The actual New York Times: For people who don’t like longer posts, we’ll repeat a point made in the long post below.
This excerpt from today’s New York Times was written and edited by functional illiterates. In this passage, Al Baker and Motoko Rich describe New York City’s score gains on the NAEP over the past ten years:
BAKER AND RICH (12/19/13): More than a snapshot of achievement, the scores released Wednesday illuminate overall increases the city’s fourth and eighth graders have made in math and reading since 2003, the year after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office.We’re told that New York City students have gained ten points in both reading and math. But is that a lot or a little?
For New York City’s fourth graders, the average reading score rose to 216 out of 500 this year, up 10 points from 2003. Nationally, the average fourth-grade reading score rose by four points, to 221. On math tests, the city’s fourth-grade average score rose to 236, up 10 points from 2003; the national score rose by seven points, to 241.
In the past decade, the city has chipped away at an achievement gap with the national average, even as cities with similar proportions of children from low-income families have risen from far lower bases of performance...
Baker and Rich make no attempt to say. Meanwhile, in the hard-copy Times, this boxed sub-headline appears:
“Small but steady improvements in the Bloomberg era.”
Really? Small improvements? By a conventional rule of thumb, a ten-point gain on the NAEP scale is actually rather large—a full academic year. But Baker and Rich give readers no way to assess the size and significance of the gains they report.
You have to be a functional illiterate to write a news report like that. There’s no point in reporting a “ten point gain” if you don’t make any attempt to explain how significant such a gain is.
On the SATs, ten points is a meaningless rounding error. On other scales, it might mean a lot.
How much is ten points on the NAEP scale? Baker and Rich make no attempt to say.
It’s hard to grasp the sheer dysfunction of our elite intellectual culture. That passage in this morning’s Times was composed by functional illiterates.
This is the world in which we all live. This is the real New York Times.
Imagine a report like this: Imagine a report about teacher salaries in Siberia. The report would read like this:
BAKEROFF AND RICHSKI: Teachers in Siberia are receiving their highest pay in years. Last year, starting salaries hit a new high, with first-year teachers being paid 15,000 Eastern Ruble Units per year.From that passage, you would know that salaries went up. But you would have no earthly idea how generous the salaries were.
Despite the raise, Siberian teachers complain that they lack a living wage.
How much is an Eastern Ruble Unit? You would have no idea!
The value of “15,000 Eastern Ruble Units” would need to be explained. The same is true when we are told that test scores rose “ten points.”
On the SAT, ten points is nothing. How much is ten points on the NAEP?
Illiterate minds at the New York Times don’t seem to want to know.