EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS: Why haven't they all been frog-marched away?

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2019

Extraordinary reporting:
As you can probably tell, we could talk about Erica Green's front-page report for weeks.

We refer to Green's recent report in the New York Times about the latest Little Low-Income School That Could—the new I Promise School in Akron, an experimental elementary school which is being substantially (and generously) funded by NBA star LeBron James.

Green's report was so instructively awful that we could discuss it for weeks. For today, let's focus on a basic question:

Why haven't they all been frog-marched away?

We probably refer to Green herself, but we definitely refer to her editors. It was Green's editors who waved paragraph 3 into print, perhaps rewriting it as they did. That paragraph seems to contain a very large, loudly howling misstatement:
GREEN (4/13/19): This time last year, the students at the school—Mr. James’s biggest foray into educational philanthropy—were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating.
According to that paragraph, the students at the I Promise School "were identified [last year] as the worst performers in the Akron public schools." This apparently bogus claim sets up the narrative arc of Green's "news report," in which, in familiar old fashion, The Bad News Bears Knock It Out of the Park at Their Amazing New Low-Income School.

People like Green have been typing that story since the day time began. There's probably a version of this tale in The Iliad, though our analysts haven't been able to take the time to check.

Last year, the students at the I Promise School were Akron's worst performers! Green's editors waved that claim into print, even though it seems to be blatantly wrong. We base that upon the statement which appears much later, in paragraph 23:
GREEN: I Promise students were among those identified by the district as performing in the 10th to 25th percentile on their second-grade assessments. They were then admitted through a lottery.
Twenty paragraphs later, we seem to be told that kids performing below the 10th percentile were excluded from the lottery for this new school. For reasons we explained yesterday, we'll guess that means that as many as the bottom twenty percent of Akron's "worst performers" were excluded from this exciting new school.

This would mean that the kids at this school weren't the worst performers! It would mean that they weren't even close.

Based on paragraph 23, last year's "worst performers" were excluded from the lottery for this new school. There's nothing "wrong" with creating a new school in that way, though it does seem to represent a type of "tracking"—a type of tracking the New York Times claims to loathe when it appears in Gotham.

That said, as a general matter, the New York Times only pretends to write about public schools. At the Times, it's childish narrative all the way down, in which our achievement gaps are caused by "test prep" (full stop) and our Bad News Bears Knock It Out of the Park as soon as they get half a chance.

To relocate that pleasing old fable to Akron, Green's editors waved that opening claim into print, in which the kids at the I Promise School were Akron's "worst performers." They also allowed a fraudulent fairy tale to appear at the end of Green's lengthy report:
GREEN: Lining the walls of the school’s vast lobby are 114 shoes, including those worn during the 2016 season when Mr. James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the N.B.A. championship, a reminder that he once walked a path similar to these students. Mr. James was also considered at risk; in fourth grade, he missed 83 days of school.

Nataylia Henry, a fourth grader, missed more than 50 days of school last year because she said she would rather sleep than face bullies at school. This year, her overall attendance rate is 80 percent.

“LeBron made this school,” she said. “It’s an important school. It means that you can always depend on someone.”
Truly, that's extraordinary! Everyone knows that a novelized "news report" of this type must end with some heartwarming story about some deserving kid who has Quickly Turned It Around at Her Thrilling New School.

In this case, the editors published a suspiciously jumbled presentation about a fourth-grade girl who is missing twenty percent of school—a rate which doubles the state of Ohio's criterion for "chronic absenteeism."

That passage constitutes an act of fraud committed against Times subscribers. This leads us to our obvious question:

Why haven't the editors who waved that into print already been frog-marched away?

Why haven't they been frog-marched away? Also, why hasn't Times "education reporter" Eliza Shapiro been frog-marched away for making this astonishing statement on NPR's All Things Considered?
CHANG (3/19/19): So what have been the explanations for why these stark racial disparities exist at these eight elite schools?

SHAPIRO: Yeah, so I think there's two things. The biggest issue here is test prep. We've seen the same debate with the SAT and ACT, certainly, in light of the college admissions scandal. There is a huge test prep industry in New York that prepares kids who are aware of the test to master it. So test prep is one. The other, which is related, is awareness. Some kids know about these schools from the minute they're in kindergarten. Some kids learn about the existence of the specialized high school system and the test to get into them a few months before they can sit to take the test.
There are "two things," Shapiro told Chang. Enrollment patterns at Gotham's most demanding high schools are caused by "test prep" and by test "awareness," full stop.

Gotham's giant achievement gaps apparently play no role in this undesirable phenomenon! According to the Times, achievement gaps are real in Akron, but they play no role in the lives of public school kids in New York.

Do we have any idea why nonsense like that is tolerated at the Times, and at NPR? After all, why hasn't Chang been frog-marched away for letting Shapiro's manifest nonsense go unchallenged?

Despite her degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Stanford Law School, Chang allowed that perfect nonsense to stand. Why hasn't she been frog-marched away and told that she's finished too?

We ask these questions to highlight a basic point. Much of what we liberals read or hear from our upper-end news orgs are novelized accounts of the world.

They aren't "news reports" at all. At their heart, they're novelized feel-good tales, told by the functional equivalent of a gang of idiots.

Such tales are fed to our self-impressed tribe on a regular basis. As a group, we swallow them down. Elsewhere, people roll their eyes and decide to vote for Trump.

Sometimes, the foolishness of our upper-end "journalists" provides a bit of amusement. So it was in this comical passage from Green's front-page tale:
GREEN: The 90 percent of I Promise students who met their goals exceeded the 70 percent of students districtwide, and scored in the 99th growth percentile of the evaluation association’s school norms, which the district said showed that students’ test scores increased at a higher rate than 99 out of 100 schools nationally.
Yes, you're allowed to laugh.

According to Green's report, the I Promise students "scored in the 99th growth percentile of the evaluation association’s school norms." Instead of simply telling readers what that meant (or assuming that readers already knew), Green was apparently forced to report what "the district" said it meant!

The district said that scoring in the 99th percentile showed that the I Promise School had outperformed 99 out of 100 schools nationally? Simply put, that's what it means to score in the 99th percentile! Why would anyone have to rely on "the district" to explain what it meant?

We'll guess that Green's editors inserted that amusing construction into her text. Why haven't these editors been frog-marched away? How long will foolishness of this type be allowed to persist?

There are other topics we haven't been able to get to this week. We still haven't explored the instructive incompetence of the indecipherable "School Report Cards" used by the Ohio Department of Education to report on that state's schools and school districts.

Here's the School Report Card for the Akron Public Schools.
Prepare yourselves to be confused, then perhaps depressed.

That bungled bureaucratic maze makes it very hard to evaluate Akron's schools as a whole. It does help us ponder the part of the I Promise story which truly is "extraordinary:"

It's much too early to determine how things are going at the I Promise School. The students at the I Promise School haven't even taken their first set of the state of Ohio's annual tests. No one but the New York Times would be silly enough to step in at this point and make a thrilling assessment.

That said, the Times' assessment isn't a real attempt at reporting. It's the latest silly, heartwarming version of a long-standing feel-good fable, in which The Bad News Bears Hit It Out of the Park as soon as they're given a chance.

This tale has been written again and again over the past fifty years. Future Psychologists of the Savanna (TM), a pipe-puffing group of future scholars reporting from the aftermath of Mister Trump's War, tell us that this familiar story was told and retold, year after year, for two major reasons:

According to these future psychologists, the silly tale was told and retold to let us liberals pretend that we actually care about the nation's black kids.

Also, to let us feel there's no real problem we have to struggle to solve within our nation's low-income schools—to let us pretend that the kids are really all right in those schools as soon as they get half a chance.

Are the kids at the I Promise School all right? Not necessarily, no.

According to the end of Green's report, children who are chronically absent are the big break-out stars in that school! Green's editors waved that passage into print, seeming to commit an act of deliberate deception.

Just a guess! Assuming the absence of cheating, there will be no "extraordinary results" when those good, decent Akron kids take their statewide tests this spring. That said, Akron's new school has already produced one "extraordinary result:"

We refer to Green's front-page report! It seems to be an act of bad faith and technical confusion from its third paragraph on.

Are the kids all right at the I Promise School? Not necessarily, no.

That said, many adults at the New York Times are doing substantially worse. They're churned these fables for many years. When they do, we self-impressed liberals just swallow them whole. According to those future psychologists, we like the heartwarming stories we're told, and we aren't able to see that they're silly.

We liberals! We love to say how bright we are, but there is no child at the I Promise School who's under-performing to the extent that our upper-end journalists are.

As a rank and file, we gobble their tribal porridge down. Other people decide they'll just vote for Trump, who was saying "fake news" all along.

Perhaps some time next week: A look at those indecipherable "Ohio School Report Cards"

19 comments:

  1. Somerby blames his wrong-headed remarks on "future psychologists." As a psychologist, I have posted my objections to his remarks repeatedly and I won't repeat them. But I strongly object to blaming his stupidities on "future" psychologists, as if that "future" label excuses his mistakes. Somerby knows nothing whatsoever about psychology and he doesn't bother informing himself. He just rants. That cannot be blamed on any future profession. He owns it. Any future professional would be ashamed to write what Somerby writes here.

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    1. @11:46,

      I urge you to review your comment. As a psychologist, I mean. Is your outrage just a tad defensive? Perhaps slightly overdetermined?

      TDH isn’t “blaming” a “future profession.” He saying that in the future a group of people expert on the workings of the human mind will explain how present-day liberals fooled themselves with pleasing fictions like those found in the NYT.

      Perhaps TDH is being too clever by half, but he isn’t slamming psychologists, present or future.

      Here, I’ll show you the difference: your profession is filled to the brink with charlatans. Any future professional should be ashamed to be a psychologist. Just two words to prove my point: Jordan Peterson.

      Now that there is some blaming. TDH’s blog post, not so much.

      Delete
    2. Jordan Peterson is no more representative of psychologists than Trump is of politicians.

      Delete
    3. Hmm, interesting.

      It should have been obvious that my reference to Jordan Peterson was just a snarky example and not a proof.

      Your literal mindedness might be a symptom of a larger cognitive problem. I urge you to get it checked out. Use a medical professional though, not a psychologist.

      First of all, Trump is representative of an entire party of politicians, so your little epigram fails. Secondly, Jordan Peterson may be an extreme example, but he most certainly represents much of his field — a scold who mistakenly thinks his graphs, charts, and statistics have given him an insight into the workings of the mind, a turgid writer of incomprehensible theories that he thinks have universal applicability, and a person who can’t see his own problems through the smoke of his jargon.

      All that aside, have you figured out yet that TDH isn’t blaming psychologists for anything?

      If you haven’t, make that appointment sooner rather than later.

      Delete
  2. Here we see Somerby's nihilism in full bloom.

    Would anyone call kids at the 25th percentile top performers? Would it be helpful to stack the deck against this new school by giving them truly unteachable kids? Does it really matter whether the NY Times explained the technical intricacies of admission procedures, in any of these situations? Isn't the point that the school is a good thing happening in Akron. Why does it need to be treated like a bad thing when it clearly isn't?

    How many basketball stars will continue to donate money to school projects if they are exposed by the NY Times as frauds for helping the lowest 10-25% instead of the very lowest of the low performing kids?

    When they announce that 40% of people with a certain kind of cancer are now being cured, should someone immediately point out that 60% are still struggling with the disease? If the flu vaccine only addresses the most prevalent strains should the NY Times tell everyone that it is ineffective against the rarer forms of flu? Or should it encourage people to get the shot because it is highly likely to work?

    Shouldn't a child in the 25th percentile be considered low enough performing to attract some attention? Somerby thinks not, apparently. He wants to shame LeBron and the NY Times for focusing on them and not telling readers that there are even worse off kids.

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    Replies
    1. @11:58 My understanding is that Somerby is complaining about inaccurate and misleading news coverage. I do not believe he has taken a position on the structure of the program.

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    2. David’s view seems correct. However, for inconsistency's sake, Somerby has taken a very strongly negative position on deBlasio’s specialized high school plan.

      Delete
    3. @1:21P,

      What do you find inconsistent?

      Delete
    4. If this is primarily a media criticism site, then his criticism of Green’s story is consistent with that. On the other hand, his discussions about deBlasio’s plan are not limited to the way the media covers that plan.

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    5. @2:54, Point taken, but TDH subtitles his site "musings on the mainstream 'press corps' and the american discourse." (Scare quotes his; emphasis mine.) I think politicians' responses to much-discussed issues are fair game. YMMV, of course.

      Delete
  3. Misdiagnosing the problem causes real harm to black students. It discourages schools from taking steps that would help and may even encourage them to do things that are counter-productive. Here's a current example.

    A few days ago,
    The California State Senate voted to ban schools and principals from suspending students for “willful defiance” of teachers, staff, and administrators.

    "The Senate approved SB 419 Monday by a vote of 30-8. It moves to the Assembly next.
    -------
    "Research has shown the category of willful defiance was disproportionately used to discipline minority students, specifically African-Americans.


    https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2019/04/23/willful-defiance-bill-senate/

    From what I've read, and from my experience and my children's experience, good discipline is vital for effective education. A law that reduces discipline will particularly hurt disadvantaged children, whose parents may not be able to provide good education, if the school fails to do so.

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    Replies
    1. You ought to move to Alabama, shitface. They know how to discipline those unruly blacks there.

      David, I keep asking, are you one of trump's "tough guys" with guns? Or maybe one of his "bikers for trump" tough guys. I hear tell you guys can make things for us Dems really really bad.

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    2. Can you even imagine trying to learn in a classroom with Donald J Chickenshit? One thing me and DinC agree on, little hands Donald should have had the snot beaten out of him in school at any early age.

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    3. mm -- Trump's parents may have agreed with you. Maybe he already had the snot beaten out of him at New York Military Academy.

      P.S. Maybe I shouldn't respond to your comment about 'bikers for Trump", but you caught me at a bad moment. My wife's cousin Barbara passed way yesterday of cancer. Her husband Jaime is one of bikers who participates in an annual Rolling Thunder demonstration ride. Jaime and I have nothing in common in our background, but I admire him tremendously. He served as a Green Beret in Vietnam, then later in the FBI. His specialty was disarming bombs and, later, hostage negotiation. Imagine the care, calmness and precision necessary to disarm an explosive device, not to mention the risk.

      My heart goes out to Jaime today, having to live without his wonderful wife. The fact someone is different from you gives you no license to disparage him. What you've written is the essence of bigotry.

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    4. You really are one big dumb fuck, David. I wasn't insulting bikers you jackass, I was trying to get your reaction to the insanity spewed by your megalomaniacal insane hero and world champion Coward, Donald J Chickenshit.

      ****

      “So here’s the thing—it’s so terrible what’s happening,” Trump said when asked by Breitbart News Washington Political Editor Matthew Boyle about how the left is fighting hard. “You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.

      ****

      What the fuck is that, David? Sounds kind of insane coming from the leader of the free world, wouldn't you say? The man holding the highest office and most power on the planet seems to be threatening the opposition with his not subtle references the military and the police. Are we some 3rd world banana republic now, you fucking treasonous bastard?

      Me too by the way, I just lost a Pagan friend from New Jersey. He was my sister's inlaw's next door neighbor's best friend. Asshole.

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    5. mm - I am glad to know that you were not intending to insult bikers. I do agree with you that Trump says many odd things.

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    6. Why would David agree with that Trump quote? There isn't nearly enough bigotry in it for David to even comment about it.

      Delete
  4. "Why haven't they all been frog-marched away?"

    Have patience, Bob; hopefully they will be.

    Just as soon as the fascist takeover, you so shrewdly predicted a while ago, comes to fruition. Any day now.

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    ReplyDelete