LOS ANGELES STORY: Data concerning loser kids!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2018

Part 2—Apparent room for improvement:
Is there room for improvement in the Los Angeles schools—even room for "reform?"

Conceivably, yes, there is. Just for the record, we're talking about the public school system serving Los Angeles—the Los Angeles Unified School District.

This giant school system—the LAUSD—is the nation's second largest. More than 600,000 kids attend the district's schools.

Is there room for improvement in this school system's schools? Presumably, yes there is! We base this judgment on test scores from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the nation's only reliable testing program.

At this point, we offer a set of warnings. In what follows, you will encounter boring statistics about a bunch of useless, loser kids.

You'll never hear about these kids if you watch your favorite "cable news" programs. That's because the big giant stars of these corporate channels, along with their corporate owners and bosses, don't give a fig about these kids, and assume that you don't either.
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(In your favorite liberal magazines and journals, you'll only read about these kids, or about similar kids, to the extent that they can be used to service tribal propaganda. These same rules apply in our brightest newspapers—for example, in the New York Times.)

We liberals don't care about these kids! Having established that basic point, consider these recent data:
Average scores, Los Angeles public schools
Grade 8 math, 2017 Naep

White students: 298.28
Black students: 253.66
Hispanic students: 259.99
Asian-American students: 300.54
As even we liberals can possibly guess, those numbers don't mean a whole lot without some means of interpretation—some basic frame of reference.

For that reason, we mention, for the ten millionth time, the very rough rule of thumb which is often applied to Naep scores. According to this very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the Naep scale is roughly equivalent to one academic year.

When we apply that very rough rule of thumb, we discover enormous "achievement gaps" within the Los Angeles schools. We may see why the occasional scold will perhaps see room for improvement in the Los Angeles schools, perhaps even room for reform.

Good lord! When we apply that very rough rule of thumb, we see that black and Hispanic kids in L.A. may be, on average, something like four years behind their white counterparts in math, at the end of eighth grade! If we're willing to rip ourselves away from the latest brain-damaged cable speculations about Donald Trump's latest brain-damaged remark, it night occur to us that there's room for concern about these outcomes—perhaps even room for improvement.

Let's be clear! No big star on cable news will ask you to think about this. These weirdly grinning latter-day apes are selling a winning "cable news" product:

They're selling you The Chase.

The Chase produces big box office, a basic Los Angeles concept. Beyond that, no one in cable news actually cares about these Los Angeles kids. In part, that's because of "who they are."

If you accept the rubrics invented by our nation's brutal history, you'll see those kids as our big cable stars (and their owners) do. Who are those 600,000 kids? You'll see those kids like this:
Student population, Los Angeles public schools
Latino students: 74.0%
White students: 9.8%
Black students: 8.4%
Asian-American students: 6.0%
If you're a major cable star hauling in those millions of dollars (we aren't allowed to know how many millions), you'll quickly see that your corporate owners don't want you discussing those kids. Members of the upper-end national media have understood this basic point for many, many years.

Having said that, let's also say this! If you aren't a giant corporate star beholden to the people who own you, you may wonder how this Los Angeles story compares to a broader tale.

You may wonder about the performance of American kids nationwide. With apologies for boring you with pointless piddle, those numbers look like this:
Average scores, American public schools
Grade 8 math, 2017 Naep

White students: 292.16
Black students: 259.60
Hispanic students: 268.49
Asian-American students: 309.52
Most kids in our Los Angeles story are identified as Latino/Hispanic. Those national data let us tell a wider story:

On the 2017 Naep, the average Hispanic eighth-grader in L.A. was more than three years behind the nation's average white kid in math:
As not seen on cable TV:
Average Hispanic kid in L.A.: 259.99
Average white kid nationwide: 292.16
You won't hear about this on cable. When big cable stars look at numbers like that. they say just one word:

"Sad!"

Cable stars are busy doing three things at these point. They're busy cashing their enormous checks; they're building their splash-party TV houses; and they're offering you utterly useless, brain-damaged speculations about the latest non-event in the varied penumbra of The Chase.

They're Aristotle's pre-rational apes, as limned by Harari's heuristic. They don't care about our Los Angeles story. They assume the same about you.

Tomorrow: Werewolves of Gotham

34 comments:

  1. Like nothing you have ever seen before.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYp_Mq_-Q0s

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to show Richard Feynman's comments on psychology as a cargo cult science to my psych methods classes and then explain exactly why he was wrong. As he himself notes, he doesn't know much about psychology, but that doesn't stop him from maligning it -- much like Somerby and many others. Physicists tend to think they know everything about everything because they know a little about the physical world. Where does that attitude come from?

      Delete
    2. An article in a recent statistics magazine observes that statistics formulas are too often used like a cargo cult. That is, researchers use a formulas without understanding its basis and assumptions. All too often, a formula is used, even though the necessary conditions are not satisfied. One simple example is choosing a statistical test after looking at the data.

      This is a very widespread problem. Available statistics computation programs allow people to get the formula right, while ignoring whether it's appropriate to the nature of the data. Sadly, papers published by psychologists seem tp be particularly prone to this type of statistical error.

      Delete
    3. David, this kind of thing is taught as wrong in every upper division psych stats class. You take a supposed example you found in a journal and generalize it to the field without any basis.

      Most of the statistical techniques used in other fields were first developed by psychologists for use in dealing with human variability. This applies especially to biostatistics. Modeling of human behavior comes from mathematical psychology.

      It might surprise you to know that many psychologists don't use the packaged software but develop their own techniques.

      As in any field, there are a range of people with different competences. My grad program made us learn programming and we wrote software to implement our statistical tests, because who would trust anything commercial? Only those who have been through graduate level training do research.

      That's why your generalization is not only ridiculous but offensive.

      Delete
    4. Caesar -- thanks very much for the link. Here's one for you https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/113/the-story-of-schroedingers-cat-an-epic-poem/

      Delete
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      Delete
    6. You play chess, David?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHydkEARVKE

      Delete
    7. “Time is nature's way of ensuring everything doesn't happen all at once.”

      I thought that was a Feynman quote, but it seems to have come from John Wheeler. I think Hawking’s explanation of the double-slit experiment, a term which Feynman used in the video but quickly backed away from – I imagine because it was too sexy - was much more clear. It seems the observers of the double-slit experiment actually affect the results, which show an interference pattern even if one electron or photon is passed through at a time, an experiment which I find hard to believe is possible. But I’m not an experimental physicist, so what the hell do I know.

      12:46, where does Somerby malign psychology?

      Leroy

      Delete
    8. I'll tell you next time he does it. Recently, he mostly misapplies diagnoses from abnormal and clinical psych to call Trump crazy, something nobody does if they've had even a basic psych course, since stigmatizing people with actual mental illness in order to attack people you don't like by misusing terms for mental illness is considered wrong. For example, it is why you don't call Trump a retard -- it is unfair to people with developmental disorders. But Somerby doesn't think there is any "there" there when it comes to psychology, so he thinks it is obvious that Trump is disordered and he thinks everyone should be saying it, even when he gives Trump a huge benefit of every other kind of doubt. That kind of thing tends to drive psychologists crazy.

      Delete
  2. No one on any TV station I watch is going to call the kids of Los Angeles "loser" or "useless." It takes Somerby to do that.

    "When we apply that very rough rule of thumb, we discover enormous "achievement gaps" within the Los Angeles schools. We may see why the occasional scold will perhaps see room for improvement in the Los Angeles schools, perhaps even room for reform."

    The stats for Los Angeles kids are closely similar to those of the nation. On what basis does Somerby say we need reform? He points out that there are differences in performance, but why does that necessarily mean that anyone is being poorly served by their school?

    There are reasons why minority kids perform worse than white kids. They have nothing to do with school performance. They have to do with what happens in the first five years of life, before kids reach school. For Hispanic kids, they have to do with whether or not the kids are exposed to English at home, coupled with economic advantages and the literacy of parents. For both black and hispanic kids, school performance has more to do with poverty than with any aspect of school performance.

    I don't care who Somerby bashes on cable news. They put themselves on screen and they can take the criticism. His attacks on teachers and schools -- especially his suggesting that reform is needed when schools have demonstrably suffered from too much reform, not too little, is irresponsible. In Los Angeles, teachers unions have finally been able to assert some control over the rounds of reform, always serving the economic interests of someone besides children and parents. Our schools are catching up, regaining their reputation for competence. We are resisting the meddling of the billionaires and conservatives and providing better education to our kids.

    But Somerby hasn't followed what has happened to education in Los Angeles. He doesn't really care what happens to our kids. He only wants to bash cable for talking about something he cares less about than they do. We needs all outsiders to stay away and let us do our jobs as teachers and parents. Somerby can shut up and keep his hands off California. We don't need his kind of advocacy here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "They're Aristotle's pre-rational apes, as limned by Harari's heuristic. They don't care about our Los Angeles story. They assume the same about you."

    What does Somerby mean by "our Los Angeles story"? He isn't from Los Angeles. He doesn't know anything about Los Angeles. He never taught in California schools. He arguably had a far from typical high school experience in Palo Alto, which is part of Silicon Valley and so different from any other part of California that he might as well have been in Massachusetts or Baltimore. He doesn't have anything to say about Los Angeles.

    So those of us who can use words like "our" don't consider him a spokesman for our kids, our schools, or our educational needs. WE think Somerby should use someone else's schools to clobber liberals with and leave OUR kids alone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I’m going to explain this in great detail, and while I do so, I’ll type as slowly as I can in the hope that you can follow.

      In the noun phrase our Los Angeles story, the word our is the possessive form of the first person plural pronoun. As such, it must modify a noun. The nearest noun is Los Angeles, but that’s an adjunct, i.e., a noun with the function of modifying another noun, in this case story. So we have Los Angeles story, in other words, a story about Los Angeles.

      Our also modifies story. The pronoun is plural in the tradition of editors of publications, who speak for the entire staff of the publication. This is often called “the editorial we.” Of course, TDH is only Bob Somerby, so this is a conceit but one well-understood by readers.

      Putting this together, our Los Angeles story means for TDH “the blog entry that’s mine” or “the blog entry that I wrote.”

      The phrase carries no implication that the author is from Los Angeles, that he knows anything about Los Angeles other than what he’s discovered about test scores of Angelenos, that he’s taught in California schools, that he has anything to say about the city of Los Angeles, or that he’s a “spokesman” for anyone. All of that is entirely your own invention based on your apparent misunderstanding of English.

      If you can’t understand simple English, then you will inevitably make a fool of yourself by posting comments to a blog written in English. Perhaps you should learn English. There are plenty of ESL programs available. Just a suggestion.

      By the way, what’s your excuse for using the first person plural pronoun?

      Delete
    2. At the very least, Somerby's use of first-person plural is confusing, especially to a reader unfamiliar with this technique.

      "We want to talk about our discourse."

      It is also a bit presumptuous when he uses it to include himself in the liberal tribe. Perhaps the commenter simply feels Somerby isn't qualified to speak about LA schools.

      Delete
    3. "In the noun phrase our Los Angeles story, the word our is the possessive form of the first person plural pronoun."

      Heh heh. I learn something new every day.

      Leroy

      Delete
  4. This speaks to the complexities of this issue. Read the comments too:

    http://hispanicpundit.com/2005/10/21/why-dont-latinos-do-as-well-in-school/

    Note that this concerns Alhambra, which is a suburb of LA, but the suburbs of Los Angeles are largely non-white too.

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    Replies
    1. Alhambra? That brings back memories.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwjX-m4LkYk

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    2. https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-1950s-guide-to-proper-telephone-etiquette-1828386485

      Delete
  5. How dare Somerby call Hispanic kids "loser kids" and then assert that he cares about kids?

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    Replies
    1. A charitable reading of this is that Somerby is characterizing the attitude of media types (liberals too maybe?) when he calls them "loser kids." In other words, he feels that that is the media's attitude towards those kids, not necessarily his own.

      Delete
    2. If that's true, he got lazy and forgot to attribute the bad stuff to someone else. He put it in his headline!

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    3. Granted, it's hard to be sure. Somerby uses sarcasm as his stock-in-trade. When he says things like "loser kids", we presumably should understand he is parodying the media's attitude. But when he says things like "liberals are dumb, stupid, and exude a moral squalor", it sounds like a parody of the conservative view of liberals, but Somerby seems to mean it. Hard to tell.

      Delete
  6. 'Is there room for improvement in the Los Angeles schools—even room for "reform?"

    Conceivably, yes, there is.'

    Most people who know anything about achievement gaps know that these gaps are present as soon as children enter the school system. This suggests that factors outside of schools play an important role in creating these gaps. Unlike actual test scores, which have shown marked improvement for all racial and ethnic groups over time, the achievement gaps, while somewhat narrower now, are still wide. This shows the structural nature of these gaps. As such, it is glib to suggest, as Somerby does, that the existence of achievement gaps merits some sort of school "reform." In the past he has criticized those who use data to promote their notions of "reform."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Is cable news really the appropriate venue for discussing local education matters? Cable news is what it is. The ratings gurus feel that such issues would hurt ratings. People turn to cable news and opinion shows for an update of current "big" stories, which, yes, includes "The Chase." Besides, the audience for cable news is fairly small. There are other sources nowadays.

    (Maybe someone needs to start a channel on the C-Span funding model that is devoted to in-depth coverage of otherwise ignored stories. It does take money to run such a thing.)

    Chris Hayes does a podcast. He is open to suggestions for topics. Any of us, Somerby included, could email him and suggest "achievement gaps" as a topic. Perhaps it would lead to coverage on his TV show. Until I have tried that avenue, I would prefer to refrain from the ad hominem attack of assuming that Hayes and others don't care about the topic. His not reporting about it on his TV show isn't evidence of that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1:26

      Podcasts don’t reach the people they need to reach, but only the enlisted. I read a quote on Truthdig from Hayes (from Twitter) on climate change, in which he stated that the topic affected ratings, so that it was basically a non-starter.

      That’s the problem. Hayes seems a very decent guy and a true progressive, but seems mired in his cable news show. Is cable the place where the majority of news consumers receive their information on important topics? I don’t know the answer to that, but it seems a great many do. In fact, it would behoove me to research this question.

      But when Hayes, of all people, states that climate change, one of the most pressing issues today, is back-burner news on his network, you just have to wonder. Is it possible that he’s satisfied with all of the cash he’s stuffing into his pants? Glad to know that he’s editor-at -large for The Nation. But that also seems to be the case for his MNSBC show.

      Leroy

      Delete
    2. The average age for all cable viewers is very old. Young people get their news online. A podcast would reach them more likely than a cable show. That's why so many TV people are starting podcasts. They are chasing the youth audience.

      Climate change depresses everyone because it isn't clear what any of us can do. Same with health care and maybe education issues. There are no quick fixes to these problems, nothing a demonstration can fix.

      Do you have any basis for claiming that Hayes is only in it for the money? Repeating Somerby's offensive remark about Maddow is a bad start here. Hayes is one of the better pundits -- that's one reason why Somerby talks about him so infrequently.

      And, yes, you are a conservative (if not a Republican). I would bet you call yourself an Independent and vote Republican every time.

      Delete
  8. The problem is worse than Bob's statistics show. The range of ability between individual students is even wider than the difference between total ethnic groups. of the students After all, there are some good black and Hispanic students and some bad white ones. If you ignore ethnicity and just compare bad students vs. good students, the gap will be seen to be a lot wider than the gap between white and Hispanic or black students.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bob doesn't mention a key implication of the gaps: differences in achievement between different ethnic groups are not necessarily due to discrimination. The nationwide scores reported by Bob show that it's not surprising that a higher percentage of Asians than blacks succeed in technical work.

    On the one hand, this is obvious. However, there are many out there who claim that any difference in achievement must be due to discrimination and requires some sort of legal remedy.

    If discrimination isn't the primary cause of different achievements, it follows that the massive efforts to fight alleged discrimination are not succeeding. The key, as Bob points out, is improved education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The achievement gaps have nothing to say about discrimination. They may very well result from that. Or not. You have no basis to infer causes from the NAEP scores. Also, Bob has pointed out nothing. He can't prove and has not proved that "improved education" leads to a narrowing of the gaps.

      Delete
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