Connecticut is for spinners: Last week, Jay Mathews analyzed Diane Ravitch’s eleven solutions for public schools. He focused on just seven.
We love, but also dislike, Jay’s upbeat approach to such matters. We’d planned to start with his piece this week, but Fort Lee madness intruded.
We want to say good things about Ravitch. We plan to say such things in the future.
But we’re not sure we’ve ever seen someone with such a wanton approach to even the most basic facts. This remarkable, characteristic behavior shines a real light on our culture.
At issue is this recent blog post. As she starts, Ravitch challenges the latest offering by Michelle Rhee:
RAVITCH (1/14/14): StudentsFirst Issues Another Ludicrous State Report CardWe’re willing to assume that Rhee’s report is ludicrous, or something like it. But so is Ravitch’s listing of the three highest-scoring states.
StudentsFirst, the organization created by Michelle Rhee to promote her ideas about fixing schools by high-stakes testing and choice, has issued its second state-by-state report card.
The highest scoring states are not those whose students have the highest achievement on NAEP; that would be Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
No, the highest scoring states are those that do what Rhee did in D.C., the nation’s lowest-scoring district on NAEP...
Why is the world would someone say that Connecticut is one of the three top states? Consider where those three states ranked in Grade 8 math on the 2013 NAEP:
In Massachusetts, white students ranked first among their counterparts in the fifty states. So did black students. Hispanic students ranked eleventh.
In New Jersey, those three student groups ranked second, second and first among the fifty states.
In Connecticut? White students ranked ninth in the nation. (Hold on—there’s a catch!) That said, black students ranked only 25th in the nation—and Hispanic students ranked at the bottom. They ranked 45th out of the 46 states which had a sufficient sample.
What’s the catch about the white students? Connecticut is a high-income state. If we only consider low-income white kids, Connecticut ranked only 28th among the fifty states.
(In Grade 4 math, things look even worse. Connecticut’s black kids ranked 39th. Its Hispanic students again ranked 45th.)
In fairness, Connecticut scored better in reading. Still, it’s hard to see why you’d want to rank the Nutmeg State in the way Ravitch did.
By the way, how did Texas do in Grade 8 math? Its national rankings were 4, 4 and 3 for the three major student groups. (The state scored less well in reading.)
At present, Ravitch is the foremost educational expert in the liberal world. And yet, she is constantly making peculiar factual claims of this type.
Often, it seems she has her thumb on the scale to serve an ideological purpose. It’s astounding to see the way this goes on again and again and again.
The United States, a global power, is a nation of 315 million people. But so what? Again and again, basic facts play almost no role in our public discussion, even at the very top of our script- and spin-ridden discourse.
Next week, we’re going to say good things about Ravitch. Having said that, let us also said this:
Our intellectual/journalistic culture is deeply, profoundly broken. We're talking about very basic stuff here, but the puzzling claims never cease.
For all state comparisons on the NAEP, just click here.