ANCHORS AWAY! Three anchorsSchieffer, BillO and KOhave been sound asleep in the woods: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 13, 2010
How hard is that fourth-grade test: Last Sunday, the Washington Post printed some hard information about some basic public school tests. This information was buried on page C5 (Local Opinions). The information came from Kristen Amundson, of the Education Sector think tank.
Amundson presented some solid information, concerning passing rates in reading and math achieved by Virginias public school students. More precisely, she compared passing rates on Virginias own statewide tests (the SOLs) with passing rates by Virginia kids on the National Assessment of Education Progress (the NAEP). Because the passing rates differ so widely, we thought her data deserve a look:
Simple story: Passing rates were vastly higher on Virginias own tests (the SOLs) than on the NAEP.
Amundson assumes that the NAEP presents a reasonable standard. In fact, at least one expert (Gerald Bracey) has argued that the NAEP sets an artificially high standard for proficiency. But one thing is fairly clear: The Virginia tests seem to be substantially easier than the NAEP tests. This returns us to a problem we noted just last week.
Last week, the Washington Post told us how many kids at Sousa Middle School passed the DC reading/math tests (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/7/10). We noted a question that didnt get asked: How much math does a child have to know to pass DCs citywide tests? Does a child have to know traditional fifth grade math to pass the citys fifth grade test? This is a basic, bone-simple questionbut it never gets asked.
Our big newspapers keep reporting passing rates from the various states statewide tests. They never ask a basic question: How hard are these tests? How much math does a child have to know to pass a given states math test? How well does a child have to read to pass the states reading test?
The various states should answer without being asked, in technical manuals. But our big newspapers never ask, and the states pretty much never tell.
Passing rates dont tell you much, unless you know how hard the tests are. How hard are the state of Virginias math tests? The question is amazingly basic. But it doesnt get asked.
ANCHORS AWAY (permalink): Have major anchors been away from their desks, enjoying the summer a bit too much? So it has seemed in the past few days. Lets start with Bob Schieffer of CBS News, bungling on Face the Nation.
On Sunday mornings program, Schieffer interviewed attorney general Eric Holder. Speaking in his casual clothes from the Benedict Music Tent at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Schieffer eventually asked about Arizonas new immigration law. But uh-oh! Schieffers account of that new law would soon have his [asp] in hot water:
Say what? Whatever one thinks of Arizonas new law, thats a fairly shaky account of what it provides. Last night, Bill OReilly ranted and raved all night about Schieffers perfidious statement. This was the first presentation of a complaint which extended throughout this program:
Mr. O was plenty hot about Schieffers misleading statement! But wouldnt you know it? Before long, Mr. O began discussing the flap about the New Black Panther Party (details below). When he did, he followed the reviled Schieffers lead, offering a misleading account of what had occurred:
Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of prosecute is! In fact, it was the Justice Department under President Bush which decided not to prosecute this casewhich decided to pursue a civil action, rather than a criminal charge. But then, heres another problem with OReillys account: Under Holder, this civil action was dropped against two of the Panthers in questionbut the civil action proceeded against the third. (Only two of the three had been present at the polling place.) But then, viewers of OReillys program have repeatedly been misled about this case, as Media Matters spelled out in some detail in this July 7 report. Beyond that, the fudging of the basic facts of this case has been rather widespread on Fox. (Media Matters has done a lot of work on this topic.)
Luckily, OReilly has his own private Javert in the person of Keith Olbermann. Even as OReilly was discussing this case, Olbermann was critiquing his work last night. But uh-oh! All through his own program last evening, Olbermann pimped a startling new revelation about the New Black Panther caseeven though the new information in question has been clear for a long while.
Has Olbermann been asleep in the woods, dozing his summer days away? Below, we offer three of his teases, then a chunk of his full report:
Olbermanns account was accuratebut we have no idea why he thought he was reporting a startling revelation, a smoking gun, something that had just been learned today. Presumably, Olbermann was referring to this blog post by Adam Serwera post which was perfectly accurate, but was reporting old news. (Note Serwers update.)
Its true! The decision not to bring criminal charges was made under President Bush! But in fact, Media Matters has been reporting this startling fact for weeksand a rather well-known newspaper reported this startling fact last Wednesday. Charlie Savage did the honors, in the New York Times. Well offer a fairly long excerpt:
Last Wednesday, the nations best-known newspaper reported that the civil lawsuit was filed under the Bush Admin. That said, we thought the Times worked fairly hard to avoid reporting that this fact has been widely misstatted (see below).
In reality, the decision to file a civil case was made before Obama took office. We have no idea why Olbermann thought that this startling revelation was news today. But even as he mocked OReilly, KO displayed his own lack-of-a-clue about this matter, which has enflamed the conservative world for the past several weeks.
Have leading anchors been away from their desks, enjoying their summer days in the woods? First, OReilly battered Schieffer for misleading the public about Arizona. Then, OReilly turned around and misled the public about the New Panthers. Then, Olbermann battered OReilly about the New Panthersand displayed his own cluelessness about this ongoing matter.
All three men are paid millions of dollars. Aint life in the fast track grand?
In the larger sense: In the larger sense, we thought OReillys program last night was pure Grade A Crap from beginning to end. We thought Olbermanns program was less awful, but was remarkably worthless.
Lets not forget the Times: Over at the New York Times, Savage laid out the facts rather clearly. But good lord! How this paper loves to avoid naming the names of dissemblers!
Savage stated, at two separate points, that the New Black Panther case had become a cause celebre in the conservative media worldthat the case was being used as political ammunition against the Obama administration. Beyond that, Savage knewand reportedthat the civil suit had been filed under Bush. Given those facts, he surely knew a third key factFox viewers had repeatedly been misled about this basic matter.
Politely, Savage failed to include this fact in his report.
This may have been an editors decision. But once again, its news when millions of voters get misled about basic facts. Fox has been misleading the rubes about this case for weeks. But as with climate change, so with this: To this day, the New York Times doesnt like to report such facts.
About that casual wardrobe: There was a time when Citizen Schieffer was appalled by casual dress on a Sunday news program. To recall a stunning bit of warfare, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/03.