Just as it ever was: Gack!
This morning, the editorial board of the New York Times discusses, or attempts to discuss, the newly-released NAEP scores for 2013.
Such people live and die for their establishment scripts. In this account, the board describes the situation in precisely the ways we have long described:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (11/20/13): [A]ccording to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the eight states that managed to get the Common Core standards in place in time for the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress exams this year showed improvement from 2009 scores in either reading or math.Stress the gaps, disappear the gains. Just as it ever was!
Nationwide, the story is less encouraging. For example, on this year’s assessment, fourth graders and eighth graders, on average, showed only slight gains from two years ago in math and reading scores. Even worse, the results show that less than half of the nation’s students are performing at a proficient level in either math or reading as judged by the federal rating system, indicating that the country is not moving swiftly enough toward its goal of preparing students for work in a global economy. Equally worrisome is the continuing gap between low-income and more-affluent students.
Nothing said in that passage is “false.” That said, let’s consider what gets said as opposed to what gets left out.
“Nationwide,” the story sounds gloomy. That’s because the editors follow a powerful, memorized script. They focus on the achievement gaps and largely ignore the gains.
Let’s take a look at the record:
“On this year’s assessment, fourth graders and eighth graders, on average, showed only slight gains from two years ago in math and reading scores.”
That is basically accurate. But on a nationwide basis, it would be extremely surprising to record large gains in the course of only two years.
Do the editors understand that? If so, they don’t let on.
“Less than half of the nation’s students are performing at a proficient level in either math or reading as judged by the federal rating system, indicating that the country is not moving swiftly enough toward its goal of preparing students for work in a global economy.”
The factual claim in that sentence is accurate—fewer than half are performing at a proficient level as measured by the (subjective) NAEP rating system. But does that mean that progress isn’t sufficiently swift?
The editors don’t describe the overall progress of the past twenty years, progress compiled in slow, steady gains. This overall progress seems rather large, especially in math.
“Equally worrisome is the continuing gap between low-income and more-affluent students.”
The editors don’t want to talk about race, so they focus on income instead. We discussed this type of avoidance last week.
We’ll be less dainty. Everything we say would also apply to the editors’ daintier breakdown.
In fact, the achievement gaps have gotten smaller over the past twenty years. That said, the editors fail to report the basic reason why the gaps continue on the NAEP.
This is the reason:
Even as average scores by black kids have risen, average scores by white kids have been rising too. The gaps “continue” under this system, but they continue at a much higher level, with all groups scoring higher! Somehow, this rather basic point never gets explained.
We’ve been describing this pattern for years. The achievement gaps get reported and stressed; the achievement gains get disappeared.
This is deeply irresponsible conduct. But so what?
The social club still described as a “press corps” doesn’t give a shit about black kids, or about the full range of facts. This social club seems to exist for the sake of its scripts.
This particular script comes from Rhee and Bill Gates. The club can rattle it off in their sleep.
Two weeks back, we spent a full week describing the shape of this morning’s report. Once you understand the scripts, you can be a prophet too!