DATA LEFT BEHIND! The Post says one countys black kids are failing—but key data have been left behind: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2006
DONT GO THERE, PROFESSOR: Doggone it. This morning, Paul Krugman pens another important column—this time, concerning the Bush Admins misstatements about its tax cuts. But doggone it—professor, dont go there! Krugman starts his important column with a pointless bit of embellishment:
KRUGMAN (4/14/06): Now it can be told: President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney based their re-election campaign on lies, damned lies and statistics.Was Cheney lying when he said that? Were not sure, but thats not our point. As Krugman notes, this statement was made more than three months after experts determined that those famous trailers hadnt been used to produce WMD. But Cheneys statement was made on Meet the Press on September 14, 2003. Was that part of the Bush re-election campaign? No, not really—and this weeks Post report offers no record that Bush or Cheney made this claim after that.
So heres a question for the logicians: Can an election campaign be based on a statement which isnt made in the election campaign? The slow slide into reflexive embellishment has damaged the work of the activist web. Krugman has been a giant for years. Professor, this is pointless! Dont go there!
TRISTERO—AND JUDITH MILLER—GET IT RIGHT: Speaking of the pointless (and sometimes nasty) embellishment which now defines parts of the activist web, lets review a delicious point which Tristero noted in this excellent post. Yesterday, the T-man offered a quick review of press response to Bushs claim that those famous trailers were WMD-linked. We ourselves noted that Bushs claim was met with instant eye-rolling (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/13/06). But Tristero went us one step semi-better. And get a load of his delicious first cite:
TRISTERO (4/13/06): Now, when did suspicions surface publicly that [Bushs statement] was hogwash? Within days.Delicious! In our own post, we cited an eye-rolling New York Times editorial from June 1, 2003—and we captured Bob Novak dissing Bushs claim on that very same day. But six days later, the Times published a lengthy, page-one report which aggressively challenged the Bush Admins claim—and yes, the lead author was one Judith Miller! Of course, all around the activist web, youve been handed endless screeds about this demonic scribes soiled soul. Why, youve even seen her slimed on a sexual basis. Yes, its true; trashing women on a sexual basis has now become a progressive value—if you know the right lakes to go jump in. (Swimmers, look out for the pond scum!) Thats why we emitted low chuckles when we read Millers Bush-scalding report—a report she penned just days before her famous chats with fellow demon Scooter Libby. And thats why we thought you deserved to read a good solid chunk of Millers report. The next time youre handed a childish screed about the demonic soul of this scribe, you might recall what she managed to type on this important occasion:
MILLER (6/7/03): American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs. In interviews over the last week, they said the mobile units were more likely intended for other purposes and charged that the evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment.The report continued, through 1500 words (to read it in full, just click here). Miller didnt seem to know about the classified May 27, 2003 report whose existence the Post revealed this week. But in her lengthy front-page report, she directly challenged the Bush Admin line—quickly, when it actually mattered. In our own cursory search, we find no similar work in other big rags at this time. Presumably, thats why Tristero cited Miller first. She was quick to take on the Bush line.
Yes, the irony here is simply delish—and it might serve as a bit of a warning about the childish bedtime tales youre sold in various swamps. By the way: Lets also enjoy a bit of irony at CIA spokesman Bill Harlows role here (see paragraph 5 above). Remember how we were all instructed to venerate Harlow when he took his shots at Novak over the Valerie Plame affair? (Harlow was the CIA spokesman to whom Novak spoke about Joe Wilson.) Because Harlow was taking our side in that matter, we were supposed to elevate him straight to sainthood—and we were told that, if the CIA says it, it just plain flat-out must be right. But uh-oh! Here, we see Harlow defending what was wrong—and we see Miller and Novak saying whats right. Bedtime stories dont work this way—but the reality-based world often does.
Of course, skilled rube-runners in wet locales will stay away from such mixed bags. Theyre busy handing you tales about Hardballs Chris Matthews, that famous unmitigated GOP whore. In fact, Matthews work is often a mess—and at one time, he was an unalloyed disaster for Dem Party interests. But today? We find it amazing—and truly disgraceful—when youre handed such unmitigated crap at these waterfront sites. Last Saturday, we said wed soon address this characterization; tomorrow or Monday, we still plan to do it. As with Miller, so with Matthews; his whoredom may have a good deal more mitigation than soggy rube-runners are willing to tell you. But then, such runners live to treat you like fools—and some out there live for this treatment.
KEY DATA LEFT BEHIND: How well are black kids doing in the largely suburban Fairfax County, Virginia schools? This morning, Maria Glod pens a fascinating, front-page report in the Washington Post on this subject. As Glod notes, [t]he Fairfax County schools are among the most respected in the country, and their quality has long been a draw for families. But black kids dont seem to be sharing in all that success. Here are Glods opening paragraphs:
GLOD (4/14/06): Black students in Fairfax County are consistently scoring lower on state standardized tests than African American children in Richmond, Norfolk and other comparatively poor Virginia districts, surprising Fairfax educators and forcing one of the nation's wealthiest school systems to acknowledge shortcomings that have been masked by its overall success.Glods report is fascinating, in various ways. Well likely spend time on it next week. But what do citizens have to do to get some relevant data around here? To some extent, Glod seems to have her thumb on the scale as she makes her claims about Fairfax. And its hard to judge some basic claims because of the data she omits.
How poorly are black kids doing in Fairfax? At one point, Glod provides some basic data about the countys third-graders. To us, the situation doesnt seem quite as bad as one might think from the tone of this piece:
GLOD: In Fairfax, 59 percent of black third-graders passed last year's state reading test. By comparison, 74 percent of black third-graders in Richmond passed the test and about 71 percent in Norfolk. Statewide, the passing rate for black children was 67 percent. About 79 percent of all Fairfax students passed.In third-grade reading, Fairfax didnt match the statewide passing rate—but the difference was hardly gigantic. And third grade looks like the trouble spot. Fifth-graders were also tested in Virginia last year, and judging from a statistic Glod cites in passing, it seems that Fairfax Countys black fifth-graders did substantially better in reading than the state as a whole. (In Fairfax, black fifth-graders ranked 40th in reading among the states 125 school districts, Glod says.) But wouldnt you know it? Glod never compares the countys fifth-grade passing rate to the state passing rate as a whole. We get the facts about third grade, which is slightly below the state norm—and fifth grade, which is high, just gets skipped.
Ugh—we hate it when that happens! But basic data are omitted at one more point in this report. Question: How poor are Fairfax Countys black kids? The countys third-graders didnt quite match the state in reading; but are they poorer, or perhaps less poor, than Virginias black kids as a whole? Wed be inclined to guess that this countys black kids are somewhat better off than the state as a whole. But holy trust fund! We tore our hair when Glod discussed that matter:
GLOD: Poverty is one of the key reasons many minority children struggle in school. Children from low-income homes tend to have fewer books and generally are read to less often than those in middle-class homes.Maddening. Richmond has more black kids who are poor. But how does Fairfax compare to the state as a whole? Despite the length of Glods report, she omits this basic information.
How well are Fairfax Countys black kids doing compared to black kids across the state? Glod gives the impression that theyre doing quite poorly. But the countys third-graders are only slightly below the state norm, and the fifth-graders seem to be well above it. And the situation seems to be better at higher grade levels; Fairfax scores below the state among all age groups except the middle-school grades, but it is most pronounced at the elementary level, Glod writes. If the disparity is most pronounced at these grade levels, how bad can it be somewhere else?
On the other hand, it may be that Fairfax faces less poverty among its black kids—and Glod omits that basic information. When the Post writes about low-income/minority schooling, what do citizens have to do to get the relevant data?
THIS JUMPED OFF THE PAGE: Whats most striking about Glods report? It isnt the fact that Fairfax is scoring poorly—its the fact that Richmond is scoring so well! Richmond, with substantially more poverty among its black students, is recording better test scores than Fairfax. This is part of what makes this report so intriguing. But uh-oh! In our view, the highlighted passage jumped right off the page:
GLOD: Fairfax school officials readily acknowledge that they don't know how to solve the problem or what has caused it. They even went to Richmond twice last year to study that city's success. While black student performance has shown modest improvement over the past three years in Fairfax, it has risen greatly in Richmond.According to Glod, the Richmond school system readily acknowledges that it has been teaching to the test in recent years. In this context, what does that famous phrase mean? We dont know—but well try to find out.
Special report—The logic of failure!
PART 3—THE LOGIC OF FAILING SCHOOLS: Yesterday, we told our education team to go with Glod. Our series resumes tomorrow or Monday.