MYTH INFORMATION! Do we know how to fix low-income schools? In the Post, a guest gets it right: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2009
Post to rubes: Look over here! Truly, you have to laugh at the Washington Posts page 3 lay-out this morning. The message couldnt be more obvious. Post to rubes: Look over here!
Quite literally, the entire top half of the page is consumed by The Monday Fix, penned by Cillizza and Bacon. In part, the feature consumes such a large chunk of space because it includes a very large photographa head shot of Sarah Palin. The photo stretches across three full columns, out of five. Wed estimate that it consumes about forty percent of the total space burned by The Fix. (You can see the photo at the link above. You cant see how ginormous it is in the hard-copy paper.)
Whats so odd about that photo? Just this: Palin plays almost no role in the actual, 1200-word feature. Shes mentioned in only one sentenceand that sentence is literally parenthetical. It appears inside parentheses, at the end of paragraph 5. Lets quote: (One notable absence: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee...)
Thats right. In a detailed, 1200-word feature, Palin rated exactly one sentencebecause she didnt attend an event. But a photo editors thinking was clear. Hey rubes! Pretty please! Over here!
Across the pond, The Sun has its unfortunate page 3 girls. This morning, the Post adopts the practice. And while were at it, lets state the obvious: Olbermann hands Palin to the rubes each night for the same lofty reasons. Keith knows how to please the herd. Keith to rubes: Look over here!
Lohan used to be the draw. Today, its another pin-up.
A final marketing note: Cillizza and Bacon sounds like Sizzlin Bacon! HOWLER to Post: You can use it!
Thats right! At US News, the children were wondering which of four lady pols would run the best day-care center. (Who burps babies better, Nancy or Sarah? Inquiring scribes wanted to know.) And one day earlier, Politicos fedora-sporting Drudge knock-off had decided to fact-check Hillarys claim about liking the Stones and the Beatles. (This reminded his pea-sized brain of her comments about the Cubs and the Yankees. Remarks she made in 1999. Remarks which were accurate.) But this is the low-IQ culture which has driven this cohort for decades. Simply put, this group is as dumb as a box of old rocks. Within our wider culture, its considered rude to say such things. But this cohorts dumbness has been a threat to the national interest for decades.
Theyre dumb as rocksand they run your world. Which brings us around to poor Dowd.
For seventeen years, the cohorts viral hatred for All Things Clinton/Gore has lay at the heart of its dumbness. This hatred virtually defines the harm this group has done to the nation, and to the world. And sure enough! It never dies! Heres the way our saddest practitioner started yesterdays column:
Its hard to overstate the dumbness of that when you read Clintons actual interview. Did Vile Bill Clinton urge Obama to sing, We know...the land we belong to is grand! A-YIP-I-O-EE-AY! In fact, heres the actual Q-and-A in which Cuomo first raised this topic:
Sickening, isnt it? Sickeningly stupid? What was the first thing Clinton said, when asked if Obama should be more positive? Clinton praised the new president because he hasnt offered people a lot of inane happy talk. And sure enough! When Cuomo asked a second time, Clinton said it again:
I like the fact that he didn't come in and give us a bunch of happy talk, Clinton said. To Dowd, this meant that he had urged Obama to sing, A-YIP-I-O-EE-AY!
What on earth can explain the fact that this idiot remains where is?
Whatever! For decades, you and your interests have been in their handsin the hands of a gong-show palace elite. During that period, their hatred of Everything Clinton/Gore transformed your nationand the world. In this latest manifestation, Dowd doctored the (insignificant) things Clinton said, as she and her cronies have done for decades. Indeed: For a similar act of reinvention, recall Frank Richs astounding account of what Gore told Katie Couric in November 2002, back when Gore was warning the nation not to go into Iraq. Sadly, you didnt learn what Gore said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/02). Instead, you got what Rich wanted you gettingcontempt for All Things Clinton/Gore. Six years later, this practice wont die.
Below, well post the full, insignificant exchange between Cuomo and Clinton. No, this wasnt worth discussing; in truth, it didnt mean a whole lot, one way or another. But this group, simply put, is out of its mindand theyre in charge of your national discourse! And oh yesthe fast-emerging liberal world is increasingly adopting their spin-soaked culture (more perfect examples tomorrow). We regard this fact as a real disaster for the land where we rubes all live.
The full exchange: Snore! Cuomo raised a rather tedious topic, producing this underwhelming exchange. In each answer, Clinton praised Obama for avoiding happy talk. Unless you read yesterdays Times, of course, in which he scolded silly Obama for his failure to strut:
No, none of that was worth discussing. But if you felt forced to discuss such trivia, you really didnt have the right to pick and choose and doctor and fake in the reflexive way Dowd adopted. Actually, no: Clinton didnt tell Obama that he should sing, A-YIP-I-O-EE-AY! And by the way, what occurred in the next Q-and-A? Here it is; Dowd left it out:
Wouldnt you know it! Dowd completely forgot to mention Obamas straight-A grade! As Rich forgot to tell the truth when Gore tried to warn about Iraq. You see, Gore was still a Major Rich Target. The gong-show took over from there.
Cecis return: Ceci is back; shes misstating again, this time about Social Security. If you missed our Saturday post, you know what to dojust click here.
MYTH INFORMATION: Kalman Hettleman has been active in Baltimores schools for as long as we have lived here. (We dont know him.) Sunday morning, our analysts lustily cheered when we read his piece in the Washington Post.5 Myths About Schools That Just Cant Be Fixed, the hard-copy headline said, somewhat incoherently.
More precisely, the analysts cheered when Hettleman debunked his first myth about schools. (Weve often made similar points in these pages.) Wellthey cheered until the end:
As weve frequently said in the last year or so, were always amazed when people proclaim that we know how to fix (low-income) schools. Clear-eyed believers like Wendy Kopp love to issue such proclamations. Usually, their hands are extended for cash donations as they issue these pleasing claims. And they offer claims about their own greatnessuplifting claims which cant be sustained by the available evidence.
Do we know how to fix our low-income schools? We think the claim remains a giant stretch; we cheered as Hettleman challenged it. And yet, we think Hettleman overstates a tad when he says that nothing has succeeded.
Depending on how you score such matters, wed agree that the nations efforts have failed to produce a single high-performing urban school system. But for our money, Hettleman is a bit too dour about the progress that does seem to have occurred in the past several decades (in part, we would assume, through the efforts of people like him). In the past few months, we spent some time checking the long-term results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the highly-regarded testing program which has gathered national data about reading and math since 1971. The NAEP is considered the gold standard of such data collectionand its testing has shown substantial progress in reading and math over those years. And this is true among all major groups: White kids scores are betterbut so are the scores of black and Hispanic kids. (Note: Of all major testing programs, the NAEP provides the least incentive for in-school cheating.)
How much better have NAEP scores gotten? Absent interviews with NAEP officials, wed be reluctant to quantify too precisely. But especially among grade-school kids, wed be inclined to say this: A lot. For example, here are reading scale scores for white and black kids over a 33-year span (1971-2004). As we recently noted, those gains in scale scores are impossible to evaluate absent further technical guidance. (What does a 30-point gain really mean?) But based on what we ourselves know about these scores, wed say that those gains are significant.
Hettleman is rightwe dont have a single high-performing urban school system. But based on those NAEP data, it seems wrong to say that nationwide efforts havent produced some success. Things may remain bad in our low-income schools. But NAEPs data suggest that things have gotten substantially better since the day we met our first fifth-grade class, in the fall of 1969. (And a charming group it was!)
We cheered when Hettleman challenged the claim that we know how to fix (low-income) schools. We think this claim remains a vast overstatement. But what sorts of improvements have occurred through the years? Funny, aint it? That important question is rarely discussed within our impoverished discourse.
Our question: Have you ever seen anybody explain what those long-term NAEP data actually mean? Everybody calls NAEP the gold standardand no one wastes time on its data.
And Kahlenberg makes two: Reading yesterdays Post, we were also stuck by Richard Kahlenbergs review of Work Hard. Be Nice., Jay Mathews new book about the KIPP schools. More specifically, we were struck by one significant part of Kahlenbergs KIPP-friendly piece. Were KIPP-friendly around here too. But if true, the highlighted fact is important:
Is that true? Do 60 percent of KIPP students leave the program (at some point) because they find it too rigorous? If so, this reinforces a powerful caveata caveat which is often ignored when pundits point to KIPPs success in low-income communities. We think the KIPP schools have performed a highly valuable service. But its students self-select when they enter the programand, if Kahlenbergs figure is accurate, they also self-select through this large attrition rate. This would tend to reinforce Kahlenbergs claim: KIPP does not educate the typical low-income student but rather a subset fortunate enough to have striving parents...
In Hettlemans piece, he implicitly criticizes folk who say it would be easy to fix our low-income schools. KIPPs test scores are sometimes cited in support of such claims. (Example: Mathews piece this morning.) But Kahlenbergs highlighted claim suggests that something elseself-selectionmay be at work in the test scores KIPP has produced. Do we know how to fix our low-income schools? Fixing such schools gets massively easier if less-driven students drop out.
Like Mathews, we think the guys who founded KIPP did a very good thing. But lets rework an earlier question: Have you ever seen anyone try to explain what KIPPs test scores actually mean? Again, well offer a mordant thought: Our national discourse is just as impoverished as the good, decent kids in those classrooms.
Coming Friday: Hettleman challenges five myths about schools. Below, you see the four biggest myths wed challenge, restricting ourselves to low-income schools. Well plan to review all four on Friday:
In our view, the experts and swells have persistently failed. But the experts and swells rarely say this.