EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS: How good were the children's test scores?


How bad was the adults' reporting?
The nugget claims came right at the start of the New York Times front-page report.

At least one of those nugget claims was just flatly wrong.

The report concerned the I Promise School, a new elementary school in Akron, Ohio which is being substantially funded by NBA star LeBron James. Below, you see paragraphs 3-5 of the New York Times front-page report.

This passage includes several nugget claims. At least one of these claims is just wrong:
GREEN (4/13/19): ...This time last year, the students at the school—Mr. James’s biggest foray into educational philanthropy—were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating.

Now, they are helping close the achievement gap in Akron.

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.
As we told you last week, a familiar old novelized tale lurks in that heart-warming passage:

The Bad News Bears Have Knocked It Out of the Park! This brand new school agreed to enroll "the worst performers in the Akron public schools." But already, in the school's first year, those hopeless kids have "posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments."

They're "helping close the achievement gap" in Akron's public schools!

We start with a confession; last week, we let you down. So much was squirrelly about this front-page report that we never fully assessed that familiar old claim about those "extraordinary test scores," to quote the caption of a photograph which accompanied the report.

To what extent did the Bad News Bears really post "extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments?" Distracted by a ridiculous claim with which the Times report reached a feel-good ending, we never got around to the task of making a full-fledged assessment.

We did tell you this—one claim at the start of that report was just flatly wrong. Apparently, the deserving kids at this brand-new school were not "the worst performers in the Akron public schools" before arriving at this new location.

These weren't "the worst performers" in Akron! Readers learned that in paragraph 23 of the Times report, if anyone read that far:
GREEN: I Promise students were among those identified by the district as performing in the 10th to 25th percentile on their second-grade assessments. They were then admitted through a lottery.

“These were the children where you went and talked with their old teachers, and they said, ‘This will never work,’” Dr. Campbell said. “We said give them to us.”
"This will never work!" That's how hopeless these children were!

At any rate, we were told in paragraph 3 that the I Promise kids were "the worst performers" in the Akron schools. Twenty paragraphs later, we were apparently told that this initial heart-warming claim was just flatly false—was part of a journalist's novel.

The journalist in question is Erica Green, a Times education reporter. In fairness to Green, her editors allowed this multiply bungled copy to go into print. Who knows? They may even have created its various bungles!

That said, we want to spend the rest of the week examining the second part of Green's early presentation. To what extent did these third- and fourth-graders really post "extraordinary results" on their first set of "test scores?"

How extraordinary were those results? We plan to examine that question all week. But before we do, we're forced to admit that we may have misunderstood Green's claim in paragraph 23, which was insufficiently specific.

Based on Green's statements in paragraph 23, we see that the I Promise kids were not Akron's "worst performers" before attending the I Promise School. We are apparently told in that paragraph that kids who were performing below the tenth percentile were excluded from the lottery from which this school's kids were selected.

Tomorrow, we'll show you how we may have misunderstood that imprecise statement by Green. Spoiler alert! If our current reading is correct, it means that even more of Akron's "worst performers" were excluded from this school than we told you last week.

Tomorrow, we'll try to puzzle that out. After that, we'll review the actual test scores described in Green's report.

How "extraordinary" are those results? Are they "extraordinary" in any real way at all? Or is this just the latest journalistic con in a long line of such cons in which readers are told that a miracle cure for our achievement gaps may lie on the horizon?

Before the week is done, we'll examine one other matter. We'll look at the state of Ohio's official "report card" for the Akron Public Schools.

That state of Ohio's official "report card" is almost wholly indecipherable. We're not sure we've ever seen a more thoroughly bungled attempt at providing information about a state's public schools. With that in mind, we'll be looking at several aspects of our public discourse this week.

On the one hand, we'll be looking at the performance of a bunch of deserving kids at a brand new public school.

Beyond that, we'll be looking at the type of public school journalism routinely performed by the New York Times. And we'll look at the incomprehensible "accountability" reporting which has been devised by the Department of Education for the state of Ohio.

An obvious irony lurks here. On its face, that front-page report concerned the performance of some of Akron's third- and fourth-graders. The report assesses, or seems to assess, the performance of those kids.

We'll guess that the bulk of those kids will still be performing "below grade level" when they take the state of Ohio's annual tests this spring. But of one thing we can be certain:

The New York Times deserves its latest failing grade for this latest bungled attempt at education reporting. And the state of Ohio has created a hopeless bureaucratic maze in the guise of accountability reporting.

"The kids are alright," The Who once said, using a word which may not have existed.

We're prepared to believe that the kids are all right. But how about our flailing society's various upper-end adults?

Tomorrow: How many kids were excluded?


  1. But, Bob, 90% "met or exceeded individual growth goals". Hurray!

    What else do you want, Bob? Surely you're not suggesting that the innocent yutes should be subjected to racist performance tests?

  2. Before Somerby blames the NY Times for anything, he should compare the NY Times report with the press release that was sent out by this Ohio school district about its I Promise school (perhaps written together with Le Bron James's publicist). It seems unlikely any New York reporter traveled to Ohio to visit the school and highly likely the materials about the school were supplied to the NY Times by PR people whose job is to generate favorable publicity.

    Otherwise, you have to ask why New York is so concerned with a single Akron school. Would there be any coverage at all of any child's remarkable improvement if Le Bron James were not involved?

    Personally, I find myself wondering why Somerby cares whether these were the lowest performers or merely in the lowest quarter of students. Note that a lottery was used to select from the 10-25th percentile pool. They could by chance all be closer to the 25th percentile even if the pool started at the 1st percentile (which may not be measured by any district test and suggests a degree of accuracy in performance evaluation that may be illusory). But really, who cares? Isn't it a good thing that the public is getting involved with education in a supportive way? What exactly is wrong with what is being done and reported here?

    1. What exactly is wrong with what is being done and reported here?

      I'll type this verrrrry slowly so you can follow.

      The. Times. report. got. the. facts. wrong.

      In journalism, this is considered a no-no, whether you care or not.

      Clear now?

    2. Deadrat, I will say this again, Somerby isn't only concerned with the reporting of this story. He grinds a bunch of other axes here daily. You cannot retreat behind "media criticism" whenever someone wants to engage one of Somerby's other complaints.

      This commenter pointed out that the facts probably came from a press release issued by the school district. Why then is Somerby blaming the NY Times? Are they supposed to fly to Akron to verify this stuff when no one does a deep dive into the "evidence" except a goof like Somerby?

    3. He grinds a bunch of other axes here daily.

      He does, and sometimes he goes astray. One particularly egregious example is his charge that two clueless people on a podcast about NYC’s specialized high schools “slimed” Asian students and their families. Almost all of his blog entries on math and science are nonsense. But he’s on point with the happy-talk story about the I Promise school.

      You point out that the “facts” of the story probably came from the school district’s press release, and you ask what the NYT is supposed to do to verify “this stuff.”

      Are you kidding me with this?

      They’re supposed to do whatever they can to verify the claims, independently of whether anybody else does it. That includes going to Akron if necessary. But do you think Somerby went to Akron?

  3. From Paul Krugman today:

    Because the modern G.O.P. is perfectly willing to sell out America if that’s what it takes to get tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans may not think of it in those terms, but that’s what their behavior amounts to.

    The truth is that the G.O.P. faced its decisive test in 2016, when almost everyone in the Republican establishment lined up behind a man fully known to be a would-be authoritarian who was unfit morally, temperamentally and intellectually for high office.

    [For an even deeper look at what’s on Paul Krugman’s mind, sign up for his weekly newsletter.]

    In their chilling book “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt call this “the great Republican abdication.” The party’s willingness to back behavior it would have called treasonous if a Democrat did it is just more of the same.

    Levitsky and Ziblatt say that when mainstream politicians abdicate responsibility in the face of a leader who threatens democracy, it’s usually for one of two reasons. Either they have the misguided belief that he can be controlled, or they’re willing to go along because his agenda overlaps with theirs — that is, they believe that he’ll give them what they want.

    At this point it’s hard to imagine that anyone still believes that Trump can be controlled. But he is delivering on the Republican establishment’s agenda — certainly far more than any Democrat would.

    The key point is that Republicans are committed to a policy agenda that is deeply unpopular. By large margins, the American public believes that corporations and the wealthy don’t pay their fair share in taxes. By even larger margins, the public opposes cuts to safety-net programs like Medicaid. Yet as far as I can tell, every G.O.P. budget proposal over the past decade has combined big tax cuts for the rich with savage cuts in Medicaid.

    1. Couldn't you have edited out all the blank space?

    2. It appears that righteous and super-patriotic dembots unfortunately haven't learned how to copy/paste yet.

    3. Trump is being controlled. His staff ignores his orders and refuses to carry them out when they are too extreme or ridiculous or illegal. You can assume that the things that are carried out are OK with the rest of the Republicans. Child separation, plundering national resources such as parks and forests, selling access and similar corruption, removal of EPA protections, rolling back of civil rights, etc. This is part of the Republican agenda too -- not just tax cuts.

    4. I hear, from very reliable sources, that Creepy Joe is wearing an e-collar.

      As soon as he starts sniffing some random woman's hair, a special agent assigned to the task pushes the button. Slight electric shock - and voila! - Creepy Joe is as good as new.

    5. I don't understand why Biden's indecisiveness is not considered a flaw. Now he cannot decide when to announce his candidacy and where. I suppose many candidates worry about such things, but his dithering gets reported in the press for some reason. Why would a candidate leak such a thing? Does he not have discipline among his staff about talking to the press?

      These should be obvious red flags but everyone seems to ignore it. Why?

    6. Alan Snipes - thanks for posting under a name, rather than anonymously. During the campaign it was plausible to portray Trump as "a would-be authoritarian". After all he had run his business as an authoritarian. That's how many businesses are run.

      However, with two years of actual results, Trump has not governed that way. He has not unilaterally expanded any wars, as Obama did in Afghanistan. He has not created an international agreement without Senate approval, as Obama did with Iran. He has not ignored judicial bans on his decisions, even when those judicial decisions were laughably wrong, and were later overturned.

    7. So many lies, David. You should be ashamed.

    8. Couldn't you have edited out most of the non-blank space and saved yourself from violating copyright?

  4. "How many kids were excluded?"

    At last Somerby gets to the heart of the problem. What about all of the kids who don't live in Akron, whose parents won't move there and are thus depriving their kids of the chance to meet Le Bron James? UNFAIR!!!

    This kind of residential segregation, in which some kids benefit from basketball star largesse and others are ignored, must stop! I'll bet the kids in the top percentile were never even considered for this opportunity!

    1. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

      This is funny stuff. All kids matter, right.

      Fuck those kids in Akron if they can't take a joke. Amiright?

  5. I am seeking Gordon Jump. For my ebullient tastes.

  6. “How many kids were excluded?”

    Why is this a problem for Somerby? He has argued vociferously in favor of the exclusivity of New York City’s specialized public high schools. NYC also maintains many middle schools that are selective. By this reasoning, a school’s exclusivity should not automatically be a mark against it.

    There is presumably just as much justification to exclude students from the I Promise school as there is from Stuyvesant in New York.

    1. TDH has never argued, vociferously or otherwise, for or against the exclusivity of NYC's specialized high schools. He has railed against the reporting about the schools' lack of diversity and against politicians' response to the schools' lack of diversity.

      There is in fact, justification to exclude the lower 10% of students from the I Promise school as a commenter here explained several days ago. But TDH isn't criticizing that exclusion; he's criticizing the faulty reporting about the students selected for the I Promise school.

      Your failure to read for comprehension is troubling. I have called the I Promise school and explained your situation. The admissions officer was loath to believe that you were above the 10th percentile in reading, but at my urging, she agreed to save you a place in one of their third-grade classes.

      She needs to know by Friday if you'll attend. Reply to me here.

    2. Stop telling other people they cannot read just because they disagree with you (or you with them).

    3. Stop telling other people they cannot read just because they disagree with you (or you with them).

      I fear you misunderstand. Let’s start out with an easy one: is it clear to you that I didn’t actually talk with the fictional “admissions officer” at the I Promise school to obtain a non-existent placement for @12:21P? I hope so. Now hang on tight: I’m not actually accusing @12:21P of not being able to read; I’m accusing @12:21P and like commenters of failing to understand.

      This has noting to do with disagreement. As Aristotle was wont to say, “You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” TDH has not written to support “the exclusivity of New York City’s specialized public high schools.” This is what’s commonly known as a fact because you can go through TDH’s rantings on the subject sentence by sentence and fail to find any statement about the desirability of exclusive high schools. All of TDH’s ire is directed at the misreporting about and the political maneuvering around the lack of diversity in those NYC schools. Not about the exclusivity itself, nor about the ethnic background of the student bodies,

      I do not disparage people simply for disagreeing with me. For instance, some people believe that when campaign finance law mentions “other things of value,” that covers bribing porn stars for their silence or betraying your country by accepting oppo research from hostile countries. I think they’re wrong, but I’m not a lawyer and there’s little adjudication for guidance, so perhaps I’m the one who’s wrong. The folks I disagree with can read and understand. I just think their lack of expertise has led them astray.

      If you don’t want to be ridiculed for your comments, stop making ridiculous comments.

  7. At heart, Somerby probably wishes another child had been sent to his posh Silicon Valley high school and to Harvard in his place. His school experiences appear to have warped him in ways he has never come to terms with, that haunt him to this day. Now he wanders the echoing corridors of the internet warning other kids to stay away from LeBron and the Ivy League else they will be doomed to read poor translations of Aristotle for all their days.

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