Supplemental: New York Times discovers the earth is round!


"New report" about public schools produces major "surprise:"
As best we can tell, every word in David Leonhardt's news report is accurate.

That shouldn't be surprising. The 42-year-old Yale grad was the paper's Washington bureau chief until 2013. Today, he's managing editor of The Upshot, the super-brainy, analytical blog for subscribers who are eggheads.

In theory, Leonhardt is on the brighter end of the New York Times spectrum. That's what makes last week's report remarkable and bizarre and deeply revealing about the state of our press elite.

When we read Leonhardt's report last Tuesday, we thought it might be the dumbest report we've
ever read. That may not be true, but let's make this key point again:

In its giant cluelessness, it's among the most revealing.

The embarrassment began with the headlines. On page A3 of the hard-copy Times, the headlines read like this:
Raw Scores Give Misleading Idea of School Progress
A new report takes states' demographics into account.
A new report seemed to be straightening everything out! It had taken demographics into account! It sounded like trail-blazing stuff!

On line, the headlines are worse.
"Surprise," the embarrassing headline says. "Florida and Texas Excel in Math and Reading Scores."

In his report, Leonhardt refers to "the new results" which emerged from "a report released Monday by the Urban Institute." Earth to Leonhardt and the rest of the Times:

There was absolutely nothing "new" in that "new report." There was nothing resembling a "surprise," unless you're completely clueless, and completely uncaring, about the nation's public schools and the millions of kids who attend them.

As we've told you for many years, it's abundantly clear that the New York Times actually is that clueless.

What did Leonhardt report last week? This is what he reported:

The state of Texas seems to produce fairly ordinary scores in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation's one reliable public school testing program. But if you "disaggregate" the state's test scores—if you look at the average scores for each of the state's major demographic groups—you'll find that each of those groups scores quite well when compared to their peers around the nation.

Texas produces mediocre overall scores because its student population is heavily black and Hispanic. As everyone but the New York Times knows, black and Hispanic kids still tend to score less well in reading and math than the nation's white kids.

Texas has lots of black and Hispanic kids! This tends to hold down the state's overall average scores. But Texas students in all three groups tend to outscore their peers from around the nation. Black kids in Texas outscore their peers from around the nation. So do the state's many Hispanic kids.

(As we've noted many times, white kids in Texas tend to outscore other states' white kids too. It's amazingly easy to explore the data for every state. You start by clicking right here.)

As everyone but the New York Times knows, reviewing test scores in this manner is known as "disaggregation." And good lord! When you review Texas' scores this way, Texas turns out to be the third best-performing state in the nation! That's the surprising new result from the new report last week!

Prisoners of hapless elites, can we talk?

If you've read this site down through the years, you'll know that there is nothing "new" or "surprising" about these "new results." In various contexts, we've noted such facts about states like Texas year after year after year.

If you know anything about public schools, you already understand this matter. Through the auspices of the federal Department of Education, voluminous data have been available for lo, these many years.

Once again, you can just click here.
That said, we've often noted a disgraceful fact:

No matter how much data the DOE posts; no matter how user-friendly they make their data; no matter how many times these basic facts get discussed at sites like this; you simply can't make the nation's journalists review those voluminous data or grasp these basic points.

Last Tuesday, Leonhardt proved our point. His report is a public disgrace. So is Leonhardt himself, along with all the creeps at the Times who have made his cluelessness possible.

Leonhardt's report may be the dumbest we've ever read. It comes from a highly privileged Yale graduate who's high up in the New York Times order—a highly privileged, clueless disgrace who doesn't give a flying fig about the nation's black kids.

How little do New York Times journalists know about our public schools? Consider the ignorance they've put on display just in the past few months:

They didn't know why you can't use SAT scores to compare academic achievement between the states.

They didn't know that over half of the nation's black kids attend public schools in the South.

As of this week, they still don't seem to know that American students take part in two international test batteries, the TIMSS and the PISA, not just one.

Until this week, they apparently didn't know that American schools face demographic challenges that aren't faced by schools in Finland. For background, see yesterday's post.

And now, the absolute kicker:

Last week, the New York Times was surprised to learn that you have to "disaggregate" test scores to get a sensible idea of how well a state, school system or school seems to be doing. The New York Times was surprised to learn that a state with a lot of white kids is likely to outscore a state with a lot of minority kids, or a state with a lot of poverty.

The New York Times didn't know that! At the Times, this was a "surprise." These findings were rushed to the public, hailed as "new results!"

It's hard to show sufficient contempt for the people who work at the Times. Their work has long been a public disgrace. Given the newspaper's skill at branding, it's hard for most people to grasp that.

Leonhardt prepped at the Horace Mann School, then moved on to Yale. Today, at the age of 42, he joins his colleagues in not knowing squat or squadoosh about the nation's black kids.

His ignorance, and that of the Times as a whole, is an ugly rolling disgrace. Enabled by uncaring liberals, they've played it this way for a very long time. As we've told you again and again, their ignorance is astounding.

Nothing is ever going to change this. When it comes to the lives and the needs of the nation's black kids, the uncaring Maddow is worse.

Disaggregation nation: Back in 2012, Gail Collins made a fool of herself concerning this very topic.

On the brighter side, she made some money on her book tour, and the people who came to see her didn't know that she was utterly clueless.

These people are some of the worst on the earth. To read our report, start here.


  1. This Post should be titled:


    "As we've told you for many years, it's abundantly clear that the New York Times actually is that clueless.

    What did Leonhardt report last week? This is what he reported:

    The state of Texas seems to produce fairly ordinary scores in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation's one reliable public school testing program. But if you "disaggregate" the state's test scores—if you look at the average scores for each of the state's major demographic groups—you'll find that each of those groups scores quite well when compared to their peers around the nation."

    The word disaggregate does not appear in the New York Times report.
    Nor does it appear in the academic report which the Times article covered.

    1. You, sir, are another uncaring liberal.

    2. 3:26, Another Uncaring TrollNovember 6, 2015 at 5:15 PM

      "The word disaggregate does not appear..."

      And yet, idiot troll, disaggregating the results by demographic is exactly what the reports did.

      As we've told you for many years, trolls gotta troll.

    3. Do you think Somerby should have foregone the use of quotation marks around disaggregate or that he should have kept the quotation marks and gone with the abstract's verbiage, "[provide] a systematic framework for assessing how much student achievement varies across observationally similar states and the extent to which changes in state performance on the NAEP are accounted for by changes in the demographics of the state" and "that similar students vary significantly in their test performance depending on the state in which they live," instead?

    4. "Disaggregate" by any name is a crucial factor in understanding educational performance. Somerby was right, the hapless elites are playing catch up.

    5. Leonhardt did not say disaggregation was or was not a crucial factor in anything.

      Somerby was not reporting on disaggregation. He was saying what Leonhardt reported. He said Leonardt reported what happens when you disaggegate Texas NAEP scores. Leonhardt reported nothing about what happens when you disaggregate Texas test scores.

      It may be interesting to you how old Leonhardt is and where he went to high school and college. It may be of interest that he is a single man in his 40's who doesn't know squat, or squats in Cnetral Park when he has a bowel movement.

      But Bob Somerby says he reported something he did not.

    6. Why is this about Somerby and not about the not-very-new finding that demographics affects test scores? When researchers control for demographics the picture with respect to academic performance is different than what has been reported in the past, especially for states with large minority populations. Somerby is correct to note that this should have been reported a long time ago.

    7. This is about Somerby because as best we can tell, the major premise in his report is inaccurate. He is a hypocritical disgrace. It's hard to show sufficient contempt for the blogger who heaps constant contempt on others. His ignorance is an ugly rolling disgrace. Enabled by self hating liberals, he's played it both ways for a very long time. As I've told you again and again, his ignorance is astounding.

      That shouldn't be surprising. The 68-year-old Harvard grad was a school teacher to avoid the draft. He tried and failed as a stand up comedian. Since 1998 he's managed a sit down vanity blog he used to promote a self published book he could never finish.

      His dad managed a turn of mid century equivalent of a titty bar, which doesn't mean squator squadoosh except he himself often invokes a person's parent in order to somehow demean them.

      He is some of the worst of earth. Often it is asked, is this life form human? Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone.

    8. What is the major premise in Somerby's report that is inaccurate? Are you referring to the minor triviality about whether the correct term for the statistical analysis employed is disaggregation? That isn't a major premise at all. The rest of your comment is just bile. But I suppose it is your way of saying this is about Somerby because you hate him. When I hate someone, I avoid him. Why must you even be here?

    9. @ 7:00 PM - do you use a crystal ball or do you just bend a spoon or 2?

    10. Have a cookie Karnak. You're not the one.

  2. Thanks for the link back to Collins in 2012!

    It is amazing to see how much the trolls have come to stifle real conversation. Especially on this vital topic of so much interest to so many Howler readers.

    1. I guess that's why you're here - to unstifle the "real" conversation to which your comment has provided absolutely nothing.

      How amazing!

  3. When contrasting scores 'round the nation
    One ought to use disaggregation.
    But the dreary old Times
    Commits newspaper crimes
    ignoring this plain observation.

    1. But you can't wait to comment as the genius conservative and see it listed in the times comment section.

  4. Just for fun, here is a test designed for Howler readers to show just how much they learn from Bob Somerby.

    Here is Bob Somerby's description of disaggregation:

    "if you "disaggregate" the state's test scores—if you look at the average scores for each of the state's major demographic groups—you'll find that each of those groups scores quite well when compared to their peers around the nation."

    Here is what Bob Somerby says about Texas using disaggregation.

    "As everyone but the New York Times knows, reviewing test scores in this manner is known as "disaggregation." And good lord! When you review Texas' scores this way, Texas turns out to be the third best-performing state in the nation!"

    Exactly how, if you disaggregate scores by race/ethnicity groups on tests given to two separate age groups do you conclude what a state's single ranking is in the nation?

    1. If you disaggregate the scores by race in every state, then rank order those disaggregated scores within each race, you can determine each state's ranking compared to all other states (e.g., in the nation) within that race. This isn't rocket science.

      Using a statistical technique to control for the influence of race is not the same as disaggregation, technically speaking. Controlling for race would produce a rank ordering of the states by mean score for all students, without the influence of race (if race were not a factor). It does that by figuring out how much race contributes to the variability among scores within each state, then removing that variability mathematically and looking at what the scores would be without it. You should do this on a state-by-state basis before rank ordering their adjusted scores. Texas should benefit whichever method is used.

    2. Thank you for describing how you disaggregate. And thank you as well for describing how one controls for race, which is not the same.

      Now, explain how, using disaggregation you come up with the method by which you rank Texas third in the nation, or State X ____th the nation given that you are examining two tests given to separate grade levels.

      Better yet, why not go to the Urban Insitute Study and find out what their researcher Mr. Chingos (gotta love that name)
      did. I think you will find he did come up with his ranking based on any method you or Bob Somerby descibe.

    3. My apolgies. My final line should read that Mr. Chingos did NOT come up with his ranking based on any method you or Bob Somerby describe.

    4. If you can go and read what the researcher did, why are you addressing your questions to me or anyone else on this blog? I have consistently said that it doesn't matter whether you disaggregate or control for race or use whatever technique Dr. Chingos used -- the results should similarly benefit Texas. That's because Texas has a larger percentage of disadvantaged minority students than many of the states to which it is being compared. Nit-picking the methods in some odd criticism of Somerby is a fool's game which I am uninterested in playing with you.

      It should not matter that the tests were given to two different age groups, if what you are comparing is the rankings among the states, not the actual scores. Even the scores can be compared across tests or years (age groups) if you standardize them first. If this really bothers you, take the research study to a statistician and I'm sure they can explain it all to your satisfaction.

      It seems kind of juvenile to laugh at someone's name. The guy has a strong resume.

    5. Nobody was asked if results of disaggregation benefitted Texas or if results from controlling scores for race benefitted Texas.

      Bob's readers where asked how, using disaggregation, on two tests given to different grade level students, you can rank a state third or, for that matter, thirtieth.

      My favorite part of your response is: "It should not matter that the tests were given to two different age groups, if what you are comparing is the rankings among the states, not the actual scores."

      You say it doesn't matter if you are comparing rankings not scores? I asked how you determined the ranking in the first place.

    6. Time doesn't permit remedial education in statistics via blog comments. Take a copy of the research to your local community college math department. They will patiently answer your questions as a public service.

    7. Shorter Corby. "I have no idea. I am as off as Bob on this one."

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