Monday, September 27, 2010

Does Seyward Darby think Seyward Darby should be fired?

I don't. I have always believed that firing is a last resort, but Darby has certainly gone on the record as being for firing incompetent performers even when the metrics for measuring competence are unreliable and the firings would cause severe damage to the economy. Given the quality of her reporting on education, it's difficult to believe she's not currently lobbying TNR to get herself fired for things like this:
But the real star of the show was Waiting for Superman, the much-hyped documentary about school reform that opens nationwide this week. Gregory started the program with a clip from the movie that shows how poorly we rank, education-wise, against other developed countries.
Does the clip really show how poorly we're doing? Let's roll the tape:
Since the 1970s, U.S. schools have failed to keep pace with the rest of the world. Among 30 developed countries, we ranked 25th in math and 21st in science. The top 5 percent of our students, our very best, ranked 23rd out of 29 developed countries. In almost every category, we've fallen behind.
If you've been following OE, you recognize these oft-quoted numbers as coming from the PISA test which can't possibly support the first sentence since it was first administered in 2000.

It would seem that Seyward Darby doesn't know that.

She also doesn't seem to know that the older, better-established TIMSS test has us doing fairly well internationally. Nor is she apparently aware that using PISA to argue for the standard slate of reforms is problematic since at least one of the highest scoring countries (Canada) has adopted pretty much the opposite approach.

We can let David Gregory off with a warning -- this isn't his beat -- but Darby is the education specialist for one of America's best and most respected publications. There's no way for the New Republic to justify keeping an education reporter who can't spot obvious distortions involving one of the two best known measures of international academic performance.

I would suggest immediate reassignment. If Darby would like to argue for her own dismissal, I'd be happy to debate the issue.

[update: you can find some more thoughts on TNR's education reporting here.]

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