Concerning black kids’ math scores: Saturday morning’s front-page report brought us right out of our chairs.
Lyndsey Layton reported a strange proposal. Twenty civil rights organizations want to establish a child’s constitutional right to annual standardized testing.
We aren’t constitutional scholars ourselves, but that sounds fairly wacky. Beyond that, we thought Layton did the usual fuzzy job reporting the objections some experts were raising to something or other, apparently to the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
(Everything Professor Orfield said was true. But what did his comments have to do with that use of test scores?)
Whatever! Even as Layton was creating confusion in several parts of her report, Danielle Paquette was butchering this news report about the gender income gap, misapplying that “78 cents on the dollar” statistic.
But then, what else is new? Again and again, this is what happens when big newspapers work with basic statistics.
Mistakes were made! That said, breaking news seemed to emerge in Layton’s front-page report:
Breaking! The Washington Post is aware, at least in general terms, of the rise in black kids’ math scores! We can’t swear this was ever entirely clear before this.
It’s very hard to get big newspapers to report or analyze such encouraging facts. Major elites of the right, the left and the corporate world all seem to have a stake in saying our public schools stink.
(The corporate elite and the right want to push for privatization. The left wants to push for additional funding.)
Perhaps for this reason, newspapers like the Post have broken their backs, down through the years, to keep the public from hearing about the substantial score gains in reading and math which have been achieved by black and Hispanic kids.
On Saturday, Layton let the news slip, albeit in dampened form. This passage appeared about halfway through her report. Katie Haycock is president of The Education Trust, a major advocacy group:
LAYTON (4/11/15): Haycock credits annual testing and No Child Left Behind with a modest rise in math scores among black and Hispanic students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test administered by the federal government across the country every two years.Say what? If we’re reading that passage correctly, black and Hispanic kids have recorded “a modest rise” in math scores on the NAEP over the past dozen years. And they made even greater score gains in the years before that!
“The suggestion that No Child Left Behind destroyed American education is absolutely not borne out,” Haycock said at a gathering of the country’s top state education officials two weeks ago.
But black and Hispanic students made even greater gains on the NAEP before No Child Left Behind took effect.
To us, that seems like a breakthrough. The public almost never hear about the constant score gains American kids have recorded on the NAEP, the federal program everyone regards as the “gold standard” of educational testing.
As we’ve told you again and again, our big newspapers will always note the gap in scores between white and black kids on the NAEP. But they devoutly avoid reporting the gains these groups have been recording.
On Saturday, Layton acknowledged the gains by black and Hispanic kids! To our ear, even that throwaway passage had the feel of a breakthrough in Post reporting.
By the way: Does it sound like the score gains in math may be fairly substantial? According to Layton, black kids have made “modest” gains in the past dozen years, tacked on to larger gains in the years before that!
To us, it sounds like the overall gains might be fairly substantial. At some point, wouldn’t a newspaper like the Post want to do a full-blown report about the size of these gains?
Not likely! Tomorrow, we’ll show you what the score gains in Grade 8 math actually look like, dating to 1990. To us, the pattern of gains is a bit hard to square with Layton’s description.
We don’t know why Layton reported these gains in the way she did. But we’re going to guess that the Washington Post has no current plans to tell its readers about this important topic. Neither does the New York Times.
Here in Baltimore, we see terrific kids every day. Our big papers seem to love to deny these kids their due.
Have you ever heard a peep of protest from our fiery “liberal” leaders? Tomorrow, we’ll compare black kids’ gains in Grade 8 math to Layton’s somewhat grudging description.