Our series resumes tomorrow:
Last week, we began a multi-week series, Where the Test Scores Are.

As the series proceeds, we'll explore the apparent state of educational achievement in American public schools, as indicated by our most reliable international and domestic testing programs.

We'll also review the woeful journalism which persists, in our upper-end press corps, about the state of American public schools. This week, we'll turn to our one reliable domestic testing program as we explore the following theme:

Where the NAEP Scores Are.

Tomorrow, we'll start with this peculiar piece from yesterday's Washington Post. It drove the same old story-lines about our embarrassing, horrible schools.

Does its author, or the Post's editors, even know where the NAEP scores are? Or is it just the same old story: narrative all the way down?


  1. I know. "It drove the same old story-lines about our embarrassing, horrible schools."
    I know Finland, Poland, Estonia etc. etc.
    But please address this-
    "On the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, 46 percent of white fourth graders across the country read at or above “proficient,” compared with just 18 percent of their black peers. And 51 percent of white fourth graders were at or above proficient in math, compared with 19 percent of black fourth graders." NYTimes 9/8/2016

    IOW LESS THAN HALF the 4th graders in the U.S. are "proficient" readers (assuming proficient means something like "reasonably good." Is that possible??

    1. Years ago, when the nation was focused on literacy as a problem, researchers said that 25% of adults cannot read and 50% are marginal readers (less than 8th grade level). They said that 75% of the men in prison were illiterate, suggesting they had few career options to compete with crime. Many had undiagnosed reading disabilities.

      Somerby has addressed this before, most recently by discussing SES class differences in how parents interact with babies in the first year of life. Poor kids are also much less likely to attend a high quality preschool. When most learning happens before kids get to school, there is a limit to what remediation can do, which accounts for much of the gap (given that members of minority groups are more likely to be low SES).

      Disadvantaged kids from cultures where parents are ill-equipped to nurture literacy (e.g., where literacy has been systematically discouraged for centuries) also experience problems at home that make it harder for them to benefit from schooling. This includes truancy, untreated health problems, disruption due to moving, lack of access to school materials, books & computers in the home, lack of first-hand life experience with what is being discussed in class, pressure to work in family businesses or take care of siblings, poor role models and lack of supervision, lack of cultural support for school-related achievement, etc. There are forces at home that are working against what is being done in school.

      Poverty (low SES) and membership in certain cultures is strongly correlated with lack of school achievement independent of teaching/school quality.

      There are any number of good books written about this. This is not rocket science.

      No one blames a doctor when a patient who smokes gets lung cancer. Schools cannot undo what is done by parents, cultural forces and poverty outside the school. Teachers work hard and do a lot of good for many children. The gaps remain and are intransigent because our society does not have the will to address this problem, just as it does not have the will to address poverty any more, despite years of demonstrated improvement during Democratic administrations since LBJ declared his war on poverty. Kids do better when their parents do better. They also do better when they get a good start during the first five years of their lives. We know what to do. We don't do it because education is a political battleground and our schools are not given uniform, reliable and consistent, sufficient resources to perform their work.

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