STANDARD REPORTS ABOUT STANDARDIZED TESTS: The Times erases the nation's black kids!


The problem we all disappear:
"If you don't have anything gloomy to say, don't say anything at all."

For decades, that's been the mandated rule of the road for our nation's "education reporters." When the New York Times reported last year's Pisa scores, this mandate still obtained.

Reading was the main focus of last year's Pisa tests, and results on that test weren't real gloomy at all. In the aggregate, American kids were outscored by their peers in four or five nations, but they had outperformed their peers in 57 others.

Let's say that again:

U.S. students outperformed 57 nations, were outperformed by maybe five! Especially given some of the challenges our nation's brutal racial history has bestowed on our public schools, that could almost be regarded as a (surprisingly) good performance.

That could almost be seen as a remarkably strong performance. But Homey doesn't play it that way!

Below, you see the way the New York Times' front-page report began. We include the newspaper's gloomy headline, which adapts a key talking-point:
GOLDSTEIN (12/3/19): ‘It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts

The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000,
according to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long effort to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe.

And the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. Although the top quarter of American students have improved their performance on the exam since 2012, the bottom 10th percentile lost ground, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency.

The disappointing results from the exam, the Program for International Student Assessment, were announced on Tuesday and follow those from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an American test that recently showed that two-thirds of children were not proficient readers.

Over all, American 15-year-olds who took the PISA test scored slightly above students from peer nations in reading but below the middle of the pack in math.
The disappointing results on the Pisa had recorded a stagnant performance by American students. The headline brandished the time-honored slogan which has misled and deceived the public for lo these many decades

"It just isn't working," the familiar headline familiarly said.

Please note! In that fourth paragraph, Goldstein included a remarkably underwhelming account of how well the U.S. teens had performed on the reading test. She also disappeared the results of the science test, on which American teens had also outperformed the vast majority of the world's nations.

So it goes in the New York Times when the remarkably incompetent newspaper pretends to report on the schools.

To what extent are reporters like Goldstein expected to tilt toward the gloomy? In her second paragraph, Goldstein sifted through a wide array of supporting information, landing on a disappointing fact about the nation's lowest performers.

Her subsequent remark about the National Assessment of Educational Progress—two-thirds of our kids aren't proficient readers!—is built upon a highly subjective assessment of "what the meaning of 'proficient' is." It also hides decades of major score gains on that high-profile domestic test—major score gains the New York Times has never so much as reported.

(More on that topic next week.)

A few days ago, we posted excerpts from Charles Mann's acclaimed 2005 book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Some of those excerpts described a part of Inka culture in which the mummies of past emperors were believed to speak to the present day through an array of female mediums.

The mediums who spoke for the mummies were classic "unreliable narrators." Setting the matter of gender aside, it's hard to say that our modern-day practice of relying on "education reporters" like Goldstein is any more ridiculous than this ancient Inka practice, which enabled the Spanish conquest.

Back then, mediums crazily spoke for mummies. Today, newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times perform a strikingly similar service:

They pretend to report the news and we pretend to believe it! Rather, they pretend to report the news and we pretend to care.

(Hat tip to the old joke about the economy of the Soviet Union. In the joke, a Soviet worker said this: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." AS future experts glumly report, the capacity to pretend was the most basic human skill.)

Even in the aggregate, American kids outscored the vast majority of the world in reading—but readers of the Post and the Times weren't permitted to know that. Meanwhile, Goldstein selected a detail from the statistical undercard which added to the gloom.

She was using one form of "disaggregation" provided by the National Center for Education Statistics—a form of disaggregation in which we can see how American kids performed at the higher and lower ends of the achievement scale.

This is one form of disaggregation, and what it records is important. But the New York Times and the Washington Post agreed to ignore another form of disaggregation, in which the student population is disaggregated according to ethnicity and race.

The Inkas at the New York Times love to posture, pose and preen on matters involving race. For whatever reason, they didn't choose to show you these disaggregated results from the Pisa reading test—results which help define the modern-day version of "the problem we all live with:"
Average scores, Reading Literacy
American students, 2018 Pisa

White students: 531
Black students: 448
Hispanic students: 481
Asian-American students: 556
Those average scores, and the giant achievement gaps they define, help define the modern-day version of "The Problem We All Live With." They also define the amazingly large problem the New York Times works to help readers ignore.

How large are the achievement gaps between those four different groups? Those achievement gaps are massive! To wit:

In the schools where "nothing is working," Asian-American kids outscored every "education system" in the world, even that of Singapore.

Within those same dysfunctional schools, America's white kids outscored every full-blown nation in the world, including tiny Estonia. We regard that as an astonishing fact, but it's an actual fact all the same—unless you read the Post and the Times, where such facts get disappeared.

Good lord! Our nation's white kids, such as they are, outscored every nation on earth on the Pisa reading test! They outscored tiny Estonia, this year's top-performing nation. They outscored Finland, the press corps darling to which many education reporters, Goldstein included, have taken free propaganda junkets in recent years.

They outscored the weary students of South Korea, who attend their regular schools by day and their workhouse academies by night. They even outscored Macau and Hong Kong, along with Japan and Taiwan!

We have no idea why our nation's ragtag collection of white kids are able to perform on such a high level. But that's the way those kids did score, unless you read the New York Times, where you're told, in a wonderfully pointless aside, that the kids of Peru improved their score last year.

Those disaggregated American scores contain some news which is amazingly good and some news which is horrifically bad. Just so you can see the shape of the world you won't be told about in the Times, here's a fuller list of selected scores. No high scores have been omitted:
Average scores, Reading Literacy, 2018 Pisa:

United States, Asian-American students: 556
Singapore: 549
United States, white students: 531
Macau: 525
Hong Kong: 524
Estonia: 523 (highest OECD nation)
Canada: 520
Finland: 520
(South) Korea: 514
United States, all students: 505
United Kingdom: 504
Japan: 504
Australia: 503
Taiwan: 503
Germany: 498
France: 493

All OECD nations: 487

Switzerland: 484
United States, Hispanic students: 481
Russia: 479
Italy: 476
Chile: 452
United States, black students: 448
Malta: 448
Serbia: 439
For all Pisa data, start here.

Those data describe the problem we're all living with. They also describe the problem the New York Times works extremely hard to disappear, hide and ignore.

"Nothing is working in our schools!" Over the past several decades, largely in deference to powerful interests advocating a type of "education reform," this has been the mandated cry of our Inka-reminiscent "education reporters" (and pundits) at newspapers like the Post and the Times.

That said, it's hard to claim that nothing is working when you see two of those four disaggregated scores. As to why our black kids produced that very low average score, that's the problem the New York Times refuses to report and discuss, except in the largely fantastical ways its mediums prefer.

Within the schools where nothing is working, Asian kids are performing at a higher level than any nation or education system in the world. White kids are performing at a higher level than any actual nation.

If we credit the Pisa results, black kids are performing at a level which puts them between Chile and Serbia. But you aren't allowed to know such things if you read the Post and the Times.

What explains the brutal achievement gaps defined by those disappeared data? There are many different possible explanations. Almost none of them will ever be discussed.

The truth is, there is no sign that anyone actually cares about the lives and the interests of the nation's black kids. Most specifically, we'll never see these questions discussed on our favorite TV programs.

Rachel will never report or discuss this problem; neither will Lawrence or Chris. The Times will reinforce this code of silence by refusing to report the most basic types of data from our high-profile standardized tests.

They refuse to report the gaps, but they also refuse to discuss the gains, a point we'll examine next week.

Nothing is working in our schools? In fact, two large groups of American students would, if viewed as separate nation, be the highest performing nations in the world on the Pisa reading test!

Something seems to be working for them, but you aren't encouraged to know that. So it goes as our fantasy-ridden nation, not unlike the Inka empire, moves toward external conquest.

Next week: The Times encounters the Naep


  1. Inka mummies spoke through mediums in the same way as priests speak for God in present-day religions. Somerby keeps calling the beliefs of the Inkas crazy. Would he call Catholicism similarly crazy? This is an example of the kind of ethnocentrism that anthropologists abhor and are taught to exorcise from their thinking. All religious beliefs sound somewhat crazy to those who do not believe them.

    If Somerby had actually taken a comparative religion course at Harvard, or studied some anthropology, he might understand the attitude with which experts approach their study of other cultures. And he wouldn't make such a buffoon of himself.

    1. Would he call Catholicism similarly crazy?

      I don’t whether he would, but he should. From Original sin to the Immaculate Conception, from the Virgin Birth to the Resurrection, from Original Sin to Vicarious Redemption, from Heaven to Eternal Hell, from Limbo to Purgatory, from Institutional Antisemitism to Institutional Misogyny, from Indulgences to General Simony, from Our Lady of Lourdes to the plastic Mary on your dashboard, it’s been crazy all the way down for two millennia.

      All supernatural religions have a common core of irrationality and craziness. And that’s why, as you note, “All religious beliefs sound somewhat crazy to those who do not believe them.” And why all religious beliefs sound totally crazy to those who not believe any of them. As Sam Harris says

      If you think that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is gonna turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you've lost your mind. But if you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you’re just a Catholic.

      You opine,

      This is an example of the kind of ethnocentrism that anthropologists abhor and are taught to exorcise from their thinking.

      “Exorcise,” heh heh. Nice one. I saw what you did there. And, of course, you’re right. But TDH isn’t an anthropologist, even if he claims to hang out with future anthropologists in caves.

  2. "They pretend to report the news and we pretend to believe it! Rather, they pretend to report the news and we pretend to care."

    Somerby may no longer care about the news, but many of us still do. For example, the Judiciary Committee just voted to send articles of impeachment to the floor for vote, a historical event, but not a peep from Somerby about his President's coming impeachment.

    Once again, Somerby accuses mainstream media of not caring about black kids, because Rachel didn't talk about their Pisa scores in the face of impeachment hearings that have preoccupied our nation, those who care that is.

    It has been pointed out before here in comments that (1) education is a local issue and Rachel is on a national news show, (2) current events are discussed on such shows, not ongoing conditions that are not changing, (3) it is liberals who primarily work to help black kids, not conservatives who don't give a damn about anything but making money.

    If Somerby cared about black kids himself, which he plainly doesn't except to beat up liberals with their struggles, he might talk about Betsy DeVos, the pros and cons of charter schools, the actual impact of integrating schools on individual children, universal pre-K, the education plans of the various candidates on the left, and so on. But crickets from Somerby on any of that.

    This is how we know that Somerby's main purpose here is to give exposure to conservative talking points under the guise of criticizing liberals and mainstream media (because the left presumably never criticizes itself?).

    1. Impeachment is just another chapter in the story of the Democrat's incredible demise and transmogrification into irrelevancy. Thank you Hillary! And thank you Rachel for assisting.

    2. 1:25,
      Begun when they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

      This is who America is. This is who America has always been.

    3. Hillary insinuated an ex soldier and fellow Democrat was a Russian asset. Tis scumbagarry of this magnitude that leads the self inflicted demise.

      Race and Russia ... those are just the Santa Claus stories they tell the children so they don't have bad dreams. It's classic misdirection propganda. (Not to diminish the impact or problem we have with racism. Just pointing out that it is used to misdirect you,a grand fool,from the truth.)

    4. @3:01
      Yes, Hillary said something, although she never specifically named the person you’re referring to.

      By contrast, no one ever said an unkind or derogatory thing about Hillary, ever,...other than the vast mountain of lies, innuendos, and vile things hurled at her for 25 years. But other than that...

    5. education is a local issue and Rachel is on a national news show

      K-12 education is a local issue because we have local school boards. But that doesn't mean that education isn't also a national issue. The Department of Education has an annual budget of about $60B. That's no DoD, but it's not chickenfeed either.

    6. "Not to diminish the impact or problem we have with racism"

      Welcome to TDH. It's always a pleasure when someone who isn't a Right-winger posts here.

    7. Let me add my welcome to a Grander Fool who is able to point out the Grander Truth that merely-Grand Fools have failed to grasp. "Race" is just a Santa-Claus story, which of course, doesn't diminish the "impact ... we have with racism."

      Good to know. Grand, in fact.

  3. Why don't the media report education results the way Bob wants them to? IMHO it's because it's not PC to criticize blacks. The media don't want to address 3 or 4 year achievement gaps.

    I think the media under-report black crime for the same reason. E.g., see

    Does this kind of distorted reporting actually help black Americans? Or, would they be better off if the country faced the truth?

    1. I see you continue to get suckered by the Deep State. It wasn't the media. It was Ukraine.

  4. “She was using one form of "disaggregation" provided by the National Center for Education Statistics—a form of disaggregation in which we can see how American kids performed at the higher and lower ends of the achievement scale.”

    She is talking about the serious gaps resulting from socioeconomic status, which is a broader, more inclusive term than race, which is what Somerby apparently wants her to talk about. Hence, she “erases” black kids.

    But given that blacks (and Hispanics) are disproportionately of lower socioeconomic status, and given the recent studies by Sean Reardon that show socioeconomic status may be more important than race as a factor in determining test scores, it is unclear that Goldstein is actually “erasing” anyone. She is actually being more inclusive.

    It isn’t hard to locate Somerby posts where he claims no one talks about the gaps. But here, the gaps are actually being discussed as a serious problem, just not in racial terms as Somerby is now demanding.

    And this in a post that criticizes the story for being too gloomy.

  5. “Our nation's white kids, such as they are, outscored every nation on earth on the Pisa reading test!”

    Here are the percentages by race/ethnicity in our public schools (as of 2015, according to the Department of Education):

    White 49%
    Black 15%
    Hispanic 26%
    Asian/Pacific Islander 5%
    American Indian/Alaska Native 1%
    2 or more races: 3%

    Of these, if you eliminate the higher scoring whites and Asians, you get 42% of the students scoring poorly on standardized tests (black, Hispanic, and Native American). That percentage is predicted to increase over time.

    It’s hard to see how focusing on white and Asian scores shows how our public schools are doing ok, when close to half of the students are *not* doing ok, according to the achievement gaps reported by the NAEP. That seems to be a legitimate problem, and it doesn’t reflect well on our public schools as a whole. Whether or not that’s a “gloomy” assessment seems beside the point: it’s true, and it seems disingenuous to claim otherwise. Countering gloomy stories by ignoring (currently) 42% of public school students and implying that something must be working if it’s working for (currently) 54% of the students is an odd exercise in cherry-picking. That 42% will only continue to increase into the future. And the 54% for whom “something” must be working: We don’t really know if the schools are the primary drivers of the relatively good test scores of whites and Asians anyway.

    1. It’s hard to see how focusing on white and Asian scores shows how our public schools are doing ok, when close to half of the students are *not* doing ok

      The claim isn’t that our pubic schools are doing OK; the claim is that our public schools are *not* uniformly not OK. When over half the students are doing OK, it’s hard to see how focusing on tale of uniform failure shows the true state of our schools.

      Countering gloomy stories by ignoring (currently) 42% of public school students and implying that something must be working if it’s working for (currently) 54% of the students is an odd exercise in cherry-picking.

      No, writing gloomy stories by ignoring (currently) 48% of public school students and implying that nothing is working is the odd exercise in cherry picking.

      We don’t really know if the schools are the primary drivers of the relatively good test scores of whites and Asians anyway.

      And we sure won’t find out if we assume that schools aren’t the primary drivers of these relatively good test scores.

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