MONDAY, MAY 29, 2023

Does anyone care about black kids? Has a miracle occurred in the public schools of Mississippi?

Has something resembling a miracle taken place there? If so, why don't our major blue tribe news organs ever discuss it?

You may be old enough to remember when we started our current search. We started the search last Monday, in response to this gruesome bit of gab on the May 18 Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH (5/18/23): I want to talk really quickly, before we go to break, about reading in Mississippi and Alabama. 

I mean, you know, Mississippi—two states I love, two states I've lived in. Two states when I hear we're 49th in this, 50th in that, I roll my eyes.

Did you read about the "Mississippi miracle" yesterday? That Mississippi's reading scores have shot way up?



SCARBOROUGH: The Alabama miracle? It's so heartening, and maybe offers a road map for other areas in states that may be doing better but where there are pockets of illiteracy, to do better.

So began a "really quick" discussion of a miraculous state of affairs. It was a discussion of an alleged miracle in a pair of Deep South states. 

Everyone pretended they knew about this important miracle. As roughly ninety seconds passed, this "really quick" pseudo-conversation became even more insincere. 

The gab got even more phony! But as you can see, Scarborough was claiming that a miracle has occurred in the public schools of Mississippi and Alabama. Everybody on the set pretended to be thrilled.

Joe's gab was based on an AP report which appeared on May 17. For the record, the report described a "miracle" in only one state, Mississippi, though two other states were praised. 

Has a miracle really occurred in Mississippi's public schools? Headline included, the AP report started like this:

‘Mississippi miracle’: Kids’ reading scores have soared in Deep South states

It’s a cliché that Kymyona Burk heard a little too often: “Thank God for Mississippi.”

As the state’s literacy director, she knew politicians in other states would say it when their reading test scores were down—because at least they weren’t ranked as low as Mississippi. Or Louisiana. Or Alabama.

Lately, the way people talk about those states has started to change. Instead of looking down on the Gulf South, they’re seeing it as a model.

Mississippi went from being ranked the second-worst state in 2013 for fourth-grade reading to 21st in 2022. Louisiana and Alabama, meanwhile, were among only three states to see modest gains in fourth-grade reading during the pandemic, which saw massive learning setbacks in most other states.

The turnaround in these three states has grabbed the attention of educators nationally, showing rapid progress is possible anywhere, even in areas that have struggled for decades with poverty and dismal literacy rates. The states have passed laws adopting similar reforms that emphasize phonics and early screenings for struggling kids.

“In this region, we have decided to go big,” said Burk, now a senior policy fellow at ExcelinEd, a national advocacy group.

These Deep South states were not the first to pass major literacy laws; in fact, much of Mississippi’s legislation was based on a 2002 law in Florida that saw the Sunshine State achieve some of the country’s highest reading scores. The states also still have far to go to make sure every child can read.

But the country has taken notice of what some have called the Mississippi miracle...

Mississippi decided to emphasize phonics. After that, a miracle occurred!

Briefly, let's be fair. The term "miracle" is used here as an example of the familiar human practice known as "Storyline hyperbole."

No one is saying that a literal "miracle" has taken place in Mississippi's schools. They're saying that "rapid progress is possible anywhere" (even in states our blue tribe mocks) if you adopt the phonics / "early screening" policies pioneered by Florida under Governor Jeb Bush.

After Mississippi adopted those policies, it "went from being ranked the second-worst state in 2013 for fourth-grade reading to 21st in 2022."  That's a reference to average scores in Grade 4 reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the highly-regarded gold standard of American educational testing.

Plainly, 21st best out of fifty states isn't a miracle. That said, if everything is as it seems, it does seem to constitute an example of "rapid progress."

Let's continue to be fair:

As we showed you last week, data from that Grade 4 reading test do seem to support the claim that significant progress has occurred in Mississippi.

Not to bore you, but after you "disaggregate" scores from that Grade 4 test, this is where Mississippi's black kids currently stand, or at least seem to stand, as compared to their counterparts around the nation:

Average scores, black students, Grade 4 reading
Naep, 2022:
Washington state: 209.79
Massachusetts: 207.41
Florida: 206.82
Arizona: 205.19
Mississippi: 204.41
Texas: 203.98
Colorado: 203.88
New Jersey: 203.42
Maryland: 202.49
Georgia: 202.31

U.S. public schools:  198.12 

Last year, those were the ten highest-scoring states on this important measure. Let's get clear on what those data show, or at least seem to show:

According to last year's Grade 4 Naep, Mississippi was the fifth highest-scoring state on this important measure. (For the record, that's fifth best out of the 39 states with a large enough black student population to generate a statistically valid average score.) 

Mississippi's black kids scored fifth best out of 39 states! If everything is at it seems, it seems that something very good has happened in this state, with the possibility that its policies could generate progress elsewhere.

Colloquially, this is a miracle—and yet it goes undiscussed! 

More specifically, the AP report generated about 90 seconds of factually bungled gab on Morning Joe. You've heard nothing about it anywhere else where blue tribe pablum is sold.

Does anyone actually care about the lives and the interests (and the happiness) of black kids? More specifically, does anyone in our own blue tribe care about such kids, except for performative purposes?

For years, we've told you the answer is no. The fact that this topic goes undiscussed is what we've been talking about.

Assuming that everything is as it seems, Mississippi's black fourth graders seem to be on a roll, at least as compared to their peers around the nation.

Nobody seems to care about this! Meanwhile, is everything the way it seems with respect to those recent Naep data?

We have nothing but the highest respect for the efforts Mississippi seems to be making in its public schools. But it seems to us that those data may be a bit misleading—that they may exaggerate the amount of progress being achieved in this state.

Starting tomorrow, we'll tell you why we say that. For today, we'll remind you of this:

Topics like this are never discussed by Rachel or Lawrence, and surely not by Nicolle. Along with the rest of their cable news colleagues, they'd rather jump off the Golden Gate Bridge than bore you with apparent good news about the lives and the interests of a bunch of the nation's black kids.

They play you and play you and play you again. (They may not realize that they're doing that.) That "really quick" gabfest on Morning Joe was an insincere, clownishly bungled case in point.

(Nothing dimly resembling an "Alabama miracle" has taken place.)

In our view, we vastly self-impressed blue tribe denizens badly need to start finding ways to get over ourselves. The Morning Joe gang was in gruesome bad faith in that bit of drive-by drivel. But so are heralded tribunes across the sweep of our self-admiring blue tribe!

As we entertain ourselves chasing Trump, Mississippi's black kids go undiscussed. Today, we leave you with a question:

Given our tribe's vast moral greatness, why do you think that is?

Tomorrow: Something we learned way back when

As always: For all Naep data, start here.


  1. "Has something resembling a miracle taken place there? If so, why don't our major blue tribe news organs ever discuss it?"

    First Somerby tells us it wasn't a miracle. Now he complains because the "blue tribe news" (whatever that is) didn't discuss it enough, especially Morning Joe.

    Obviously, this is trying to have it both ways, damned if you do and damned if you don't. Can Somerby understand how much of an idiot he makes himself with this kind of nonsense?

  2. Lots of topics go undiscussed in the mainstream media. How often do they say anything about people going hungry in Syria because of useless US sanctions, for example? or everyone including children who starved to death in Iraq (thousands and thousands) because of US sanctions there? In defense of the media, I suppose, they are in it to make money, or at least stay afloat; people have busy lives and aren't that well educated and don't care about a lot of things that are difficult to understand; there is so much going on in the world that the media is forced to limit what they cover, and in what depth (though many trivial things get constant repetition with the result that the populace, or one 'tribe' or the 'other' gets fixated on it; and most issues are quite complicated, and no one can be expected to grasp it at all, or beyond an even superficial level. That's not to say that the mainstream media isn't terrible in many respects.

    1. Assign blame where it belongs -- on the folks involved in those wars, not the US, who has followed the rest of the European community in imposing sanctions. For example, the US was not solely responsible for sanctions in Iraq, but an entirely unnecessary military invasion. That makes a complaint about Iraq sanctions specious. Your view of American foreign policy is very weird.

    2. anon 10:22, my view on these issues is hardly unique. That other countries participated in these sanctions doesn't change the fact the the US did, and pretty much was largely responsible for their imposition. You seem to think it's ok for us to impose useless sanctions that lead to mass starvation.

    3. I think you have been sold a bill of goods. The US is not responsible for starvation elsewhere.

    4. anon 4:09, look it up, you'll see I'm right

    5. And Bob contends that a fruitcake taking over one of our major political parties, then leading an insurrection to seize the executive Branch through violence is a big yawn of interest only to the vindictive.

  3. Karen is innocent.

    1. Hell is other people

    2. Almost half the world’s people speak Indo-Eurpean languages.

  4. "Everyone pretended they knew about this important miracle."

    A few days ago, Somerby pretended that Joe and the others on his show hadn't actually read that AP article. And yet their statements were entirely consistent with its content. Were they "pretending" and yet somehow knew that Mississippi had increased its scores substantially over the past decade, while Alabama and Louisiana were holding their own when other states were showing declines due to covid? Somerby himself didn't even get the info right, at first implying that Alabama had not even been mentioned in the AP article.

    And what is the harm in referring to an increase in scores from 49th place to 21st over a decade as a "miracle"? Are Somerby's Catholic sentiments offended, given that for Catholics, miracles must be verified and sanctioned by a Pope's investigation before someone can be considered for sainthood -- very serious stuff. Is that why he cannot use the word "miracle" in a figurative sense?

    And today, he is beating this horse to a second death. Somerby needs to let this one go -- it wasn't worth pointing out the first time around either.

  5. Phonics naturally improves reading. It’s not miraculous at all.

    1. No one has called it that either.

  6. "They're saying that "rapid progress is possible anywhere" (even in states our blue tribe mocks) if you adopt the phonics / "early screening" policies pioneered by Florida under Governor Jeb Bush."

    The AP article attributed Mississippi's success to identifying and focusing extra attention on those struggling in the early grades, at the beginning of reading instruction, not to Jeb Bush or phonics. Morning Joe's team also discussed those measures, not phonics, on their brief segment. Why has Somerby shifted attention to phonics and misrepresented what was said by the article?

    1. Phonics is the beginning of reading.

    2. Being read to is the beginning of reading.

  7. "Colloquially, this is a miracle—and yet it goes undiscussed!"

    Except that Morning Joe discussed it and Somerby chewed him out over it.

    1. There is not much to compare it to, except perhaps Ariana Huffington trashing Bill Clinton on a long ago Bill
      Maher Show, for rolling back welfare.
      Oh, She was for it, but hated Clinton because his heart wasn’t in it.

  8. "More specifically, does anyone in our own blue tribe care about such kids, except for performative purposes?"

    If the mainstream media (which is not "blue tribe media) does discuss education of "such kids" (they, Somerby's otherized black children) then it is just being performative. So there is no way for the media to do anything right, in Somerby's view. He is obviously not being fair to anyone today, despite his favorite phrase "to be fair."

    1. And, to be a little obvious, is there some reason to believe Bob’s interest in this is not “performative?”

  9. I wonder how Somerby's classrooms did on the NAEP. No miracles there, I'll bet.

  10. The second amendment is evil.

  11. “Assuming that everything is as it seems,…”

    “is everything the way it seems with respect to those recent Naep data?…”

    “those data may be a bit misleading…”

    “Assuming that everything is as it seems, Mississippi's black fourth graders seem to be on a roll, at least as compared to their peers around the nation.”

    “We have nothing but the highest respect for the efforts Mississippi seems to be making in its public schools.”

    “Three cheers for Mississippi's black kids (if everything is as it seems)”, (from Friday)

    he knows of “zero reason to suspect any fraudulent conduct.” (Also from Friday)

    He uses the word “seems” 13 times in today’s post.

    This constant teasing of a discussion and ambiguity are tiresome. If you have the goods, show it.

    Do the results show real improvement for Mississippi's black kids or not, in Somerby’s view? Can he back up his view with facts?

  12. “We have nothing but the highest respect for the efforts Mississippi seems to be making in its public schools.”

    How can you have the highest respect for what merely seems to be the case? If it isn’t the case, then your respect is pointless.

    1. You're just drop dead stupid. You don't think before you write.

    2. “is everything the way it seems with respect to those recent Naep data?…” asks Somerby. Are they actually making efforts, or does it just seem that way?

    3. Somerby is conning you rubes @ 1:33

  13. Defund the Supreme Court.

    1. Take away anon12:05 electronic devices

    2. Clarence Thomas would permit that.

    3. So would Samuel Alito.

  14. Republicans should support statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

  15. We live in a barred spiral galaxy.

  16. IMO Bob is right about the media not caring about black kids' education. The media also doesn't care about all the black kids being murdered by other blacks. That situation is worsening, but it also doesn't make big news. Can you name a single black person murdered by another black in 2023?

    I suspect that this principle could be generalized even further. I think the media doesn't care about anything. They just report the prevailing narrative.

    1. Actually, murder rates are going down.

    2. The media reports current events, which is their job. NAEP scores came out last Oct 2022. Why should they discuss them now?

    3. The media cares about white cops killing blacks, or even when (apparently racist) black cops kill blacks; not so much when blacks kill blacks, which happens much more frequently.

    4. Cops are supposed to protect and serve, not kill black people. All races commit murder, but when they do it they are criminals, not public servants. Are you reall this dumb?

    5. David,
      The media narrative that political decisions don't effect actual people, is their worst narrative.
      If McCarthy has the votes on the debt limit deal, that's a big win for him. The plight of people on SNAP is not at all part of the media's narrative.

    6. Speaking of media narratives:
      Once the media made the collective decision to disappear the open bigotry of Republican voters as the reason Trump was elected President in 2016, stories like Russiagate were inevitable.

  17. “If I had ever been here before I would
    probably know just what to do…”
    It used to be when Bob was cheesed off about something he might hit on it two or three times.
    It was usually some genuinely relevant bit of media group think, could be on the left or right, that could use emphasis. To be fair, a lot of the media malpractice in that area now relates to Bob’s favorite mental case, and he dare not go near it least he offend the crimson cult’s poor little misled lambs.
    Yet now Bob will still like a dog to his bone for six or seven dubious posts, as if he could bring his dubious minor point to relevance through dogged determination. Often he will also have his basic facts, like has MSNBC actually covered something. Incorrect.

  18. To me, Bob is the Other.