GLIMMERS: Not even a glimmer about public schools!

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012

Part 4—Who cares about children: A great uncle’s day is never done—except perhaps around 2 PM, when he may perhaps voice his regrets, returning to his flawless Super 8 suite for his mid-afternoon “nap.”

Parents can’t always do that! That said, this Monday morning, around 8:25, we found ourselves walking to kindergarten, accompanying an eager young child whose spring vacation was over.

Our walk would cover roughly three blocks. “Are you excited to be going back to school?” we thoughtfully asked.

“I’m very excited,” this young scholar said. Her brisk pace confirmed her assertion.

What did we see when we went back to school? We got glimmers of the new America, and of current American schooling. Nowhere in the “press corps” were we given such glimmers last week.

What did we find when we went back to school? In part, we had been preconditioned by the good reviews we had heard this school receive all year.

This school is a regular public school, peopled by regular public school teachers—the kind of folk who get battered around within our disgraced “public discourse.”

This is a regular public school, with regular public school teachers! Despite this rather obvious flaw, our young scholar’s parents—and her grandmother—had raved about the school all year. For herself, our young scholar had made a legend of Miss M—, the teacher who had fired her rather obvious love affair with the alphabet.

We’d heard good things about this school all year—and the most we got this day was a glimmer. But when we actually entered the school, we got the same good impression others had conveyed:

The first adult we saw in the hall praised our young charge for her new haircut—and she actually had received one! The next adult marveled, again correctly, at the large number of “escorts” who bring her to school. (In recent weeks, this had included two of her grandparents.)

Our companion was a just a 5-year-old kindergarten kid (almost 6), but everyone seemed to know who she was—and they cheerfully let her know it. And this highly personal, caring tone extended all through the school, to judge from our handful of glimpses.

Inside the classroom, we got to see a bit of the new America. According to the most current data, this school was roughly 80 percent black and Hispanic in the 2009-10 school year and roughly 80 percent "low income." (The cut-off for such designations is roughly twice the official "poverty" level.) As we had heard during the year, several children in our young scholar’s class had started the year speaking little or no English. At least one other such child has moved in during the year.

(In those most recent data, almost 30 percent of this school's students were listed as “Limited English Proficiency.”)

Because she speaks Spanish in the home, our companion was one of the kids who did the translating for these classmates. Her mother did some translating for fellow parents at start-of-the-year PTA-type meetings.

What a treat it was to see this new American landscape unfolding! Mercilessly, Miss M made all the children introduce themselves to us, one by one, as the formal school day began; it soon was the turn of one small girl who seemed to have little English. A classmate kneeled on her chair and leaned across the table, whispering in her ear to help with the needed English. When Miss M made us read the class a story, the small girl with limited English was very silent; her silence and her eyes made us sad. But then, this has been the way among us humans since human migration began—and this child seems to be surrounded with classmates who think her situation is part of the norm, and that it’s the norm to help.

We’ve been hearing good reports on this school, and on this class, since last September. Our own glimpses were quite positive. That said, this is not a “miracle school,” the kind of school which gets in newspapers, often for dumb and fraudulent reasons. Its test scores seem to fall pretty much where one would expect, with children in each demographic group scoring just a bit below the scores for that group statewide.

(Why do we say this is what you’d expect? We’re assuming that the kids in each group are somewhat lower-income than their peers statewide, although North Carolina doesn’t seem to provide such data on a school-by-school basis.)

This brings us to a basic question: Who cares about these kids?

We were impressed by the tone of the school, very impressed by the tone of this classroom. We were amazed by the small average class sizes. (Under 20 at all grade levels from kindergarten through fourth grade; 21 in fifth grade) Wow! In our second year teaching in Baltimore (1970-71), we had 43 fifth graders on roll at the start of the year, with 38-39 attending through the year.

Those small class sizes mean that money is being spent on these children. The tone in that classroom, and in the halls, seemed to suggest that the adults in question actually care. Within that classroom, the children themselves seemed enthralled by their ballyhooed “voyage to first grade,” just as we had been told.

That said, there’s nothing unusual about this school’s test scores. What might that fact mean?

What might that mean? Because our journalistic elites don’t care about American children, it’s very hard to say. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP), test scores for all demographic groups have been on the rise in the past twenty years. Test scores for black kids and Hispanic kids have risen in some remarkable ways.

This may mean that good things are happening in public schools all across North Carolina—that this particular school’s average test scores do reflect positive change.

But you will never see such questions examined in the pitiful New York Times, or from the horrible, horrible people who leer at you on MSNBC, feeding you the silliest possible shit about what Romney may have said on some pointless day or other. Incredibly, we have never seen a major news org report the simplest facts about those rising NAEP scores. And quite literally, those leering clowns on MSNBC will only talk about black children when one of them gets shot in the chest—at which time they will invent a welter of fake, phony facts to give you a good time at home.

These are truly horrible people. On the bright side, they’re all getting rich this way!

Back to reality: What should a concerned citizen think when an American public school gets roughly average test scores? When black and Hispanic kids in such a school score at roughly the same rate as their peers across their state? Might good things be going on in such schools, as those NAEP data seem to suggest?

There’s no way to know from the work of the press. As we’ve long told you: Within the American “press corps,” everybody swears by the NAEP—and no one ever discusses its data! Darlings! It simply isn’t done! The script says the schools are a mess!

As an American pseudo-journalist, you are supposed to show you care by repeating that low-IQ script!

Based on our limited glimmers, the school to which we walked this Monday is full of adults who are trying hard—and it’s full of kids who seemed to be full of purpose. But your big news orgs have been scripted to tell you that Miss M is part of a vanguard of flunkees—that she and her colleagues are failing you miserably, in large part because of their infernal unions, with their fiendish demands. That she and her colleagues must be replaced by those bright, caring Princeton kids.

Brian Williams pimps this script—and Rachel won’t tell you different. For reasons we can’t pretend to explain, this is part of the corporate play-list—the official agenda—at this horrible pseudo-news channel.

On MSNBC, they will never attempt to tell you what is happening inside schools like the one we walked to this Monday. They don’t care about that small, silent girl—or about the lovely child who leaned across the table to help her. They don’t care about what those NAEP scores might mean.

Those horrible people don’t stoop to the task of talking about real American kids. Darlings! It just isn’t done! It isn't part of the plan!

Stupid shit about Mitt Romney is. Did you hear what he said about cookies this week? Did you hear how he treated his dog?

For more about those rising NAEP scores: See next post! Also, the Young Turks do care!


  1. "It isn't part of the plan!

    Stupid shit about Mitt Romney is. Did you hear what he said about cookies this week? Did you hear how he treated his dog?

    Today's Arizona Republic on-line poll. I kid you not.

    Do you think the Romney dog story will be an important factor in the presidential election?
    Hard to say.

    1. About the cookie thing . . . I know Somberby has instructed his readers to ignore such silliness, but lordy, does this ever speak to what a dick Romney is.

      Maybe he thinks he's being Don Rickles, but his host went to the trouble and expense of getting what are supposed to be the best cookies in town. And he's got to insult not only the cookies, but the host?

  2. Had to check on my own class sizes. Kindergarten in a midwest small town in 1968. 28 for Kindergarten, 25 for first grade, 25 for 2nd, 27 for 3rd, 26 for 4th, 27 for 5th, and 26 for 6th. As I recall from 8th grade numbers, my class, 1980, was one of the largest with 308 total students at the time. Only class of 1978 was larger, with 320 students.

  3. Watching that Young Turks episode, it was unbelievable how fact free the responses to Bob's point were.

    The reporter ignored Bob's point and talked about the persistent achievement gap - which exists because BOTH minority and white students are improving.

    The charter school lady actually disputed the NAEP score gains exist!

    The allegedly "pro teacher" lady questioned the reliability of the NAEP, ignoring the fact that it is widely considered the "gold standard" in student assessment.

    Unbelievable! Even when we try to have an honest discussion, we can't do it!

    1. I don't think any of the panelists really knew much about the NAEP. They quickly dismissed it as not being applicable to their individual situations, since it was a nationwide assessment and therefore presumably measured national averages, not local variations. Charter schools have an interest in discounting data that show regular public schools improving, as that would tend to reduce the reason for having a charter school in the first place.

      Anyway, it was on Current TV which everyone knows is Al Gore's channel; and he's fat and lives in a big house, you know.

    2. You may be right, but that just shows how big this problem is.

      These individuals were on a panel discussion the national "problem" with public schooling. They were confronted with the fact that nationally, the average black fourth grader is doing as well academically as the average white forth grader when I was in fourth grade (I am 31). That is an amazing achievement! Yet they were so mentally invested in the existing narrative of "failing" public schools, they couldn't even confront, let alone accept, an indisputable fact which suggests that schools have gotten better.

      Instead, they utterly evaded the point ("there's an achievement gap"; "test scores aren't everything") or dismissed it out of hand.

      I actually doubt that none of them know about the NAEP since NAEP scores often get trotted out to paint schools in a bad light.

  4. Brilliant and beautiful. Wow.

  5. Too bad Bob couldn't get on the show, the "experts" on the show had no idea what they were talking about. What a disgrace.

    1. Amen to that. C'mon, Bob, you'd be great. The host even said he wished you were there to defend your arguments.

  6. Beautiful column, Bob. The lonely NAEP and its counter-narrative facts need more friends like you.

  7. I dunno, I'm not sure education is really that important when compared to the other thing the media should cover more fully, to wit, which pundits didn't chide other pundits soon enough in 1999.

    1. Chide? That's a pretty FLIP take on the matter.

    2. I guess Bob really can't win for losing huh?

    3. Furthermore, because Bob doesn't cover nuclear proliferation on the blog, it simply proves that he doesn't really care about innocent children being incinerated by high-tech weaponry. Everything else that happens in the world, he must blithely accept. So, by that token, Bob gets to harangue people who don't care enough about the Gore campaign and education, and everyone else gets to harangue Bob for not caring enough about emerging diseases, the civil rights of non-heterosexuals, nuclear annihilation, slow food, and soccer. It's OK, he's just obviously complicit in every bad thing in the world he doesn't use this blog to address. That's just how it works, which I learned from reading The Daily Howler in 2012.

  8. Where does Mitt Romney stand on higher education and immigration?

    From the Arizona Republic and the LA Times:

    Meeting with nine Hispanic business leaders and local officials in Tempe Friday, Mr. Romney said he wanted to “get your perspective on what I might do to make it easier for small businesses to thrive, or education to work, or immigration policies to work, if I were so fortunate to become president.”

    A former president of the University of Arizona pleaded with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Friday to support some version of the Dream Act to give "a glimmer of hope" to college students who are not in the United States legally.

    Manuel Pacheco said that over the course of attending college graduations in the Southwest, he has noticed that in almost half of the cases, the valedictorians were Latino students.

    "They're bright, they can help carry this country forward," Manuel Pacheco told Romney during a roundtable discussion with Latino business leaders in Tempe. "I think it would be a shame to lose that particular talent that they bring."

    Romney listened politely, nodding, as Pacheco pushed him to effectively change his strong opposition to the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented college students.

    When Pacheco was done speaking, Romney said: "Thank you! Appreciate that! Thank you." He then turned to the next participant and did not discuss the matter further.

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