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?
OFF-CAMERA GUEST: Yeah.
OFF-CAMERA GUEST: Yes.
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
Washington state: 209.79
New Jersey: 203.42
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.