Supplemental: Same as it ever was!


The New York Times, keeping it gloomy: All our test scores are going up—unless you read the New York Times and other major newspapers.

As we’ve long told you, our newspapers report the gaps but hide the gains. To appearances, they mainly exist to recite elite narratives about our allegedly stagnant or failing schools.

Consider a recent example:

In Sunday’s New York Times, Javier Hernandez wrote a long and rambling front-page report about the Common Core. We were struck by this account of the state of our schools as of 2009:
HERNANDEZ (6/15/14): In 2009, when Chrispin was 4 and about to begin kindergarten, education in the United States was at a turning point. Despite decades of investment and experimentation in the school system, American schoolchildren still ranked far behind counterparts in countries like Singapore and Finland on international tests. Education experts were increasingly convinced that the problem was one of low expectations. Many of the highest-performing countries set rigorous national benchmarks. But in America, states traditionally had authority over academic standards. Rigor varied widely, and some states had relaxed requirements after the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, as a way of increasing test scores.
Nothing there is technically false. But from that gloomy account, would you have any idea that test scores had been rising for all demographic groups for many years at that point?

Hernandez used the year 2009 as his historical marker. Here are score gains in Grade 8 math on the so-called “Main NAEP,” our most reliable domestic testing program. We start with 1996, the first year which permits a clean comparison with 2009:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, NAEP
Black students:
2009: 260.28
1996: 239.28

White students:
2009: 292.02
1996: 279.50

Hispanic students:
2009: 265.90
1996: 249.18
The gaps are large between the three groups—but so are the score gains each group recorded over that 13-year span.

By a very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year. As of 2009, black students had gained exactly 21 points over a thirteen-year span.

(You’ll note that they gained almost nine points on white kids during that period.)

Twenty-one points! That’s a very large score gain, but so what? In line with mandated scripts, mainstream journalists will always report the gaps, but they’ll suppress the gains. Following that prescription, Hernandez created a portrait of gloom, tied to the year 2009.

Let’s run through his gloomy portrait:

First, we’re told that “education in the United States was at a turning point” in 2009. As a basic starting point, that doesn’t sound very good.

Next, we’re told that, despite our investments in education, American kids “still ranked far behind counterparts in countries like Singapore and Finland on international tests” in 2009.

That is technically accurate. But Finland and Singapore are small, anomalous countries which aren’t much like the United States. Despite our demographic complexity, Americans kids were matching or outscoring their counterparts in many of the larger developed nations by 2009, especially on the TIMSS and the PIRLS.

Still, we were being outscored by Finland! Instantly, Hernandez added this:

“Education experts were increasingly convinced that the problem was one of low expectations.”

This creates the sense that we were basically confronting a “problem” as of 2009. As always, a highly selective presentation had created a sense of gloom.

Question: As of 2009, were American schools at a turning point? Were they basically confronting a problem?

That portrait is hard to square with those score gains on the NAEP. Rewriting Hernandez, this account would also be perfectly accurate:
HERNANDEZ REWRITTEN: In 2009, when Chrispin was 4 and about to begin kindergarten, education in the United States was looking up in many respects. During decades of investment and experimentation in the school system, test scores for American students had been rising, in substantial ways, in all demographic groups.

American schoolchildren still ranked far behind their counterparts in “Asian tigers” like Korea and Japan on international tests. But so did all the other large non-Asian nations.

Despite the rising scores, education experts were increasingly convinced that performance could get even better. Many of the highest-performing countries set rigorous national benchmarks. But in America, states traditionally had authority over academic standards. Rigor varied widely, and some states had relaxed requirements after the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act...
That account would also be accurate! But in newspapers like the New York Times, an obvious rule obtains:

All accounts of our public schools must be profoundly gloomy. Gaps and shortfalls will be discussed. Score gains must be disappeared.

This week, we’re concluding the series we’ve called, “Our month of the gaps.” That said, we’ve begged journalists for years to report our very large score gains.

Mainstream journalists refuse to do so—as do the “intellectual leaders” of the liberal/progressive world. Your latest example is Nikole Hannah-Jones, she of “Segregation Now...” with its “apartheid schools.”

Look at the score gains achieved by black students over that 13-year period! But according to Hannah-Jones, that was the era of “resegregation,” when everything went to Hell for the nation’s hapless black kids.

It’s against the law to tell the truth about the achievements of our black kids! May heaven protect our low-income kids from the work of our adult elites.

For all NAEP data: For all NAEP data, just click here. Click MAIN NDE, then agree to terms.

From there, you're on your own.


  1. "By a very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year."

    It is compared "often" only here at TDH. Especially since the NAEP itself, adressing Somerby himself and his use of this rule of thumb,
    said doing so was inappropriate and should be discouraged.

    This, like the D'Leisha Dent can't go to college episode, is further evidence that BOB doesn't care about black and white facts.

    BOBcontinues to play his readers for rubes.

    1. OMB

      When comparing apples to kumquats, be sure and mix in plenty of cherries picked with your rough thumbs and stir well with your extended middle finger.

      And sign your comments.


    2. Bob seems to stick out his very rough thumb only when he wants to show the remarkable "gains" made by black and (finally!) Hispanic eighth-graders in Math.

      But even his cherry-picked data and his rough thumb "seems" to show that black and Hispanic kids are still lagging two years and 1.5 years behind where white students were 18 years ago.

    3. How does this point negate what Somerby said?

    4. What has Somerby said?

    5. Exactly -- shouldn't your comments be addressing something that Somerby has said?


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  2. Bob, I did not begin to understand the New York Times article and would welcome your further help.

  3. It's probably not multiculturalist to say so but the progressive ethic that produces this entitled, angry, irresponsible and rock stupid mentality is here to stay and won't be closing any income or education gaps.

  4. New York Times on Father's Day. Once in a while these gap creating facts get some attention from liberals but nothing compared to the frequency of excuse making and victimology.

    So vocation is crucial to leading a satisfying life. Who teaches this truth to children? Many traditions emphasize the role of fathers. Jesus defended himself to the Pharisees for working on the Sabbath by saying, “my Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” And the Talmud instructs us, “For a man not to teach his son a trade or profession is equivalent to teaching him to steal.”

    The best way for a father to teach this is by example. This explains why a child’s ability to grow up to be a productive adult is so strongly predicted by the presence of a working father in the home. The Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan has for decades studied what happens to sons and daughters when their fathers are absent. She finds that after controlling for demographics, children in fatherless families are roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school as kids in intact homes. Even after controlling for student talent via standardized test scores, a sharp decline in grades and attendance persists. And young men who grow up without a father are 1.5 times more likely to be idle — that is, neither in the work force nor in school — than those with a father in the home. And this brings us to a particularly serious issue this Father’s Day: Our growing national jobs deficit. In 1953, just 14 percent of adult American men were neither working nor seeking work. Today, that rate has more than doubled, to 30 percent. And this doesn’t only reflect an aging population with more retired men: Just after World War II, 8 percent of noninstitutionalized males ages 25 to 54 were not working. Today, 17 percent of that same group of men are idle.

    1. Why does a working mother not teach these same things?

    2. Like it or not, males in particular don't model after females. Another factor is the benefit of a second parent in the home, economic and that the father represents one of two people whose commitment to the child's interests can potentially surpass anyone else's. The second benefit can be undermined by a society that has thrown that ethic and expectation out the window and there is nothing that can take its place. Those who continue to value the family will continue to raise more educationally successful and emotionally stable children (segregating them in private schools and communties as did the Clintons and Obamas) and children of those who have abandoned those values with the encouragement of the progressive left will continue to fail.

    3. If you are proposing that we save the children by reforming the parents, then we are doomed to failure. Would it not make more sense to help raise educated and engaged students to become prosperous and intelligent adults?

    4. I just don't buy the argument that helping poor children aids and abets poor parenting.

    5. Progressives defining social standards of family values and work ethic as unnecessary and obsolete aids and abets poor parenting. It will continue because feeling self righteous and non-judgy (permissible judging is limited to the southern poor, white and male, or religious) justifies inflicting misery on black people.

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  5. I wonder why Somerby keeps using 8th Grade Main Naep Math scores for his examples.

  6. Small quibble: the 4 Asian tigers are Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Japan is not part of that group.

    Bigger quibble that actually supports TDH's main thrust: While Singapore is small (around 5 million people) it has many cultures. There are 4 official languages and several large ethnic groups, differing it from most other Asian countries and Finland. However, in the nation's brief history, there was never institutionalised oppression of any one group, which has likely aided its ascent in testing.

    1. Singapore is 74% Chinese. It's no surprise that Chinese are good students in Singapore, just as they are in the US. The Chinese culture encourages academic achievement (and other kinds of achievement as well.)

      BTW in the US, discrimination against Chinese was severe at one time.

      In the 1870s and 1880s various legal discriminatory measures were taken against the Chinese. These laws, in particular the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, were aimed at restricting further immigration from China,[10] although the laws were later repealed by the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943. In particular, even in his lone dissent against Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), then-Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote of the Chinese as: "a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race."

    2. Segregation of the Chinese in schools in San Francisco was ended in 1968.


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