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THEY AIN’T NO EXPERTS! Class, let’s review what we may have forgotten about Virginia’s fake test scores: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2006

AND CONDI MAKES TWO: Condoleezza Rice appeared on this weekend’s Fox News Sunday, interviewed by host Chris Wallace. For what it’s worth, she took the same tack in discussing WMD that Dick Cheney was taking on Meet the Press (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/11/06). Here was Wallace’s question:
WALLACE (9/10/06): I want to discuss just one area, the issue of whether Iraq helped al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction. Here's what the president said in October of 2002:

BUSH (videotape): We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb- making and poisons and deadly gases.

WALLACE: And in March 2003, just before the invasion, you said, talking about Iraq, "and a very strong link to training al Qaeda in chemical and biological techniques." But, Secretary Rice, a Senate committee has just revealed that in February of 2002, months before the president spoke, more than a year, 13 months, before you spoke, that the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded this, and let's put it up on the screen: "Iraq is unlikely to have provided bin Laden any useful CB"—that's chemical or biological—"knowledge or assistance." Didn't you and the president ignore intelligence that contradicted your case?
Did Bush and Rice mislead the public on these topics? Here was the start of Condi’s reply:
RICE (continuing directly): What the president and I and other administration officials relied on—and you simply rely on the Central Intelligence [sic]. The Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, gave that very testimony, that, in fact, there were ties going on between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime going back for a decade. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission talked about contacts between the two. We know that Zarqawi was running a poisons network in Iraq. We know that Zarqawi ordered the killing of an American diplomat in Jordan from Iraq. There were ties between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Rice referred to “ties” and “contacts”—and she cited Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq. But “contacts” don’t have to be friendly contacts; indeed, last week’s Senate Intelligence Committee report specifically said that Saddam kept rebuffing al Qaeda’s approaches and was trying to capture Zarqawi (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/11/06). It was quite odd—to see Cheney and Rice cite Zarqawi just two days after this new report said Saddam was hostile to same. But neither Russert nor Wallace mentioned this part of the Senate report—the part of the report which led the Washington Post’s Saturday, front-page story.

Clumsily, Condi escaped capture. She quickly changed the subject, saying this: “The notion, somehow—and I've heard this—the notion, somehow, that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power seems to me quite ludicrous.” She expounded a while on that key point, and soon, the time for her session was gone. Once again, flight proved successful. Saddam had never caught up with Zarqawi—and Condi had escaped this day too.

Special report: They ain’t no experts!


PART 3—THE SILENCE OF THE EXPERTS: America’s children are back in their schools—and our “educational experts” are back in the saddle! On the Sunday before Labor Day, the Washington Post led its front page with a muddled account of their latest crusade (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/5/06). And on that same day, a Post op-ed by a soon-to-be expert left us puzzled and somewhat befuddled (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/6/06). These pieces led us to ask, with a tip to The Band: But oh, what kind of “expertise” is this/That goes from bad to worse?

What’s the state of American educational expertise? It’s doing rather poorly. “I ain’t no expert,” Rod Steiger once said, baring all for Sidney Poitier. We often think the very same thing about our educational savants.

To help you see how bad things are, let’s review a bit of material you may have forgotten over the summer. Let’s review the expertise we saw on display last winter. Let’s review the work we did on those fake Virginia state test scores.

Here’s the rundown: Last February, a pleasing news report appeared atop the front page of the Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/6/06). “A Study in Pride, Progress,” the headline said. “Alexandria School Works Hard to Erase Academic Blot.” As it turned out, that “study in pride” was Maury Elementary, a low-income school full of deserving kids—a school which turned out to have the second-lowest reading scores in the whole state of Virginia!

And yes, you read that right! At the elementary level, the state of Virginia had tested third- and fifth-graders in the spring of 2005. And at the third grade level, only one school in the whole daggone state had recorded lower reading scores than Maury! Only 27 percent of Maury’s third-graders had passed the Virginia state reading test. In only one other school in the state had fewer kids managed to pass!

But so what? Yes, Maury’s kids had done quite poorly. But it didn’t matter, because our “educational experts” were up in the saddle! Several years before, the Virginia Department of Ed had gimmicked up a ludicrous “system” designed to inflate the passing rates of the state’s public schools. Result? At Maury Elementary, only 27percent of third graders had actually passed the state reading test. But thanks to this statewide “reporting” system, Maury reported that 92 percent of its third- and fifth-graders had passed their reading tests! That number seemed very high indeed—and Post education writer Jay Mathews got taken in by the bald-faced scam which produced it. And presto-bingo! There you had it! The second-lowest school in the state was being feted at the top of page one! Children smiled in a heart-warming photo—and misled parents told the world how proud they were of their school’s “progress.”

We know, we know—it sounds hard to believe. But such is the state of our “educational experts” that every word we have written is true. (For a more detailed, but fairly pithy, summary, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/20/06.) Yes, it’s true: The Washington Post wrote a front-page story praising a school with the second-lowest reading scores in the stated! And this happened because the experts in the Virginia DOE had assembled a gong-show reporting system—a system that “expert” education reporters were too inexpert to debunk. Yes, the state’s education experts assembled a ruse—and the Post’s expert writers got taken. And after that, the real ed experts began to show their true colors.

Let’s face it—Washington, D.C. must surely be the “educational expert” capital of the world. But even after we explained this whole matter, none of the experts at our fine, fancy think-tanks said even one word about it. (Ditto at those “expert” blogs—this laughable problem was wholly ignored.) Get this! The test scores at every school in Virginia had been artificially gimmicked up. And the state had agreed that this was the case; they had told us so, and we had reported it. But so what! Even after we laid all this out, none of our “experts” said boo about it. Every school in Virginia was reporting fake scores. And not one of our “experts” spoke up!

Tomorrow, we’ll show you the inevitable outcome of this expert behavior. That’s right! Six months later, a new school year has begun. And omigod! All those fake test scores are still on-line, blatantly deceiving the public! As Labor Day neared, we decided to see what Virginia had done in the wake of last winter’s hubbub. And no, we weren’t surprised by what we found. Knowing our “educational experts” as we do, we weren’t surprised when we saw those fake test scores still sitting right there, in their glory.

Yes, the fake test scores are still on-line, misinforming Virginia’s parents. But the state did one thing in the wake of our efforts —they found several ways to make their “school report cards” even more incoherent! Tomorrow, we’ll pretend that you’re a Virginia parent, and we’ll show you the mayhem you would confront if you tried to get the dope on your school. We’ll take a long, slow walk through the weeds—and gaze on the work of our experts.