Three cheers for the Washington Post!


Writes coherent headline: We’ll offer three cheers for the Washington Post, which features a coherent headline on the front page of today’s Metro section.

The headline concerns the lower passing rates on this year’s statewide tests in Virginia, which were substantially harder than last year’s statewide tests.

Do you understand what we’re saying? Last year, the tests were easier! So the passing rates dropped this year!

Two weeks ago, the New York Times did a miserable job reporting a similar situation on New York’s statewide tests. The Times created a world of confusion in the way it reported a situation which just isn’t complex or confusing.

By way of contrast, the Post offered a set of headlines today which were straightforward and clear. So you’ll know, SOL means “Standards of Learning” in these parts. That’s the long-standing name of the Virginia state tests:
Scores drop on harder Va. test
Standards raised in 2012-13 school year
“Scores drop on harder test!” That’s exactly the kind of headline we said the New York Times should have run. Instead, this is a headline used by the Times when the state of New York released its passing rates:
Test Scores Sink As State Adopts News Benchmarks
Gack! Let’s compare the two papers’ headlines. Which headline reports the basic state of affairs in a way most readers will understand?
New York Times: Test Scores Sink As State Adopts New Benchmarks
Washington Post: Scores drop on harder Va. Test
No one knows what “new benchmarks” are. Everyone understands “harder test.”

The Post wrote a straightforward headline today. Your Howler keeps getting results!

And then, they decide to do this: Sad! In the hard-copy Washington Post, the headline was crisp, straightforward and clear.

On line, they had a little more room. So somebody fudged it up:

“Virginia reading scores drop by double digits on new SOL test”

Doggone it! Someone removed the key word: “harder.” If we might borrow from blessed Shelley:

Gaze on their works and despair!


  1. If the test is different (and harder), then it's wrong to say scores "dropped." "Harder test results in lower scores" would be more accurate.

    Nevertheless, it's an improvement, I suppose.