ACHIEVEMENT, AND ACHIEVEMENT GAPS, NATIONWIDE! What is happening nationwide? The Times bungled that topic too: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, AUGUST 27, 2010
Ed Schultz doesnt understand Dr. Kings mission or legacy: But first, we were struck by Steve Benens reaction to this weeks stabbing attack in New York.
On Tuesday night, a Muslim cab driver was stabbed by a young man who seems to be disturbed. Unfortunately, the attacker has some liberal ties, so we liberals didnt get to celebrate in the way we would have enjoyed. (Remember how we were ready to party when it seemed that a tea-bagger may have killed a census worker in Kentucky? Same disappointment here!) That said, Mayor Bloomberg had one reaction to the attack; Governor Patterson had another. Benen, safely ensconced in Vermont, found himself troubled by Pattersons wrong response to a shocking crime:
Sitting safely on his white ass in Vermont, Benen demanded conflict. We mustnt give in to the bigots, he cried, like Snoopy flying that plane. By way of contrast, Ahmed Sharif, the man who was stabbed, had apparently favored moving the non-mosque somewhere else. Could it be that Sharif understands something the Benens dont care about?
For our money, Bloombergs reaction was perfectly sensible; so was Pattersons. Its Benens reaction which jumps off the page. It isnt Benen whose throat may get slashed if extended conflict leads to further attacks by disturbed people. But even after someone gets stabbed, Benensafely lodged in Vermontstill cant seem to picture the thinking behind Pattersons reaction.
We know that bait can taste really good, but this isnt World War III. The proposed community center could conceivably do a world of good at its proposed locationor at some other location. It never had to be at ground zero, or even two blocks away. What amazes us is the way the Benens are happy to let other peoples throats get slashed, so they can play out identity games in which they pretend that the location of this worthwhile project is a matter of unyielding import.
It isnt, and it never was. And it isnt Benens life which gets put on the line by his utterly high-minded thinking, after which he waddles to Ben and Jerrys to break up the afternoon.
It isnt that Bloombergs reaction is wrong. Its just that people like Benen show no sign of knowingno sign of caring?whose lives get put on the line in the process. Truly, it can be amazing to see the way we liberals think.
Back to Schultz: Big Eddie is back on vacation today, presumably at the fishing lodge his ratings allowed him to purchase. But we thought the way he opened his Tuesday and Wednesday shows was truly repellent. Long story short: he engaged in loud, music-driven demagoguery, trying to stir up outrageand hatredabout tomorrows Glenn Beck event. He used the most inflammatory language our language provides; he clowned with a set of insignificant facts, which he twisted to serve his advantage. By Wednesday evening, his bad faith had even reached the point where he tried to draw Martin Luther King III into his brainless fury.
This produced a lovely, zen-like exchange. Dr. Kings son wasnt going.
Here is the initial exchange as Schultz tries to enlist Dr. Kings son in his drive to bring on the outrage. Big Eddie offered King some bait. Dr. Kings son didnt take it:
What! Was that the best this guy could do? In fact, Big Ed has been spewing some very negative rhetoric about the Beck event, using some of the most negative imagery our culture provides. Why in the world was King holding back? Big Eddie tried him again:
Pitiful. Schultz was dragging the late Dr. King through the mud of his small, haters mind, pretending that a single e-mail from a single Tea Partier had been a call for segregation, an ugly, stupid, brainless claim he had been making for two days now. But darn it! Dr. Kings son had been mild once again! So Eddie gave King a third opportunity, praying that he could get Dr. Kings son to declare himself offended by Beck. But uh-oh! When Big Ed extended this outrage branch, Dr. Kings son gave his worst answer yet! Like his father, a moral giant, he just wasnt playing this game:
Good lordwhat was wrong with this man? Nothing could get his hot buttons firing! Finally, Schultz gave King one final chance to serve as the voice of hot resentment, the voice which drives cable ratings along and keeps our minds in the ditch:
Schultz had been throwing torpedoes all week. King refused to play.
We have always liked Schultzs basic approach to politics. Of late, though, he has truly become a hatera pimp for resentment, outrage, offense. He trains his viewers to be deeply offended, on a nightly basis, by all manner of consummate trivia. If the Dalai Lama appeared on his show, Big Ed would try to get his buttons firing. He has become a clown of a mana force for unhelpful anger.
Dr. King came from a vastly deeper tradition, in which you respected and loved your opponentseven the ones who were hoping to kill you. For that reason, Dr. King is a mammoth figure in world history. He will remain so after Saturdays event. He will remain so in spite of the conduct of lost souls like Schultz, who knows how to build a good rating.
Offended is a very strong word, Dr. Kings son said. So are words like racist and bigot and segregation, the strongest terms our language holds. Big Eddie loves those hot-button terms. Dr. Kings son? Not so much.
PART 4ACHIEVEMENT, AND ACHIEVEMENT GAPS, NATIONWIDE (permalink): The analysts nearly fell out of their chairs as they watched Rachel Maddow this Wednesday. Good lord! Could it be that your DAILY HOWLER was getting results this fast? As the analysts glanced from their study carrels, Maddow seemed to be doing something we liberals simply dont do! Rather plainly, Rachel Maddow was discussing public schools! On TV!
Say what? Readers, have you ever seen a TV liberal stoop to talk about public schoolsabout public schools in a state like New Jersey, a state with a lot of minority kids? Darlings, it simply isnt done! We liberals walked away from black kids decades ago. But there was Maddow, breaking the rules, discussing big-state education!
Puzzled, the analysts glanced all around. And then, the actual game became clear! Snarking hard and bringing the snide, Maddow was playing a dumb, silly game aimed at mocking Governor Christie, who is in the wrong tribe, as you know. You see, Christies administration made a minor mistake on its application for funding for Race to the Topa minor mistake which seems to have cost the state of New Jersey $400 million in federal swag! In what follows, Maddow is nearing the end of a long, snarky snarkfest. (To watch her full dollop of bullroar, click this.) This is how clowns like Maddow insult the interests of black and Hispanic kids, about whom they couldnt care less:
Presto! Pseudo-liberals got to laugh at a conservative governor, and reaffirm their undying love for Rachel, who is so funny, so snide and so dumbjust the way we like it. Who doesnt seem to give a flying frack about the interests of black kids, quite a few of whom live in New Jersey.
Maddow was helping display a famous old factwhite liberals quit on black kids long ago. You couldnt make our intellectual leaders discuss the interests of black kids if you paid them a million bucks more.
That said, we thought you might like to know what the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP) has to say about nationwide progress in reading and mathabout the achievement of the nations black and Hispanic kids, and about those achievement gaps. Along with virtually everything else, Sharon Otterman and Michael Gebeloff managed to bungle this topic in their front-page report in the New York Timestheir report about the progress of Gotham kids during the Bloomberg years. What is happening to achievement gaps around the nation? Early on, right in paragraph 6, the Timesfolk proffered this:
Jesus. In fact, the lone study to which the writers refer is a study of the national achievement gap between white kids and black kids only. The gap between white kids and Hispanic kids isnt discussed at all. (To review the study, click this. You can start by noting its title.) This isnt a flaw in the study itself; but the study only considers half the topic Otterman and Gebeloff were discussing, a fact the pair never betrayed any sign of having noticed. That said, we would say that there are certain flaws with this study, which uses data from the NAEP Long Term Trends research, a companion study to the regular NAEP. One flaw? While the study is clear about its topicit is assessing changes in black-white achievement gaps, not changes in black achievement itselfit tends to obscure an important fact: according to the studys bone-simple data, black achievement grew at a faster rate from 2004 through 2008 than it had from 1999 to 2004. In fact, on a per-year basis, black achievement grew almost twice as fast during the latter period! (Reductions in the achievement gap slowed because white kids did poorly during the first period, picked up steam in the second.) At a glance, it seems to us there is a second, possibly larger problem with the ETS study, concerning the topic of accommodations. (Dont ask, though you can search the NAEP long-term trend reportclick here.) But please understand that basic factaccording to this studys bone-simple data, black achievement grew at a much faster rate from 2004-2008 than it did from 1999-2004. Understand that fact as you read the way the writers continued their discussion of national achievement gaps, here in paragraph 10:
The gloom was general as the morbid pair pondered the national slowdown. Maybe the slowdown was caused an increase in fatherless black households, they said. From that passage, how many readers would have guessed that black kids achievement had improved at a much faster rate in the more recent period under review (2004-2008)that the pace of black achievement had in fact substantially quickened? How many readers would have guessed that the writers were discussing a study of the black-white gap onlya study which didnt examine the Hispanic-white gap at all?
So it goes when the New York Times attempts to discuss the lives of black kidsand the lives of Hispanic kids, who in this case got left in the cold.
The gloom was general as the New York Times presented its long, error-strewn report. New York Citys apparent progress in closing the gaps was gone, the scriveners correctly observedwhile failing to note that all major groups in New York City have been making substantial progress in achievement itself on the NAEP. Meanwhile, progress on slowing the gap has stalled nationwide, they sadly declared, in passing, apparently having reviewed one studya study which considered only one of the two basic gaps (black/white). They failed to note that progress in black achievement had substantially picked up steam in the recent period under review.
Readers, we knew what we had to do! We decided that we would review the data which define national progress in achievement, and the data which define national progress in reducing achievement gaps. If youve had enough of the snark and the snide, the silly, the pseudo, you might want to know what has actually been transpiring with the nations black and Hispanic kids.
Forget about New York City itself! On a national basis, what has been happening to the achievement of the three major demographic groups? What has happened to achievements gaps? We looked at data from the regular NAEP, comparing test scores achieved in the year 2000 to scores achieved in 2009.
Fourth grade math: On a national basis, black kids gained a walloping 19 points in fourth grade math from 2000 to 2009 (average score). Hispanic kids gained the same 19 points. White kids gained 14 points.
All three groups showed large gains in achievement. Black kids reduced the achievement gap by 5 points. Hispanic kids reduced the gap by the same amount.
Fourth grade reading: Black kids gained 15 points in average score over the nine-year span. Hispanic kids gained the same 15 points. White kids gained six points.
In this area, black kids and Hispanic kids both showed large gains in achievement. Each group reduced the achievement gap by nine points.
Eighth grade math: Nationwide, black kids gained 17 points on average from 2000 through 2009. Hispanic kids gained 13 points. White kids gained 9 points.
Those are large gains in achievement. By now, you can cipher the reductions in the gaps by yourself. Or you can phone the clowning Maddow, asking her to help you out by using her powers of math comprehension.
Eighth grade reading: (Notefor this one measure, the comparison starts in 1998; no data exist for the year 2000.) On this measure, black kids gained two points from 1998 to 2009. Hispanic kids gained six points. White kids gained three points.
In this one area, gains in achievement were slim. The gaps stayed largely the same.
These are the national results from the NAEP, the widely-lauded gold standard of American testing. Except in eighth grade reading, gains in achievement have been rather large; achievement gaps have been reduced. None of this dimly resembles the picture described in the New York Times reporta report which seemed to derive its principle picture from a single, limited study.
Readers may have another question: How well are other major cities doing in raising achievement and in reducing achievement gaps? User-friendly data from the NAEPs Trial Urban District Assessment are on-line for all to see. (For reading data, click here. For math data, click this.)
We will only note the gains recorded by Atlanta:
In Atlanta, fourth-grade black kids gained nine points in reading from 2002 through 2009. Black eighth-graders gained fourteen points in reading during that period, an enormous gain when compared to national norms. In fourth grade reading, Atlantas black kids gained seven points; black eighth-graders gained fourteen points. On the surface, these are very strong gains; in the eighth grade, the gains are so strong that we would want to trust-but-verify when it came to the sample groups tested. (Achievement gaps are hard to assess, but to the limited of white and Hispanic kids in the Atlanta schools.) But the point were making is simpler than that; a great deal of fascinating data exist about the progress made by the nations black and Hispanic kids. A fair amount of good news seems to be lurking thereand absolutely nobody cares.
Can we talk? To all appearances, nobody gives a flying frack about the interests of black kids. This long-term trend has been clear since the mid-to-late 1970s, when the liberal world pretty much quit on black kids. Starting in the mid-1960s, the plight of inner-city schools had been a major liberal concern. Famous books like Jonathan Kozols (brilliant) Death at an Early Age had fired the liberal spirit as the civil rights movement came center stage. But as things developed, defeating centuries of state-sponsored deprivation wasnt as easy as liberals had hopedand at some point in the 1970s, the liberal world pretty much walked away from the task. Today, the liberal world almost never discusses the interests of black kids. That clowning, who-gives-a-shit bullshit by Maddow helps show you where matters stand.
Lets be candid just for once. Except for the occasional book by Kozol, which we all pretend to have read, we liberals havent discussed the interests of black kids from the mid-70s on. Clowns like Maddow mince and pander, pretending to be discussing Christie. But have you ever seen an MSNBC host devote a single segment to the state of our urban schools? Noand given the shape of our liberal culture, you damn straight never will.
For our money, the New York Times bungled the question of national progress in its endlessly-bungled reportbut at least they tried to assess the topic. Some day, our greatest newspaper may acquire the type of talent which will let it succeed at this task. But there is no sign that the liberal world will ever condescend to this assignment. In part, this is why its so grating to see the white liberal world pimping its own racial greatnessthe one assignment we white liberals seem to enjoy above all.
Mondaypart 5: The Nations education issueand a string of assessments