Part 5—Today we have posting of scores: We have an unusual exercise planned.
Today we have posting of scores!
When it comes to the public schools, such postings are rarely done. Instead, we get standard emissions from journalists like the Washington Post’s Nick Anderson, with the help of “educational experts.”
Their emissions peddle the fixed, gloomy themes the billionaire funders most love. But today, we’ll have posting of scores, with relevance to high school seniors.
Are American high school seniors doing less well in math? For ourselves, we have no idea. But we do know where the data are. Beyond that, we know how to post them.
The relevant data rarely appear in newspapers like the Washington Post, whose work about the public schools tends to be narrative all the way down. That said, everyone knows where those data are:
The relevant data come from the “Main NAEP,” the “federal tests” which test American students in reading and math in Grades 4, 8 and 12.
We said the NAEP tests “American students.” Let’s be more precise:
Unlike the SATs, the NAEP tests representative samples of American students! It even tests representative samples from all demographic groups.
The NAEP has been testing representative samples of American students for decades. Anderson and Petrilli both know this, and other things too.
And yet the fraud rolls on.
Are high school seniors doing less well in recent years? Is their performance possibly “stagnant,” a scripted term which almost makes matters sound worse?
On Thursday morning, September 3, the Washington Post ran a front-page “news report” in which Anderson advanced these gloomy ideas. He did so with the help of Michael Petrilli, an “educational expert.”
Gloomily, Anderson offered what follows. On a journalistic basis, this is horrible work:
ANDERSON (9/3/15): Scores on the SAT have sunk to the lowest level since the college admission test was overhauled in 2005, adding to worries about student performance in the nation’s high schools.Anderson started with average SAT scores, which everyone knows can’t be used for this purpose. He then said that his gloomy portrait of high school seniors is supported by results on “federal tests.”
The steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts. The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high schools, experts say. That means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.
“Why is education reform hitting a wall in high school?” asked Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank. “You see this in all kinds of evidence. Kids don’t make a whole lot of gains once they’re in high school. It certainly should raise an alarm.”
Petrilli was quoted, saying you can see the stagnation “in all kinds of evidence.” Later that day, he offered one of the dumbest blog posts we’ve ever seen—a blog post bearing this title:
“Why is high school achievement flat?”
If a college sophomore composed that post, it would be hard to give him a passing grade. A professor might wonder if this poor kid was really college material.
The blog post crawled with factual omissions and errors, and with logical howlers. That said, it reached a familiar conclusion. Based upon his errors and howlers, Petrilli knew what we have to do next:
PETRILLI (9/3/15): Perhaps we need to take Occam’s Razor out of the cabinet again and turn to the most straightforward explanation, which is that we simply haven’t done much to reform our high schools. We are holding them accountable for boosting graduation rates, but not much else. Most charter schools operate at the elementary or middle school level. Voucher programs don’t offer enough money for top-notch secondary schools. We’ve killed off much of our CTE system. And we pulled the plug on the small schools movement just as it was starting to show results.Within our scripted mainstream discourse, al roads lead to this conclusion! Because of flat scores at the twelfth-grade level, we need charter schools in high school! We need more “high school reform!”
If we want to stop seeing flat scores at the twelfth-grade level, we need a spike in high school reform efforts. Anyone ready to lead the charge?
Petrilli is paid to say such things. For today, we have posting of facts.
The “federal tests” to which Anderson referred were, of course, the NAEP. When Petrilli referred to twelfth-grade scores, he could only mean the “Main NAEP,” which tests representative samples of American students in Grades 4, 8 and 12.
No one else performs that service—and the NAEP’s voluminous data are available for all to see. That said, are Grade 12 math scores actually “stagnant” or in decline? Has the performance of high school seniors been “flat” as compared to kids in the lower grades, a claim which was made by Anderson and Petrilli?
Below, you see the most recent data we have in math. In Grade 12, we can only go back to 2005, due to a change in the Grade 12 math test that year. The most recent year for which we have data is 2013. Results from the 2015 testing haven’t yet been released.
That said, these data cover the very period Anderson pretended to discuss in his incompetent front-page report. And how strange:
As we’ve noted in recent days, Grade 12 scores haven’t been “flat” in math at all! Meanwhile, the Grade 12 score gains have been somewhat larger than the score gains in Grade 4:
Gains in average scores, 2005-2013Judged by normal rules of thumb, those score gains, over an eight-year span, all seem rather healthy. Judged by normal rules of thumb, the gains in Grade 8 seem large.
Main NAEP, Grade 4 math
National public schools
White students: 4.21 points
Black students: 4.77 points
Hispanic students: 5.35 points
Asian-American students: 7.67 points
Gains in average scores, 2005-2013
Main NAEP, Grade 8 math
National public schools
White students: 5.62 points
Black students: 8.54 points
Hispanic students: 9.93 points
Asian-American students: 11.43 points
Gains in average scores, 2005-2013
Main NAEP, Grade 12 math
National public schools
White students: 4.32 points
Black students: 5.24 points
Hispanic students: 7.67 points
Asian-American students: 11.08 points
At any rate, those are the actual results in math from the “federal tests” to which Anderson referred. Those data are hard to square with the familiar, gloomy claims in Anderson’s front-page report.
(Please note: The Grade 12 score gains may have been slightly depressed by the nation’s declining drop-out rate. In his blog post, Petrilli says that general theory “sounds plausible” to him. He then ignores its possible effect in everything else he writes.)
What might those Grade 12 score gains mean? Are high school seniors actually doing better in math? If so, how much better? What amount of academic improvement might be suggested by those gains on the NAEP?
We’ve already offered the standard, very rough rule of thumb which journalists often use when gloomily describing our so-called “achievement gaps.” (The gaps remain large, but they’re getting smaller.) According to that very rough rule, ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year.
Should that rule be applied to those gains at the Grade 12 level? How should we assess those score gains? Should we think of those score gains as large?
Like you, we have no real idea. That’s because our public discourse is in the hands of tribunes like Anderson and his “educational expert.”
How should we assess those gains? For reasons which go unexplained, you’ll never see that question addressed in newspapers like the Post.
In such newspapers, you aren’t permitted to know that these score gains even exist! On that basis, when would a scrivener like Anderson assess the amount of academic improvement such score gains might reflect?
Those Grade 12 data are the most recent data we have. They reflect score gains by our high school seniors—score gains, which, by the rules of the post-journalistic road, simply cannot be reported.
By the rules of that road, knowledge of such score gains has persistently been withheld from the public. That leads us to an intriguing part of Anderson’s news report.
As required by Establishment Pundit Law, Anderson’s vision was gloomy that day. But to reach the current scripted version of gloom, he had to tell a secret.
Let’s look at that early passage again. A secret is being disclosed here:
ANDERSON: The steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts. The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high schools, experts say. That means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.Say what? Test results show that American students have been making “gains in reading and math in elementary grades?”
“Why is education reform hitting a wall in high school?” asked Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank.
The “test results” to which Anderson refers are largely those from the Main NAEP. That said, very few Washington Post subscribers are aware of the “gains in reading and math” which he fleetingly cites in that passage.
Over the past twenty years, those score gains have been very large—but mainstream newspapers have almost completely refused to report or discuss them. In his news report, Anderson was forced to give that secret away—but only so he could establish a bogus claim about smaller gains in high school!
How large have score gains been on the NAEP over the past twenty years? As we’ve noted again and again, the score gains have been very large. One prime example:
By 2007, black fourth graders were actually scoring higher in math than white fourth graders had scored in 1990. That is an amazing fact—but by law, it can’t be discussed or reported.
That amazing fact has not been reported. Almost no one has ever heard it. The public is unaware of such facts. An alternate story rolls on, wrapped in gloom, fueled by deception.
“The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high school?” Most Post readers have no idea what sorts of “gains” that sentence describes! Most often, they've heard that nothing has worked in the schools! Our discourse about the public schools has been fake, phony, fraudulent—fixed.
It’s very hard for people to grasp how fake our discourse has been in this area. Our public discourse is a joke in our area after another. But we know of no area where even the most basic facts are so thoroughly disappeared.
Anderson’s “news report” was a sick joke. Presumably, it was an act of fraud. There’s no way he’s that incompetent.
(Repeat after us: “The SATs can’t be used for that purpose. The SATs can’t be used for that purpose.” There’s no way Anderson doesn’t know that. And yet, you can see what he wrote.)
Anderson’s report was a joke. That said, Petrilli’s blog post should be preserved in amber. In the course of a few hundred words, the well-known educational expert made a succession of factual and logical “errors” which would have embarrassed the press corps under Stalin.
That said, it all worked out in the end! We were told that we need more charter schools! More “reform” at the high school level!
Petrilli is paid to say things like that. Luckily for such agents, the liberal world, gazing lazily on, doesn’t care about topics like this.
We simply don’t care about low-income kids. If we might adapt the words of Bruce Springsteen, we prove it all year long.
Still coming: Those two professors from Penn! Also, Chait walks to New Orleans!
Questions for small group discussion: What do those score gains in math really mean? More fundamentally:
Why won’t Anderson/Petrilli report that those score gains exist?
For highest achievers only: In what way is Michael Petrilli like Amanda Ripley?
Hints for discussion leaders:
In her widely-praised but horrible book, The Smartest Kids in the World, Ripley discussed American results on the PISA, an international test battery. But how odd! She never mentioned the higher scores our kids attain on the TIMSS.
How odd! There are two major international test batteries, the TIMSS and the PISA. But in the course of an entire book, Ripley disappeared the TIMSS, on which our students do better!
In his recent blog post, Petrilli did something very similar. He disappeared Grade 12 test scores from the Main NAEP!
Instead, he switched to the less relevant Long-Term Trend Assessment, working a few statistical plays to make the scores by 17-year-old students look distressingly “flat.”
Uh-oh! On the directly relevant Main NAEP, Grade 12 math scores aren’t flat! When Petrilli forgot to disclose this fact, we recalled Ripley’s book.
Today we had the posting of scores. What do those rising test scores mean? Why won't the Post report them?