THE THINGS WE HADNT HEARD! We were stunned when we read the reports about the mess in Atlanta: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2011
Kicking down, very-special edition/The Parson defers to The Donald: Well turn to Haley Barbour next week, as weve promised for some time now.
As a primer, we recommend this text by Jamelle Bouie at Tapped. (She discusses Barbours recent statement about the cause of the Civil War, which occurred in the 1860s.) On balance, we agree with Bouies reaction, although wed drop the Boss Hogg reference, which seems to be a tribal requirement. That said, a few commenters quickly rose in high-minded opposition.
We note the third commenter (the fourth comment) got a fact semi-wrong. Well guess he or she was misled by the misleading coverage well discuss next weekthe misleading coverage which occurred at a wide range of liberal sites.
For today, lets close out the week of The Donald with a note on Jon Meacham, The Parson.
Donald Trump played the fool all week, in escalating fashion. He did a multi-night interview on The Factor, even discussing a range of top issues. His thundering dumbness was on full display. But we might pick this comic exchange as the dumbest of his presentations:
Youll have to see what their references are! Apparently, Donald will interview each of the fifteen million, perhaps on a TV program. But then, every discussion he attempted was basically just that dumb:
The mans a relentless public fool. But The Donald is also a billionaire, so all good upper-end pseudo-journalists must defer in one way or another. These are the basic reigning values of your upper-end press.
This week, Mister O came the closest to telling Trump that hes lying about Obamas birth. As Donald rattled on about the troubling subject, OReilly finally told him, though a bit meekly: I don't think you believe that I think it's provocative, you get a lot of attention raising the question. But I don't think you believe it.
Others found a range of ways to be polite about Trumps conduct, in which millions of gullible people get conned and our discourse becomes a tribal mess. (In such ways, the plutocrats win.) This morning, The Parson thoughtfully joined the crowd, blaming it all on the voters.
You see, the Parson is a high-ranking man. Such men dont criticize men like Trump. Men like the Parson dont stand up and say: Trump is deceiving millions of gullible votersand Barbara Walters let him do it. Along with the numb-nuts Joy and Whoopi, who were dumb and unprepared, as they always are.
People, it just isnt done! So what did The Parson say instead on Morning Joe? Simple:
The birthers are nativists, nothing else, he declared, thus running to get in line with the herd. He said that is the only explanation for their dumb belief. He kicked down hard, and kissed ass looking uplooking up right at The Donald.
(And at the still-silent Barbara, who has never corrected the factual garbage Trump spewed out on her air. People! It just isnt done!)
This is how men like the Parson proceed. Invitations hang in the balance! The Parson cleared his throat and declaimed.
The Parson seems to enjoy kicking down, not unlike the professor.
PART 4THE THINGS WE HADNT HEARD (permalink): Who would have guessed it? Americans still know how to do investigative journalism!
USA Today deserves highest praise for its series on test score scamsrather, on one particular type of scam. (Other types exist.) The colorful papers most recent report may even lead to further knowledge about what happened in DCs public schools!
Who knew that this kind of journalism could still be performed in this country?
That said, no report is perfect. There is one question we wish USA Today had addressed: Why did the number of flagged schools drop during Michelle Rhees three years? In 2008, McGraw-Hill flagged 96 DC schools for excessive wrong-to-right erasures. In 2009 and 2010, only 46 and 41 schools were flagged.
Does that mean that some sort of positive change was occurring behind the scenes? Or might it reflect the change in methodology USA Today mentioned, but didnt attempt to explain? We wish the report tried to say.
Perhaps this question will be answered in the probe Rhee now supports with all her heart. For today, we hail the work by USA Todayand we marvel at the silence surrounding similar work by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In yesterdays HOWLER, we mentioned the multi-year cheating scandal afflicting Atlantas schools. Yesterday afternoon, we spent several hours reviewing some of the voluminous work the AJC has done.
We were stunned by the sweep of this lengthy scandaland by the silence which has obtained all through the national press.
Good God. This has been a gigantic story. But it has been completely ignored by the Washington Post, a newspaper which has plainly become an arm of the national testing industry. Meanwhile, the story has been lightly covered by the New York Times, in a set of strange dispatches which include two of the most absurd news reports weve ever seen in print.
On Monday, USA Today included this companion story about Atlanta when it published its lengthy report on DC. (In Georgia, test-answer erasures triggered criminal probe.) But we were stunned by the work in the AJC, especially when that work is compared with the rank propaganda we read last summer in the New York Times.
We thought you should see a small sample of what has appeared in the Journal-Constitution, just in the past six months.
Oof! Last August, the New York Times published two absurd reports about the events in Atlanta. The second report, published on August 8, was a fawning profile of Beverly Hall, the systems embattled superintendent. Five days earlier, the Times had published a bizarre report which downplayed the scope of the scandal.
But oof! On that very same August 8, the Journal-Constitution published its latest sweeping account of events. This is the way Alan Judds front-page report got started:
Judd noted that this commission, the school districts own, had focused on only a dozen schools. Judd further reported that these investigators conducted only cursory reviews of most of the other 46 Atlanta schools flagged by the state last February, even though state officials had ordered a full investigation in Atlanta and 34 other Georgia districts where an analysis of erasures on test papers showed an unusual number of wrong-to-right changes. Before recounting additional horror stories, Judd noted the following: State officials indicated last week the investigation may be unsatisfactory because it did not address irregularities in hundreds of classrooms.
At the New York Times, Shaila Dewan was ignoring almost all such concerns, instead reporting this strange pseudo-fact: The Atlanta public school system was substantially vindicated Monday when the results of an independent investigation into cheating on standardized tests were released. (Yesterday, we discussed the strange logic behind this odd assertion.)
Dewan said the investigation was conducted by an independent commissionby a blue-ribbon commission appointed by a nonprofit education group. Technically accurate? Maybe. In fact, the independence of the panel had been at issue from the day it was selected. And its members were selected under the direction of the Atlanta school board.
Back to the Journal-Constitution: Judds report was filled with horror stories from this commissions report. On the same day, the Times was filling readers heads with tales of Dr. Halls greatnessand with demonized accounts of her snarling, unscrupulous critics.
Eleven days later, more news broke in the Journal-Constitution:
One day before, the Journal-Constitution had reported a problem with Atlantas reported graduation rate, which had soared in recent years, producing talk of a miracle. It seemed that many dropouts had been incorrectly coded as transfers to other school districts, thus driving the apparent rate of graduation way up. (Between 2003 and 2005, the district removed from its rosters roughly 16,000 high school students, state data shows, or 30 percent of all who were enrolled at some point during the school year. The graduation rate rose from 43 percent to 72 percent.)
At the Times, the Atlanta story stopped dead at this point; the national newspaper rested its case with Dewans absurd reports in August. (The Times filed a 107-word brief about Perdues probe.) But in Atlanta, the gruesome reporting continued apace at the Journal-Constitution. In September, a federal probe was reported; federal authorities were investigating whether Atlanta Public Schools committed fraud by illicitly boosting scores on standardized tests, the paper wrote. (If the schools are found to have earned [federal] extra grants through inflated scores, officials could face criminal charges.) And the painful reporting has continued right up to the present. In December, a giant report alleged that Hall had been involved in wide-ranging attempts to suppress allegations of cheating (click here).
In January, a lengthy report described the way whistle-blowing teachers had been punished in some Atlanta schools (click this). In fact, the massive reporting has continued right through last weekend. This has been a massive, wide-ranging story about a matter of major national focusunless you read the national press, where the story has barely appeared.
Should our major national papers have given this story more coverage? Wed say the answer is yes. High-stakes testing has become the focal point of Americas pitiful education discussionand this remarkable, multi-year story helps display the problems involved in the way the use of this tool has evolved in recent years. We support annual testing ourselves; we cant imagine running an urban school system without a (well-supervised) annual test. But at a time when every Tom, Dick, Harry, Bill and Michael parades about the land speaking of test scores, Atlantas miseries should have become a part of the nations debate.
What explains our hapless national education coverage? Next week, well offer a few final thoughts; well even consider that ludicrous interview staged by Charlie Rose. For today, lets make a few final points about USA Todays investigative reporting:
No reporting is perfect. Presumably, the Journal-Constitution hasnt gotten everything rightand that story is still unfolding. The same thing is true in DC.
That said, who knew such detailed reporting was still allowed? And why not do this report next:
Isnt it time the American people were allowed to hear the truth about those NAEP scores? On Monday nights Tavis Smiley program, Rhee rattled on, saying this:
If you look at the data over the last three decades, we've more than doubled the amount of money that we're spending in public education on schooling for our kids per pupil, and the results have at best stayed the same and in some cases have gotten worse.
In fact, results have not at best stayed the same over the last three decades. For black kids and Hispanic kids, results are way, way up. But the public is aggressively kept from knowing.
Isnt it time that changed?
Isnt it time the American people were allowed to hear the truth about these matters? The Rhees and the Gateses (and the Ravitches) pretty much never stop their no-score-gain crap. Why cant a big American paper do a set of real reports about what the NAEP scores really show?
As far as we have ever heard, cheating hasnt occurred on the NAEP. (Until now, there has never been an incentive.) But that should be part of this big report too. Is this federal program intact?
Are people allowed to hear the truth? The Washington Post wont tackle this task. Lets hope USA Today will!
It had to happen: Inevitably, this had to happen. Back in September, Cynthia Tucker knew where Atlanta should turn:
Atlanta should of course hire Rhee. To Tucker, this made perfect sense!