FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2023
Matched by relentless indifference: Yesterday, in an interlude, we invited you to return to the days of Jonathan Kozol's first book.
That took us back to the mid-1960s. It took us back to the fateful year when Kozol taught fourth grade in a crumbling "inner city" public school in his native Boston.
Just for today, let's detour away from Mississippi's deserving present-day kids. Let's talk about the state of play, nationwide, during those long-ago years.
As scored by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), tremendous progress has been recorded since those very bad, very segregated years. That said, you've never read about those relentless score gains in the New York Times.
Does anyone at the Times even care?
The Naep wasn't yet in existence during that first Kozol year. It came into existence in the early 1970s, starting with the series of tests which are now referred to, by the Naep, as The Long-Term Trend Assessment.
As we explained last Friday, The Long-Term Trend Assessment now operates as a companion, or as a supplement, to the so-called Main Naep. From its start in the early 1970s, this original testing program tested 9-year-old students, 13-year-old students, and 17-year-old students, regardless of what grade they were in, in both reading and math.
In short, the Naep now runs two separate assessments. In effect, they operate as checks on each other.
The Long-Term Trend Assessment began in the early 1970s—and it continues today. Its voluminous data seem to record tremendous academic progress by various groups of American kids over the past fifty years.
How much academic progress have black kids shown on the Long-Term Trend Assessment? Below, you see some scores which date all the way back to the earliest years of that program.
Good lord! Over the course of forty-plus years, the score gains seem very large:
Average scores, 9-year-old black kids
Reading, Long-Term Trend Assessment
On its face, that's a record of enormous progress, extending into even the first Covid year. According to a very rough but conventional rule of thumb, 9-year-old black kids were outscoring their peers from the early 1980s by something like two academic years when they took this test in 2012, then again in 2020.
On its face, that was a record of enormous progress on the part of the nation's black kids. The New York Times has never told its readers about this apparent progress. Simply put, score gains on the Naep almost never get discussed.
In 2022's Long-Term Trend Assessment, the average score by 9-year-old black kids in reading fell by roughly six points, to 198.77. Presumably, that was the academic cost of the Covid dislocations.
Even with that, black 9-year-olds were vastly outscoring their peers from the early Kozol years. Completing the picture, here are some average scores from the Long-Term Trend Assessment's corresponding math test:
Average scores, 9-year-old black kids
Math, Long-Term Trend Assessment
In math, the score gains were even larger. According to that very rough rule of thumb, the gain here, over forty years, resembled three academic years!
(On this test, the loss to Covid was huge.)
For the record, statistical rules of thumb tend to break down when we reach the fringes of their applicability. There is no way to offer a precise measure of the academic gains black kids were recording over the course of those years.
On their face, the score gains here were enormous. So was the silence from organs like the New York Times and the Washington Post, where clueless pundits kept telling their readers that nothing had worked in the public schools thanks to the laziness of our public school teachers with their infernal unions.
Black kids' scores went up and up. In thrall to certain conservative notions of "education reform"—some of which we ourselves would support—mainstream journalists just keep insisting that nothing had worked in our schools.
We'll offer our normal assessment of this bizarre journalistic behavior. Simply put, our press elites don't care about any part of this, and they never have.
Unless something is grossly wrong with the Naep, Kozol taught in the Boston schools at a much more difficult time. The same could be said of our own situation when we met our initial fifth grade class, in the Baltimore City Schools in the autumn of 1969.
In that year, and in those which followed, we taught a whole bunch of good, decent kids. That said, at least as measured by the Naep, academic achievement in the public schools was much lower back then.
To what extent should you trust the numbers which have emerged from the Long-Term Trend Assessment? Also, how might we best describe the degree of academic improvement which seems to be reflected in those vastly higher math and reading scores?
In a nation which actually cared about matters like this, such questions would be carefully explored by major papers of record. Nothing like that ever happened as test scores by our nation's black kids soared.
(Starting with its inception in 1990, similar score gains were recorded, and were ignored, on what is now called the Main Naep.)
For the record, Naep scores went up for all major demographic groups. To this day, our mainstream journalists, and our constantly slumbering "education experts," have barely said a word.
With yesterday's news, we see it again. We see the big picture in this:
Except for the handful of kids who might get accepted to Harvard or Yale, mainstream elites—in the press corps and in the academy—don't seem to care a whole lot about this nation's black kids.
They lavish attention on the top one or two percent, the ones who might get into Harvard. By and large, the others get disappeared.
We're showing you how the numbers have changed since roughly the days of Kozol-in-Boston. No one has ever told you such things. Those score gains have been disappeared.
Today, our elites are worrying, as they like to do, about the handful of black kids who might go to Harvard. The rest of the time, they perform their moral greatness by pretending to care about the relative handful of black kids who might get into the nation's top academic high schools.
Other than that, our elites don't seem to care about black kids, and they never have.
We regard Kozol as a secular saint. We don't always agree with his views, but we love his sensibility.
We regard those undiscussed Naep score gains as an anthropology lesson. The lack of interest in those scores helps us see who we actually are.
In our reports, we'll soon be returning to Mississippi's good, decent present-day kids. The data we have shown you today came from all over the nation.
Scores on the Naep just kept going up. Few people have ever heard.
For the record, yes: For the record, yes. You'll find roughly the same degree of score gains if you look at Grade 4 results from the so-called Main Naep.
Those "Main Naep" score gains never got discussed either! Just as a simple matter of fact, no one cares about any of this, and there is very little sign that anyone ever will.