TALES OF THE NAEP: The problem, dear Brutus, lies in the gaps!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2020

The way these stories get told:
Did Mississippi start teaching phonics, then see its Naep scores soar?

So we subscribers were told in the December 6 New York Times, in a column by public radio's Emily Hanford. It was almost the latest miracle tale—the latest example of the way these stories have always been told.

On December 22, the Times published a set of nine letters about the public schools. The last two letters dealt with the emerging Mississippi miracle, based on the way the high-poverty state has embraced "the science of reading."

For at least fifty years, we liberals have tended to buy these "simple solution" tales. The eighth letter helps us see the way these stories get purchased:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (12/22/19): Re “Perpetual Laggards Leap Ahead in Reading,” by Emily Hanford (Op-Ed, Dec. 6), about Mississippi students’ improved standardized test scores:

Apparently, educational theory has come full circle. When my wife and I were learning to read, we were taught to use phonics to decode unfamiliar written words. Later our mothers, who were public-school teachers, were required to teach reading by other newer methods. But they confessed to us that they never abandoned phonics entirely because the newfangled methods were less effective.

Now we are back where we started and should have never left. Could that be true for instruction in the other two “Rs”—writing and arithmetic—as well?
The letter came from Larchmont, New York. As a general matter, the writer believed what he'd been told. He'd read it in the Times!

Mississippi had begun teaching phonics! (We're sorry. In the parlance of the Times, the state had begun "relying on cognitive science," on "the science of reading.")

Mississippi had begun teaching phonics! And because the low-income state was showing improved reading scores, this reader believed that we were "back where we started and should have never left."

Branding being what it is, it's very easy for Times subscribers to swallow the pap they get sold there. But uh-oh! The ninth letter blew a hole in the new miracle tale:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (12/22/19): Emily Hanford’s piece about improved test scores in reading in Mississippi since the state began funding in 2013 to train its teachers in a particular methodology certainly sounds optimistic. However, there’s another reason, a big one, for the improvement in fourth-grade reading scores, which Ms. Hanford didn’t mention.

In 2013, Mississippi passed a Literacy Based Promotion Act, which mandated that in most cases, a student scoring at the lowest achievement level on the state-mandated third-grade achievement test won’t be promoted to fourth grade. Voilà! The weakest readers in third grade don’t move up to fourth grade, and the fourth-grade reading scores go up.
Oof! According to this retired professor, Mississippi had begun making more kids repeat third grade. Whatever the possible merits of such an approach, it would also likely have the effect of jacking up Grade 4 test scores.

Have Mississippi's scores improved because of this new retention policy? Astoundingly, the policy, and its potential effects, went unmentioned in Hanford's piece, even though the topic had been widely discussed in the education press.

Instead, Hanford took her praise for Mississippi's reliance on "the science of reading" right outta the state's press release. Inevitably, her bowdlerized column ended up in the New York Times, where bullroar about the public schools goes to achieve eternal life.

To what extent have Mississippi's Naep scores been goosed by its retention policies? We have no way of knowing, though it seems that Mississippi retains moire kids than any other state.

That said, the notion that Mississippi's high Naep scores had resulted from the teaching of phonics never exactly made sense. Inevitably, Hanford's happy-talk piece ended up in the Times, the nation's biggest purveyor of know-nothing "takes" on the public schools.

Inevitably, Times subscribers believed what they read. It was time to teach phonics again! Look how those test scores had soared!

We've followed education writing since the 1960s. "Simple solution" tales of this type have always been popular favorites.

In one fairly recent example, a little-known former teacher named Michelle Rhee was picked to head the DC Public Schools. On her resume, she had long boasted about her success in the classroom—a boast which was based upon the test scores her kids had achieved, scores which were blatantly fraudulent.

Had Rhee surfed to success behind fraudulent claims? Papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times didn't want to go there. Their mammoth indifference and technical incompetence remain in place right to this day, especially in their growing devotion to "desegregation," the latest plainly absurd non-solution to the actual problem we face.

There's good and there's bad in our nation's Naep scores. The horrific part of the story can be found in such data as these:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
American public schools, 2018 Naep

White kids: 291.46
Black kids: 259.21
Hispanic Kids: 267.96
Asian-American kids: 309.39
The horror lies in those giant achievement gaps—but the Times refuses to report, describe or discuss the existence and the size of those gaps. As has been the case forever, the Times likes to wish them away.

The horror lies in those gaps! So too with these recent scores on the Pisa, the subject of the first seven letters found in the Times that day:
Average scores, Reading literacy, 2019 Pisa
U.S., Asian-American kids: 556
U.S., white kids: 531
Estonia: 523
Finland: 520
South Korea: 514
U.S., Hispanic kids: 481
U.S., black kids: 448
We've including Estonia, the highest-scoring nation in the world on this particular test. We've also included miraculous Finland and one of the Asian tigers.

As anyone can see from the data, several groups of American kids scored amazingly well. The horror lies in the gaps between the different groups of American kids.

That said, please marvel at this:

In its gloomy report about these Pisa results, the New York Times didn't report or discuss those horrific gaps. This led the people who wrote the first seven letters that day to think that American schools are haplessly failing their kids across the board.

Go ahead! Read what they wrote!

We "liberals" have done this forever. We applaud the latest happy-talk story about the miraculous principal who "turned School A around."

We buy the latest fraudulent tale about the well-intentioned teacher who showed how easy it is to bring low-income kids to the top of the pile.

We pretend that Gotham is crawling with kids who could handle the Stuyvesant curriculum. This makes us feel like we're fully woke. It gives us the greatest gift of all. We feel good about ourselves!

Our leaders pimp this foofaw again and again all over the New York Times. In recent years, it's been pimped all over the paper's front page by the youngish daughter of the former gender editor. She's supervised by a newly-hired editor with no background in education.

In the process, papers like the New York Times refuse to tell readers the truth. You really have to hate black kids to posture and preen and play silly games in the way this newspaper does.

No, Virginia! There is no way to "desegregate" our way out of those horrible gaps. There's surely no way to do so in New York City, given the demographics of its giant school system.

And no, it isn't likely that we can deal with the actual problem we face by relying on the science of reading—by teaching phonics more than is currently done. By the way, to what extent is phonics currently taught in the nation's schools?

We'd assume that phonics is taught a great deal, but we don't actually know that. Very typically, Hanford didn't explore this obvious question in her piece for the Times.

What explains those giant gaps? Different people will present different answers. But we can't begin to seek serious answers if we insist on pretending that the gaps don't really exist—that the problem we currently face extends all across the board.

By the way, the gaps exist in Mississippi too. Here are the relevant data:
Average scores, Grade 4 reading
Mississippi, 2018 Naep

White kids: 229.74
Black kids: 208.61
Apparently, the science of reading is working better for some kids than for others. Hanford didn't mention this fact. She clung to the safety, and to the denial, offered by aggregate scores.

What explains our very large gaps? Tomorrow, we'll link you to an amazing story which provides one part of an answer.

But the problem, dear Brutus, lies in the gaps! Despite that blindingly obvious fact, super-woke papers like the Times will never stop spooning the happy-talk gruel that keeps us from grasping such facts.

"The fault, dear Brutus, is...in ourselves?" According to future anthropologists, we're hard-wired to be this dumb. Unless we decide to resist!

Tomorrow: A truly astonishing life

76 comments:

  1. "For at least fifty years, we liberals have tended to buy these "simple solution" tales. "

    There was nothing simple about what MS did. It did a whole bunch of things, ranging from investing more money in the schools, to removing uncredentialed teachers, to providing up-to-date teacher training, to implementing better materials and better methods, and yes, holding back students who were not at grade level in the early grades. They did all of this because of a lawsuit that required them to provide competent public education.

    This isn't any kind of "simple solution." It was a concerted effort on many fronts to change its ways -- mandated by the court because MS didn't educate its kids properly and hadn't done so for many years.

    To dismiss this as a "simple solution" is unfair and wrong. But that is Somerby's "straw man".

    And then he singles out a letter that dismisses decoding skills as "phonics", just as Somerby himself did before he excerpted these letters. Decoding refers to: "Image result for reading decoding skills
    Decoding skills include the ability to recognize the basic sounds and sound blends, called phonemes, that make up a word and to know what the word means, recognize it in context, and know whether or not it's being used correctly in a sentence."

    Decoding is not simply sounding out letters sounds in a word in order to recognize the word by its sound. It is also using the features that combine to make up a letter to recognize that letter. It is recognizing combinations of letters in a word and associating them with a meaning (not just a sound). Some readers do this using visual pattern recognition, not sound at all. In fact, most readers use a combination of processes to read, not one single one such as "phonics." Most combine whole word recognition with sounding things out (one process occuring sequentially in the left hemisphere while the other occurs in the right hemisphere). And then there is the role of practice so that these processes occur automatically and meaning just pops into mind, instead of being a laborious conscious effort.

    There is a lot more to reading than "phonics" and a lot more to public education than Somerby gives MS credit for.

    I find myself wondering why he is working so hard to denigrate the progress of a state that was lagging behind and whether he similarly denigrates the progress of students who work hard and manage to improve due to a combination of efforts that add up to better scores -- or does he dismiss their progress too as some kind of cheating. What is the payoff for convincing others that there can be no remarkable improvement, even in a state that was doing many things wrong until forced by legal action to change its ways?

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    2. Why does Somerby permit stuff like this to clog up his blog comments?

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    3. Just to be an asshole, that's why.

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    4. There was nothing simple about what MS did.

      Quite possibly and possibly quite admirably, but TDH’s complaint is about the “tales,” the feel-good, we’ve-got-the-solution-now reporting on schools.

      This isn't any kind of "simple solution.”

      Sure, there is. We just have to teach the kids phonics and the teachers cognitive “science” and the scores go up like magic. I know that’s true because I read it in the NYT. Wait, do you mean to say it’s not that simple?

      To dismiss this as a "simple solution" is unfair and wrong. But that is Somerby's "straw man”.

      The simple, dismissed solution is in the NYT, not in Mississippi. Speaking of straw, why don’t you entertain us with a rendition of what’s got to be your theme song, “If I Only Had a Brain.”

      I find myself wondering why he is working so hard to denigrate the progress of a state that was lagging behind and whether he similarly denigrates the progress of students who work hard and manage to improve due to a combination of efforts that add up to better scores -- or does he dismiss their progress too as some kind of cheating.

      I find myself wondering why your head just doesn’t explode from the cognitive dissonance as you yammer on about reading in Mississippi when you can’t even read a TDH blog entry.

      TDH does not denigrate Mississippi.
      TDH does not “denigrate” students.
      TDH criticizes the NYT for its reporting and op-ed pieces about students in Mississippi.

      What is the payoff for convincing others that there can be no remarkable improvement….

      TDH is trying to convince you not that remarkable improvement is impossible, but that remarkable improvement in this case is likely does not derive from program efforts, but from its statistical side effects. And to pretend otherwise is journalistic malfeasance.

      I’m afraid that the Board has decided to hold you back and make you repeat this blog entry. Perhaps an intensive course in phonics will help you.

      Delete
    5. I don’t know where you get your energy, Deadrat, but I’m so glad you bring it!

      Delete
    6. Another match made in heaven.

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    7. Deadrat, a few days back, Somerby was implying that MS cheated on the NAEP. That is denigrating both teachers and students.

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      @10:40A, Thank you.

      Delete
    9. @10:41A, I’m going to be uncharacteristically charitable and not call you a liar. Partly because of the word implying. You just might be drawing an incorrect inference.

      Please quote TDH saying anything about teachers, students, or indeed, Mississippi state officials. TDH has reserved his ire for people who discuss the NAEP scores in Mississippi in clueless ways.

      The point is that the dramatic increase in Mississippi’s Grade-4 reading scores is very likely an artifact of the state’s policy of removing its poorest performing students from the pool of test takers, and not from some magic elixir that’s one part phonics and two parts cognitive “science.”

      Nothing TDH has written conflicts with any of the following observations:

      • This is a statistical observation.

      • Students and teachers have no part in making the policy, and nothing they do could have changed the results in some misleading way.

      • The state policy of aggressive retention in grade may be good or bad or indifferent, either with regard to future test results or with regard to related future unintended effects, but the policy is well-publicized and in no way designed merely to increase short-term NAEP scores.

      I am willing to entertain an argument that I’m wrong, but it will have to be grounded in TDH’s words, and not your feelings about what TDH might really be thinking.

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    10. There was an argument in comments a few days back about whether cheating on such tests is widespread or not. That occurred because Somerby raised the possibility that the MS score increases were the result of cheating. That is clearly denigration of teachers and students in MS, as is anything that assumes they didn't improve because of better teaching, such as artifactual explanations based on retention rates.

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    11. There was an argument in comments a few days back about whether cheating on such tests is widespread or not.

      So what? This comment section is chock full of Anonymous Ignoramuses, and what they say means nothing, including nothing about TDH.

      That occurred because Somerby raised the possibility that the MS score increases were the result of cheating.

      First, you know why other people are commenting here? Please.

      And TDH never raised the possibility that the score increases were the result of cheating. Go ahead, and quote him to that effect if you think I’m wrong. You won’t be able to.

      That is clearly denigration of teachers and students in MS,

      Too bad it doesn’t hurt to be ignorant. Forgive me, I know that’s uncharitable because it would mean you’d be in constant agony. Most cheating scandals in the standardized test biz arise from school administrators doctoring results. Virtually nothing to do with either teachers or students.

      as is anything that assumes they didn't improve because of better teaching, such as artifactual explanations based on retention rates.

      This last statement is so absurd, I can’t believe that even you believe it. Cheating is a conscious act of dishonesty. Mississippi’s increased scores are likely due to a statistical fact arising from changing the pool of test takers. This would happen even if every student taking the test took it honesty and if every teacher and administrator reported the results honestly.

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  2. "The horror lies in those gaps!"

    I'm sorry, but you sound deranged, dear Bob. Your liberal zombie cult eat your brains.

    Some children do better at school, and others not so good. And various statistical correlations could be found.

    If that's your 'horror', you might be some sort of mentally ill... You need to go get your head examined...

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    1. When the ones who do better are always white and wealthy and the ones who do worse are always black and poor, then there is a real problem that you cannot dismiss by calling Somerby names.

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    2. Right. Thanks for your zombie bullshit, dembot.

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    3. Mao,
      How's Trump's signature legislation, the HUGE tax break for the Elites, treating you?

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    4. Mao pretends to think Bob's a lib. That makes him even more dishonest than Bob.

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    5. “When the ones who do better are always white and wealthy...”

      Always...except when they’re Asian and poor.

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    6. Not all Asians do well in school. That is a stereotype.

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    7. Anon 10:39 am, that’s a straw man.

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    8. No, it is an objection to your statement that poor Asians do better than poor white or black or Hispanic kids. It is a stereotype that all Asians do well in school. Those whose parents have a focus on academic achievement, who provide the resources at home for learning, do well. Those who grow up in homes where poverty interferes with learning, do poorly, just as kids in other ethnic groups do.

      So your statement "Always...except when they're Asian and poor." which implies that Asians are immune to the effects of poverty, is wrong. There is quite a bit written about the impact of this belief on Asian kids who are struggling in school.

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  3. "Apparently, the science of reading is working better for some kids than for others. Hanford didn't mention this fact."

    Hanford's NY Times essay was behind a paywall, but I have read her other essays and heard her interviewed about her book -- which I described here in comments long before the NY Times essay appeared.

    Hanford does talk about the kids for whom reading is difficult. She compares the difficulties of disadvantaged kids to those of kids from middle class families. She talked about why decoding cannot be the sole emphasis and said it is because they may decode a word but not understand what it means because of limited life experiences due to poverty. She stressed that understanding meaning may be more crucial to poor readers than decoding skills alone. And that's why a dual-pronged approach is needed, not solely a focus on decoding skills (as has mistakenly occurred in some districts).

    If Somerby had a true interest in this subject and were not playing gotcha with Hanford as his latest target, he would have found out the same things I did when I googled Hanford's book and read some of her other writings. But Somerby doesn't care about what works to decrease reading gaps. He only wants to use the plight of poor readers and disadvantaged black children as a cudgel to beat up his targets: liberals, academics, people who claim educational expertise, and occasionally journalists too (Hanford is not a journalist).

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    1. If Somerby had a true interest in this subject ….

      You mean that if TDH were interested in writing about what you’re interested in, then his blog would be more to your liking.

      But he isn’t. He wants to write about the misleading reporting and presentations about the topic you’re interested in. I’d think you’d be interested in that too, but I have the common courtesy and understanding not to insist on it.

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  4. Today the AAUP issued a paper called "In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education." According to their press release, it "advances an impassioned argument for the importance of expert knowledge and the institutions of higher education that produce and transmit it. Addressing an ongoing movement in the United States to attack the disciplines and higher education institutions, the statement defends the critical role these institutions perform in producing the knowledge that sustains American democracy, especially in this moment of intense global instability."

    Somerby has been playing a role in this attack on both expertise and knowledge and the institutions that produce it. When he criticizes a journalist, he blames the Ivy league school from which that journalist graduated. He periodically singles out a trade book and blames it for not making Einstein simple or philosophy less confusing. These attacks on education for permitting racial gaps to persist are a staple of his blog, but he is uninterested in solutions, only in portraying education as ineffective.

    The AAUP report connects these attacks on higher ed with decreases in public funding that have resulted in greater reliance on private support, increases in contingent faculty instead of tenure track jobs and a corporatization of academia with a decrease in faculty participation in governance. The result of these changes has been a threat to effective policy as it "rejects informed, dispassionate studies of climate change, suppresses its own data collection on white supremacist domestic terrorism, or imposes gag orders on doctors under regulations prohibiting discussion of abortion or contraception, merely because they contradict ideological belief." This attack on knowledge and expertise has political consequences and is motivated by conservatives who wish to undermine fact-based arguments against their undoing of progressive changes.

    And Somerby is a part of this campaign. It is obvious what he is doing here day-in and day-out as he writes essays that appear to be the rants of a befuddled old man but are actually a systematic attack on knowledge.

    That's why I am here. When Somerby stops this shit, I will stop commenting. In the meantime, there is more going on than Somerby's bitter dislike of his Harvard days. This is conservatism pursuing its goals under the radar and we need to protect the institutions that support an educated populace because it is essential to a functioning democracy.

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    1. Here is a link to the report at the AAUP website:

      https://www.aaup.org/report/defense-knowledge-and-higher-education

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    2. I believe you've cracked the Somerby Code. He writes what he writes to discredit facts, knowledge, and public education. That's likely what he's paid to do.

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    3. These attacks on education for permitting racial gaps to persist are a staple of his blog, but he is uninterested in solutions, only in portraying education as ineffective.

      Please quote a TDH blog entry that “attacks … education.” All of TDH’s ire is directed at the misleading reporting on education. And far from portraying education as ineffective, TDH rails against the journalistic silence on the overall increases in test scores and the media’s despairing view that our schools are entirely and hopelessly broken.

      And you’d know that if you could read for comprehension.

      That's why I am here.

      I thought you’re here so I can ridicule you for your failing struggle to read a simple blog.

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    4. I should be ridiculing you for sticking with only the most literal, concrete meanings and being detail oriented, instead of grasping the overall meaning, implications and nuances of what is said on this blog. But I don't get off on denigrating others.

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    5. I should be ridiculing you

      I would welcome your derision if it was hurled with the slightest bit of wit and humor. I appreciate good invective.

      What? Do you think I’d complain about what a big meanie and bully you are?

      for sticking with only the most literal, concrete meanings and being detail oriented,

      Wait a minute. “Detail oriented”? You mean I manage to get the details straight? How did that become a bad thing?

      Literal, concrete meanings, OK. That’s a fair basis to criticize what I write. I do insist that we stick with what TDH actually writes, but every judgment relies on inference to some extent. And my own judgment may be faulty.

      instead of grasping the overall meaning, implications and nuances of what is said on this blog.

      A fair ground on which to build valid criticism. The question is whether you can gather actual evidence, and I don’t think you can. But that’s something I would say, isn’t it? So I’m willing to listen. Bring it on.

      The reason I”m skeptical of your ability to prosecute your position is that I don’t believe that in writing like TDH’s there’s really an “overall meaning” independent of the sum of the claims made in the blog entries. (Or at least none we can reliably discern.) I’m also suspicious of the implications you claim to find because they’re much more likely to be your faulty inferences. And I suspect “nuances” simply means your feelings about TDH, and I lend no weight to any of those.

      TDH sets us two challenges:

      First, can we see the other tribe as human. I fail that test utterly, because I think Republicans (or “conservatives”) aren’t human. They’re essentially an alien species of lizard people who merely walk amongst us as human. If you can support a regime that separates children from their parents and puts those children in fetid concentration camps for the sole purpose of terrorizing other parents so they don’t come here to avail themselves of the protection of our laws, then you’re a monster.

      Second, though is the ability to see our tribe as fallible when we err. I think I can do that, and I recommend you practice doing it. Emily Hanford’s latest contribution to the public discourse was a disgraceful failure. If all you can think to respond is, “Emily Hanford is one of us, so she’s on the side of the angels. Per force, Bob Somerby must be in league with the devil (or at least on his payroll), and anyway it’s clear he hates women.” then this is about you and your long journey to rationality. And nothing to do with me.

      But I don't get off on denigrating others.

      Go ahead. You have my permission.

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  5. “By the way, the gaps exist in Mississippi too. Here are the relevant data:
    Average scores, Grade 4 reading
    Mississippi, 2018 Naep
    White kids: 229.74
    Black kids: 208.61
    Apparently, the science of reading is working better for some kids than for others. Hanford didn't mention this fact. She clung to the safety, and to the denial, offered by aggregate scores.”

    This is disingenuous.

    Here are the national numbers:
    2019, Reading, Grade 4
    White 230
    Black 204

    That shows that nationally, the gap is 26, while in Mississippi, it is smaller, at 21.

    Also, looking at the trend since 2009, for example:
    Nationally, the average for black students went from 205 to 204, a drop of one point, while Mississippi’s went from 198 to 209, a gain of 11.

    Thus, the gap in Mississippi is smaller than it is nationally, and the average score for black students increased substantially, while nationally it dropped.

    Ultimately, it is dishonest to expect a teaching method to eliminate achievement gaps, unless Somerby wants to suggest that the new instruction be given only to black students.

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    1. Just the other day, he faulted Hanford for not disaggregating by race because she failed to note *how it made the results look even better.*

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    2. Ultimately, it is dishonest to expect a teaching method to eliminate achievement gaps....

      Oh, you mean like the way Hanford claimed Mississippi had eliminated its gap with the rest of the country?

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    3. You are gaslighting, deadrat.

      Hanford’s method is taught to all children. Unless you teach it only to black students, both racial groups’ scores will improve, and the racial achievement gaps between white and black will remain.

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    4. Just because you didn't understand what I wrote, doesn't mean I'm gaslighting you. You might want to look that term up.

      My comment isn't about "Hanford's method," which method I don't think is hers. It was about claims about the expectations for such methods.

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    5. deadrat, you said “gap with the rest of the country.” I said “achievement gap”, which specifically refers to gaps between low and high performers, which includes the racial achievement gap between whites and blacks, which is how Somerby uses the term. It was clear from my original comment that I was using it in the way Somerby was. Hanford claims her method improves test results for all students, not that it eliminates racial achievement gaps. It is obvious that it isn’t possible to close these racial gaps with Hanford’s method unless you only use the method to teach black students, because whites and blacks make progress at the same time.

      You are free to describe a scenario whereby blacks make faster progress than whites when taught using the same method.

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    6. I've concluded it's a fool's errand to try to explain my comment to someone obviously immune to cognitive dissonance and unable to perceive irony.

      I have no idea how your "scenario" would be relevant or why I would want to "describe" such.

      Sorry.

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  6. "We pretend that Gotham is crawling with kids who could handle the Stuyvesant curriculum. This makes us feel like we're fully woke."

    No liberal suggested that all kids could handle the Stuyvesant curriculum. They said that in a city as large as NYC, there must be more than 8 black kids who could benefit from attending Stuyvesant.

    ReplyDelete
  7. “We'd assume that phonics is taught a great deal, but we don't actually know that.”

    Why would someone who wants to focus on education reporting not know something like this? How can such a person provide intelligent criticism? It’s as if a blogger wants to write about reviews of Shakespeare plays without having read the plays. It makes no sense.

    Anyone who halfway pays attention to instructional methods in reading or wants to bone up on it will be aware of what are called the “reading wars”, an opposition between what is called the “whole word” approach and traditional phonics that got a major public debate in 2000. Hanford’s approach blends the two, and that, incidentally, is why her approach isn’t just “phonics”, as Somerby keeps derisively saying.

    “Very typically, Hanford didn't explore this obvious question in her piece for the Times.”

    Very typically, because of his admitted ignorance on the topic, Somerby expects Hanford to fill in the gaps in his knowledge. She doesn’t say phonics isn’t taught elsewhere; she says that the method that she advocates is the right one. And again, phonics is not universally taught, and the method that she advocates includes a return to the universal inclusion of phonics in a balanced approach to the teaching of reading that represents an end to the “reading wars” in public education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why would someone who wants to focus on education reporting not know something like this?

      Ooh! I know this one. Because how widely phonics is taught is irrelevant to the question of why Mississippi’s test scores went up.

      Anyone who halfway pays attention to instructional methods in reading or wants to bone up on it will be aware of what are called the “reading wars”, an opposition between what is called the “whole word” approach and traditional phonics that got a major public debate in 2000.

      But anyone interested in the journalistic malpractice that puts nonsense into print about education, not so much.

      Very typically, because of his admitted ignorance on the topic, Somerby expects Hanford to fill in the gaps in his knowledge.

      Er, no. Very typically TDH expects Hanford not to widen the gaps in pubic knowledge about education.

      Delete
  8. The Times dare not point out the gaps, because that would be an implicit criticism of blacks and Hispanics. Similarly, the Times will never tell you that blacks commit crimes at a much higher rate than whites and Asians.

    Ignoring reality leads to ineffective policies that hurt people of every ethnicity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you’d quit drinking the Somerby Kool-Aid, you’d find:

      “Over the last year in particular, parents, activists and city officials have pointed to segregation in middle schools as a contributor to the persistent achievement gap between white, Asian and middle class students and their poorer peers, who are often black and Hispanic.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/nyregion/middle-schools-nyc-segregation.html

      “The academic gaps between groups of students — the poor and the middle class, or black and Hispanic children and their white and Asian peers — often are examined in broad strokes, across a district or an entire city. “

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/nyregion/study-black-white-achievement-gap-schools.html

      “The goal has been to bring the academic performance of struggling students from low-income backgrounds, many of them black or Hispanic, up to the average level of their middle-class or more privileged peers.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/us/schools-excellence-gap.html

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the links, @12:51. You have a point.

      However, IMHO although, these articles mention gaps, their coverage of the situation is inadequate, for a couple of reasons.

      1. They don't mention magnitude. The size of the gap is really important. It's one thing to say that Asians do better than blacks in math, on average. It's more informative to point out that blacks are 5 years behind Asians.

      2. The articles seem to presume that the gaps are due only to segregation and economic situation. In fact, your 3rd link talks about the gap based on income, rather than ethnicity (although there's correlation between the two). However, there's every reason to believe that other factors are also very significant.

      Delete
    3. And you just moved the goalposts, a very Somerbyesque move.

      “They dare not mention racial gaps”

      “Here are a few times they did dare.”

      “But they didn’t talk about them *adequately*”

      Delete
    4. Gaps between means do not say anything about the performance of individual students. When you talk about admission to Stuyvesant, you are talking about individual kids who have applied. They each need to be treated as individuals, which means taking into consideration what opportunities for learning existed in their prior preparation, not simply what means are for blacks vs whites or Asian students. It means seeing talent when it occurs in less nurturing environments, something standardized tests cannot do. That's why most programs do not use tests alone to select students and Stuyvesant should not do so either.

      When I worked at IBM in upstate NY, parents were regularly involved in "helping" their children with middle school science projects, including use of company resources to do so. How does a black child with equal ability make use of such "help" without a parent who works in such a job? There are lots of ways to be disadvantaged and the kids who make the cut in these elite schools have had a lot of special help getting there that even very bright black kids won't have.

      Delete
    5. I agree very strongly @1:21. Kids are individuals and should be treated as such. But, I don't get your segue to race. Why focus on black kids? How does a child of any race with equal ability make use of such "help" without a parent who works in such a job?

      Delete
    6. Anonymous 1:21, children can certainly receive game-changing nurturing (as well as kick-ass discipline) via their home environment without it having a thing to do with family income.

      Part of the problem with restructuring these elite schools around more subjective standards is that it’s Asian kids from working class families who are penalized.

      Delete
    7. Cecelia,
      That's putting a lot of pressure on parents who have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, because the business community hasn't increased wages since the early 1970s.

      Delete
    8. Reality puts a lot of pressure on parents who have to work two jobs, not to mention all the one-parent families. Parents have to solve some problems themselves. Sonya Carson did.

      Dr. Benjamin Carson, the famous neurosurgeon from John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, attributes his mother, Sonya Carson, for the reason for his success in life. "I not only saw and felt the difference my mother made in my life, I am still living out that difference as a man."

      Sonya Carson, mother of Ben, put her total self into making sure her sons did their best in school. Oftentimes, she worked long hours and two to three jobs to keep the Carson family afloat. Her relationship and dependence on the Lord provided her with the wisdom to raise her boys to graduate from high school, college, and become successful men. She did this while living as a single mom in the inner cities of Boston and Detroit.

      Delete
    9. Anon 9:03am, when it comes to changing standards in order to alter the demographics of NY’s elite high schools, Asians stand to lose the most. That is the population of students most likely to win a spot in those institutions

      Delete
    10. Whenever someone is admitted, someone else is rejected. That's how admission to a limited resource works. There is no reason to favor an Asian kid over a black kid in the first place and no reason to consider admission of additional black kids as a loss for Asian kids. It simply means they weren't admitted in the first place -- not that their admission was rescinded (as you seem to be assuming by framing this as a loss). Why should it be presumed that they would be admitted? That itself is a kind of bias.

      Delete
    11. The word is "entitlement". Asian kids aren't any more entitled to a spot than white or black kids. When you lose something you never had and are disappointed because of an expectation that wasn't fulfilled, that is called "a sense of entitlement".

      This situation is one of the consequences of competition, as occurs in many aspects of a capitalist society.

      Delete
    12. Recently found in the files of Harvard University, which enforced a Jewish admission quota from around 1920 to around 1960:

      Whenever someone is admitted, someone else is rejected. That's how admission to a limited resource works. There is no reason to favor a Jew over a gentile legacy in the first place and no reason to consider admission of additional legacies as a loss for Jews. It simply means they weren't admitted in the first place -- not that their admission was rescinded (as some seem to be assuming by framing this as a loss). Why should it be presumed that they would be admitted? That itself is a kind of bias.

      Delete

    13. “Whenever someone is admitted, someone else is rejected. That's how admission to a limited resource works. There is no reason to favor an Asian kid over a black kid in the first place and no reason to consider admission of additional black kids as a loss for Asian kids.“

      Whether this argument is launched by Harvard or copied nearly word for word by an anonymouse, it’s not germane as to what is happening when the admission standard is shifted depending upon demographics. It’s just speciousness.

      Admission criteria to the elite schools has always been contingent upon test scores on a specific test. This applied to all students. The complaint with that has been that this standard has meant that the African-American and Hispanic student pop at these schools is not proportional to that of whites and Asians. Since any shift in academic standards cannot be proportional to all demographics if the less represented groups are going to come out ahead, then they must be tailored in some fashion that is not the case for the other demos. That system is specifically crafted in order to result in a targeted loss.

      I’m not arguing that such a crafted system is out of place in all instances. It just seems that the impetus is to make it the standard and ubiquitous one to the loss of a great system of elite schools.

      Delete
  9. Somerby says:
    “2018 Naep”.

    Twice.

    There was no Naep in 2018.

    It was administered most recently in 2019.

    ReplyDelete
  10. “According to this retired professor, Mississippi had begun making more kids repeat third grade.”

    Finally, Somerby finds a professor he won’t mock.

    It is reasonable to point out the retention policy as a potential contributing factor to the improved naep scores.

    It is important, however, not to overstate the rate of retention. The “10%” number that was introduced in yesterday’s post was for the current school year, and would not have affected the students taking the test last year.

    More time and research would be needed in order to track the effects over time of both the retention policy and the new reading instruction, but it is not quite a simple matter of “Voila!”, as the letter writer would have it.

    What percentage of students were actually retained prior to taking the 2019 test? This data is findable, and it wasn’t 10%.

    ReplyDelete
  11. “This led the people who wrote the first seven letters that day to think that American schools are haplessly failing their kids across the board.

    Go ahead! Read what they wrote!

    We "liberals" have done this forever. “

    Somerby has no way of knowing the political affiliation of those letter writers. Even the Times doesn’t know.

    It is also not true that the letter writers claim that schools are failing across the board.

    The subject of the original story was the failure of education *reform*, not education. There are many liberals who criticize reforms like No Child Left Behind and Common Core. There are many liberals who dispute the notion that our schools are failing. Somerby could find them if he got out of his solipsistic bubble once in a while.

    Here’s a quick review:

    Letter one suggests different kinds of reforms to help financially struggling families.

    Letter two suggests that the Pisa test results aren’t really reflective of the true abilities of kids.

    Letter three complains that reading for pleasure is declining in our country.

    Letter four decries the obsession with testing in our system.

    Etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Letter five complains that the reforms of the past twenty years “focus on governance structures of public education, not on classroom instruction.”

      Letter six thinks that students didn’t give their best effort when taking the Pisa, for various reasons.

      Letter seven blasts the notion that our schools have failed, saying “Maybe it would work better if people who want to improve education asked teachers what we and our students need instead of generating hugely grandiose plans that produce nothing but blame for teachers who had nothing to do with creating them.”

      Letter eight complains that phonics was officially abandoned and that newer teachers “were required to teach reading by other newer methods. But they confessed to us that they never abandoned phonics entirely because the newfangled methods were less effective.”

      Letter nine is about the retention policy.

      Somerby’s take is crap.

      Delete
  12. “This led the people who wrote the first seven letters that day to think that American schools are haplessly failing their kids across the board.”

    Letter seven specifically raises the identical objection as Somerby:

    “It’s disheartening to see yet another article about the “failure” of K-12 education advancing the claim that efforts to “solve” the problem are bewildering in their lack of success.”

    Is Somerby well, is it carelessness, or is this deliberate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to wonder if Somerby was lying, clueless or a Trumptard. I decided to compromise -- he is a lying, clueless Trumptard

      Delete
  13. “The horror lies in those giant achievement gaps”

    And that was one of the main points of the original Goldstein article in the Times, which dealt with educational reforms over the last twenty years.

    Scores are stagnant, including both Pisa and naep.

    The goal of the big reforms over the last twenty years was to raise the scores, and as a subset of this, to *reduce the achievement gaps*.

    Goldstein *specifically* mentions the fact that the achievement gaps have *widened:*

    “the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. Although the top quarter of American students have improved their performance on the exam since 2012, the bottom 10th percentile lost ground, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency.”

    How Somerby can get from this to claiming that this shows a refusal to discuss achievement gaps is a mystery.

    ReplyDelete
  14. “We're sorry. In the parlance of the Times, the state had begun "relying on cognitive science," on "the science of reading."”

    That is not the parlance of the Times. Those are Hanford’s terms, written in a guest op-ed column, which represents her opinion. She is not a reporter at the newspaper.

    The Times frequently publishes editorials representing differing views. They clearly state that the views expressed in editorials do not necessarily reflect those of the Times staff.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Commenters here seem to miss Somerby's main point, which is that overall the American system of education can't be too bad, since white and Asian kids actually do better than the average of other countries, even the best ones. If the schools had been taken over by anti-phonics or whatever it is that Mississippi supposedly replaced it didn't really cripple the system for the white kids.

    The other point that can apparently be drawn from the lack of recent overall improvement is that the things mandated nationally, specifically those in No Child Left Behind, have certainly not been working miracles. This does not inspire faith in whatever "experts" it was who recommended those things. In the media this point is sometimes made, but more often not.

    Somerby certainly has his obsessions and exactly what he thinks should be done to close the racial gap, if anything, remains a mystery. But readers with discretion - and some patience - can often draw useful information from his pieces.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. '' You really have to hate black kids'

      Not as much as SOmerby, who is a harcore Trumptard

      Delete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Given that Somerby seems to think it's fine for young black teens like Trayvon Martin to be murdered by the likes of Zimmerman, his concern for those teens is likely somewhere between 0 and -100.

    ReplyDelete
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