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.As we told you last week, a familiar old novelized tale lurks in that heart-warming passage:
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.
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."This will never work!" That's how hopeless these children were!
“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.”
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?