NAEP VERSUS NEWT: Kevin Drum gets it right!


EPILOGUE—A TALE OF THREE ELITES: Remember when we told you that Michael Winerip is something like Paul Krugman?

This morning, Winerip’s “On Education” column shows what we were talking about. (Although someone has taken the bite out of his column’s hard-hitting hard-copy headline.)

Let’s postpone that discussion till Wednesday. For today, let’s note the way Kevin Drum just keeps getting it right.

Last Thursday, Drum block-quoted our summary of test score gains on the NAEP (click here). He then asked a very good question:
DRUM (12/15/11): Not every big city participates in TUDA, but most of the biggest have participated since 2003, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. And these results are consistent with plenty of other NAEP results: poor and minority kids are still doing a lot worse than middle-class and non-minority kids, but they are making progress. Likewise, although there's no data for 11th or 12th graders, which means we don't really know if these gains are permanent, they are gains. Given the usual NAEP rule of thumb that ten points is equal to one grade level, these urban kids have improved their math and reading performance by anywhere from half a grade level to a full grade level in just eight years.

There are plenty of nits to pick with data like this, and I've picked some of them in the past. Still, why is it that progress like this so rarely gets reported? It's fairly impressive, no?
At this point, we’ll pick one nit ourselves. From what Drum writes, you might get the impression that students from non-TUDA cities are not involved in the overall NAEP data we cited. As far as we know, that’s not accurate. Dallas doesn’t take part in the TUDA; as far as we know, that doesn’t mean that it boycotts the NAEP altogether. As far as we know, it just means that the NAEP doesn't test a large enough sample of Dallas students to produce reliable scores for the city as a whole.

In our post, we cited the latest NAEP data for black kids/Hispanic kids/low-income kids on a nationwide basis. As far as we know, that includes kids from jurisdictions which don’t take part in the TUDA. As Drum notes, the score gains involved here are “fairly impressive.”

For ourselves, we’d call that an understatement. Hence Drum’s very good question:

“Why is it that progress like this so rarely gets reported?”

For ourselves, we’ll offer three obvious answers, built around the capability and interests of three major modern elites:

Corporatist elements: Let’s start with the most obvious answer. Apparent progress doesn’t get reported because it flies in the face of highly prized corporatist/right-wing scripts. In recent years, corporatist elements have been pounding the nation with punishing scripts like these:

Nothing has worked in the public schools! The teachers are lazy and incompetent, thanks to their infernal unions! The schools need to be privatized! Let’s ask that wonderful Wendy Kopp to bring in more Princeton kids!

Corporatist elements want to tell you those stories. It’s hard to do if people are told that our most reliable test scores just keep going up.

The American “press corps:” In a rational world, it would fall to the press corps to challenge those corporatist scripts. But you don’t live in a rational world; you live in a world where Gail Collins was recently the head of the New York Times editorial board!

Expecting our “press corps” to challenge those scripts is like asking a gang of chimps to type all of Shakespeare’s works—in the next hour, without mistakes. It just isn’t going to happen.

The liberal/progressive world: In a rational world, it would fall to liberals and progressives to challenge those corporatist scripts. But you don’t live in a rational world; you live in a world where the people who get hired to pose as liberals and progressives simply don’t care about black kids. Rather plainly, they also don’t care about public school teachers; about their teachers unions; or about anything much in particular, except the chance to stuff millions of bucks into their bulging pockets. If you doubt that, just watch Lawrence and/or Rachel some night.

You may see Rachel do a real report. With Lawrence, there's really no chance. And nothing they say will ever concern the topics being discussed here. It just isn’t done, especially on NBC, which has aggressively purchased the scripts we have listed above.

In a rational world, Drum’s question makes very good sense. Michael Winerip to the side, you don’t live in that world.

Tomorrow: U.S. students in low-poverty schools

Wednesday: Concerning what Winerip said


  1. urban kids have improved their math and reading performance by anywhere from half a grade level to a full grade level in just eight years.

    No Child Left Behind was passed a little over eight years ago. Maybe some people would rather not talk about results that make George Bush look good.

  2. ...and the results that precede those eight years make Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, Carter, etc. look good -- if you're an imbecile.

    There is very little in the history of the improvements in "urban" kids' test results to suggest that the very long trend (much longer than 8 years) of improvements is due to the policies implemented by Bush II, or to those other Presidents I named.

    Have you actually got ANYTHING on this DavidinCA, anything at all?

  3. D in C said:
    No Child Left Behind was passed a little over eight years ago. Maybe some people would rather not talk about results that make George Bush look good."

    Actually, Bob Somerby has mentioned this possibility numerous times.

  4. Dallas participated in TUDA for the first time in 2011.

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  6. David in Cal: Your comments here are incredibly out of place. There are many many sites where you're perspective would remedy the pro-Dem bias. That bias is one of major Daily Howler themes, as is pro-Repub bias. Most of us are here because Howler is one of the few sites that tells stuff as it is without partisan bias. Specifically on the NAEP issue, as anonymous said, the positive trends seem to have begun in the early 1990s. I think that coincides roughly with accountability and transparency efforts in general, which both parties and most parents and teachers supported and still support. Good job! Now, about the mainstream media not recognizing that progress, now you can start blaming.

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