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Print view: When the Nation reported the state of the schools, the scamming was quite general
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SCAMMING THE GLOBE! When the Nation reported the state of the schools, the scamming was quite general: // link // print // previous // next //

Ed Schultz rejects Dr. King: Some of us liberals have made perfect sense in our reviews of the Glenn Beck event. (We plan to review Beck’s effort on Friday.) Then too, some of us liberals have been quite ugly. Others have merely been comical.

For comical, let’s talk Bill Press, a favorite of ours for years. Watching Sunday’s Reliable Sources, we were saddened by the way he has declined.

For years, Press sat at the top of the cable heap, co-hosting CNN’s Crossfire. During that era, Press was a sane, intelligent liberal—and he wasn’t a hater. We even did a whole morning of radio with Brother Bill at one point! But now, the liberal world has re-emerged from the woods, where it spent so many years napping. Apparently, Press has decided that he must play the fool if he hopes to hang on.

Well-scripted liberals are very angry that Beck won’t “apologize” for one of his stupidest remarks—the claim, advanced in July 2009, that Obama is a racist. But as we jump about and play, feigning outrage and offense and dumbing ourselves down in the process, let’s examine the way a leading liberal apologizes for his own stupid remarks. Sorry, but this was pathetic:

KURTZ (8/29/10): You, Bill Press, said that for the Park Service to allow this rally was like "granting al Qaeda permission to hold a rally on September 11th at Ground Zero." Isn't that way over the top?

PRESS: I think the rally was a stick in the eye to any—

KURTZ: I don't know. But answer my question. You wrote a book about toxic talk—

PRESS: No, I said it and I'll stand by it because—

KURTZ: You're invoking a terrorist analogy for a talk show host. Why is that not over the top?

PRESS: No, what I'm comparing are sacred places. We have very few of them in this country. To me, the Lincoln Memorial I think for all Americans is one of our sacred places. Again, it should not be politicized, in my opinion, at Ground Zero.

KURTZ: I'm talking about your language, your language in bringing al Qaeda into it. Why is that appropriate?

PRESS: I think it is just as outrageous to have the people who offended—I mean, who carried those attacks out at Ground Zero on 9/11, to give them that sacred site, to give a political huckster the Lincoln Memorial, yes.

That was just sad. Earlier, though, we had averted our gaze as Press’ attempts to be a Tough Modern Pseudo-Liberal produced remarks which were simply comical. Here’s how it began:

KURTZ: Bill Press, you have been crusading against this event for weeks. Most of the talk from Glenn Beck was about God and patriotism. What did he say, if anything, that you found troubling?

PRESS: Well, first of all, talking about God on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. By the way, whatever the numbers were—

KURTZ: Haven't preachers done that?

PRESS: —200,000, or whatever, I was there yesterday. I went down there. OK? And I'll tell you, I thought I was at a camp meeting, an old-fashioned religious camp meeting. I don't think that's appropriate on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. But two things—

Pedants may recall the fact that a famous preacher named “Dr. King” once “talked about God on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.” But as Kurtz questioned Press a bit further, Press’ remarks went over the shark. This is how silly we liberals can get when we agree to play at being fashionably angry:

KURTZ (continuing directly): Why is it not appropriate? Let's stick with that. Why is it not appropriate?

PRESS: Because it is a sacred spot, number one. I don't think it should be turned over to be a political or a religious rally.

We shouldn’t talk about God at the Lincoln Memorial “because it’s a sacred spot!” The analysts groaned and writhed.

(Inside the Memorial, on the wall, Abraham Lincoln talks about God. “The Almighty has His own purposes… If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”)

Press was comically awful. Others have been remarkably ugly. The spirit of Dr. King was nowhere around as an increasingly ugly man spouted and fumed and hated last night. We refer, of course, to Big Ed Schultz, who was offended by all the old white people who had appeared on the mall:

SCHULTZ (8/30/10): Good evening, Americans, and welcome to The Ed Show tonight, live from Minneapolis. These stories on the table are hitting my bot buttons at this hour:

Well, Glenn Beck took his freak show to the nation’s capital over the weekend, had plenty of angry old white folks. But you know what? No solutions, although he says he’s bringing the nation back to God.


But this is the story that has me fired up tonight. At this hour, millions of Americans, they’re desperate, searching for answers on where we do we go now on this economy. False prophet and Fox News hate merchant Glenn Beck gave thousands of his followers this message:

BECK (videotape): Something beyond imagination is happening. Something that is beyond man is happening. America today begins to turn back to God.

SCHULTZ: Well, this is a new act for the Beckster. His crowd was filled with thousands of old, white, angry McCain/Palin leftovers from the election who just can’t seem to stomach the fact that we have a black man in the White House. That’s how I call it.

These ralliers, they weren’t Obama turncoats. These weren’t progressives that were out there. Beck’s Tea Party faithful sat in lawn chairs on the National Mall, listening to a man who can’t bring himself to apologize for calling President Obama a racist.

Denouncing Beck as a “hate merchant,” Schultz kept bringing the hate himself. He stoked the anger of his viewers, complaining that Beck won’t apologize for that idiotic remark. (Although, to be honest, he pretty much has.) And as haters have always done through the years, he denounced his foes by the tens of thousands—perhaps by the hundreds of thousands. Beck had brought out a crowd of angry old white people. These angry old white people “just can’t seem to stomach the fact that we have a black man in the White House,” Schultz said, denouncing them all.

Ed Schultz is a rapidly devolving disgrace; increasingly, he’s a flat-out hate merchant. But there has been a lot of this sort of thing as liberals complain about the way Beck has dishonored Dr. King’s sacred memory. Ugly insults have been widely directed at those who dared attend this event. The name-calling has been widespread—and so have the lofty invocations of Dr. King’s legacy. Last Friday, Steve Benen offered this lofty thought from his spot of a tuffet, as he waited for the “right-wing zealots” to assemble at the mall:

BENEN (8/27/10): Beck and his confused followers are claiming a legacy they don't understand. They're trying to lift a mantle that doesn't fit on their shoulders. They're adding their names to the same scroll they tried and failed to destroy.

Beck and his minions don't quite appreciate why they're an embarrassment to themselves, and that's a shame. They can't comprehend why King was a giant, and Beck is a small, sad cynic. They have no idea why America is so much better and stronger than their hate-filled demagoguery.

According to Benen, the confused people at the event had “tried to destroy” the King legacy—“a legacy they don’t understand.” “They can't comprehend why King was a giant,” this arrogant know-little said, allowing for no exceptions.

They can’t comprehend why Dr. King was a giant? Neither can ugly haters like Schultz. Tomorrow, we’ll recall one part of Dr. King’s legacy, quoting his words as we go.

Dr. King’s legacy is a mountain. Ed Schultz, mouthing words of hate, would be loved by Dr. King all the same.

Special report: Who cares about black kids!

PART 6—SCAMMING THE GLOBE (permalink): It’s hard to grasp the amount of scam involved in our nation’s education “reporting”—the reporting which comes from the mainstream press corps and from the “liberal” world.

On the one hand, the mainstream press is profoundly inept in such reporting, even at the highest levels. Beyond that, our biggest newspapers often play civic booster in the case of local and state education establishments. Example: In the past month, the New York Times has vastly underplayed the scandal involved in the state of New York’s disavowal of its recent statewide tests. The state has basically copped to a multi-year fraud—but the great grey lady has tiptoed about, pretending it hasn’t quite noticed. The state has said that its statewide tests got easier down through the years, essentially rendering them useless—but no one is making any attempt to tell us how this occurred. Years of test scores lie in the trash, the near-definition of fraud.

At least the Times has reported the fact that past scores have been thrown down the drain—in effect, have been rendered “inoperative.” As you may recall, the Washington Post did even less in 2006, when the state of Virginia admitted to a statewide scam involving its test score reporting procedures. In that case, the chairman of Virginia’s board of education acknowledged to us, after months of effort, that the state’s procedures couldn’t be defended (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/23/06). In effect, the state had systematically overstated “passing rates” at all its schools, all over the state, especially at low-income schools.

In the Virginia case, the nature of the fraud was so clownish that it almost defies description. But even after the state admitted the scam, the Washington Post refused to report what had happened. Jay Mathews made a brief mention on his blog; a columnist at the (Norfolk) Virginia-Pilot wrote a column about the matter (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/20/06) But to all intents and purposes, Virginia citizens were never told that their state had conducted a multi-year scam, in which all passing rates, from all public schools, had been overstated.

By the way: We didn’t know it at the time, so we didn’t report it. But sitting on the Virginia board of education at the time was Andrew Rotherham, a liberal “educational expert” who served during the Clinton administration and later appeared on a few short lists for Obama’s secretary of education. In fairness, Rotherham wasn’t appointed to the nine-member board until February 2005. (To scope the current board, click this.) But that means that he had been in position for almost a year when we started kicking and screaming about this matter, in February 2006. You know how these “educational experts” can be! Here at THE HOWLER, we managed to notice, and document, the giant fraud the state was conducting. But the matter had somehow escaped Rotherham’s expert notice.

Repeat: It’s hard to grasp the mammoth incompetence involved in our education reporting. The mainstream press is inept; liberal journals don’t care. And good lord! Those educational experts! Especially the ones on our side!

What happens when liberals report on the schools? Sadly, the scamming can be quite extensive. When major liberals descend to earth to discuss the interests of black and brown kids, a scam is often waiting to happen. So it was, in various ways, when The Nation published its special “education issue” on June 14 of this year. (For access to all articles, click here.)

How overt will the scamming be when left-leaning journals discuss public schools? It can be quite overt. The problem often starts with an ideological imperative—an imperative which may require inaccurate/misleading recitations of facts. According to tenets of Hard Liberal Law, the gloom must be general when “intellectual leaders” assess the effects of No Child Left Behind and its major points of emphasis. And so it was in the Nation’s special issue—for example, when Linda Darling-Hammond provided a grim overview of the current state of play in the schools.

Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor, is a liberal “educational expert.” She was an adviser to Candidate Obama; she then headed the team which selected the president-elect’s secretary of education. She herself appeared on some short lists for the post; we would have been perfectly happy to see her chosen. That said, the gloom was general as her piece in The Nation began. And if you want to be perfectly frank, the scams did seem to be several:

DARLING-HAMMOND (6/14/10): In 1989 President George H.W. Bush and the nation's governors convened to establish a set of six national education goals to be accomplished by the year 2000. Among these were to ensure that all students enter school healthy and ready to learn, that at least 90 percent of students graduate from high school, that all students are competent in the academic disciplines and that the United States ranks "first in the world in mathematics and science achievement."

In 2010 none of these goals have been accomplished, and we are further away from achieving most of them than we were two decades ago. More children live in poverty and lack healthcare; the high school graduation rate has slipped below 70 percent; the achievement gap between minority and white students in reading and math is larger than it was in 1988; and US performance on international tests has continued to drop.

That overview was very gloomy—and somewhat scam-ridden. In fact, the achievement gaps are not larger today than in 1988, if we are working from the NAEP “long-term trend” data, the data typically used by researchers to study such questions. Meanwhile, achievement by black and Hispanic kids is substantially higher today than it was in 1988, a fact Darling-Hammond completely failed to discuss. (For data, come back tomorrow.) But to see how slickly we liberals can get misled when our great experts start scamming the globe, just consider this puzzling passage as Darling-Hammond continues her gloomy assessment:

DARLING-HAMMOND (continuing directly): Far from being first in the world in math and science, the United States ranked thirty-fifth out of the top forty countries in math…when the most recent Programme in International Student Assessment tests were given in 2006. In science, the United States ranked twenty-ninth out of forty, sandwiched between Latvia and Lithuania.

“The United States ranked thirty-fifth out of the top forty countries in math?” A bit surprised by this rock-bottom showing, especially when compared to results on other international tests, we found ourselves wondering why Darling-Hammond had included an extra word: “top.”

Answer: To all appearances, “top” was included in that sentence to help scam liberal readers. (Does the Nation proof-read this stuff?) Darling-Hammond’s sentence is technically accurate; the United States did rank “thirty-fifth out of the top forty countries” on that four-year-old PISA math test. But in fact, fifty-seven countries took part in the PISA study, not the forty mentioned by Darling-Hammond; if she hadn’t been trying to scam you, Darling-Hammond might have said that the United States ranked thirty-fifth out of the 57 total countries which took part in the test (click here). Plainly, this wasn’t a desirable performance (the PISA tests 15-year-old students); it just didn’t produce as awful an outcome as the one Darling-Hammond seemed to describe. Similarly, the United States finished twenty-ninth out of fifty-seven countries on the four-year-old PISA science test, right exactly in the middle—not “twenty-ninth out of forty,” as Darling-Hammond inaccurately wrote.

We e-mailed Professor Darling-Hammond twice, asking her to explain her construction, but we got no reply. If we have misunderstood what she wrote, we’ll be happy to tell you.

Let’s review. Darling-Hammond seemed to misstate the facts about achievement gaps—and she simply omitted the facts about gains in achievement itself. Completing the hat trick, she seemed to perform a bald-faced scam about this country’s standing on one international test. But so it often goes when liberal “educational experts” help us proles picture the state of the schools. Just consider the various things Diane Ravitch said in her report in the Nation.

We know, we know—Ravitch, an old Bush 41 hand, isn’t exactly a liberal. But she has now repented her ways and reversed her stands; she now reliably says bad things about “accountability and choice.” (Back when she had significant influence, she strongly supported such approaches.) Beyond that, she now reliably says bad things about No Child Left Behind and its points of emphasis. Presumably for this reason, Ravitch was asked to share her patented cherry-picked data in the Nation’s special issue.

Like Darling-Hammond, Ravitch painted a gloomy picture of the current state of the schools. In the following passage, she accurately describes the interplay between state-devised, statewide testing programs and the federally managed NAEP testing program. And sure enough! She presents her first piece of cherry-picked data, about Texas, deceiving us rubes as she does:

RAVITCH: [No Child Left Behind] requires that every state test every student from grades three to eight in reading and mathematics, then disaggregate each school's scores by race, limited English proficiency, disability and low-income status. The law mandates that every student in every group must reach 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Every state is left to choose its own test and define proficiency as it wishes…

At the same time that NCLB told states to set their own standards [and conduct their own statewide tests], Congress directed them to participate in the federal tests, known as NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), which serve as an external audit of their claims. (Some cities also take the NAEP exams but do so voluntarily, to learn how they compare with the rest of the nation.) Since NAEP is administered to samples of students, no one knows in advance which students will take it, so no one can prepare for it and no one has any incentive to cheat or game the system.

By demanding that all students reach proficiency by 2014, NCLB incentivized states, districts and schools to cheat and game the system [on their own statewide tests]. That is the direct outcome of high-stakes testing. Some states have lowered their testing standards, thus making it easier for students to be rated "proficient." Consequently, many states now claim dramatic improvement in their test scores, but these gains are not reflected on the tests given every other year by the federal government [the NAEP]. In Texas, where there was supposed to have been an educational miracle, eighth-grade reading scores have been flat for a decade. Tennessee claimed that 90 percent of its students were proficient in 2007, but on NAEP only 26 percent were.

In Texas, “eighth-grade reading scores have been flat for a decade” on the NAEP, Ravitch says. This claim isn’t quite correct, but the gains have been fairly small. Since 1998, white kids in Texas have gained two points on the eighth-grade NAEP reading test; black kids have gained three points, Hispanic kids have gained two. (According to a very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the NAEP scale is often said, by major players, to equal one academic year.) But here, as elsewhere, Ravitch cherry-picked the grade and subject she chose to cite. She only mentions eighth-grade reading, the area where American schools have had the most trouble making progress on the NAEP. (The NAEP tests math and reading in fourth and eighth grades.)

In the other three areas tested, Texas kids have shown large gains on the NAEP since 1998. In fourth-grade reading, black kids have gained a walloping 22 points from 1998 to 2009; Hispanic kids have gained ten. On fourth-grade math, black kids have gained eleven points since 2000 (there was no math test in 1998); Hispanic kids have gained eleven points, white kids have gained twelve. In eighth-grade math, white kids have gained 14 points; black kids have gained 22 points, Hispanic kids fifteen. In short, there have been significant score gains in Texas on the NAEP in three of the four areas tested; Ravitch only mentioned the one area where score gains have been rather slight. But so it quite typically goes as we liberals get turned into rubes. (For all data, click here, then click on “State Comparisons.” You’re on your own from there. Be sure to compare apples to apples when it comes to “accommodations.”)

As she continued, Ravitch kept spreading the gloom. Now, she spoke of the nation as a whole—but her claims were still quite selective, and her central claim was just wrong:

RAVITCH (continuing directly): In contrast, progress on the NAEP tests has been meager. Billions have been invested at the federal and state levels in testing and test-preparation materials. Many schools suspend instruction for months before the state tests, in hopes of boosting scores. Students are drilled on how to answer the precise types of questions that are likely to appear on the state tests. Testing experts suggest that this intense emphasis on test preparation is wasted, because students tend to learn test-taking techniques rather than the subject tested, and they are not likely to do well on a different test of the same subject for which they were not prepared.

Despite the time and money invested in testing, scores on NAEP have increased slowly or not at all. In mathematics the rate of improvement was greater before NCLB was passed. In reading there have been gains in fourth grade, but the national scores for eighth graders were essentially the same in 2009 as they were in 1998.

Seeming to speak about national progress, Ravitch claimed that “scores on NAEP have increased slowly or not at all” from 1998 to the present. With this claim, we finally get where the rubber meets the road—and we meet an absurdly inaccurate claim, the kind of claim we liberals love when reading about No Child Left Behind and its points of emphasis. In Sunday’s Washington Post, George Will painted a somewhat similar picture, stressing the alleged lack of progress by black school kids in the past several decades. Tomorrow, we’ll review Will’s representation, then stack it against the relevant data. We’ll assess Ravitch’s pleasingly gloomy claims at the same time.

For today, we’ll only say this: The gloom was general as Darling-Hammond and Ravitch outlined the state of American education. The scams were rather general too. But this has been the name of the game for as long as we’ve followed education reporting, dating back to the early 1970s. Is there any area of American life where so many thumbs land on so many scales, misleading us proles in the process?

Here at THE HOWLER, we were right about the fraud in Virginia, as the chairman of the state board quite graciously said. We were right, in the past decade, as we repeatedly questioned the state of New York’s statewide test scores. By way of contrast, the “educational experts” dozed in the woods, seeing, hearing, reporting no evil—except when they cherry-picked and misstated data as they went scamming the globe.

Liberal experts to black kids: Drop dead! Given the way we liberals race-bait today, why wouldn’t that be a reasonable summary of the Nation’s misadventure in June?

Tomorrow—part 7: Let’s take a look at the data!

Flip-flop-flips don’t count: There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind when data contradict prior beliefs. For ourselves, we’ve been surprised by the strength of the data over the years since “accountability and choice” began holding sway in American schools, long before No Child Left Behind. (For our money, Darling-Hammond’s article starts at an appropriate place—with the Bush “Education Summit” of 1989. The event was co-chaired by someone named “Governor Clinton,” whose name has been scrubbed from Darling-Hammond’s account, making the general history a bit more pleasing for liberals.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. But for sheer entertainment, note the way Ravitch describes her own change of mind at the start of her Nation piece. For entertainment purposes, we suggest that you read her full account. But here’s the most comical passage:

RAVITCH: In my new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I describe how I came to repudiate my support for choice and accountability, though not for curriculum reform, which I still believe is necessary and valuable. Some news accounts have said I did a U-turn, but in fact I was really reverting to the time before I jumped on the bandwagon of organizational change and accountability, the time when I knew that the only changes that matter are in the classroom and in children's lives. Reaching this conclusion was not an overnight conversion but rather the result of watching how the policies of choice and accountability played out in reality. I began to re-evaluate my views as early as 2004, as I watched the implementation of mayoral control in New York City, with its heavy emphasis on accountability and choice.

According to Ravitch, she didn’t really “do a U-turn.” She just “reverted to the time before [she] jumped on the bandwagon of organizational change and accountability!”

She didn’t really do a flip-flop; it was really a flip-flop-flip! It simply reversed the error she made when she jumped on that previous bandwagon!

At the Nation, fiery editors read that wonderfully comical passage—and they saw nothing wrong.