% per year.

      .2% is only a little.

      Delete
    4. Cacambo -

      What does one academic year of learning mean? How is it measured?

      Shouldn't the norm be one academic year of learning in ONE year rather than 10 years?

      Forget the blogger - YOU defend the proposition that 5 pct over 10 years is significant.

      Delete
    5. I wont get into the accuracy of your math but, what is the basis for your conclusion that .2% year over year improvement is only a little?

      To determine whether the meaning of the score gains, you need to ask the creators of the NAEP what they mean.

      Thankfully, the creators of the NAEP have answered this question. They have stated that 10 points is equal to roughly 1 academic year.

      Thus, we can conclude that over 10 years, fourth graders have improved their scores by roughly 1 academic year. Putting this in yearly terms, fourth graders have gained 10% of an academic year every year for ten eyars.

      Thus, your .2% actually constitutes 10% of an academic year.

      I think that the fact that NYC fourth graders today are scoring as well as NYC FIFTH graders in 2003 is pretty impressive improvement. Tell me I am wrong.

      Delete
    6. Anon @ 12:59:

      You misunderstand the scoring.

      The improvement of scores by one academic year over the last ten years means that today's fourth graders in NYC are scoring as well as NYC fifth graders did in 2003.

      It is not a measure of the progress of the particular 2003 fourth graders over the last ten years.

      Delete
    7. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2008/2009479.pdf

      "A gain of 10 points is roughly a gain in a year of schooling."

      A gain of a year in schooling for a large number of students over a ten year period has to be considered impressive.

      Delete
    8. If the NYT reporters had done their job, we would be arguing about their their specific claims about the significance of the score gains, not what we kinda, possibly think they might have meant.

      Delete
  2. I read the NYTimes report this morning and was shocked that there was absolutely no way of understanding the data presented, no guidelines presented. I know this has been the case typically, but after all the criticism to still be so perverse is terrible.

    LTR

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    1. Bob, these critiques are invaluable and I always talk to frineds and co-workers about them.

      Leo

      Delete
    2. Explain clearly how the blogger made things more understandable than those awful librulz at the NYT.

      Delete
    3. I respond in substance only to politeness, never to disdain.

      Delete
    4. anon @ 12:15:

      The blogger made things abundantly clear. The 10 point improvement represents an improvement of 1 academic year.

      This, we can conclude that NYC fourth graders today know as much as NYC fifth graders in 2003.

      Delete
    5. Repeating, but why was there no such information in the New York Times report?

      http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2008/2009479.pdf

      "A gain of 10 points is roughly a gain in a year of schooling."

      A gain of a year in schooling for a large number of students over a ten year period has to be considered impressive.

      Delete
  3. I was going to complain that Somerby was engaging in hyperbole, but obviously and unfortunately he was not.

    10 points on the NAEP is equivalent to an academic year (so they say). On the PISA 39 points is equivalent to a grade level -- (it would be acceptable to say 40 points, I think.)

    This information is not a state secret but is available to anyone at all who can type a question into their google browser.

    So yes, the so-called education reporters on the NYT are either incredibly stupid, incredibly lazy, or incredible liars, or all three. - E

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  4. I don't know if "Justintyme"'s calculations are correct but the point is not by what percentage (according to himself) did they improve, but how many points -- according to NAEP's own scale -- equal a grade level. -E

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    1. Right.

      Justintyme's calculations (if accurate) estbalish that fourht grade scores imprved by 2% since 2003. However, that doesnt help us detmiene whetehr they are singificant.

      Justintyme assumes 2% over 10 years is small. But he is wrong. That 2% improvement represents a whole grade level. Today's fourth graders are as smart as 2003's fifth graders. I would claim that that is a substantial improvement.

      Delete
  5. "For New York City’s fourth graders, the average reading score rose to 216 out of 500 this year, up 10 points from 2003. Nationally, the average fourth-grade reading score rose by four points, to 221. On math tests, the city’s fourth-grade average score rose to 236, up 10 points from 2003; the national score rose by seven points, to 241."

    The New York City increases in scores are very impressive. Taking a city of 4th grade students to the equivalent of a 5th grade reading and mathematics level in 10 years is a wonderful accomplishment.

    LTR

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  6. All,

    Statistics are treacherous and can trip up even experienced professionals. You can draw many conclusions from the same data:

    " For New York City’s fourth graders, the average reading score rose to 216 out of 500 this year, up 10 points from 2003. Nationally, the average fourth-grade reading score rose by four points, to 221".


    The national average was 217 in 2003 (221-4) and in ten years NY City still couldn't catch up to where the nation as a whole was in 2003.

    Give that the gap in 2003 was approximately one academic year - it has been brought down to half an academic year (221 - 216) in 10 years.

    Since the rest of the country started from a higher level, their increase (4 points) was less than half of NYC's.

    Was the NY result significant? It could simply be due to more Asian students in the mix. Statistics is best left to professionals - not the blogger, not the NY TImes.

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  7. OMB (The world in which BOB lives)

    "By a conventional rule of thumb, a ten-point gain on the NAEP scale is actually rather large—a full academic year."

    This 10 points = 1 academic year is constantly cited by BOB.

    This 10 points = 1 academic year is never cited by reporters who are thus frequently chided as illiterates by BOB.

    This 10 points = 1 year is parroted through commentary threads by very literate BOBfans who gain their information here rather than from other sources.

    Zarkon would like a link to this mighty rule of thumb.

    Zarkon would be especially happy for a link to prove the wisdom of the Anonymous genius who keeps writing gems like this: "The improvement of scores by one academic year over the last ten years means that today's fourth graders in NYC are scoring as well as NYC fifth graders did in 2003."

    Zarkon would settle for a link showing when fifth graders ever took the NAEP in 2003.


    KZ (On Doom, 4th Graders give their leader a 5th grade "Thumbs Up")

    ReplyDelete