BREAKING: The news report you should read today!

THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2018

Us and Them and a horrible crime:
The news report you should read today is in the New York Times.

Warning! This news report discusses an unspeakably horrible capital crime committed against an 8-year-old child—a horrible crime which was committed in India.

Horrible though the crime may be, Jeffrey Gettleman turns it into a study of the power of tribalism—the power of the eternal belief that We are different from Them, and a million times better, perhaps even by God's decree.

Gettleman wrote a searching report. To read his report, click here.

Savage thoughts about The Others have always been a powerful force. They're increasingly prevalent in our own country, including within our own tribe.

That 8-year-old child is no longer here. But how to forestall the next crime?

BREAKING: Pepperidge Farm, and Maddow, no longer remember!

THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2018

That no-knock Manafort raid:
Remember how great it was?

Remember the no-knock raid on Manafort's home—the one at 3 in the morning? Remember the way they picked the lock in the dead of the night because Manafort couldn't be trusted?

Remember the way that no-knock raid showed how much trouble Manafort was in? Remember the way the no-knock raid thrilled us to the core?

You can stop remembering now! On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow provided the rare public service. She reported that the widespread report about that no-knock, predawn raid was bogus right from the start.

We don't know why Maddow reported this, but, by God, she did! She started by naming everyone else in the world who misstated the facts, starting with tape of Stephen Colbert. But eventually, she even briefly acknowledged the fact that she had misstated this too!

How does Maddow know that this treasured report was wrong? She quoted material from Mueller's team, from a court filing on Monday night. Throwing in irre;levancies designef to make us admire her, she said the court filing said this:
"The warrant application had not sought permission to enter without knocking. In issuing the warrant, the magistrate judge authorized them to execute the warrant any day through August 8th, 2017, and to conduct the search in the daytime from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The government complied fully with those date and time conditions and Manafort does not contend otherwise."
To watch Maddow's whole segment, click here.

That statement by the Mueller team would seem to imply that the source of the original bogus reports had perhaps been the Manafort team. It does leave open the possibility that the agents knocked on Manafort's door at 6 AM right on the nose.

At any rate, according to Maddow, that's what Mueller has now officially said. There was no no-knock warrant or raid, and there was no predawn incursion.

Presumably, this may even mean that Manafort's wife wasn't "pulled out of bed naked," as we saw Victoria Toensing allege on C-Span this past weekend. It seems that this was wrong too.

Inevitably, we decided to go back to see what Maddow said in real time, last August 9. Inevitably, we found that she quoted several (mistaken) reports, then embellished what those reports had said, making things even more thrilling:
MADDOW (8/9/17): Thanks to the Washington Post today, reporting by Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman, we now know that, for some reason, after midnight on the night of the 25th [of July], the morning of the 26th, so the night after he testified to the Intelligence Committee and the morning before he was initially scheduled to talk to the Judiciary Committee, for some reason, in the predawn hours, the federal prosecutors and grand juries that have brought this thing this far decided they would go another step and start doing this in a different way.

When the FBI raided Paul Manafort's house in Virginia in the wee hours of July 26th, ABC reports tonight he was awoken by a group of armed FBI agents knocking on his bedroom door. When those armed agents raided his house, they weren't just working off the word of a federal prosecutor, and a grand jury, who can act on their own steam, who have been powering this investigation, and everything we have learned about it up until this point for months.

[...]

As far as I understand it, Justice Department guidelines require agents to pursue evidence by the least obtrusive means possible. Sending armed agents to his bedroom door in the middle of the night is not the least obtrusive means possible. Do they have to explain why they did it this way? What is all the urgency about?

Do we ever get to see the search warrant or affidavit that spelled out the alleged crimes here and the evidence they were looking for? Did the timing of this raid have anything to do with the fact that Paul Manafort, less than 24 hours earlier, had done an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee? If so, what's the connection between those two things? Would the FBI have known the content of what Manafort said to the Intelligence Committee that morning, if that is what sparked the raid?

Also, because I'm nosy, how did Paul Manafort's house get raided at 3 in the morning and none of his neighbors leaked a word of it for two whole weeks? I mean, it`s not the most important part of this, but it puts a whole new spin on "neighborhood watch," right? Neighborhood, oh my god, watch, Paul Manafort, don't tell anyone.
Where had the errors come from? The errors had come from here:

The Washington Post had reported that it was a "predawn" raid. It appears now that this was inaccurate.

ABC News had reported that the agents conducting the raid had knocked on Manafort's bedroom door. (David Muir: "Before the sun came up, a dozen armed FBI agents were knocking at Paul Manafort's bedroom door, waking up Trump's former campaign chairman with a warrant to search his Virginia home, all without warning.") We now seem to know that this was inaccurate too.

Maddow repeated what the Post and ABC had said, then added the part about the raid being staged at 3 on the morning. She repeated this embellishment a bit later that night, while she was congratulating Leonnig, her Pulitzer prize-winning guest, for a report which was inaccurate, or at least so it now seems.

(We can also answer Maddow's semi-conspiratorial question. Why didn't Manafort's neighbors report the fact that "Manafort's house got raided at 3 in the morning?" Presumably, no one "leaked" word of the 3 AM raid because no such raid had occurred.)

Credit where due—Maddow reported the new information. She did throw everyone else under the bus before fleetingly acknowledging that she belonged there too. But she did report the new information, and she didn't stage one of her dog-and-pony shows involving the DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, the cynical, deceptive gong show which served her so long and so well.

She didn't revive that abandoned old con. She simply named everyone else who got it wrong, then said that she did too.

Now for a possible lesson:

Night after night, Maddow ostentatiously throws her prepared program away in response to "breaking news." Quite often, she hasn't had time to confirm the breaking news, whatever it is, or perhaps to assess it. But the breaking news is exciting, so she repeats it too.

Other mistakes have been made this way, by Maddow and by others. That no-knock, 3 AM, predawn raid is apparently one more example.

Meanwhile, as far as we know, only Toensing has "broken the news" that Manafort's wife prefers to sleep in the raw. Under current arrangements, explosive bombshells may come from various quarters.

In fairness, the story was very exciting that night, and excitement's what cable is for.

GAPS AND STANDARDS: Jonathan Kozol visits Flint!

THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2018

Part 4—Nobody cares about this:
Long ago and far away, Jonathan Kozol wrote a book which won a National Book Award.

The year was 1967. The book was called Death At an Early Age. We read the book when we were in college. We were lucky enough to get to know Kozol a tiny tad a few years later on.

In his opening paragraph, right on page one, Kozol described a type of achievement gap. The child described here was just one child, but, as a general matter, this story rings true today:
KOZOL (1967): Stephen is eight years old. A picture of him standing in front of the bulletin board on Arab bedouins shows a little light-brown person staring with unusual concentration at a chosen spot upon the floor. Stephen is tiny, desperate, unwell. Sometimes he talks to himself. He moves his mouth as if he were talking. At other times he laughs out loud in class for no apparent reason. He is also an indescribably mild and unmalicious child. He cannot do any of his school work very well. His math and reading are poor...He is in the Fourth Grade now but his work is barely at the level of the Second. Nobody has complained about the things that have happened to Stephen because he does not have any mother or father.
A dose of bathos was offered there, but so was an achievement gap. Although this child was in just his fourth year of school, he was already two years behind!

According to Kozol's description, Stephen was in the fourth grade, but his work, in reading and math, was barely at second grade level. Gaps like these tend to end poorly.

(In 2015, Kozol told NPR where Stephen ended up.)

Kozol was describing his work as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools in the 1964-65 school year. More than fifty years later, achievement gaps like the one he described haven't gone away—nor has the screaming indifference to kids like Stephen which Kozol went on to describe.

Those achievement gaps are still with us, though we liberals don't discuss them. Consider the gap between the Newton, Mass. public schools—the schools Kozol attended as a child—and the public schools of Flint, Michigan, grades 3-8 inclusive:
Where the average student stood:
Newton, Mass.: 3.1 years above grade level
Flint, Michigan.: 2.3 years below grade level
Those numbers emerge from a recent exhaustive study by Professor Reardon and two associates. Those data can be found within the graphics offered by the New York Times in this report about the Reardon study.

Reardon studied achievement on standardized tests in reading and math for all students in Grades 3-8. On that basis, it's reasonable to assume that the gap described by those numbers might have been in place by the start of the sixth grade year.

This would mean that the average sixth-grader in Newton's public schools was 5.4 grade levels ahead of the average student in Flint. Absent clarification, these are somewhat murky claims, but there's little doubt that they point to a real situation.

What differences obtain between the students in Newton and Flint? Using Professor Reardon's data, we might start with the matter of family income:
Median family income of students:
Newton, Mass.: $147,000
Flint, Michigan: $22,000
The income gap is large. According to Reardon, the demographics differ substantially too:
Demographics of student populations:
Newton, Mass.: 67 percent white; 5 percent black; 7 percent Hispanic; 21 percent Asian-American

Flint, Michigan: 15 percent white; 78 percent black; 4 percent Hispanic; 3 percent Asian-American
There are certainly more than "two Americas." But many gaps can be observed between these two groups of good and decent, deserving kids, with the occasional hard-head thrown in.

Incomparably, we selected Flint for a reason. (According to the leading authority on the school district, the Flint Community Schools serve roughly 30,000 students.)

In the past few years, Flint became the focus of modern-day liberal pseudo-concern—the kind of weeping and moaning in which we liberals tend to engage to demonstrate our moral goodness, to others and to ourselves.

Rachel Maddow took the lead in this effort. As usual, she picked and chose her facts with elan, scaring the children of Flint out of their wits in the process.

The water problem confronting Flint was, and is, an actual problem. That achievement gap is a larger problem, and you will never hear a word about it from the multimillionaire TV stars who entertain you night after night on corporate partisan cable.

Back when Kozol's book appeared, the idea that black kids were getting shortchanged in school was still a basic part of the liberal agenda. It soon turned out that erasing those gaps was a harder task than we had imagined, and we largely abandoned that project and that topic.

This explains why you never hear a word from your favorite "liberal" stars about present-day kids like Stephen. The topic has basically ceased to exist. It doesn't even occur to cable stars to talk about the lives and interests of children like him. (In full fairness, their owners wouldn't permit it!)

Kozol said no one cared about Stephen because he didn't have parents. Today, no one cares about those achievement gaps because, as a Cable News Entertainment Product, the topic, and the kids, wouldn't sell.

Why doesn't Chris Hayes discuss this remarkable topic? It's certainly not for lack of information! Ever so briefly, let's consider the sorts of gaps which emerge from the voluminous Naep data, which the federal government provides as a quixotic gesture.

The federal government runs the 47-year-old Naep testing program and provides its voluminous data. That said, you couldn't get modern journalists or liberals to discuss those data if you kidnapped all their grandmothers and threatened to throw them off bridges.

The data show enormous gains, but they also show enormous gaps. Pointlessly, we've often detailed the very large gains. Today, let's consider the gaps which exist in the results from Grade 8 math in last year's nationwide testing.

An income gap emerges from the Naep data. Below, you see the way scores diverge based on family income:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
American public schools, 2017 Naep:
All students:
281.96
Higher-income students: 296.56
Lower-income students: 266.89
By a very rough rule of thumb, a ten-point gap on the Naep scale is often equated to one academic year. That would suggest that lower-income students (those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) were performing something like three years below their higher-income, ineligible peers.

Three years is a very large difference! The gaps get even larger when we "disaggregate" the scores in the traditional manner:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
American public schools, 2017 Naep:
All students:
281.96
White students: 292.16
Black students: 259,60
Hispanic students: 268.49
Asian-American students: 309.52
Again applying the (very rough) ten-point rule, the gaps there start looking horrific. To show you how bad our situation is, we'll even punish you with this:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
American public schools, 2017 Naep:
Higher-income white students:
299.74
Lower-income white students: 275.28

Higher-income black students: 272.71
Lower-income black students: 255.02
Lots of black kids are doing well in school. Lots of white kids are struggling.

That said, the averages there are daunting. By a couple of points, lower-income white kids outscored their higher-income black peers!

As this occurs, your cable stars entertain you with Stormy. Gail Collins keeps shoveling this.

Might we close by stating the obvious? At least within our journalistic elite, nobody cares about this!

Rachel Maddow won't talk about this. Meanwhile, this still in:

Arne Duncan thinks the solution is to teach all these kids the same "grade-level" math curriculum, and to make the curriculum harder!

Tomorrow: Raising standards for journalists and experts

BREAKING: An unusual moment of self-loathing!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2018

Three letters in the Times:
We just ordered Amy Chozick's book. This has produced a rare moment of self-loathing.

Aside from that, consider yesterday's trio of letters. Try to place them in the context of modern journalistic history.

In last weekend's Sunday Review, the Times let Chozick spout and prattle about her new book. Three letters about her essay appeared in yesterday's Times.

Needless to say, all three beat up on Candidate Clinton. You can read them here.

The first letter, from South Carolina, beat up on Clinton for running a lousy campaign. It also accepted, as accurate, an unsourced, self-pitying statement Chozick attributes to Clinton on Election Night—a statement we can find quoted by no one else at any time.

(More on that quoted statement next week. It became the headline for Chozick's piece in the Sunday Review.)

The second letter, from Florida, beats up on Clinton by saying that Chozick is being too hard on herself. It's crazy to say that the New York Times overdid the coverage of the emails and the pointless Wall Street speeches! Why would Chozick say that?
In her new book, “Chasing Hillary,” Amy Chozick, a longtime Hillary Clinton beat reporter, grapples with the role she had in publishing John Podesta’s emails and excerpts from Mrs. Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street, which were leaked by WikiLeaks in October 2016. Ms. Chozick harshly assesses her own conduct, writing that she “chose the byline” over responsible journalism and unwittingly became a puppet “in Vladimir Putin’s master plan.”

I think this conclusion is both a bad case of revisionism and unhelpful to The Times’s readership.
The speeches, for which Mrs. Clinton was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the emails, which included unflattering observations of Mrs. Clinton by her own staff, were newsworthy regardless of the manner in which they were obtained. The same would be true of the “Access Hollywood” tape or Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Plainly, the New York Times can't be wrong, even when it says it was wrong!

The third letter, from St. Louis, just beats up on Clinton in general, in passive-aggressive fashion. The letter starts with this:

"In my circle of liberal friends, no one is listening to Hillary Clinton."

And it ends with this:

"Enough already."

Nuf said!

All three letters batter Clinton. No letter had anything critical to say about the glorious Times.

Who knows? Maybe these letters were representative of the letters the Times received. Still, they may perhaps offer a look at one of the ways the upper-end press corps works.

When Chozick says the coverage went off the rails, the Times swings into action, publishing letters which say that she is wrong. These letters are the perfect extension of 26 years of Clinton/Gore/Clinton coverage in the Times.

As we've long noted, liberal journalists aren't allowed to discuss those decades of coverage. Apparently, neither are people who write letters to the clownish Times.

We expect to discuss Chozick's book all next week. The fact that we've actually purchased the book has produced a bit of self-loathing.

BREAKING: Experienced pilot lands damaged plane!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2018

Angry prize winner crashes and burns:
Last Wednesday, a Southwest Airlines plane blew an engine mid-flight.

An experienced, highly skilled pilot skillfully landed the plane. Four days later, the Washington Post treated readers like total fools in its Sunday Outlook section.

The foolishness came from Beverly Weintraub, "who won a Pulitzer Prize as a member of the New York Daily News editorial board, is a member of the Ninety-Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots, and the board of directors of the Air Race Classic."

To our ear, that doesn't quite make sense either. But that's what the Post reported in its author identity line.

Weintraub seems to think we're all six years old. In the high-profile Outlook section, she started her essay like this, sillybill headline included:
WEINTRAUB (4/22/18): Why call the Southwest captain a 'female pilot'?

A feeling of pride swept through the small community of female pilots Wednesday
as word spread that the captain who had safely landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 after an engine blew out in midair the day before was a woman. But disappointment tempered that sentiment: Virtually all news coverage of the incident put the word "female" before "pilot." As a private pilot, aircraft owner and airplane racer, I shared both the pride and the disappointment.

Why not call the hero captain simply a pilot?
Was Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger—to whom captain Tammie Jo Shults was immediately and aptly compared—referred to as a "male pilot" after landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River? And why the surprise that a former Navy fighter pilot and seasoned airline captain, as Shults is, could handle an emergency situation calmly and competently?
Please note:

Within her opening paragraph, Weintraub uses the term "female pilot" herself, then complains that others have done so. Weintraub, who belongs to the International Organization of Women Pilots, was wondering why a news org might refer to Shults in a similar way.

As we'll see below, Weintraub's claim about "virtually all news coverage" simply isn't true. But why might some news orgs have described Shults as a "female pilot?"

Duh. As Weintraub continued, it became clear that—Duh!—she already knew:
WEINTRAUB (continuing directly): Part of it could be the numbers: In 1960, there were 25 female air transport pilots—those licensed to fly for the airlines—in the United States; in 2016, there were 6,888, a huge increase but still only 4 percent of the U.S. airline pilot population. Overall, of nearly 600,000 pilots licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, approximately 39,000 are women. That's about 6 percent, a proportion that has held steady for decades.
Duh. Based upon that murky prose, it sounds like only four percent of "pilots licensed to fly for the airlines" are women—and that's way more than in the past.

Many people may not know that there are any such pilots at all, let alone a pilot who performed a brilliant feat of air rescue.

Meanwhile, why did news orgs call attention to Shults' gender? They did so to praise her for her feat, as the latest report along the lines of "women can do these jobs too."

Such reporting may tend to be overdone, but in appropriate situations, it's also highly instructive. People are interested in this sort of thing! See Hidden Figures, the best-selling book which became an Oscar-nominated movie.

As a former Pulitzer winner, Weintraub may have felt obliged to make a factual overstatement. In fact, the term "female pilot" appeared in reports about this incident less often than Weintraub alleged. For example, it had never appeared in the Washington Post until Weintraub's utterly silly complaint hit the streets.

That said, the term was used on one occasion in the New York Times. It appeared in a second-day "tick tock" report on the way the terror in the skies unfolded.

Below, you see the passage in question. It's very, very hard to see what's supposed to be wrong about this:
HEALY AND HAUSER (4/19/18): In the cockpit, Tammie Jo Shults, a veteran Navy pilot, flew on with one engine, displaying what one passenger would later call ''nerves of steel.''

Ms. Shults was well trained to handle stress in the cockpit. She had flown supersonic F/A-18 Hornets as one of the Navy's first female pilots at a time when women were still barred from combat duty, before leaving active service in 1993. Ms. Shults calmly radioed air traffic controllers in Philadelphia to discuss her approach. She told them the flight was carrying injured passengers and needed emergency medics on the ground.
According to Nexis, that's the only time the term "female pilot" appeared in either the Post or the Times concerning this incident. Who could possibly think that something was wrong with that brief, informative passage in the Times?

(We're glad we got to read that account. We're also glad that little boys may have had a chance to hear that this is the sort of the thing the little girls around them will grow up to do.)

Weintraub's essay was silly, childish, stupid. As such, it typifies the work which is becoming more prevalent as pseudo-liberal culture bends toward the ethos of Always Finding A Way To Be Offended on the basis of "identity" issues.

(Why did, and do, so many reports say that Jackie Robinson was black? Could anyone be silly enough to ask?)

Our culture is awash in "identity breakthrough" reports. This is often overdone, but it's also completely appropriate. In this silly piece in the Post, Weinstraub reports that she and her fellow "female pilots" swelled with pride about Shults' brilliance. Then she says that she was offended by the use of the term "female pilot."

(We know—that isn't a flat contradiction. But it comes pretty darn close.)

Sad! As the culture of Taking Offense At All Times gathers steam in the pseudolib world, the Weinstraub types are increasingly enabled. Even as "a feeling of pride swept through the community of female pilots," one such pilot took offense at the (largely non-existent) use of the troubling term.

Do we live in an idiocracy? Work this silly appears in Outlook pretty much all the time. The Sunday Review is even worse. Once again, an award-winning question:

What kinds of creatures are we?

GAPS AND STANDARDS: The rude bridge confronts The Gateway Arch!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2018

Part 3—Huge achievement gaps:
Way back in April 1775, the so-called "war of western aggression" began with the famous Battle of Lexington and Concord.

If we're going to stick to the facts, the famous "rude bridge that arched the flood" was actually found in Concord. That said, the first shots of the battle were fired in Lexington, located right next door.

That was 1775. About 1100 miles to the west, the famous Gateway Arch of St. Louis marks a later part of our history.

When the memorial was proposed in 1933, it was envisioned as "a suitable and permanent public memorial to the men [sic] who made possible the western territorial expansion of the United States."

President Jefferson was specifically named. So were "his aides Livingston and Monroe," along with "the great explorers, Lewis and Clark, and the hardy hunters, trappers, frontiersmen [sic] and pioneers who contributed to the territorial expansion and development of these United States."

The famous rude bridge is where it all began. The nation's development proceeded through the site of the present-day Gateway Arch.

That development hasn't always gone perfectly smoothly. Consider some of the punishing gaps between those locales today.

Today, Lexington is an upscale suburban community with a population of roughly 32,000. Right next door, Concord is a town of roughly 18,000.

St. Louis is a struggling city with a population a bit above 300,000 and a major league baseball team.

Each of these communities runs its own school system. When Professor Reardon and his associates performed their statistical analysis of every public school district in the country, they recorded a rather large income gap between these well-known locales:
Median family income of students:
Lexington, Mass.: $163,000
Concord, Mass.: $164,000
St. Louis, Mo: $27,000
They also recorded different "racial" demographics, as shown below:
Demographics of student populations:
Lexington, Mass: 59 percent white; 4 percent black; 4 percent Hispanic; 33 percent Asian-American
Concord, Mass.: 81 percent white; 5 percent black; 4 percent Hispanic; 10 percent Asian-American
St. Louis, Mo.: 13 percent white; 81 percent black; 4 percent Hispanic; 2 percent Asian-American
We're offering these demographics because you go to war with the demographics you have. Most of our data can be found within the graphics supplied as part of this New York Times report about the Reardon study.

The income gap displayed above is extremely large. The demographics differ substantially too.

Now we come to the gap on which we're focusing all this week. We come to the so-called "achievement gap" between the students in these school systems, Grades 3-8 inclusive:
Where the average student stood:
Lexington, Mass.: 3.8 years above grade level
Concord, Mass.: 3.2 years above grade level
St. Louis, Mo.: 2.1 years below grade level
According to Professor Reardon, the average student in Lexington, Mass. was working 3.8 years above grade level at the time of his recent study. That figure was derived from a study of the test scores of all students in grades 3-8 in two subjects, reading and math.

We'd regard that figure as highly approximate, but also as highly instructive. Nor is it entirely clear what a person means by saying that any student is "3.8 years above grade level" in reading or in math, unless that person offers an explanation.

We don't mean any of that as a criticism of Reardon's work. In fact, his work strikes us as deeply important, and as highly instructive.

As even our experts can probably see, those numbers describes a humongous "achievement gap" between the average student in Lexington, Mass. and her or her counterpart in St. Louis. Taking those numbers at face value, they seem to say that the average student near the rude bridge is working 5.9 years above the average student beneath the Arch, quite possibly by the beginning of sixth grade.

Can the gap possibly be that large? Does any such statement even make sense?

We'll leave those questions to the historians, assuming that any will survive Mr. Trump's Coming War. For today, we'll only say this:

Those numbers define an enormous gap between different groups of American kids. They also suggest that our "education experts," from Arne Duncan right on down, are just what they've seemed to be for the past many years—crazy/nuts out of their heads.

In his recent column for the Washington Post, Duncan applauded the idea of grade-by-grade "learning standards." Simply put, the adoption of such "content standards" mean that every student in the sixth grade should be taught the same "sixth grade" math curriculum.

This idea will seem to make perfect sense—unless you've been alive on this planet at some point in the past many years. Unless you understand the obvious—that gaps like this exist:
Where the average student stood, perhaps at the start of sixth grade:
Lexington, Mass.: 3.8 years above grade level
St. Louis, Mo.: 2.1 years below grade level
Please understand! Those are the numbers Reardon devised for the average student in each school district.

Applying a bit of common sense, we can assume that the higher-achieving students in Lexington surpass the less successful St. Louis kids by a "gap" of more than 5.9 years!

Can gaps that gigantic really exist? What can such a claim even mean? These are the sorts of questions we're leaving to the survivors.

For today, you only need to puzzle about the oddness of Arne Duncan, who thinks, in the face of gaps like these, that every American sixth graders—Bob and Billy and Mary and Susan—should be taught the same math curriculum when they're in sixth grade.

Warning! By now, your lizard may be thrashing about, looking for ways to deny what is blindingly obvious. Your lizard may be telling you that Lexington is a crazy outlier—a town of a mere 32,000 souls whose walloping achievement levels tell us nothing about the wider country on either side of The Arch.

It's true that the Lexington Public Schools is one of the nation's highest-performing school districts. But Lexington is hardly alone. Just in Middlesex County, Mass., it's joined by a wealth of upper-income, high-performing districts:
Selected school districts in Middlesex County, Mass.:
Lexington: 3.8 years above grade level ($163,000 median income)
Carlisle: 3.5 years above ($192,000)
Westford: 3.4 years above ($138,000)
Sudbury: 3.3 years above ($180,000)
Boxborough: 3.3 years above ($122,000)
Concord: 3.2 years above ($164,000)
Winchester: 3.2 years above ($177,000)
Belmont: 3.2 years above ($121,000)
Newton: 3.1 years above ($147,000)
Acton: 3.1 years above ($149,000)
Weston: 3.1 years above ($182,000)
Boxborough and Carlisle are very small towns. (Students in Carlisle move on from middle school to Concord-Carlisle High.)

That said, Newton is a community of roughly 85,000 people. The population of those eleven towns adds up to roughly 300,000 people, roughly the size of St. Louis. And we aren't even including low-income Arlington, Mass. (median income, $106,000), whose slacker average kid is only 2.8 years above grade level, according to Reardon's study—a meager 4.9 years above his counterpart under the Arch, perhaps at the start of sixth grade.

Arlington's population is roughly 42,000. In Middlesex County, it continues from there, through somewhat less affluent towns like Natick, Reading, Wakefield and Melrose. The achievement gaps between the kids in those towns and those in St. Louis are only a bit less huge than the gaps we've already defined.

Nor is St. Louis alone among low-income districts. A sample of other struggling districts can be seen here:
Selected low-income school districts:
Buffalo: 1.9 years below grade level
Milwaukee: 1.9 years below
Cleveland: 2.0 years below
St. Louis: 2.1 years below
Memphis: 2.1 years below
Detroit: 2.3 years below
Camden, N.J.: 2.4 years below
Syracuse: 2.5 years below
Meanwhile, raw numbers from urban districts may disguise the gaps which exist within. According to Reardon's study, major gaps existed within the D.C. Public Schools, and in other such districts:
Where the average student stood:
White students, DCPS: 2.7 years above grade level
Black students, DCPS: 2.2 years below grade level
Hispanic students: 1.4 years below grade level
All these data can be found within the New York Times graphics. According to Reardon's demographics, an achievement gap of 4.9 years existed within these D.C. schools. (Again, we're offering you the demographics we have.)

Tomorrow, we're going to turn to the Naep for other daunting figures. We'll leave you today with the basic question we're asking all week:

Given the giant achievements gaps which obtain in our sprawling nation's schools, on what planet would it make sense to teach the same math curriculum to every Grade 6 student? Also this, coming on Friday:

What kind of creature is Arne Dncan? What kinds of creatures are we?

Tomorrow: Gaps on the Naep

Twenty miles outside St. Louis: Outside St. Louis, largely to the west, lies the largely suburban St. Louis County.

According to the leading authority on the county, its population is roughly one million souls. It's served by twenty-four different school systems, the largest of which serves approximately 140,000 Missouri citizens and was profiled by Reardon as shown:
Selected Missouri school districts:
Rockwood R-VI: 1.6 years above grade level ($118,000)
St. Louis: 2.1 years below grade level ($30,000)
That's also a huge achievement gap at the start of sixth grade!

Should all those kids in all those schools be taught the same math in sixth grade? If so, on what planet? Do our nation's top experts live there?

BREAKING: Hayes pretends to interview Chozick!

TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018

But first, what Lozada did:
Last night—actually, early this morning—we watched Chris Hayes as he pretended to interview Amy Chozick.

To watch the segment, click here.


The New York Times made Chozick its "Hillary Clinton reporter" in July 2013 [sic]. It was more than three years until the presidential election in question. But in its stupid, inexcusable way, the Times was going to hound this pre-candidate every step of the way.

In our view, Chozick did a terrible job as the Times' Clinton reporter. Now she's written a book about the experience, hoping to pocket some cash.

(She's married to a Goldman Sachs VP. As far as we know, that's legal.)

Last night, Hayes pretended to interview her about it. Assuming minimal intelligence on their parts, it struck as a thoroughly disingenuous performance by both participants. We don't think it's ever seemed so clear that Hayes has been lost to the world thanks to his job with corporate cable, or perhaps thanks to his general ambition as a "career liberal" journalist in an age when such folk must play nice with the Times.

(How much does Hayes get paid for this? You aren't allowed to know that!)

We expect to spend next week reviewing the Chozick tour in terms of her performance on the three-year campaign trail. For today, though, let's consider something Carlos Lozada did.

This Sunday, Lozada reviewed Chozick's book on page one of the Washington Post's Outlook section. Basically, he fingered Chozick as a self-absorbed lightweight, which of course explains why the New York Times liked her so much.

Lozada didn't much like the book. That said, we think it's worth noting the way he starts his review:
LOZADA (4/22/18): Amy Chozick, the lead New York Times reporter on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, believes that the news media’s focus on Clinton’s private e-mail server—a story the Times broke and that Chozick would write about extensively—was excessive. She even grew to resent it. Chozick also thinks that reporting on campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails turned journalists into “puppets” of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, and she struggles to explain why they did it anyway. She contends that sexism played a big role in Clinton’s defeat but also encounters it first-hand among Clinton’s campaign staff. And while she hammers the candidate for having no clear vision for why she sought the presidency, Chozick allows that competence, experience and policy were hardly selling points in 2016, when it “turned out a lot of people just wanted to blow s— up.”

These are some of the revelations and contradictions permeating Chozick’s “Chasing Hillary,” a memoir by turns poignant, insightful and exasperating. It’s a buffet-style book—media criticism here, trail reminscences there, political analysis and assorted recollections from Chozick’s past tossed throughout—and while the portions are tasty, none fully satisfies...
Lozada didn't much like the book. That said, our analysts howled at the way he began his review.

Their point was extremely basic. As he starts his review, Lozada tells us what Chozick believes about the media's focus on Clinton's emails. (She "believes it was excessive.")

He tells us how she came to feel, apparently in real time, about this focus. (She "grew to resent" it.)

He tells us what she thinks about the coverage of the Podesta emails. (She "thinks that reporting on campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails turned journalists into 'puppets' of Putin.")

Lozada refers to these as "revelations." Here's the problem:

Lozada can't possibly know if Chozick really believes, and really felt, such things. He knows that this is what she's saying. He can't know if what she's saying is actually true.

For ourselves, we wouldn't trust Chozick as far as we could throw her. Lozada seems skeptical too.

For that reason, it's endlessly disappointing when journalists like Lozada write this way—when they turn something a hustler has said into something the hustler believes. Good journalists shoudn't do that.

For the record, Lozada knows how to write with greater precision. He does so in this very passage:

"[Chozick] contends that sexism played a big role in Clinton’s defeat..."

In that sentence, Lozada reports what Chozick has said. He doesn't say, in his own voice, that it's what she believes. This distinction is major and basic. The analysts wept and moaned when Lozada blew right past it as he began his review.

(For what it's worth: we thought Chozick and Hayes were at their disingenuous worst when they kept returning to sexism as the cause of Clinton's defeat. Among other things, this is the mainstream press corps' slithery way of ignoring their own decades of attacks on Clinton. More on this next week.)

Does Amy Chozick really believe that the media's focus on the emails was excessive? Does she really believe that this focus turned her guild into puppets of Putin?

She seems to be saying that she regret the coverage the media provided. But does she really regret the coverage, or is she just saying she does, as a means of personal rehabilitation?

We're disinclined to believe anything Chozick says. Beyond that, we've never seen Hayes as phony, faux and disingenuous as he seemed to be last night. On the side of illumination, last night's disingenuous outing largely defines an age, an age in which the mainstream press corps refuses to tell you the truth about its own attitudes, values, behavior.

Doers anyone escape corporate cable intact? By the way, how much does Hayes get paid to con us liberals like that?

Coming next week: What happens in the mainstream press corps stays in the mainstream press corps...

BREAKING: Today's initial "Noteworthy Fact!"

TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018

Sad, but thought-provoking:
At the very top of the reimagined page A3 in the New York Times, we get each day's "Noteworthy Facts" in the "Of Interest" section. (Hard copy only.)

This morning, we were offered seven such facts. The one shown below appeared first:
Of Interest
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER

Leeds Castle, in Kent, England, has a collection of dog collars dating to the 15th century.
Within the modern New York Times, that counts, at least in one person's mind, as a noteworthy fact!

The reimagined page A3 is like this pretty much all the time. In its spectacular daily dumbness, we're inclined to regard it as the sign of the end of a culture.

Coming tomorrow: Last Sunday's Washington Post best-sellers

Others of today's "Noteworthy facts:" These facts are also noteworthy today:
Pablo Picasso's lovers Dora Maar and Marie Therese-Walter had a wrestling match in his studio while he was painting "Guernica."

On the bill for the 2018 Youth Olympics are cross-country running, futsal (indoor soccer), beach handball and a basketball dunk contest.
Our own noteworthy fact would be this—no, we aren't making this up!

GAPS AND STANDARDS: Do grade level "standards" even make sense?

TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018

Part 2—Two kids in sixth grade:
As we start, let's imagine two great kids on the first day of sixth grade.

They may live thousands of miles from each other, on the east and west coasts. They may live in different communities in some individual state.

They may attend different schools within the same school district. Who knows! They may be sitting next to each other, in the same classroom, on this first day of sixth grade.

We'll call them Student A and Student B. We'll also tell you this:

According to reliable testing, Student A is working two years above "grade level" in reading and math. By way of contrast, Student B is two years below grade level in reading and math.

In this way, we've described a four-year "achievement gap" between these two sixth graders. For the sake of clarity, let's memorialize them like this:
Two public school sixth graders:
Student A: Two years above grade level in reading and math
Student B: Two years below grade level
For the record, the public schools of this sprawling nation are full of kids who are working "above grade level." Our schools are also full of kids who are working "below grade level."

Having established this obvious point, let's return to some of the things Arne Duncan recently said.

Duncan served as Barack Obama's secretary of education and as his basketball buddy. He recently wrote an op-ed column in the Washington Post.

After making some comments about test score gains—comments which seemed to make little chronological sense—Duncan offered these thoughts about so-called "learning standards," a term he didn't define:
DUNCAN (4/2/18): None of our progress happened because we stood still. It happened because we confronted hard truths, raised the bar and tried new things. Beginning in 2002, federal law required annual assessments tied to transparency. The law forced educators to acknowledge achievement gaps, even if they didn’t always have the courage or capacity to address them.

A decade ago, learning standards were all over the place. Today, almost every state has raised standards.
According to Duncan, public schools have "raised the bar" over the past ten to sixteen years. Specifically, "almost every state has raised standards," Duncan said. He was referring to the various states' "learning standards," a term he didn't define.

What the heck did Duncan mean by his reference to "learning standards?" In part 1 of this report, we showed you one example.

We linked you to the "State Curriculum" for the state of Maryland, "the document that identifies the Maryland Content Standards and aligns them with the Maryland Assessment Program."

That document includes "broad, measurable statements about what students should know and be able to do" in each grade, from Pre-K through Grade 8. We also linked you to Maryland's "content standards" for Grade 6 math—"broad, measurable statements about what students should know and be able to do" by the time he or she has been taught Grade 6 math.

Simply put, that's the Grade 6 math curriculum for Maryland's public schools. That's the sort of thing Duncan means when he talks about the various states' "learning standards."

Plainly, Duncan thinks it's a good idea for the various states to have such "learning standards." He also seems to think it's good that the states have made these curriculum requirements harder in the past ten years—have "raised the bar" by "raising" their learning (or content) standards.

This sounds like a perfectly sensible thing. On the face of things, who could possibly object to the idea of "raising standards?"

It seems that Duncan is making good sense! That said, we refer you to our two imaginary students, between whom there exists a yawning "achievement gap."

Forget about higher standards for now. When we think about those two students, does it actually make sense to have grade-by-grade "standards" at all?

More specifically, should a pair of sixth-graders with that four-year gap confront the same curriculum in math? Does Arne Duncan's high-minded prescription actually make any sense?

We would say it doesn't! This raises question about the standards which are maintained by the nation's "education experts," who have mainly been expert, in recent decades, at noticing virtually nothing at all.

Should those sixth-graders, with that four-year gap, be taught the same math curriculum? Should they be taught the same way in other subject areas?

We'd say the obvious answer is no. We'll offer a quick two-point overview:

First, consider the challenges which may arise in the assignment of textbooks or reading assignments in general.

Student B, who's two years below grade level in reading, won't be able to read and understand the same books Student A can read. In a sensible universe, these two kids will not be given the same reading assignments in areas like history and science. Nor will they likely choose the books they read for pleasure from the same pile of books.

That four-year gap creates all kinds of challenges in the general realm of reading assignments in various subjects. Now let's consider math:

Those students are sitting side-by-side on the first day of sixth grade. Should they encounter the same lessons in math, drawn from the same set of "learning standards?"

We'll answer your question with one of our own. Imagine two additional students. This time, they're juniors in high school:
Two public school high school juniors:
Student C: Took Latin 3 last year; got an A-minus
Student D: Took Latin 1 and flunked
Now it's the start of a new school year. Should Student C and Student D receive the same Latin instruction this year just because they're in the same grade? On what planet would this question even need to be asked?

As with Latin, so too with math. Our original students, A and B, are light-years apart in math achievement and understanding. You'd have to be crazy, out of your mind, to confront them with the same math instruction.

Either that, or you'd have to be an "education expert" within our floundering culture.

A four-year gap at the start of sixth grade is a very large gap. That said, gigantic achievement gaps are found all through our sprawling nation's public schools.

In yesterday's report, we showed you the gap which exists between the average student in Baltimore City and the average student in nearby Howard County. The gap between those students is vast.

You ain't seen diddly yet! The gaps get much larger than that...

Tomorrow: Lexington, Mass. meets St. Louis, Missouri

Still coming: Horrific gaps on the Naep. Luckily, no one cares!