DIANE RAVITCH IS ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS! Diane Ravitch asked good questions. Reporters should chase down the answers: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2009
Thursday night and Friday morning: Last night, Rachel Maddow returned to the tea-bagging wars, having spent seven minutes clowning about the funny term on Thursday evenings program (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/10/09). But last night, as she commonly does, Maddow reinvented her own past conduct. Suddenly, we were asked to believe that Thursdays extended clownfest had been a difficult chore:
What a perfect pile of crap. As any fool can see by watching the tape, Thursday nights discussion wasnt difficult at all. The ladies were joking, clowning and simpering, going a million miles out of their way to say the very funny term as many times as they possibly could. (By way of contrast, very few conservative activists or Fox News people were shown using the funny term.) Sorry. Maddow and Cox were like Beavis and Butt-head cackling about the term 69. (Richard Nixon took office in 69. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.) They laughed and clowned and simpered and played, burning time which could have been used to clarify actual issues.
By last night, Maddow seemed to be pretending that the whole affair had been difficult. She proceeded with one of her silly analyses of what the tea-baggers are complaining aboutforgetting to ask any real tea-baggers to explain their own complaints, of course. (The clip about Obamas place of birth was especially disingenuousalthough it made excellent comfort food.) And then, as Maddow closed her segment, her persistent dishonesty was on display once again. Truly, the highlighted statements are piss-pitiful. But watch the tape to see how sincere she seems to be as she says them:
Tea-bagging is an embarrassing word? What a perfect pile of crap! And good grief. Maddow, who boasts about her own sixth-grade sense of humor, even seemed to sadly tsk-tsk about one shlubs Pork DC sign.
Progressives will grow very fat and lazy, served comfort food like that.
Watching Thursday nights Beavis and Butt-head segment, we abandoned any thought that Maddow will ever create a real program. Last night, as we watched her reinvent Thursdays clowning, we recalled a question we asked last week: Does this host ever play it straight?
The analysts asked us again last night. We didnt quite know what to tell them.
DIANE RAVITCH IS ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS: We recommend Diane Ravitchs op-ed column in Fridays New York Times. Mayor Bloombergs Crib Sheet, the tangy headline said.
Key basic points were discussed about alleged progress in New York City schoolsand, by implication, in low-income schools in general. We dont necessarily agree with every word Ravitch wrote. But her topics are all highly relevant:
Alleged progress in New York City schools: Challenging comments by Ed Sec Arne Duncan, Ravitch pens a major buzz-kill about alleged progress in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg. She starts with test scores in reading and math since Bloombergs policies took effect:
Unless were reading the NAEP data wrong, the NAEP does report statistically significant gains in math for New York Citys lower-income eighth-graders during that period. (Click here; then click ahead to page 51.) On the other hand, the same chart shows slightly larger gains, during that same period, for the nations lower-income eighth-graders as a whole. Data like these should be reviewed with great care when pleasing claims are made about progress, in New York City or anywhere else. By the way: Whats up with Ravitchs claim about the large proportion of Gotham kids given extra time and help on the NAEP? Such accommodations are a regular part of NAEP testing procedures. Were too many accommodations allowed in New York? We have no ideabut yes, such things do matter.
Apparent progress on state tests: According to Ravitch, New York City test scores have risen on the state of New Yorks statewide tests more rapidly than on the NAEP (which is widely acknowledged as the gold standard of the testing industry, as Ravitch correctly notes). Heres that part of her column:
The highlighted statement suggests a possibility: New Yorks statewide tests may be getting easier as years go by, producing artificial score gains (grade inflation). Well offer a point that Ravitch does not: Journalists should insist on statistical evidence that statewide tests are equally difficult from one year to the next. In theory, test construction isnt a matter of guesswork; theoretically, a state should be able to demonstrate that this years test is as hard as last years. Journalists never ask about this. They should ask, every year.
Apparent rise in graduation rates: Ravitch also challenges claims about rising graduation rates. New York Citys thumb has been on the scale, she seems to suggest, in some detail:
Drop-out and graduation rates are hard to compute, even when a city or state is trying to play it straight. Ravitch makes serious charges here. Now that these charges have appeared in an op-ed piece, reporters should examine the charges in the Times news pages.
Are statewide tests getting easier? Are graduation rates getting jacked? Ravitchs column raises good questions. Her questions should be examined in news reports, not just in op-ed columns.