I wrote the last entry before I saw Peter Greene’s razor-sharp evisceration of the New York Times’ editorial praise for high-stakes testing and the Common Core. The editorial cited a number of spurious sources, all of them from cheerleaders for the Common Core.


I took on the general point that the Times makes: that high-stakes testing produces higher achievement. Surely after 15 years of NLB and Race to the Top, and five years of Common Core, no one believes that unless they are paid to do so or are hoodwinked by the former.


Peter looks at the underlying sources for the Times’ editorial and identifies each of them as fraudulent. For example, the editorial cites Education Trust for its claim that one of every five high school graduates were rejected by the military, but Greene finds this response from the Department of Defense:


For the military, the largest single disqualifying factor is health, including such problems as obesity. The estimate for those who are disqualified only because of aptitude is about 2 percent, said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman. That includes not just people who failed the test but also those with other academic deficiencies, such as failure to get a GED.


The editorial claims that high school graduates in South Carolina won’t be prepared for the jobs available at automakers in the state.


But, writes Peter, this is not true.


Five minutes of googling indicates that they can be less worried. BMW appears ready to add more jobs in South Carolina, and these jobs include Forklift Operator and Production Associate. Production associates must have a year of steady job experience and be able to pass a drug test; they must also be willing to work any day they’re called, for a 10-12 hour shift. Forklift operators must have experience operating a forklift. Clearly more AP math courses would help graduates be better-prepared for these jobs.


How could the New York Times get everything so wrong? Peter says it is because they relied for their “data” on organizations funded by the Gates Foundation to promote the Common Core standards. Are these trustworthy sources?


He writes:


I suppose they are “bi-partisan” in the same way that The Tobacco Institute and most lobbying groups are “bi-partisan.” In that sense, the NYT board just stopped short of flat out lying by saying that these two groups are impartial or unbiased. But the Education Trust is a Gates-funded advocacy group from the earliest days of the Core. And Achieve is the organization that “helped” the CCSSO and NGA write the Common Core to begin with– no organization is more highly invested in the continued support and push of the Core Standards and the tests that are welded to them. And they earlier this month released a report that says– well, it says pretty much exactly what this editorial says.


In short, the NYT board has done the opposite of journalism here. This belongs with such classics as “Cigarettes Are Totally Good For You” or “US Must Solve Critical New Car Gap.” This is endorsing one political candidate without ever actually talking to any of the others.


The problems that face public education are complicated. In fact, right now they’re more complicated than ever because we have a muddy mix of actual problems (e.g. poverty, refusal to fully fund), created problems (e.g. charters stripping public schools of resources), and made-up problems (e.g. Oh Nos! Our students aren’t taking enough standardized tests!). All of these problems exist at the intersection of larger national issues such as income inequality, systemic racism, and the proper relationship between corporate and citizen interests.


What would help? Information. Correct, well-researched, thoughtful information. If you want to find one of the problems getting in the way of finding a remedy for everything that ails education, a good first step would be for journalists to stop uncritically running the PR of the people who want to dismantle public education and sell off the parts. The NYT did not solve any problems today, and they didn’t identify any, either. But they surely provided an example of one of them. Come on, New York Times– do journalism better.