THE LETTERS: Defining the actual shape of our problem!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 2, 2020

American kids punk the world:
The letters strike us as a major embarrassment—but they're also highly instructive.

The letters appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, December 22. Did we mention the fact that we think they should be seen as a major embarrassment?

The newspaper published nine letters in all.
They explored the reason, or the reasons, for the massive failure of our floundering public schools.

How bad are things in our public schools? Once again, we quote from Letter 4:
"The stagnant results of the international PISA exam have spoken: An extensive overhaul in the American education system is desperately needed."
What was the cause of the stagnant results which signaled the need for this vast overhaul? As we noted yesterday, the letters published by the Times offered a wide array of ideas.

As we noted yesterday, many things were said to be wrong! But no one disputed the basic premise which had emerged from two recent reports in the Times. No one disputed the idea that something is vastly wrong with our public schools, extending across the board.

Are we testing our students too much? Have we foolishly stopped teaching phonics?

Have we failed to listen to teachers as we craft our ballyhooed reforms? Are our drooling kids a mess because we've stopped reading for pleasure?

No one disputed the overall claim—the claim that something is, or seems to be, badly wrong across the board.

But what if we told you that those Pisa scores actually say something quite different? What if large segments of our student population actually punked the entire world on these most recent Pisa tests?

We now return to Letter 4, which recited one treasured script. According to Letter 4, our hapless kids performed so poorly because we aren't like miraculous Finland:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (12/22/19): The stagnant results of the international PISA exam have spoken: An extensive overhaul in the American education system is desperately needed. Although myriad troubles plague American schools—from lack of support for immigrant students to inequalities between schools—part of the solution may lie in one of the countries that outperformed us on the PISA exam: Finland.

Our country has sought to boost test scores by introducing a multitude of standardized tests, essentially forcing teachers to center their class around preparing for these tests rather than teaching their students foundational skills. In Finnish schools, students are subject to almost no standardized tests, yet Finnish students surpassed American students in the PISA exam.

In our desperation to improve academic achievement, our country has fostered a culture obsessed with test results
, yet, ironically, this fixation only serves as a detriment to America’s academic performance on the international stage.
Credit where due! This writer said there may be many factors which explain why our kids are so hapless. But she focused on our alleged overtesting—and as is required by Hard Pundit Law, she cited miraculous Finland.

("Where the children are all above average?")

Nothing which follows is meant to be a criticism of Finland—a small, middle-class, single-culture nation which we understand to be extremely well run. How well-run is middle-class Finland? For one example, consider these OECD health care statistics:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Finland: $4,228
Somehow, Finland provides universal health care while spending roughly 40 percent as much as we do, per person. For reasons the Times will never explore or attempt to explain, we spend well more than twice as much as Finland does, even as many people still don't have coverage, and many more can't afford to receive actual care.

As far as we know, Finland—total population, 5.5 million—is a very well-run nation. That said, it isn't a "peer nation" of ours.

It's a small, middle-class nation with much less demographic complexity. You can assess that demographic fact any way you wish, but Finland is not the U.S.

Still and all, there it was, the mandated praise for Finland's fantastic test scores@! This silly, dimwitted international script took wing roughly twenty years ago, after the very first Pisa tests. On the Sunday morning in question, the Times once again gave it wing.

That said, how dumb are our American kids as compared to the giants of Finland? To what extent do these latest Pisa scores show that we need "an extensive overhaul" of our educational system?

The Pisa tests 15-year-old students; the 2018 Pisa focused on reading while also testing science and math. An initial glance at the data gives us such shame as this:
Average scores, Reading Literacy, 2018 Pisa
Finland: 520
United States: 505
Should those scores be cause for embarrassment? Also, should that 15-point gap in average score be seen as a lot or a little?

We have no rule of thumb which lets us know how large that gap really is. That said, our national shame may be reduced if we include some other average scores:
Average scores, Reading Literacy, 2018 Pisa
Finland: 520
Sweden: 506
United States: 505
United Kingdom: 504
Japan: 504
Denmark: 501
Norway: 499
Germany: 498
France: 493
For all such data, just start here. Then execute one more click.

Say what? Our dunderheads actually outperformed such peer nations as Japan, the U.K., Germany and France? And as compared to Finland's small Nordic neighbors, we scored just one point below Sweden, six points ahead of Norway? With Denmark thrown in for good measure?

Do those numbers make it obvious that we need "an extensive overhaul" of some kind? Offhand, we would say they do not.

That said, the actual shape of our actual problem actually swims into view if we examine a different set of data. Below, you see another way of pondering Finland's performance on the Pisa as compared to our own.

We include the score of tiny Estonia (population, 1.3 million), the world's highest-scoring nation:
Average scores, Reading Literacy, 2018 Pisa
United States, Asian-American kids: 556
United States, white kids: 531
Estonia: 523
Finland: 520
Say what? Can those statistics really be accurate? Did white kids in our floundering public schools punk every nation in the world on the Pisa reading test?

Yes, that's what actually happened! Meanwhile, our nation's Asian-American kids performed as if they go to school on some planet in a galaxy far far away!

There are many different ways to crunch these Pisa data. We'll post one last set of numbers below—numbers which may let us consider the shape of our actual problem.

There are many different ways to crunch these Pisa data. For example:

American kids performed slightly less well well on the Pisa science test, but the basic pattern holds up. American kids performed quite a bit less well on the Pisa math test, which is somewhat unconventional in its design.

Our kids tend to do better on the other major international test in math, the Timss. Perhaps for that reason, upper-class newspapers like the Times have tended to deep-six data from the Timss.

(In 2013, Amanda Ripley's widely-praised and deceptive book, The Smartest Kids in the World, took this disappearing trick to a truly remarkable level.)

Let's return to the scores from the Pisa reading test. For starters, let's make sure we understand what we're talking about.

That rather high score for our "white" kids includes all such kids nationwide. It includes low-income white kids from Appalachia, even from the Deep South. It includes white kids from the Rust Belt who are living with their grandparents because their parents have died from opioids.

That rather high score for our "white" kids isn't a score from Westchester County or Exeter, Miss Porter's and Hotchkiss. It's a score for the whole ragtag band of kids from our nation's dominant demographic group.

Question: When you see their average score—when you see the corresponding score for the Asian-American kids—do you still feel that over-testing has made it impossible for American kids to succeed?

Does it still make sense to wring our hands about the way we no longer read for pleasure? About the way we've (allegedly) stopped teaching phonics?

Does it still make sense to say that our scores reflect the fact that our kids didn't try to do their best when they took the Pisa? Does it make sense to say that our scores are low because we didn't get enough input from teachers in formulating recent plans for "education reform?"

The people whose letters appeared in the Times all seemed to accept the idea that something is grossly wrong across the board in our public schools. But does it make sense to advance that claim when you see that last set of Pisa scores?

For ourselves, we're amazed that those "disaggregated" scores are as high as they are. In our view, it's a minor indictment of Finland and its miracle schools that our nation's ragtag collection of white kids can actually outperform their kids on a major reading test, even as our Asian kids left Finland in the dust.

That's the way those scores strike us, but the scores are what they are. Unless you read the New York Times, which will never report such data to its badly misused readers. Nor will this hapless, upper-class newspaper ever publish this set of scores:
Average scores, Reading Literacy, 2018 Pisa
United States, Asian-American kids: 556
United States, white kids: 531
Estonia: 523
Finland: 520
United States: 505
United States, Hispanic kids: 481
United States, black kids: 448
Our nation's giant "achievement gaps" come into stark relief in those horrible data. Simply put, the New York Times (and the Washington Post) refuse to report or discuss such scores.

Just a guess—people at the New York Times find such data embarrassing. These terrible, useless upper-class people are committed to phantasmagoric tales about the actual size of our gaps and about the best ways to address the gaps, tiny as they are.

Do people at the New York Times even know that those horrible data exist? Given the paper's spectacular incompetence, we wouldn't assume that they do.

That said, we'll guess that people at the Times find those data embarrassing. At any rate, they refuse to report those horrible scores, and they then publish embarrassing letters which help keep script alive.

Tomorrow: Astounding journalistic incompetence (the ninth letter-writers's tale)

60 comments:

  1. Somerby says: “Our nation's giant "achievement gaps" come into stark relief in those horrible data. Simply put, the New York Times (and the Washington Post) refuse to report or discuss such scores.”

    And yet, the original Times story that he is attacking, the one to which the letter writers are referring (‘It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Effort”, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/us/us-students-international-test-scores.html), says this:

    “And 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.”

    *She uses the very term Somerby does.*

    Apparently, the sin of the Times’ author is saying “bottom 10th percentile” instead of “black” or “Hispanic”.

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      Delete
  2. "As we noted yesterday, many things were said to be wrong! But no one disputed the basic premise which had emerged from two recent reports in the Times. No one disputed the idea that something is vastly wrong with our public schools, extending across the board."

    This subset of letters was selected by the editors of the NY Times. We do not know how many might have disputed the idea that something is wrong with our schools. All we know is that none were published.

    We do not even know whether Somerby submitted a letter contesting the conclusions in the headline of that article on the PISA scores. We don't know whether Somerby sent a letter about phonics either. He doesn't say.

    These letters are from a very small group of people who are neither education experts nor demographers. They are giving their opinions, to which they are entitled, much as Somerby gives his opinion here today.

    Somerby can give his standard rant and thoroughly disagree with those few other NY Times readers, but he cannot generalize beyond them to anyone, including the NY Times writers and editors.

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    1. Well, he shouldn’t generalize, but he does.

      The idea that Somerby would write a letter to the editor, or engage in other ways with the Times, such as online commentary, submitting an op-Ed, or engaging with them on Twitter, is droll.

      He prefers to voice his complaints in a blog no one reads, including the reporters at the Times.

      Delete
    2. TDH doesn't generalize from the letters. He says they're an "embarrassment," either because the letter writers are so misinformed or because the NYT has done its usual piss-poor job of informing its readership.

      I hate to contemplate how you'd have scored on the reading test.

      Delete
    3. Don't deadrat's correction sprees here remind you of Trump's tweeting binges?

      Delete
    4. @11:36, You can't tell the difference between someone who disputes erroneous claims and Donald Trump? Is your inability to read for comprehension an isolated symptom or could it be a sign of a larger cognitive deficit? I ask because I'm just a caring kind of guy. Seriously, consult a medical professional and report back to the commentariat here. I'll worry about you in the meantime.

      Delete
    5. Yes, I admit that your spelling is better than Trump's but otherwise, not much difference.

      Delete
  3. Speaking about the average US Pisa score:
    “Do those numbers make it obvious that we need "an extensive overhaul" of some kind? Offhand, we would say they do not.”

    And yet, Somerby makes it clear that it is white and Asian students who are responsible for lifting the average, the average that seems, offhand, to suggest no real need for an overhaul.

    The average score for blacks and Hispanics shows a “horrible” gap compared to whites and Asians (even though “We have no rule of thumb which lets us know how large that gap really is”).

    The US public school system consists of 45% black, Hispanic, American Indians, and those with 2 or more races. The white proportion continues to diminish. Whites are at 49%, Asians at 5%.

    Offhand, we (I) would say that those numbers do suggest a need for an overhaul.

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    1. By your own numbers whites and Asian-Americans constitute a majority of the US public school system, and they outscore the world on PISA. Why would you (you) "offhand" suggest that we overhaul the entire school system including the parts that don't seem to be broken?

      I'm not saying that a system-wide overhaul wouldn't be beneficial. I just don't see how "those numbers" suggest that such a program is needed.

      Delete
  4. As I pointed out a few days back, Finland is not as monoculture as Somerby claims. It has about 10% immigrants, roughly equal to the number of African American students in many states in the US.

    Somerby wants to cherry pick a subset of American students and leave out the rest in order to claim that our white kids are doing fine. Then he asks why the journalists don't talk about the gaps. Doesn't anyone else here see an irony in that?

    If they took Somerby's approach, would the letters received by the NY Times then say nasty things about immigrants and black kids? Would they be about race mixing and mud children? Would they reflect the rising tide of racism and White Supremacism in our country? Would the NY Times then suppress such bigotry in favor of publishing letters about phonics and reading for pleasure? Perhaps that is already happening, for all we know.

    Somerby seems strangely fascinated by the gaps. He never tells us what such gaps mean or what to do about them. He thinks the NY Times should focus on them, however, but to what purpose? Somerby notes how intransigent the gaps are. They are narrowing, but the white kids get better too, so the gaps remain. Will Somerby next be suggesting that those kids he segregates out of the data in order to show us the wonderfulness of our white students, instead be relegated to all black schools where their "needs" can be better met? Will Somerby suggest that nothing needs to change about education because nothing works because black kids are just stuck being not good at school? Will Somerby suggest that enough money has been tossed down the rat hole of black education and that efforts have failed, so no further effort is needed?

    Somerby never tells us why he keeps saying things that are similar to a White Supremacist message, without drawing the obvious conclusions from his disaggregated data. Somerby never says anything at all about how to help black kids catch up. Somerby never says anything useful at all -- just things that give fuel to those who want to claim that the white race is being brought down by immigrants and blacks, so-called mud people and inferior races, as test scores clearly show. No wonder Somerby supports Trump, in his craven, under-handed, unsubtle diatribes that are supposedly about education. He won't take responsibility for any conclusions drawn by readers after he has carefully eliminated anything else that might suggest a different discussion.

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    1. A Mr Richard Feder of Fort Lee, NJ writes a comment @1:47P. You sure do ask a lot of questions, Mr Feder, but it just goes to show, it’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Let’s see if I can answer some of those questions.

      As I pointed out a few days back, Finland is not as monoculture as Somerby claims. It has about 10% immigrants, roughly equal to the number of African American students in many states in the US.

      Er, no. Wikipedia, quoting a Finnish government source, says that 7.1% of the Finnish population are immigrants; 4.8% of the population are immigrants from outside the EU. That’s about the percentage of Asian-Americans in the US.

      Somerby wants to cherry pick a subset of American students and leave out the rest in order to claim that our white kids are doing fine.

      Er, no. TDH picks two subsets of American students to show that 1) there are groups of US students who outperform the rest of the world’s students, which may mean they’re doing fine or not, 2) the schools are not failing across the board, and 3) generalizations can hide the real problem.

      If they took Somerby's approach, would the letters received by the NY Times then say nasty things about immigrants and black kids?

      TDH’s approach is to note which populations our schools are having problems with. He’s either right about that approach or wrong. In any case, hypothetical racist letter writers are not his problem.

      He never tells us what such gaps mean or what to do about them.

      The gaps are pretty much self-explanatory. TDH is not an expert on educational strategies. Why would you expect him to have solutions for closing the gaps?

      He thinks the NY Times should focus on them, however, but to what purpose?

      For accurately reporting the news.

      Will Somerby next be suggesting that those kids he segregates out of the data in order to show us the wonderfulness of our white students, instead be relegated to all black schools where their "needs" can be better met?

      No, he won’t.

      Will Somerby suggest that nothing needs to change about education because nothing works because black kids are just stuck being not good at school?

      No, he won’t.

      Will Somerby suggest that enough money has been tossed down the rat hole of black education and that efforts have failed, so no further effort is needed?

      No, he won’t. If the past is any indication, he will suggest that enough money has been tossed to the various education grifters.

      Somerby never tells us why he keeps saying things that are similar to a White Supremacist message,….

      Because his message isn’t similar to a white supremacist message. TDH tells us about test scores; white supremacists tell us about the supposed genetic superiority of white people. See the difference?

      Somerby never says anything at all about how to help black kids catch up.

      Perhaps he doesn’t know. Seems he’s in good company.

      Somerby never says anything useful at all…

      Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it’s not useful.

      just things that give fuel to those who want to claim that the white race is being brought down by immigrants and blacks, so-called mud people and inferior races, as test scores clearly show.

      The scores are what they are. Should they not be reported because racists are ignorant?

      He won't take responsibility for any conclusions drawn by readers after he has carefully eliminated anything else that might suggest a different discussion.

      TDH is responsible for getting his facts straight. He, like the rest of us, doesn’t always do that, but he’s right about the gaps. Nothing he’s said precludes any discussion, different or not. And he’s not responsible for faulty conclusions drawn by numpties like you.

      Delete
    2. 'Somerby never tells us why he keeps saying things that are similar to a White Supremacist message'

      Because he is a Trumptard. Easy Peasy !

      Delete
    3. "There is probably a fire in some theater somewhere, so aren't I doing a service when I loudly yell fire in this one? Is it my fault if excitable people panic and stampede toward the doors, injuring others?"

      "The scores are what they are. Should they not be reported because racists are ignorant?" says deadrat.

      If Somerby only reported the gaps, that might be a reasonable statement, but Somerby complains endlessly because the gaps are "disappeared" or "ignored" in reports that otherwise have little to do with the topic of racial disparities (such as major reports on international testing, or reports on how phonics has improved reading scores in MS). And Somerby never talks about fixing the gaps, only about their intransigence despite increases overall in scores. What conclusions should someone with racist tendencies draw after that?

      And deadrat ignores this criticism over and over. He ignores that people use numbers and make statements for a reason, purposefully, with motive. He never thinks about those larger reasons, but only about whether the numbers themselves are 7.3 or 10 and match Wikipedia or not (as if that guaranteed accuracy). And he never engages with the arguments a person is making, only nitpicking around the edges, as if that shed any light on anything.

      TDH is fully responsible for the implications of what he writes, whether he is busily defending Roy Moore or telling us that Trump isn't competent and therefore we shouldn't talk about his crimes and removal.

      And where was deadrat when we were pointing out that 65,844,954 people voted for Hillary compared to 62,984,879 voted for Trump? Why didn't he point out that actually 72+ million voted for someone other than Trump? Because that wouldn't have supported Trump and his conservative argument about overturning the voters, would it?

      Delete
    4. @11:27A, who obviously failed the analogy sections on whatever standardized tests he or she ever took, opines

      "There is probably a fire in some theater somewhere, so aren't I doing a service when I loudly yell fire in this one? Is it my fault if excitable people panic and stampede toward the doors, injuring others?”

      Here, FIFY:

      “There’s obviously a fire in the theater we’re all seated in. Nobody else seems to think it’s a problem, so I probably shouldn’t warn people because they might panic and stampede toward the doors, injuring others. Better to sit here and burn to death.”

      Delete
    5. This is a great illustration, deadrat. You and I don't think alike. You assume that if I don't think like you, I must be wrong. I assume that if you and I don't think alike, we are two different people and I try to think about what you say. Unfortunately, that exercise yields little benefit, so I am probably going to skip your comments in the new year.

      Has calling people names ever helped anything in your life?

      Delete
    6. Each time you cast aspersions on my test scores, I am tempted to tell you what they are, but then you would simply say that anyone can claim anything on the internet and there is no way to validate the truth of any such claim, and I think it would sound pathetic to have to prove anything to you, so I'll just say that you are wrong.

      Delete
    7. @11:27A, Sorry, but I’m having a hard time understanding your complaint. It seems you’re saying that you wouldn’t mind TDH’s reporting about the gaps in test scores if only he wouldn’t complain that journalists routinely ignore those gaps.

      Are the gaps generally ignored? That certainly seem to be the case in the latest round about PISA. Why, again, shouldn’t TDH point that out?

      You’re also annoyed with TDH for not proposing fixes. Why do you expect him to have solutions? And if he proposed any, wouldn’t you be the first to scoff at him for lacking the skills and experience? Here’s a scene that I can imagine. It’s a fine summer day, and you’re driving down the street, car windows open, and another car pulls alongside you. The following conversation takes place:

      OTHER DRIVER: Do you realize that your engine is making a terrible noise?

      YOU: Can you tell me how to fix it?

      OTHER DRIVER: No, I’m not a mechanic. I just noticed the noise.

      YOU: Then go fuck yourself.

      And let’s be fair here. I don’t ignore your criticism. I think it’s wrong-headed. People do use numbers for a reason. For instance, you use inflated numbers for Finnish immigrants to imply that Finland has a minority population parallel to African-Americans in the US. I mention that your numbers are wrong because, as usual, you can’t get the simplest facts straight, and because the actual numbers show your conclusion is wrong. Sure, sure, Wikipedia is not guaranteed accurate, but the entry quotes a Finnish government source. Can you do better?

      We’re all responsible for what we write and what we thereby imply. None of us is necessarily responsible for what others erroneously infer.

      You’re lying about TDH and Roy Moore. Again. You should stop that. I can’t say the same for your claim about Trump and removal, but TDH’s claim is that we should enquire into Trump’s mental state. If Trump is insane, then he should be removed immediately as a clear and present danger, his corruption notwithstanding. I’ll just chalk up your erroneous claim on this topic to your chronic inability to read for comprehension.

      Where was I when you were pointing out that 65.8M people voted for Hillary compared to 63M for Trump, and that actually “72M+” vote for someone besides Trump? Right here. I suppose I should have pointed out that 70.8M voted for someone other than Hillary. So what?

      Delete
    8. You assume that if I don't think like you, I must be wrong.

      No, no, no, no, no.

      And no.

      You are wrong when you get your facts wrong.
      You are wrong to draw conclusions from facts not in evidence.

      I am wrong on the same bases.

      As they say, you're entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.

      Delete
    9. I am probably going to skip your comments in the new year.

      Well, Brave Sir Robin, this is, as always, entirely up to you. How about trying just once to counter my criticisms? You can always decide to bravely depart.

      Has calling people names ever helped anything in your life?

      To their faces? I can't remember the last time I did that. In my life, I restrict myself to muttered imprecations about bad drivers and bad parents.

      I haven't called you names. Ugly, Clumsy, Stupid. Those are names. I've pointed out that you can't read for comprehension. That's a fact: you can't seem to follow what TDH actually says. I've said you can't get the simplest things straight. That's also a fact. I've called you a liar. But only for your continued claims about TDH's alleged "support" for Roy Moore. That's because I've corrected you multiple times with cites to TDH's entries, and you still persist with this untruth.

      Stop taking or pretending to take umbrage at what I write. Nothing I write should have any material effect on your existence. I'm just a random, rude voice in cyberspace.

      By the way, how was your Thanksgiving? Enjoyable, I hope.

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    10. Each time you cast aspersions on my test scores, I am tempted to tell you what they are, but ... I'll just say that you are wrong.

      OK, I believe you. First of all, it was just my rude, snide, boorish, and contemptuous --but adorable, dontchathink? -- manner of saying how inapt your analogy was. Taking standardized tests is a skill unto itself, and high scores on multiple-choice tests don't always indicate an ability to apply skills outside the artificial environment of the test session.

      If the analogy you constructed is any indication, your skill in this area is wanting. Of course, it's only one data point, and you may be quite skilled in general. In any case, it would be no great surprise were your standardized test scores high.

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    11. The only one lying about Roy Moore here has been Somerby.

      Dating an occasional 18 year old doesn't excuse what Moore did with younger girls.

      Delete
    12. “Somerby never says anything at all about how to help black kids catch up.

      deadrat says: “Perhaps he doesn’t know.”

      Therefore, he goes on and on about something he doesn’t know, and accuses everyone else of not caring, scoffing at research, mocking people who study the problem, never discussing actual education outside of test scores? Seems like a good plan.

      (For example, he gave a clownish, dismissive “summary” of Hanford’s “science of reading”, and objected to her op-Ed because of her attributing a correlation to Mississippi’s test score increase. That is a valid objection, but it might behoove him, as someone who pretends to care about education and as someone ignorant of what works in classrooms to spend a little time studying the teaching method she outlines, which may actually be quite effective. )

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    13. Therefore, he [TDH] goes on and on about something he doesn’t know,….

      Try to focus: there are two subjects here: the reporting and discussion about the gaps and the education strategies to overcome the gaps. TDH “goes on and on,” and one might say obsessively, about the former. He doesn’t discuss the latter.

      [I]t might behoove him [TDH], as someone who pretends to care about education and as someone ignorant of what works in classrooms to spend a little time studying the teaching method she [Hanford] outlines, which may actually be quite effective.

      (Pretends to care. I saw what you did there.)

      It might so behoove him, but apparently it doesn’t. It might behoove you to give your attention to blogs dedicated to topics you find important and interesting. But that apparently doesn’t obtain either.

      To be fair, Hanford’s 12/5/19 Op-Ed piece in the NYT hardly qualifies as an “outline” of the teaching method she touts, but she does give an instructive link. And such method “may actually be quite effective,” but it turns out that the statistics Hanford quotes don’t support that case. And that’s what interests TDH.

      Mississippi seem to be doing a very un-Mississippi like thing — actually spending money to identify struggling students and implementing programs to help them. That sounds interesting to me, but if I want to know more about the nuts and bolts of the effort, I’ll have to go elsewhere to find out. TDH doesn’t seem to share my interest, or at least he doesn’t think it’s germane to his blog. So be it.

      Delete
    14. MS also spent a lot of money on teacher training. That's where the use of more current methods comes in. And they addressed credentialing seriously, suspending teachers without proper training. Look beyond Hanford's op ed and read some of the articles about what happened in MS to bring their scores up.

      A lot of Somerby's arguments fall apart if you consider a topic in the light of more available info than what he has chosen to excerpt or niggle about. These trivial statistical carps have little to do with the broader issues being raised in these various articles he decides to complain about. But that means thinking beyond the numbers and looking at the bigger picture.

      That's what I believe those various letter writers were doing -- taking the issues seriously and bringing other info to bear from their own knowledge and experience. But it is hard for Somerby to contribute to that, beyond his insistence that they are all wrong because of some triviality about stats mishandled by some reporter (or not).

      Delete
    15. Dating an occasional 18 year old doesn't excuse what Moore did with younger girls.

      Of course not. And if you'd actually read what TDH wrote, you'd know he was disgusted with reporters who concentrated on Moore's oh-so-shocking but legal relationships while ignoring the "credible" (TDH's word) charges of sexual assault.

      Delete
  5. Maybe Betsy DeVos has some ideas about how to eliminate those horrible embarrassing gaps?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Times did extensive reporting on DeVos’ reaction to the recent NAEP scores.

      Crickets from Somerby.

      Delete
  6. Our schools are doing great, no need for an overhaul. Just look at those whites and Asians. *

    Blacks and Hispanics are doing horribly compared to whites and Asians.

    But remember: no need for an overhaul of the schools.

    The takeaway: ? Somerby leaves that unsaid.

    One wonders what he actually learned while teaching inner city Baltimore youths.

    *And yet, in the decades of rising scores**, there were numerous reform efforts put in place. Did those efforts help drive the improvement? Would the scores have risen without these efforts?

    **it should be noted that the rate of rise varies. Reading scores have risen far less dramatically than math scores on the Naep.

    ReplyDelete
  7. “That rather high score for our "white" kids isn't a score from Westchester County or Exeter, Miss Porter's and Hotchkiss. It's a score for the whole ragtag band of kids from our nation's dominant demographic group.”

    This is, to put it mildly, bunk.

    Does Somerby think that all white students in the US took the test, or that there was no sampling involved?

    He thinks China is manipulating its results, so we can ignore their scores, as he stated in a previous post.

    Is it possible that, like he accuses Mississippi of doing on the naep, the US could be doing this with the Pisa as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All white students? Of course not. TDH thinks a representative cross-section of of white students took the test. Do you have evidence to the contrary? It's possible that the US (states) are manipulating the NAEP, but if they're doing it like Mississippi, then there's a huge conspiracy to hide promotion rates.

      Did TDH say China is manipulating its results? I think he just said that China's reporting areas aren't characteristic of the country as a whole.

      Delete
    2. Did you miss the part of the discussion where it was pointed out that promotion rates are treated as MS does in many states across the US and that NAEP scores do not take that into consideration (e.g., make any adjustment) for that. It doesn't imply any "huge conspiracy" to conceal anything. English Language learners are also typically excluded from taking the NAEP, along with special ed students. You have to read the fine print to find this out. TDH did say that China was selectively testing and for that reason its results were unrepresentative. Whether you call that "manipulating" isn't worth arguing about.

      It is specious to expect any commenter here to "prove" whether a cross-section of white students took the test or not, but Somerby's claim that all white students are tested is surely wrong because it is too inclusive. The reasons don't have to result from any conspiracy. It can simply be that poor kids without health care tend to miss more school days due to illness and thus are more likely to be out of school on the days the test is administered, or some such. Or rich kids are more likely to attend private schools that would have been less likely to participate in the testing. See how this works?

      Delete
    3. Did you miss the part of the discussion where it was pointed out that promotion rates are treated as MS does in many states….?

      I’m not quite sure what it means to treat promotion rates. Mississippi has a far higher retention rate than other states.

      NAEP scores do not take that into consideration (e.g., make any adjustment) for that.

      Exactly, and exactly the point. Having a high retention rate (i.e., a high percentage of students not promoted) before the 4th grade NAEP tests filters out students who, in general, will score poorly on the test. It follows that better-prepared students will take the NAEP tests in the 4th grade, so the mean score should rise.

      This isn’t to say that Mississippi isn’t doing the right thing. It sounds like they are, giving special attention to those who in their first few years of school, fail to gain promotion to the next grade.

      It doesn't imply any "huge conspiracy" to conceal anything.

      True. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I’m saying that Mississippi is not like other states when it comes to promotion policies, according to each state’s reporting. If you’re going to claim that other states are really following Mississippi’s example, then those other states are supplying phony data in a huge coverup. I don’t find that credible.

      English Language learners are also typically excluded from taking the NAEP, along with special ed students.

      How is that relevant here? That much is true everywhere.

      It is specious to expect any commenter here to "prove" whether a cross-section of white students took the test or not,

      I’m not asking for proof; I’m asking for evidence for a claim.

      Somerby's claim that all white students are tested is surely wrong because it is too inclusive.

      TDH says, “That rather high score for our ‘white’ kids includes all such kids nationwide.” and you’re right, that’s likely wrong because all it takes to invalidate that statement is one white kid who missed the test. But I think his point is that the white PISA scores aren’t the result of cherrypicking the best white students. TDH (also) writes,

      That rather high score for our "white" kids isn't a score from Westchester County or Exeter, Miss Porter's and Hotchkiss. It's a score for the whole ragtag band of kids from our nation's dominant demographic group.

      The “band” of kids is from all regions, not all kids in all regions.

      It can simply be that poor kids … are more likely to be out of school on the days the test is administered, or … rich kids are more likely to attend private schools that would have been less likely to participate in the testing. See how this works?

      i think I see how the poor kids example works. Nonwhite kids in general are poorer. Poorer kids in general have lower scores, lower attendance, and so will miss the test more often than rich kids who are in general more likely to be white, have higher scores, and take the test more often than poor kids. This would skew the test scores higher for white kids. Do you have evidence for lower than expected participation for poor kids?

      But I’m not sure about the private school example. If rich, white kids are likely to do better on the NAEP, but they’re also more likely to go to private schools that don’t participate in the testing, doesn’t that mean that the overall white scores are thereby lower than they should be, and thus all the more significant at their reported level? Sorry if I’m missing your point.

      In any case, NAEP does extensive study of achievement in private schools, including comparison with public schools. All their data is online. Did you find some bias due to private school participation, or lack thereof?

      Delete
    4. Somerby made the claim about “the whole ragtag band” of white students. It is his job to justify that claim. He should link to relevant Pisa documents that show the selection process for US students, and also to justify his contention that China’s results aren’t “representative.”

      Delete
    5. PISA says they randomly chose the schools and students within the chosen schools to make up a demographically representative sample. We know some states that volunteered to participate. In 2017, it was Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico.

      China's results are from Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province, which together have less than 15% of China's population.

      Happy now?

      Delete
    6. It isn't the % that makes a sample representative. It is selection in order to achieve demographic characteristics like those of the larger population. Random selection doesn't ensure a representative sample. It eliminates selection bias. The smaller the sample, random or not, the less likely it will be representative.

      Volunteering introduces selection (in this case self-selection) bias.

      I suspect that 15% of China's population is a larger number than however many students were randomly selected in the USA. Would it be fair to include and compare students from rural areas with those from large cities? Is that fair in the USA either or are there urban/rural differences in both China and the USA.

      I think Somerby is using this sampling supposition to permit him to ignore Asian successes. I haven't seen any evidence that there is real bias in China's sampling.

      Delete
    7. It isn't the % that makes a sample representative. It is selection in order to achieve demographic characteristics like those of the larger population.

      You’re right. The selection in China’s case is not only from small sample populations (small compared to China’s overall population, that is), but the sampled areas are all from eastern China.

      Random selection doesn't ensure a representative sample. It eliminates selection bias.

      True, like the selection bias that would occur if the chosen students were all from
      Westchester County or Exeter, Miss Porter's and Hotchkiss.

      Volunteering introduces selection (in this case self-selection) bias.

      The volunteers were volunteering to be sampled; they didn’t get to choose which schools were selected or which students in those schools took the test.

      I suspect that 15% of China's population is a larger number than however many students were randomly selected in the USA.

      Good Lord, yes! The US sample size was about 4K. I intended the 15% to show just how restricted the sampling area was in China.

      Would it be fair to include and compare students from rural areas with those from large cities? Is that fair in the USA either or are there urban/rural differences in both China and the USA.

      If you’re going to present a composite score for each country, than it would be mandatory to include students from both rural and urban areas.

      I think Somerby is using this sampling supposition to permit him to ignore Asian successes.

      Where do you come by this conclusion? TDH’s thesis is that a large segment of our school kids (i.e., white and Asian-American kids) do better on PISA than anyone else, and that includes China, which doesn’t have a proper composite score.

      I haven't seen any evidence that there is real bias in China's sampling.

      Have you looked? China’s sampling is certainly biased on a geographical basis. Very likely in on a rural/urban basis.

      Delete
  8. Somerby always brings up the achievement gaps whenever he critiques an education story.

    The question is: why?

    He has never made clear if he thinks the achievement gaps are even capable of being fixed within the school system, or whether they are partly or mostly due to factors outside the control of schools.

    Because if they are due to factors outside of schools, it is misguided, and frankly dangerous, to bring them up in this context, because it leads to yet more demagoguery about schools and school reforms, and an insidious demagoguery that is based on racial and ethnic bigotry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why? Because the gaps represent a serious societal problem.

      No matter where the factors lie, the gaps are still the gaps. Should we ignore them because we don't know how to fix them?

      Delete
    2. You forgot to address @3:47's comment about aiding bigotry.

      Delete
    3. Sorry, 11:08A. I don’t understand how bringing up “factors outside of schools” is necessarily misguided. Racial achievement gaps could be due to many such factors — hunger in the morning, overall nutrition, access to health insurance and health services, lack of early-childhood care outside the home, gun violence in neighborhoods. None of those has any basis in race.

      Unless, of course, you’re a racist to begin with, in which case everything has to do with skin color and nothing has to do with facts.

      Delete
  9. Finland has a guaranteed annual income and gives a stipend to unemployed people below the poverty line. Their tax rate is 40%. Even so, 8% of people were below the 699 Euro minimum budget. That compares to 13.5% poverty rate in the USA. Finland's poverty rate was around 11% in 2016 before instituting its guaranteed income stipends, which sound a lot like unemployment insurance payments.

    This isn't as different as Somerby suggests and it doesn't make Finland as much of a "middle class" country as he claims either. Finland is a wealthy industrialized country with many millionaires and the gap between rich and poor has widened faster in Finland than any other OECD country.

    It isn't exactly the Bernie-style paradise Somerby portrays it as. Yes, it is better than the US in healthcare, but it too struggles with homelessness and has its set of wealthy people at the top.

    But Somerby is just cherry-picking facts that support his arguments, not really investigating Finland's economy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's wrong with you? The blog entry isn't about investigating Finland's economy. The point about Finland is that given the differences between the US and Finland, it doesn't make much sense to compare the two countries on a single statistic like test scores.

      Delete
    2. You can't compare the USA to any country where everyone has healthcare. Apples/ oranges.

      Delete
    3. An excellent point hidden in your comment, 10:19A. You can't automatically draw conclusions with comparisons of healthcare in the US to healthcare in any one country. US healthcare costs and outcomes compare poorly to almost all western, industrialized countries. Maybe the US is unique, so different from every other country that any comparisons are misleading. Or maybe the comparisons will tell us otherwise.

      Delete
  10. “It's a small, middle-class nation with much less demographic complexity. You can assess that demographic fact any way you wish, but Finland is not the U.S.”

    Does that also explain why their health care spending is less?

    And if you shouldn’t really compare Pisa results because of this, why should you compare health care spending?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'And if you shouldn’t really compare Pisa results because of this, why should you compare health care spending?'

      Very good point. It's because Somerby doesn't really care about these topics. He only uses it as a cudgel to attack liberals, because he is a Trumptard.

      Delete
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  12. Here is what is said on Dec 31:

    "Immigrants are 7.3% of the Finnish population. That is greater than the % of African Americans in many US states. You could call some US states monocultures too. Do such states do better on PISA or do they have their own problems? Utah comes to mind. Blacks are less than 2% but 70% live in Salt Lake City. Are there majority-minority schools in that city and how do they do? Is poverty a problem there despite the very small black population? Or do they outperform Finland?

    Somerby pat answer about why Finland does well is ridiculous. It is entirely possible that Finland has some favorable practices that we do not, such as smaller class sizes, universal pre-K, or some such. But Somerby won't discuss actual schooling issues. It is only about demographics for him, perhaps because he only knows how to talk about %s and not modern education."

    Notice how energetically deadrat defends Somerby in this new year.

    Like Somerby, deadrat won't engage in any actual discussion of relevant subject matter, nothing about education.

    Is he performing any actual service here or is he trolling. He sure as hell isn't engaging with anyone in a substantive manner.

    It is any American's god-given right to troll others. I won't tell him to go away, but I will say that we don't need whatever it is he thinks he is doing and he is wasting his time. It is, however, his time to waste.

    Does it enhance your knowledge or enjoyment of anything to know that Finland's immigrant population is 7.3% of its total as opposed to "around 10%"? Do I feel better educated because he called me a bunch of names, because I didn't feel like looking up that exact, specific number, twice?

    I am having trouble deciding who is the bigger ass, deadrat or Somerby. No contest -- it is Somerby. Assuming they aren't the same guy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Notice how energetically deadrat defends Somerby in this new year.

      Notice how the new year brings the same clueless criticisms of TDH.

      Like Somerby, deadrat won't engage in any actual discussion of relevant subject matter, nothing about education.

      I don’t know anything about education, and knowing nothing, I don’t opine on the topic. I recommend that general principle. You should find it highly applicable in your own life.

      Is he performing any actual service here or is he trolling.

      Neither, as should be clear to everyone, or at least to those who know what a troll is. Whatever I’m doing, it’s worth at least as much as it’s costing you.

      He sure as hell isn't engaging with anyone in a substantive manner.

      I’ve discussed germane Supreme Court rulings, sections of the United States Code, principles of legal interpretation, demographics, election statistics, the Mueller Report, our treaties with Ukraine, the history of segregation in schools,….

      Should I go on? I don’t mind if you don’t like my manner or if you don’t agree with my opinion of this blog, but why not show some intellectual integrity here? I look things up and present the facts as I understand them. I might be wrong, but that’s different.

      I didn't feel like looking up that exact, specific number….

      So unlike me, you don’t feel like getting your facts straight, but I’m the one who doesn’t engage “in a substantive manner.” Have I got that right?

      Assuming they aren't the same guy.

      Sez the Anonymous Ignoramus @11:05A, just like the rest of the Anonymi Ignorami.

      Delete
    2. “I don’t know anything about education” says deadrat.

      Neither does Somerby, but that doesn’t stop him from blogging about it, acting as if he knows, and accusing the rest of the world of not caring.

      Delete
    3. Try to focus: two separate topics -- educational programs and reporting about the effects of educational programs. TDH doesn't blog about the former, or at least I can't remember a blog entry that discusses operational methods. He's obsessed with the reporting and the related discussion of the results of those programs.

      TDH is using the common rhetorical device of placing action before words. Since he can't judge your mental state, he's not interested in whether you're invested emotionally and thereby have that caring feeling. If you don't act like you care, then for him, you don't really care. If you find that stance annoying, ignore it.

      Delete
    4. TDH doesn't know anything about either of those topics.

      How about if we just ignore you instead.

      Delete
    5. Who's "we"? You and your follow Anonymous Ignoramuses? Didja all get together and vote to ignore me? Didja think that would hurt my feelings?

      If you can't understand what TDH is saying, and you can't counter my criticisms, then fine. It's not fair to expect what you're incapable of giving. But don't pretend that your failure to provide substantive responses is the result of a principled boycott.

      Delete
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