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.

Future Historians Living in Trees explain demise of U.S.!

SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2023

Wallace TV program cited: Centuries ahead of where we are now, Future Historians Living in Trees are already preparing the textbooks, according to sources familiar.

They may be forced to live in trees following the cataclysmic defeat of the West, but the historians in question are highly eminent. 

BREAKING! They're attributing the end of the American experiment to "the democratization of media." More specifically, they're attributing this cataclysmic downfall to the creation and implementation of round-the-clock, profit-based "cable news."

(Full disclosure: Spokespersons for these future scholars communicate through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as "dreams.")

Last evening, those spokespersons offered a case in point. They cited a 20-minute "discussion" of the ongoing debt limit crisis on yesterday's Deadline: White House.

At issue was Donald J. Trump's role in the ongoing negotiations. Here's the way the lengthy segment went down:

After MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace introduced three of "our favorite reporters and friends," the pundits conducted themselves in a way which resembled the type of interaction once known as a "discussion."

For twenty minutes, the favorites pretended to conduct a news discussion. Right from the start, the presentation aired above this alarming chyron:


The analysts came right out of their chairs! Has Donld J.  Trump been urging the GOP to do that? Has he been doing that in a way which could be described as BREAKING NEWS?

Granted, Trump had made a deeply worrying set of remarks concerning this matter during his gruesome CNN "town hall" broadcast. We specifically cited those worrying (and childish) remarks in real time. 

But that event had occurred all the way back on May 10. Our question, therefore, was this:

Has Trump been urging the GOP to default in the days and weeks since then? Has he been urging this conduct in a way which can responsibly and accurately be described as BREAKING NEWS?

Has Trump been urging such terrible conduct in the days and weeks since then? We were surprised by the Wallace chyron, because we had read this passage in a front-page report in the New York Times just yesterday morning.

We include the upbeat front-page headline from yesterday' front-page report:

White House and G.O.P. Close In on Deal to Raise Debt Limit and Cut Spending


Former President Donald J. Trump, who has said Republicans should force a default if they do not get what they want in the negotiations, also was weighing in. Mr. McCarthy told reporters he had spoken with Mr. Trump briefly about the negotiations—“it came up just for a second,” the speaker said. “He was talking about, ‘Make sure you get a good agreement.’”

After playing a tee shot on his golf course outside Washington, Mr. Trump approached a reporter for The New York Times, iPhone in hand, and showed a call with Mr. McCarthy.

“It’s going to be an interesting thing—it’s not going to be that easy,” said Mr. Trump, who described his call with the speaker as “a little, quick talk.”

“They’ve spent three years wasting money on nonsense,” he added, saying, “Republicans don’t want to see that, so I understand where they’re at.”

That was the end of the front-page report. With that in mind:

Has Trump been urging the GOP to let the United States default? A pair of high-ranking Times reporters seemed to be unaware of this BREAKING NEWS.

What was Wallace talking about during her twenty-minute segment? Specifically, in what way has Trump been "urging the GOP to let the U.S. default?"

Early on, she cited this recent report in Vanity Fair—a recent report which makes no such claim about Trump. Exactly ten minutes into the scrum, she offered this trademark bit of incompetence-laced misstatement:

WALLACE (5/26/23): Here's Donald Trump. Oh, I'm sorry, I don't have it, because I—



So Trump says, "I say to the Republicans out there, Congress and senators, if they don't give you massive cuts, you're going to have to do a default."


"Do a default?" I don't think that's what anyone says.


"And I don't believe they're going to do a default because I think the Democrats will absolutely cave because you don't want that to happen."


Again, with his massive platform that he enjoys there, that is perhaps the loudest voice people have heard from him on the default.

So spoke Wallace, reading a statement by Trump. 

Initially, she seemed to think that she'd be playing videotape of a statement by Trump. Instead, she had to read the text of his statement, a statement for which she didn't provide a source or a date.

Even there, Trump was saying that a default was something "you don't want to happen." In the statement Wallace read, he was recommending a hard bargaining stance by the GOP.  

He wasn't explicitly urging default. But then again, also this:

In fact, the statement Wallace read had been made at the May 10 "town hall" event. Everywhere else, it was sixteen days old. Here, it was said to be BREAKING NEWS.

Wallace's chyron was an inaccurate paraphrase of that statement by Trump. But in no sense did that statement by Trump constitute some sort of BREAKING NEWS.

We're sorry, but that just isn't the case. In the course of twenty minutes, none of her favorites said so.

We'll only tell you what Future Historians Living in Trees have apparently already said:

Nicolle Wallace is a policy flyweight and an instinctive dissembler. She should be on the air two hours a day in much the way that Donald J. Trump should be playing center field for the Yankees.

Now for the apparent history of our disastrous era:

According to the history texts those future scholars have reportedly assembled, blue tribe cable had become almost as disingenuous as red tribe cable by June 2023.

So went "the democratization of media" as the American experiment eventually crashed to the ground.

In our own view, Wallace shouldn't be on the air on anything like a "news channel." 

In private life, she may be a good and decent person—we aren't equipped to tell you. But as a journalist, she and her endless list of (compensated) favorites and friends are, in large part, conducting a daily clown show. 

On the whole, her daily program is two hours of blue tribe comfort food. More and more and more and more, it's propaganda-adjacent.

Journalistically, Wallace is largely a clown; on balance, her favorites and friends are enablers. According to future scholars, blue tribe cable got dumber and dumber, but also more and more phony, with each passing day.

We return you to yesterday's Times report. It included no sign that Donald J. Trump has been behaving in the manner described by Wallace and her friends. 

There was no such BREAKING NEWS to report. That chyron was a deception.

Meanwhile, consider this: 

This childish, friends-based TV format began in the 1950s. It got its start with The Mickey Mouse Club, a Disney program aimed at people who were seven or eight years old.

If you want a modern-day version for adults, tune in to Wallace's show.

Yesterday's segment was full of misstatements by Wallace. On the brighter side, to borrow from Warren Zevon, [her] hair was perfect, which makes for "good TV."

To watch the entire twenty minutes, you can start here. This is the way the west was lost, or so say despondent historians.

THE UNDISCUSSED: Alabama miracle further explored!

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2023

Three cheers for Mississippi's black kids (if everything is as it seems): As readers nay know, we don't (do not) recommend holding contempt for other people.

That said:

If not for that wise admonition, it would be hard to have sufficient contempt for "cable news" bluebirds who function in the manner shown below.

We do allow feelings of contempt with respect to people's occasional actions. Keeping that in mind, we don't recommend contempt for the cable stars who produced the exchange shown below.

We don't recommend contempt for the people! We do allow you to feel contempt for what these bluebirds said:

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.

That was Joe Scarborough, and two willing guests, pretending that they knew about, and were heartened by, the so-called "Mississippi miracle." 

One day before, this miracle had given headline status by the Associated Press. In a pseudo-discussion which lasted something like 90 seconds, everyone on the Morning Joe set pretended that they knew about, and cared about, the heartening matter at hand.

They did so "really quickly." Along the way, Scarborough even seemed to announce an Alabama miracle, along with the miracle occurring next door to that state.

As you may recall, the AP report dealt with one lone measure of academic progress. It dealt with statewide scores in Grade 4 reading on the 2022 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the gold standard of American public school testing.

The AP report had dealt with Grade 4 reading on the Naep, and with nothing else. With that in mind, has an Alabama miracle occurred in recent years? Here are Alabama's actual scores on this important measure:

Average scores, Grade 4 teading, Alabama
Naep, 2011 - 2022
2011: 220.27
2013: 218.58
2015: 217.05
2017: 216.42
2019: 211.73
2022: 213.30

Based on this important measure, does it look an "Alabama miracle" has somehow taken place? 

Stating the obvious, Scarborough had no idea what he was talking about when he declared this miracle. The other stars on the Morning Joe set were, of course, equally clueless.

(They did know how blue tribe pundits are expected to behave when such claims occur, as they periodically do.)

That said, there you see the actual scores which Scarborough described as a miracle. Alabama's fourth-graders had actually lost a substantial amount of ground in the decade which the AP report had used as a basic framework. Scarborough said this was a miracle, and his gushing guests agreed to agree with his claims.

It would be hard to have sufficient contempt for behavior of this type, except for the fact that this type of behavior has been so common down through the many long years. 

In truth, no one in the upper-end press corps cares about the lower-income kids of those Gulf Coast states, and no one ever has. 

Instead, our journalists have routinely enjoyed occasional bursts in which they go along with heart-warming claims about major academic progress in some lower-income locale. They never know what they're talking about and, quite plainly, they really don't actually care.

(According to experts with whom we consult, this doesn't mean that they're bad people. It means that they're people people.)

At any rate, this behavior has been very common within our horrific blue tribe. Our bluebirds pleasure us with such claims, and we bluebells return to our slumbers.

In this instance, we're talking about Scarbrough's absurd attempt to pretend that a miracle has occurred in Alabama. The AP report made no such claim. In fairness, we know of no reason to assume that Scarborough actually knew that.

In fact, no miracle has occurred in Alabama—not even within the limited world of the Grade 4 reading test. That said, has a miracle occurred in Mississippi? Just to put that claim in perspective, here are the scores for the three states at issue from last year's Grade 8 reading test:

Average scores, Grade 8 reading
Naep, 2022
U.S. public schools: 259.11
Mississippi: 252.93
Alabama: 250.90
Louisiana: 256.65

(The "Main Neap" tests reading and math in Grades 4, 8 and 12.)

Has a miracle taken place, even in Mississippi? If so, it doesn't seem to have reached students in the eighth grade, though it could always get there in the end.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for the behavior of the Morning Joe gang, none of whom had the slightest idea what they were gushing about. For the record:

After their "really quick" pseudo-discussion, they hurried back to their favorite activity. They pleasured us with amazingly repetitive speculations about frog-marching Trump off to jail. 

Trump may end up going to jail, but good, decent kids in those Deep South states will definitely be going to school if he actually does. That includes the many lower-income kids in those Deep South states, along with the many black kids in those states' public schools.

Within the realm of the upper-end press corps, no one actually cares about any such kids. No one has ever cared about such kids, and there is absolutely zero sign that anyone ever will.

That said, we're being a bit unfair to Mississippi (and to Alabama) when we offer the statistics we have offered above. If we're trying to assess the performance of those states' public schools, it must be noted that those states have a higher proportion of (typically) lower-scoring kids than many other states do. 

Sadly, everyone but the high-end bluebirds understands a basic fact. Sadly but surely, to assess the performance of public schools, you have to "disaggregate" test scores in the manner we'll do below.

You have to see how well a given state is doing with its lower-income kids. Also, with its black kids—with a demographic group which has suffered from "achievement gaps," one more legacy of our nation's brutal racial history.

How well does Mississippi do when we disaggregate its Naep scores? Good golly! If everything is as it seems, the state does remarkably well!

Again, the AP report considered only one measure—Grade 4 reading on the Naep. With that in mind, here's how Mississippi scored on that measure last year with its lower-income kids, according to basic Naep data:

Average scores, Grade 4 reading, lower-income students
Naep, 2022
U.S. public schools: 202.67
Mississippi: 211.74
Alabama: 201.07
Louisiana: 204.26

For all Naep data, start here. (As is customary in these matters, "lower-income" refers to students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch within the federal lunch program.)

Yikes! When we review the performance of lower-income kids, Mississippi outpaced the national norm by almost a full academic year!

Louisiana slightly outscored the nation too. Alabama wasn't real far behind.

Assuming that everything is as it seems, Mississippi's performance does seem quite impressive. Also, here are the relevant data for the black kids in those states:

Average scores, Grade 4 reading, black students
Naep, 2022
U.S. public schools: 198.12
Mississippi: 204.41
Alabama: 197.13
Louisiana: 197.45

Yowza! Assuming everything is as it seems, Mississippi's black kids outperformed their counterparts across the nation by a significant margin.

For ourselves, we wouldn't say that those scores constitute a miracle. But assuming that everything is as it seems, those scores do seem impressive. That's especially true in these Deep South states, concerning which the worst has traditionally been expected.

Assuming everything is at it seems, we happily offer that assessment of Mississippi's performance. Just for the record, here are the average scores for some other states on this all-important measure:

Average scores, Grade 4 reading, black students
Naep, 2022
U.S. public schools: 198.12
Mississippi: 204.41
Florida: 206.82
Texas: 203.98
Georgia: 202.31

Massachusetts: 207.41
New Jersey: 203.42
New York: 194.38
California: 193.74
Illinois: 193.57
Minnesota: 193.29
Ohio: 190.12
Michigan: 187.93
Wisconsin: 185.76

Some of our favorite Yankee states scored relatively well. Absent further disaggregation, others scored rather poorly. 

We'll note that three of our larger rebel states joined Mississippi in outperforming the national norm. So did the rebel state of South Carolina, though only by a single point, with North Carolina right at the national average.

Assuming that everything is as it seems, those data might seem surprising. Also, you might be struck by the low average scores from such well-known states as New York, California and Illinois, not to mention the woeful numbers in Michigan and Wisconsin.

You might be surprised by such scores! Almost surely, you've never seen any such data before, for the world's most obvious reason:

No one cares about any of this, and no one ever has! That said, is everything really as it seems with those scores from Mississippi? 

Last week, the AP announced that a miracle had taken place in that state. In a clownish display of a common disorder, Scarborough quickly extended that happy talk to Alabama as well.

That said, is everything as it seems with those important Naep data? Again and again and again and again, miracle stories of this type have fallen apart, down through the years, within various state-run testing programs, though not on the federal Naep. 

In the end, it fell to much-maligned USA Today and to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to blow the whistle on the most egregious circumstances in which impressive score gains had been produced by fraudulent conduct. 

(The New York Times and the Washington Post would have to be marked absent.)

The leading authority on the Atlanta scandal offers this overview. You may see a newly famous name in this brief excerpt from a longer report:

In 2009, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published analyses of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results which showed statistically unlikely test scores, including extraordinary gains or losses in a single year. An investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) released in July 2011 indicated that 44 out of 56 schools cheated on the 2009 CRCT. One hundred and seventy-eight educators were implicated in correcting answers entered by students. Of these, 35 educators were indicted and all but 12 took plea deals; the remaining 12 went to trial. The size of the scandal has been described as one of the largest in United States education history.


The trial began on September 29, 2014, presided over by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter. It was the longest criminal trial in Georgia history, lasting eight months. The lead prosecutor was Fani Willis. Before the end of the trial, the superintendent at the center of the scandal, Beverly Hall, died of breast cancer, aged 68.

Fani Willis prosecuted the case! For the record, the late Beverly Hall had been named national Superintendent of the Year on the basis of the fraudulent scores achieved in Atlanta's schools during her tenure.

We know of exactly zero reason to believe that any fraudulent conduct is involved in Mississippi's Grade 4 reading scores on the Naep. Let us highlight that key fact:

In the case of Mississippi's Naep scores, we know of zero reason to suspect any fraudulent conduct.

Havin said that, we'll add this:

We do see one part of that AP report which makes us wonder if everything is really as it seems in the case of this alleged miracle. We'll walk you through that part of this topic next week.

In the meantime, we'll ask you this: Where were the "education experts" as those actual scandals were taking place down through the years?

For ourselves, we'd written about this sort of thing in the Baltimore Sun dating all the back to the late 1970s. Our assorted adventures in this realm continued on from there.

Where were the educational experts—where were the academics and the major journalists—as these scams went on and on? Our partial answer is this:

No one shows the slightest sign of caring about any of this! More specifically, no one seems to care about Mississippi's black kids, who are so good and so decent, or about their good, decent parents.

Joe Scarborough didn't know what he was talking about last week. Neither did his reliable chorus of echo-adjacent guests.

He did know that he wanted to speak "really quickly" about this heartening topic. This isn't the product his channel sells to us, its customers from our self-impressed blue tribe.

Down through the years, it's been like this within our blue tribe as the nation's black kids have gone undiscussed. Our major journalists don't seem to care about those deserving kids.

They may not realize that they don't care. But if you watch blue cable each day—if you watch "our favorite reporters and friends"—the evidence is blindingly clear, from Joe and Nicolle and Lawrence and Rachel all the way down to the echoes.

They simply don't care about any of this! Few things could be more clear. 

Next week: Is everything as it seems?

A parting gift: Once again, some basic data which may seem surprising. On this occasion, we include a remarkable number from our Department of Defense schools:

Average scores, Grade 4 reading, black students
Naep, 2022
Florida: 206.82
Texas: 203.98
Georgia: 202.31

U.S. public schools: 198.12

New York: 194.38
California: 193.74
Illinois: 193.57
Michigan: 187.93
Wisconsin: 185.76

Department of Defense schools: 226.27

Assuming that everything is as it seems, black kids whose parents are in the military are doing remarkably well.

You've never seen data like these before. Why do we think that is?