Supplemental: Education reporting in the Post!

SATURDAY, JULY 12, 2014

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, NAEP
District of Columbia, black students only

2013: 260.70
2011: 256.09
2009: 249.07
On 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.

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, NAEP
District of Columbia, low-income black students only

2013: 256.70
2011: 251.54
2009: 244.67
Those score gains are slightly larger.

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.

41 comments:

  1. Because of the growth of charter schools in DC, it can be tricky to keep track of the District’s test scores. Over the years, a lot of kids have migrated from DC’s traditional public schools into DC’s charter schools.

    These transfers aren’t occurring at random. As liberals have noted in other contexts, the kids who choose to transfer to charters may be more ambitious and serious, on average, than the kids they leave behind in traditional public schools.

    Let’s consider the reading scores of black fourth graders in the city’s traditional public schools. In fact, there has been a minor gain over the period in question:

    Average reading score, Grade 4 NAEP

    Black students, DC traditional public schools only

    2013: 192.42
    2007: 191.24

    Within the traditional public schools, the average score was a little more than one point higher in 2013.

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    1. Yes, reading scores are harder to improve than math scores across the board. Reasons for that were discussed here last month. It still seems like a valid criticism that the math improvement was ignored, in my opinion.

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    2. How do you know math improvement was ignored?

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    3. How does anyone know fourth grade reading was not ignored?

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    4. Because the article stated that score improvements were related to an influx of white students when the author could have disaggregated the data and observed that the scores improved for black kids too, separate from white kids. Failure to do that ignores that the improvement in scores for black kids was real, not an anomaly of the changing racial demographics in Washington DC schools.

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    5. The article didn't say it. The article quoted someone making the charge about the impact of white students on test scores. The person making the charge had a lot more to say, but Somerby disappeared that. If the reporter should have decided on her own to refute the charges rather than relying on DCPS officials to do so, then the blogger could have given an accurate picture of the article. As usual, he did not.

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    6. Excerpting is not. "disappearing". If the portion not quoted went on to deal with Somerby's criticism, I am sure you would have included it in your comment. Why didn't you?

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    7. The bulk of the critique and the article about the critique of DC schools was not about NAEP. Go read it your own lazy self. Your pedantic blogger wants the reporter to write a report on data from NAEP when that was not the point of the activity which sparked coverage.

      This is another sorry example of Bob disappearing facts to support a meme.

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    8. He isn't objecting to the bulk of the story is he? He is objecting to the specific statement that the score increases were caused by a shift in demographics in the school district. He supports his criticism using NAEP data. Is he wrong? If so, supply data to refute his point. If he is not wrong, it doesn't matter what the rest of the article was about. YOU made the criticism of Somerby -- YOU support it or shut up.

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    9. If Bob can cherry pick a tree from the forest I can point out he ignored the forest. YOU can read the whole article rather than have me recount it for you.

      That way you can think for yourself.

      BTW, ever notice how 8th grade math has become Bob's favorite? I think an earlier comment indicated why he steer clear of other grades and subject.

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    10. He may not have any problem with the rest of the article.

      If you are suggesting that he is using 8th grade figures to make a point that is untrue, please show your data. Otherwise, stop insinuating that Somerby is being dishonest.

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    11. No insinuation was intended. Simple facts were stated.

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    12. You have not stated any facts.

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    13. You haven't read the original article much less the report on which it was based, which was the basis of the facts stated:

      1) The article did not say score improvement were related to white students as you originally claimed to be a fact.
      The article quoted someone who made the statment as part of a report which concerned other things Bob disappeared.

      2) Bob's criticism is for the reporter's failure, on her own, to examine the veracity of the claim of the person being quoted.

      3) If Bob expected, as a practice of journalism, that the reporter should have independently evaluated the veracity of one of many claims, then Bob, as a practice of good journalism, should have given an accurate report of what the whole article was about.

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    14. 10:35 AM: "He isn't objecting to the bulk of the story is he?"

      Actually, he isn't objecting just to the bulk of this story. He is also objecting to ALL education reporting in the Washington Post. To wit:

      "Supplemental: Education reporting in the Post!
      SATURDAY, JULY 12, 2014

      "The latest sorry example: We’re often amazed by the education reporting in the Washington Post.

      "Thursday produced the latest example."

      So please, let's not pretend that Somerby objects only to a single, brief passage in that story.

      Like all cult leaders, he is telling his camp followers not to trust anybody but himself with the "Truth."

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    15. I know I never trust anyone who fails to give a complete
      accounting of three rounds of NAEP test scores for eighth grade math disaggregated by race when writing about education.

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    16. As I said, being excessively literal is a sign of mental illness or brain injury.

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    17. That is virtually true.

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  2. Please, never forget liberal world’s indifference to the interests of low-income children.


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  3. If you're the blogger -- and you certainly are a carbon copy, language-wise and everything -- it's unethical to sign in as "anonymous."

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    1. If you are referring to @12:37, it also sounds like some of KZ's criticism. Here, the commenter complains that the blogger has used math scores instead of reading (which show much less increase), a complaint KZ made a while back when he kept asserting that Somerby cherry-picks his data.

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    2. I intended it to be a reply to 2:20.

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    3. If you are anonymous, it's unethical to sign on as an urban legend.

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    4. Anybody got a link to the Blog Commentary Code of Conduct?

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    5. They are right next to the Marquis de Somerby Rules of Proper Political Etiquette.

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    Replies
    1. Dr. Brave cares more about children than TDH readers.

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    2. Dr Brave has never shown any concern for TDH readers.

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  5. Any of you read Dowd today? Get ready for a BOBgasm.

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    1. I'll get to it when I finish watching reruns of Rachel touching herself. You wouldn't believe how fantastic it is in black and white.

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    2. Well, Media Matters is already all over this, and without the sexist snark Somerby will predictably add, as well as questioning the condition of Dowd's mental health. (Did I say Bob is rather predictable?)

      Now I'm not saying in any way shape or form that this question is valid. But Dowd asks: "Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?"

      Hmmmmm, of how many of his preferred targets has Bob asked the same question?

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    3. By the way, Bob promised us a look at the "anthropologist" James Fallows, who answeered the "Why on earth is she worth that much money" question some 20 years ago in "Breaking the News."

      We live in a celebrity culture. The mere fact of being famous attracts cash.

      Focusing like a laser beam rather than flailing around, Fallows how every person who was a regular or semi-regular on the seminal "McLaughlin Group" -- the show that really invented the "shout show" format, and even launched the TV career of Chris Matthews and others -- could command well into five-figure fees on the lecture circuit, and write books that would become immediate best-sellers.

      They were, much to the lament of Fallows, part of a new, rising class of "celebrity journalists" who could easily cash in on their face time on a lightly watched show on PBS.



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    4. The only difference between Bob and Dowd as it relates to the practice of sneering insults about age and money, is that unlike Dowd, Bob is not hypocritical when expressing concern about the excess intake, just selective.

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    5. What did become of Fallows? Also "Hoover and Hostin, with Erin Burnett (reported net worth, $12 million)"?

      It has been a couple of weeks. Krystal Ball is monumentally important, but I am eager to know how cable's Burnett is going to catch up to NBC's Chelsea Clinton in net worth.

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    6. Yes, but since Bob doesn't rake it in himself, it would be impossible for Bob to be hypocritical about the swag other people make.

      But it would be rather inconsistent, to say the least, to worry about the money that only certain elitely educated children of privilege are able to command.

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    7. "What did become of Fallows?"

      Who knows? My guess is that it was another fleeting thought that crossed Bob's fertile mind, but quickly forgotten as he launched the important "War on Krystal" in defense of Western Civilization as we know it.

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    8. After reading Dowd's latest column, I too question her mental health.

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    9. Did she take things literally in excess?

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  6. Very often students write tests only for sores, not for knowledge. I'm not sure that student with high tests score will build successful career, as it's very easy to learn something, write tests and forget that knowledge next day. Also there is a tendency when students get bulk essays for money online and don't write essays, get good scores and get no skills. So it means they or their parents just wasted money and time, very clottish..

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