Part 1—As found in graf 15: From one perspective, the news about our American schools has been extremely good.
You’re almost never allowed to hear that news, of course. In deference to elite propaganda, the successors to our American press corps relentlessly keep this good news under their hats.
Occasionally, the good news slips out. In April 2013, Stanford professor Sean Reardon was allowed to share the good news in the New York Times, deep inside a lengthy Sunday Review piece with a gloomy overall slant.
Reardon’s piece bore this headline: “No Rich Child Left Behind.” He noted that children whose families are in the top ten percent by income are now outperforming middle-income kids, in ways which didn’t exist in the past.
An achievement gap is opening between the rich and the middle-class! Shielded by this gloomy perspective, Reardon was allowed to cite the good news, though not until paragraph 15:
REARDON (4/28/13): The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation's Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.Say what? The average 9-year-old is two years ahead of where her parents were in math? Given all the propaganda about our stagnant or failing schools, can that possibly be true?
Based upon Reardon’s language, it’s clear that he is referring to data from the so-called “Long Term Trend” study of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP). Beyond that, it seems that he has applied the very rough ten-point rule of thumb to data from that federal program, which include these scores:
Average math scores, 9-year-old students, NAEPA statistical bump in 2004 suggests that the actual score gain may be a few points larger than those raw scores suggest. For fuller data, click here, see Figure A.
As of 2012, the average score had risen by 22 points since 1986! If we apply the very rough rule of thumb in which ten points on the NAEP scale equals one academic year, today’s 9-year-olds are roughly two years ahead of their parents in math.
Can that possibly be true? We aren’t sure, in large part because discussions of such topics aren’t permitted within our press corps, where all discussions must advance elite propaganda about our failing schools and our fiendish public school teachers.
Except for very brief glimmers in the occasional fifteenth paragraph, American citizens aren’t allowed to encounter good news of this type. For that reason, no discussion ever occurs in which experts are consulted about the meaning of the score gains which have occurred on these widely-praised federal tests.
Most people have never heard about these score gains on the NAEP. That said, the score gains in math are general. No matter how you slice the demographics, large score gains have been recorded in recent decades, even as our pseudo-journalists peddle their gloomy scripts.
In what follows, we return to data from the so-called Main NAEP, the companion study to the Long-Term Trend study. We refer to score gains recorded between 1996 and 2013, a seventeen-year span.
From one perspective, the news has all been good:
On the Main NAEP, a large score gain (19.86 points) has been recorded in eighth-grade math by lower-income kids. (By students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. This is not a measure of poverty.) Slicing the data a different way, large score gains have been recorded by black kids and by Hispanic kids.
The score gains by black kids are largest of all. (Lower-income black kids have recorded a score gain of 24.03 points.) For that reason, we’ve seen a decline in the size of the achievement gap between white kids and black kids.
Once in a very great while, such news is permitted to slip out in some fleeting way. Reardon was permitted to mention this news, but only in paragraph 15 of a lengthy essay which featured a gloomy overall perspective. (We don’t mean that as a criticism of Reardon.)
The relentless suppression of this good news has constituted an act of vast journalistic misconduct. Unless something is grossly wrong with the NAEP data, this journalistic misconduct has created a vast misconception about the current state of American schools and the excellent children within them.
That said, even as these test scores rise, a very large problem persists. That problem involves our achievement gaps, which continue to coexist with these large score gains.
Alas! Black kids are recording better math scores, but white kids are doing better too! Are lower-income students improving? Yes, but higher-income students are also scoring better.
Along with the gains, we still have the gaps! And in many cases, the gaps remain quite large.
Mainstream journalists have refused to tell the public about the gains. Inevitably, uncaring “progressives” and hapless professors have gone right along with this scam.
At the same time, the gaps remain large, and those gaps must be discussed if we want to understand the challenges faced by American schools.
In recent weeks, some professors and “journalists” have worked quite hard to avoid discussing the gaps. Their conduct has been uncaring, disgraceful, lazy, inept. Same as it ever was!
Tomorrow, we’ll start to examine the size of the gaps which help define our ongoing challenge. Next week, we’ll discuss the way these gaps affect our public schools and our deserving, delightful students, who come in various “races” and “colors” from various income groups.
Heroically, Reardon slipped in the good news. Tomorrow, we look at the gaps.
Tomorrow: The size of the gap by income
To access all NAEP data: To access data from either NAEP study, you can use the NAEP Data Explorer. Here's how:
Click here, then click on MAIN NDE (Main NAEP) or LTT NDE (Long-Term Trend). Click again to agree to terms.
At that point, you're on your own. Oodles of data are there.