The latest sorry example: We’re often amazed by the education reporting in the Washington Post.
Thursday produced the latest example. Education reporter Emma Brown published a news report bearing this headline:
“Critics of D.C. education policies question test score gains.”
Test score gains are always subject to (competent) challenge, of course. That said, we were struck by the part of Brown’s report which we've posted below.
In this passage, Brown refers to Ellen Weiss, one of the “education advocates” who says the District’s test score gains overstate the actual progress:
BROWN (7/10/14): The District made the largest gains in the country on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, supporting the gains that city leaders announced on the 2013 CAS. But Weiss—echoing D.C. Council members, D.C. activists and others—said the NAEP gains masked growing achievement gaps and were driven by demographic change as city schools enrolled more high-scoring white students.Maybe Brown is misstating what Weiss said. But as basic journalism, that’s grossly incompetent work, though it’s par for the course at the Post.
Have D.C.’s score gains on the NAEP been “driven by demographic change as city schools enrolled more high-scoring white students?” That certainly could be the case for the District’s overall test scores.
But NAEP test scores are easily broken down by race and income levels. Here are some average scores in recent years for Washington’s black students:
Grade 8 math, NAEPOn their face, those are large score gains. Those average scores haven’t been inflated by the enrollment of “high-scoring white students.” Those are the average scores of D.C.’s black students only.
District of Columbia, black students only
While we’re at it, these are the average scores for low-income black students—for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch:
Grade 8 math, NAEPThose score gains are slightly larger.
District of Columbia, low-income black students only
For the record, those scores include students from all D.C. schools, including the city’s many charters. The score gains within “DCPS”—the traditional public schools—were almost as large.
Emma Brown is one of the Post’s regular education reporters. It’s stunning to see her report Weiss’s claim without providing these basic data, which are stunningly easy to access.
And yet, this sort of reporting is found in the Washington Post all the time. As we’ve often demonstrated, this is completely typical of the Post’s education reporting.
We live in a wild, unlettered land! On even the most basic level, competent journalism is virtually non-existent within our strange, wild land.
What sorts of academic gains may be occurring within the D.C. schools? We can’t answer that question for you.
But are Washington’s score gains on the NAEP “driven by demographic change as city schools enrolled more high-scoring white students?”
It’s hard to know why a competent person would make that claim. It’s even harder to know why the Washington Post keeps publishing incompetent work of familiar type.
This is the familiar norm at the Post. We live in a wild, lawless land.
For all relevant data: All these data can be accessed through the so-called NAEP Data Explorer.
Click here, then click on “MAIN NDE.” At that point, you must agree to the stated terms. From there, you’re on your own.
Funny, isn’t it? The National Center for Educational Statistics makes a wealth of data available. Education reporters at our leading “newspapers” almost never use them.