Part 4—Suppressing a truly remarkable fact: It was hardly surprising to see Sam Dillon reporting the latest NAEP data.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is universally described as the “gold standard” of educational testing. The program had just released the data from its 2011 tests.
Dillon penned a news report in the New York Times—a news report which was very short and substantially flawed. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/17/11.
Dillon pretended to discuss student progress over the past twenty years. As usual, Times readers were given a false impression. They were led to believe that they’d been exposed to the basic facts.
That said, consider a truly remarkable fact, a fact which didn’t make Dillon’s report. Richard Rothstein reported this fact last August, in Slate. Even Rothstein buried his stunning fact near the end of a lengthy report about Rhee-style educational "reform."
All praise to Richard Rothstein, whose astonishing fact was of course allowed to die a quiet and dignified death. We don’t think we’ve ever seen this fact reported anywhere else. Few Americans have ever heard this truly remarkable fact:
ROTHSTEIN (8/29/11): Central to the reformers' argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago.Say what? Let’s repeat that astonishing fact, updated to include the new NAEP scores:
In 2011, black fourth-graders scored higher in math than white kids did in 1990! Anyone can see this is true. Click here to access the new NAEP report, then scroll to page 12, Figure 4.
Let’s repeat that astonishing fact, the fact you’ve never seen reported. In this year’s NAEP math test, black fourth-graders scored higher than their white counterparts scored in 1990. In fact, black fourth-graders scored substantially higher than those white kids of yore. Their four-point advantage over yesteryear’s white kids may not seem like a giant amount. But according to norms which are routinely applied when “reporters” or “experts” have come up with something gloomy to tell us, that four-point advantage represents a differential of almost half a school year.
If those NAEP scores can be trusted, today’s black kids know more math than white kids did in 1990! And everyone, “reporters” and “experts” alike, swears by the value of NAEP scores. (More on that question below.)
In this year’s testing, black fourth-graders scored higher in math than white kids scored in 1990! And while we’re at it, let’s note this fact: Hispanic fourth-graders scored even higher! They outscored yesteryear’s white kids by nine points—by almost a full school year! (See page 12, Figure 5.) At the eighth-grade level, the comparisons aren’t quite as remarkable—but in this year’s testing, Hispanic eighth-graders matched the average score achieved by white kids in 1990. (See page 37, Figure 22.) Black eighth-graders still trail that norm, although they scored much higher than their black counterparts in 1990. At the eighth-grade level, today’s black kids are massively exceeding the average score once achieved by their parents.
Let’s repeat that astonishing fact: In this year’s testing, black and Hispanic kids scored higher in math than white kids did in 1990. That is a truly remarkable fact—but you have never seen it reported! It wasn’t reported, or hinted at, in Dillon’s report in the Times.
Why haven’t you seen that astonishing fact in your nation’s newspapers? Why isn’t that fact widely reported and widely discussed? Why haven’t you ever seen that fact in Gotham’s glorious New York Times? Why don’t “liberals” cite such facts every day of the whole goddamned week?
We’ll offer two possible answers:
First, your nation suffers under a deeply Potemkin press culture. Whatever you might want to call it, the New York Times isn’t a real newspaper. This fact is evident in many ways. (Have you ever read a Gail Collins column?) But if the New York Times really was a newspaper, is there any way it could write news reports about NAEP testing in recent decades without including such facts?
Second, the “career liberal” world is a major confection. Whatever you might want to call the people who star on your liberal cable news channel, it’s fairly hard to regard them as “liberals.” On what planet would “liberals” fail to report the facts we've just cited? (We’ve been citing similar facts for years.) At a time when public school teachers are under attack—when privatization is widely advanced in all areas; when government itself is under constant attack—those data from the “gold standard” testing program suggest that a stunning success has occurred in the public schools, one of our largest public programs. What kind of “liberal” would fail to trumpet the fact that the public schools have achieved this success? Even more disgracefully, what kinds of people would keep you from hearing that the nation’s black and Hispanic kids have achieved this startling success?
Who would keep you from knowing these things? Who else? The horrible, low-IQ, self-dealing cretins who pose as journalists, experts and liberals within our Potemkin culture! The kinds of folk who are cast as “editors” at the New York Times! Most disgustingly, the kinds of people who would rather attack George Bush than heap much-deserved praise on the nation’s black children. In other words, the horrible, terrible, low-IQ people you see each night on your “TV machine thingy!” The self-adoring, clowning buffoons who stuff millions of bucks in their pants as they walk all over the interests of black kids.
Earth to readers: These people and their “producers” know something. They know that we, the target audience, don’t give a flying fig about black kids—and so, they don’t bore us with those facts. Instead, they feed us pleasing tales about the bigots over there—the racist and bigots over there, in the other tribe. At the Times, a low-IQ legacy pimps you a pile of embarrassing shit about all the bigots in Bama.
For today, let’s leave it there, with two more observations:
Regarding advances in reading: The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests kids in math and reading. Over the past twenty years, the recorded gains in math are astounding—not that you would ever know it from reading your nation’s “newspapers.” The gains in reading aren't as large, perhaps for the types of reasons cited in Dillon’s report:
DILLON (11/2/11): Mr. Driscoll and other officials and experts [sic] put forward several hypotheses to explain the trends. Children learn most of their math in school, and even though math instruction in the United States in general lags behind that in some high-performing countries, the experts said, it has improved over the past two decades. Reading achievement, in contrast, reflects not only the quality of reading instruction in school classrooms, they said, but also factors like whether parents read to children and how much time students read on their own outside school. And many children in the United States are spending less time reading on their own.For the record: Our nation spent centuries actively trying to eliminate literacy in the black community. And when we look at reading scores among Hispanic kids, we must remember that many of those deserving kids come from low-income, low-literacy backgrounds; many of these delightful kids are in this country to serve the interests of corporate employers, who enjoy paying low wages. Despite these factors, reading scores are strongly improved in the past twenty years once you “disaggregate” the data. The gains in reading don’t match those is math. But that's because the gains in math are vast.
"I'm disappointed but not surprised by these results," said Sharon Darling, founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, a group based in Kentucky that works to help parents support their children's educational efforts at home. "Children spend five times as much time outside the classroom as they do in school, and our country has 30 million parents or caregivers who are not good readers themselves, so they pass illiteracy down to their children."
You have never been told these facts in your major “newspapers.” For a summary of results from the NAEP’s two major programs, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/10. (Career liberals wouldn’t discuss such facts if their grandmothers’ lives were at stake.)
Regarding the NAEP itself: On November 1, Kevin Drum did a post about the new NAEP scores. We thought his post was oddly truncated in several respects, though that's the nature of blog posts; for example, he cited reading scores, skipped math. But to his great credit, Drum consistently posts about such topics. He is one of the only major career liberals who discusses such topics at all.
That said, white liberals don’t care about black kids. Drum’s post produced a predictably small number of comments—and we were struck by the way one commenter authored a cynical, uninformed claim about the NAEP itself.
Maybe it’s a type of progress! Progressives have learned to be cynical about all educational testing. Decades after the problem developed, we have finally been allowed to hear about cheating on educational tests. Since our “intellectual leaders” never discuss the NAEP at all, we’ve never heard any assessment of that program’s credibility.
We’ll only repeat what we’ve said in the past. Until recently, no one has ever had an incentive to cheat on the NAEP. In recent years, state superintendents have developed such an incentive as state results have started to be widely discussed. If state superintendents can manipulate the sample of their student population which gets tested by the NAEP, then some superintendent somewhere has probably done so by now.
Is that possible? We have no idea. Given the way they our “education reporters” typically work, they will start to explore this possibility somewhere around the year 2080. If some sort problem is discovered, your nation’s “educational experts” will be caught by surprise.
As far as we know, the NAEP really is the gold standard of testing. As far as we know, its data are basically credible. But please understand our basic point:
Everybody swears by the NAEP. And no one reports what it says!
Black kids have made astonishing gains, as Richard Rothstein reported in Slate. Rachel would rather judge off a bridge than tell you that; ditto for the posturing Lawrence, who has now been cast in a scene from “About Schmidt” for one of his gruesome promotional ads.
Black kids have made astonishing gains. Hispanic kids have done so too. But these “liberals” will never tell you these facts.
Neither will the hapless Times. That said, have you heard the one about Mitt Romney’s dog?
Coming: Rachel and Lawrence and black kids
Another fine report.ReplyDelete
You mention the historical attempts to keep the black children subservient. I think it is important to remind folks we had 240 years of slavery followed by close to 100 years of segregation.
I have thought a good deal about the past 40 years or so and wonder what we will call this period for our black citizens. I suggest the Great Incarceration.
In 1968 both Nixon, as a Republican, and George Wallace, as an independent, campaigned for president. It was one of the closest in history. Nixon won by a couple hundred thousand votes. Both Nixon and Wallace ran against crime. The rising crime rate was widely reported in the news media. (I have suspected for a long time time demographics played a large part in the rising crime rate, but I could be wrong.) The subsequent steps to crush crime resulted in massive incarceration of black folks. I have read repeatedly that the USA has 25% of the world's prisoners withe about 5% of the world's population. Maybe this is America's exceptionalism.
Blacks are massively over-represented in the jails and prisons of America. I have been to the local jails and prisons and seen the huge disparity. Some years ago I saw a statistic that blacks in the 1930s had a lower crime rate that whites. What they have now is a massively higher incarceration rate.
When dad, or mom, is in jail or prison, the children are not being read to.
I am not enough of a sociologist to quantify this but it surely is significant.
In addition, the huge loss of economic power due to loss of employment while incarcerated and lowered expectations due to criminal records, I submit the increases in the achievements of black children is even more stunning.
Yes, Dave, looked at one way, the increased achievements of black children is stunning. OTOH over the last 45 years, we've introduced a host of programs that ought to have helped black children: welfare, school lunch, Head Start, Medicare, SCHIP, and a zillion educational reform approaches. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised if these programs worked.ReplyDelete
A small addendum to the two posts above. Last night, the African-American poet Nikky Finney, from the South, received the National Book Award for Poetry. (Another African-American woman, Jesmyn Ward, received the National Book Award for Fiction.) I'm linking to the livecast of the ceremony, introduced by John Lithgow, and please note Finney's opening remarks, which cite how South Carolina (like many states), made it a crime for black people to become literate.ReplyDelete
2011 National Book Awards livestream: Nikky Finney
The problem with your description David in Cal, is that you make it sound as if those programs were designed TO "help black children".ReplyDelete
Please note: There are dirt poor white folk too!!
Let's not even get into the state of Native Americans in this country.
Medicare?..A zillion reforms? Those voices in your head are quite loud today, D in C. Those programs were not designed for black people alone, they were for citizens of the US. Bit of a give away there you usually try to hide better than that.ReplyDelete
Sorry, Tom. I meant to write Medicaid, not Medicare. And, I forgot to include Food Stamps.ReplyDelete
Yes, it's true that these programs weren't designed for black people alone. However, at the time these programs were designed, blacks were on average much poorer than whites, so the programs disproportionally helped blacks. (Please note: I'm not complaining, I'm just observing. IMHO programs for the needy should help the needy. If a larger share of one race is needy, then IMHO it's appropriate that this race get a disproportionate share of the help.)
Great posting. Obama has been a horrible
president for education. He does not care about
the problems that plague America's public schools. Why? Because as a child he was never subjected to public schools. His daughters will never be subjected to public schools and his grandchildren will never be subjected to the public school system. He caters to the teacher's
union and the public employees unions because he needs them to get re-elected.He has not pushed for accountability and he has blocked most efforts to assist poor minority children in attending private schools with vouchers. This is shameful. If he were a white conservative the media would be all over this.
Yes, it's absolutely shameful how white racism in America has held blacks back from being as successful as they are in Africa.ReplyDelete
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