Starting tomorrow, The Letters: Before the Christmas break, we examined a somewhat peculiar report in the New York Times. The article in question reported, then attempted to explain, Mississippi's rising scores on the Grade 4 Naep reading test.
To be more precise, the "report" to which we refer was an opinion column. Its author offered a somewhat implausible explanation for the rising scores, which she'd failed to disaggregate.
In short, all standard markers of journalistic incompetence were present and accounted for in this bungled column. To date, our reports on this "Mississippi muddle" have gone exactly like this:
Tuesday, December 17: Naep scores rise in Mississippi! Information allowed to escape!On December 21, we also posed this question: "Is there any possibility that Mississippi's surprising Grade 4 scores could be statistically bogus?"
Wednesday, December 18: Those score gains are larger than reported! Let's disaggregate.
Thursday, December 19: What explains Mississippi's score gains? Scribe's answer should break all our hearts.
Friday, December 20: At the Times, this counts as "cognitive science!" In the end, nobody cares.
Before this week's reports are done, we'll answer that question: Yes!
We'll show you how astounding it is that the New York Times, allegedly our brightest newspaper, actually published that remarkably incompetent column, with its implausible explanation for Mississippi's score gains.
Starting tomorrow, we'll offer a series of reports entitled "The Letters." Working from these embarrassing letters in the December 22 New York Times, we'll examine several remaining questions about these recent articles in the New York Times.
Again, the recent articles in question are these:
1) The New York Times' bungled front-page report about the 2019 Pisa scores.Also at issue is the embarrassing set of letters the New York Times published on December 22. Before leaving town to help Santa last week, we briefly reviewed them here.
2) The bungled column about Mississippi's Naep scores which the Times haplessly published.
Alas! In our view, those letters draw back the curtain on the utter haplessness of our failing public discourse. In fairness, anthropologists tell us that this is the best we can sensibly expect.
When it comes to public schools, how hapless is our national discourse? You're right when you say that nothing will change. But just for the sake of creating a record, we'll answer your question all week.