Supplemental: Public school propaganda again!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2014

The Post manufactures consent:
Over at the Washington Post, the disinformation about public schools pretty much never stops.

A piece in yesterday’s Outlook section just kept pouring it on.

James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley touched all the mandated bases. They talked up Teach for America, charter schools in general and the KIPP charter network in particular. They complained about “the dumbing down of academic standards and an overemphasis on political correctness.”

As they closed their piece, they blasted “the shameful state of our primary and secondary schools.” But in the following passage, they got specific about our schools in a way which is easy to challenge:
PIERESON AND RILEY (10/26/14): Which brings us to the real hole in the debate over income inequality in this country: the problems plaguing our K-12 education system. Fifty years ago, it was possible for a child to grow up in a home where neither parent had a college degree, and still attend a decent public school, go to college and become a professional. Seventy-five years ago, it was possible to grow up in a home where no one spoke English and still attend a decent public school, go to college and join the middle (if not upper) class. Despite the quotas that were in place, making it difficult for racial and ethnic minorities to attend the most elite schools, state colleges were well within reach and provided a rigorous education for working-class kids. A high school graduate knew how to read, write and perform basic math. Any college professor will tell you that’s not always the case anymore.
It was so much better back then! High school graduates had much better academic skills! You can ask any college professor!

Without any doubt, plenty of low-income kids are doing poorly in school. But according to our most reliable data, students today are performing better in reading and math than their counterparts forty years back.

If you “disaggregate” test scores—if you break the student population up into its demographic groups—kids today are doing much better than in 1971.

We’ve run through these basic facts a million times by now. Presumably, everyone actually knows these facts. That includes Piereson and Riley and the relevant editors at the Post.

Where are we getting our data? We’re referring to the basic data which have emerged from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the federal testing program which began in 1971.

The NAEP isn’t our favorite hobby-horse. Everyone regards the NAEP as the “gold standard” of domestic testing—as “the nation’s report card.”

NAEP data are relentlessly used by educational researchers and education reporters alike. That said, it’s as we’ve told you for all these years:

Everybody swears by the NAEP. But nobody is willing to tell you what the NAEP data show!

In this case, it’s Piereson and Riley who are making familiar claims which can’t be squared with results from the NAEP. As always, the Washington Post is providing a platform for the pro-“reform” propaganda.

It’s stunning to see the way the Post does this without a peep from the liberal world. Consider one especially audacious part of the latest brainwashing.

As they continue from the passage above, Piereson and Riley quote research by Stanford’s Sean Reardon.

What they say in the following passage is true. Below, we’ll show you what they chose to leave out:
PIERESON AND RILEY (continuing directly): Today, for most low-income kids, college is merely a fantasy. If you finish high school, you are probably unprepared to attend a good four-year university, even if you could get in. And if you do, you will probably need multiple remedial courses. About half of students entering the California State University system do, for instance.

According to 2011 research by Sean Reardon of Stanford University: “The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years.” One of the factors Reardon points to is greater residential segregation by income, noting that such divisions are “closely linked to school-attendance patterns.”
According to Reardon’s research, the achievement gap has been growing between students from low-income and high-income families.

(Warning: Reardon is talking about genuinely affluent families, not the mere middle-class.)

To the extent that Reardon’s research is right, that’s an undesirable fact. But uh-oh! In April 2013, Reardon discussed this very research in a lengthy piece in the New York Times. When he did, he made a point of debunking the claim the propagandists are making:
REARDON (4/27/13): The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.

Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.

The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s.
The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.
Duh! When Reardon discussed this research, he explicitly rejected a certain “myth.” It’s the very myth the propagandists were peddling in yesterday’s Post, cherry-picking Reardon’s findings to serve their disgraceful ends.

Citing the NAEP, Reardon specifically noted the overall rise in academic performance. Cherry-picking Reardon, the propagandists sold you the opposite tale.

In this morning’s New York Times, we read about the brave young teacher who intervened in last week’s school shooting. But on the cover of Time magazine, we’re treated to the latest dramatic attack on our “rotten apple” teachers.

Yesterday, Piereson and Riley kept pouring it on, enabled by the Washington Post. This prompts a key point about gatekeepers:

In one way, our gatekeepers are long gone, as we discussed last week. Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley no longer sift the things we’re all permitted to hear.

In another important way, we’re surrounded by hidden gatekeepers. They peddle disinformation of a type the plutocrats favor. With their stunning message discipline, they misinform the whole nation.

The Washington Post keeps dragging these people out to disinform us about public schools. Mixing her cocktails and playing her games, Rachel Maddow just keeps looking away.

(On the brighter side, she is paid $7 million per year for all the entertainment and silence.)

“Manufactured consent,” Noam Chomsky calls it. Yesterday morning, the process was audaciously played out again, right before our eyes.

32 comments:

  1. The biggest obstacle to low income kids who want to go to a state college is tuition and fees. These have risen so dramatically that students cannot self-finance their education any more by working their way through school. The only alternative is high interest loans (7%+) that they or their parents will be encumbered with for decades to come, especially if they wish to pursue a low-paying career (like teaching), as many minority kids do, motivated by a desire to work toward social justice. Today's youth must mortgage their future in order to have any hope of participating in the middle class. That is what these articles about education should be saying.

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  2. Howler readers would rather wrestle over Palin fight tapes than discuss educational gains of black kids.

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    1. I wouldn't confuse Howler readers with trolls. Most people don't read the comments and of the ones that do, most never leave a comment. So you cannot generalize from the comments back to the readership. But you know that -- you just wanted to say something negative about this blog.

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    2. Really? You got data about the number of Howler readers left, and their reading/commenting habits?

      Love to see it. Been trying to find some, but TDH traffic has fallen so low, Alexa no longer tracks it.

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    3. 6:54 can simply employ his/her clairvoyance to come up with the answer, just as he/she knows what most people do and that "you know that".

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    4. 5:30 can simply employ his/her clairvoyance to know that Howler readers would rather wrestle over Palin fight tapes than discuss educational gains of black kids. But you knew that.

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    5. 5:30 could count.

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  3. I really wonder about these tests. My father-in-law was a decent, but not outstanding student. He never went to college. He worked as a draftsman. My wife found some old high school essays of his that didn't all get A's, circa 1927. To us, his essays looked worthy of a college student today. So, what should I believe: the NAEP tests or my lying eyes?

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    1. You mean your fingers and your mouth aren't your only lying body parts?

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    2. There is a reason why college professors grade essays and not actuaries.

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    3. It is not very scientific to look at one essay from one student at one school at some specific time period and try to generalize about nation wide academic progress. It makes a lot of sense to at least try to quantify what is going on. It does not help you to understand to discard the only tool you have to make a judgement.

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  4. OMB (Cherry Picking and Grinnin with Boxcar BOB)

    So today we have BOB making an accusation of cherry picking because two op-ed writers quote a professor's study accurately from 2011 but left out something he said two years later in a different article.

    This from the same saint of journalistic accuracy who deliberately left out parts of the same sentence in his last post to make it appear worse than it was.

    OK BOB. Let's see what you and the Professor left out.

    "Where are we getting our data? We’re referring to the basic data which have emerged from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the federal testing program which began in 1971,"
    says BOB establishing his authority. Then he quotes Professor Reardon is an effort to use NAEP data to "dispel myths."

    "The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation." Professor Reardon, quoted by BOB to prove cherry picking.

    There is just one problem here. The NAEP has never tested 11 year olds. Never. Ever. There is no way you can compare today's 9 year old test scores to the scores of 11 year olds who never took the test.

    But BOB, who proved he is slicker than a polecat when inventing cherries about Poles and their test scores, committed a bigger Howler with the earlier part of the quote he chose to highlight:

    "In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s."

    No BOB, and no Professor Reardon, they haven't.

    Test scores in reading for 17 years olds, you know, the kids who are finishing their time in our public school system, are statistically the same today as they were in 1971. Test scores for white students are statistically the same as they were in 1975. Between 1975 and 1988 there were were significant reading test score gains for both black and Hispanic 17 year olds. But since that time there have been no such significant gains. None.

    But what about math, you ask? (Probably not. At this point you are checking the color of Maddow's clown shoes as you plummet beside her off the GW Bridge).

    The average 17 year old's test score showed a modest 7 point improvement from 1978, the year of the first math test, to 1992.
    In the last twenty years they have fallen a point. White kids? Hispanics, Blacks? The former showed modest improvements from 1978 to 1992, but no significant gains since. Minority kids showed big gains until 1992, but no significant gains since.

    What does this mean? It means BOB can present this quote knowing it is true:

    "according to our most reliable data, students today are performing better in reading and math than their counterparts forty years back."

    But he cannot say the kids nearing completion of their elementary and secondary schooling are showing any statistically significant improvement at all in the last half of those forty years. None.

    And that is what BOB leaves out. He is, dear readers, a very dishonest reporter of education testing facts.

    "

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    1. One would think that gains at age 9 that are lost by age 17 would raise some very serious questions in the mind of a serious analyst of data.

      What is happening to these kids between 9 and 17? And the answer may not be just the education system.

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    2. No matter how many times these questions are addressed, KZ keeps coming back with them, as if raising them for the first time, as if no one had responded. This wastes everyone's time, especially since KZ has no sincere interest in kids but seeks only to harm Somerby.

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    3. So it doesn't bother you that Somerby cherry-picks one standardized test out of many and calls that the "gold standard" then further cherry-picks the data within that one test until he gets the result he wants?

      Of course it doesn't bother you. It beats thinking for yourself.

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    4. Good morning Anon @ 8:32 AM. What questions have been addressed? By whom?

      Can you explain how 9 year olds can score as well as 11 year olds from a previous generation on a test that 11 year olds never took?

      Can you explain why, when 17 year olds taking the NAEP long term trends test showed no significant improvement over the last twenty years, BOB uses progress from the forty years ago as his standard?

      We are happy to note that the long term trends test has shown progress for kids aged 9 and 13 in the last eight years after a period of stagnation. Perhaps that will be reflected among 17 year olds taking the Gold Standard test in years to come. It has not to date. Anyone who prides themselves on insisting on high standards of "journalistic proof" in others should admit that simple fact instead of ignoring it, excusing it away, presenting other statistics in their juciest form, then accusing others of cherry picking.

      Finally, can you explain why you think we have less interest in children than BOB? He has none. We do.

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    5. There you go again.

      Have you forgotten that four decades ago, Bob taught kids before he left the classroom to further their interests through stand-up comedy?

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    6. We have not forgotten. Which is why we remember that while BOB was immersed in fighting the gap, Al Gore was taking the initiative to create as a young scribe from an Ivy college working in our most corrupt and elite guild.

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    7. @8:50 -- Somerby explained why he uses NAEP data and why OTHERS who are not him also prefer that test as a measure of student progress in the US. Choosing something is not the same as "cherry picking," a favorite term that suggests you are KZ again, despite using the Anonymous name. Cherry picking is the selective use of data to confirm or support a particular point. Selecting a test as the best available measure and then looking at the results is not cherry picking. If you think some other test is better, present your arguments. You cannot, because you are not an expert on education, have no idea about such measurements, have no reason to suggest any other test would show any different results, and exist only to attack Somerby -- no matter what he says or how he says it.

      Suggesting that Somerby has no interest in kids is just silly. If you had any sincere interest in kids yourself, you would be doing something useful to benefit them, like teaching or even babysitting, instead of devoting your waking hours to attacking some guy on the internet.

      There was an interesting book on standup comedians a few years back that suggested their motives for doing comedy are to help others by making them laugh, introducing humor into their lives. Most see themselves as serving the public in an important way, making lives better. That is entirely consistent with the service impulse of most teachers and many standups are former teachers, not just Somerby.

      You wish to portray someone who changes careers as a failure in both. That is ridiculous. The large majority of teachers leave the profession, half within the first 4 years. It is hard working with kids. Somerby's 10 years are longer than normal (average is 5 years before leaving, less in urban schools).

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    8. @ 11:34

      Gack! We hoped for a better response. Alas.

      ""cherry picking," a favorite term that suggests you are KZ again" @ 11:34

      "Cherry-picking Reardon, the propagandists sold you the opposite tale." Bob Somerby

      By your logic, Bob is KZ.

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    9. "If you had any sincere interest in kids yourself, you would be doing something useful to benefit them, like teaching or even babysitting, instead of devoting your waking hours to attacking some guy on the internet."

      Isn't it just amazing that a person who also spends precious waking hours defending his favorite blogger can make all sorts of presumptions about how others spend their waking hours and what they truly care about?

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    10. What you care about is obvious in what you choose to mock.

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    11. Oh fuck, KZ still exists???? This cannot be the best of all possible worlds.

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    12. Of course it can't. Carol Costello ruined it.

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  5. The fact that someone didn't go to college circa 1927 says nothing about the person's brains or learning.

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    1. Median years of schooling in 1920 were 8, high school graduation rate was 25%. However, I think the fact that someone didn't go to college does say something about their learning -- people who go to college tend to learn more. Maybe that wasn't what you meant to say?

      https://www.russellsage.org/sites/all/files/Fischer_Hout_Tables%20Figures.pdf

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  6. Good to see Laura Zamora is not a robot.

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  7. Bob's free trial for the robot screener seems to have expired.

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  8. The reappearance of the spellcasters suggests that
    what seems to be in your mind could also be an implication others might possibly infer. But perhaps not. Nothing ynallyaM tells us differently.

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