Thursday, March 03, 2011

Krugman poned again, for ignoring the real statistics for school performance

iowahawk Destroys Krugman and The Economist … No Joke

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:56 pm


Please pardon this brief departure from my normal folderol, but every so often a member of the chattering class issues a nugget of stupidity so egregious that no amount of mockery will suffice. Particularly when the issuer of said stupidity holds a Nobel Prize.

Case in point: Paul Krugman. The Times' staff economics blowhard recently typed, re the state of education in Texas:

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

Similarly, The Economist passes on what appears to be the cut-'n'-paste lefty factoid du jour:

Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:

South Carolina – 50th
North Carolina – 49th
Georgia – 48th
Texas – 47th
Virginia – 44th

If you are wondering, Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the country.

The point being, I suppose, is that unionized teachers stand as a thin chalk-stained line keeping Wisconsin from descending into the dystopian non-union educational hellscape of Texas. Interesting, if it wasn't complete bullshit.

Why so? Because Krugman completely fails to control for a variable that, when controlled for, not only eliminates the disparity, but makes Texas a bi-winner — winning over here, and winning over there. What happens when the relevant variable, which I dare not name, is controlled for?

So how does brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas stack up against progressive unionized Wisconsin? … [W]hite students in Texas perform better than white students in Wisconsin, black students in Texas perform better than black students in Wisconsin, Hispanic students in Texas perform better than Hispanic students in Wisconsin … [I]nstead of chanting slogans in Madison, maybe it's time for Wisconsin teachers to take refresher lessons from their non-union counterparts in the Lone Star State.

As I say:



  1. To bad this will never make the cable news shows or the major news papers.

    Excellent points though. 8-)

    Comment by Jay H Curtis — 3/2/2011 @ 8:18 pm

  2. PAt,

    Additionally Tennessee has one of the highest participation rates on the ACT and the SAT, more minorities as a percentage and as a whole take the test in Tennessee as well, and they spend much less than Wisconsin

    Also look at Utah they spend less than 50% of Wisconsin,and they scored better

    Oh well,

    Comment by EricPWJohnson — 3/2/2011 @ 8:19 pm

  3. If I were Wisconsin teachers I would be looking at alternative employment

    Comment by EricPWJohnson — 3/2/2011 @ 8:20 pm

  4. For an internet political humorist, Burge scores big with this serious analysis and conclusion to a pressing National issue.

    Comment by RickZ — 3/2/2011 @ 8:40 pm

  5. Iowahawk's article needs to be linked to every blog and political website in America. That is just excellent analysis and a great public service he has performed. Also, he should be invited to replace Krugman on the Sunday show panels. We need some new faces.

    Comment by elissa — 3/2/2011 @ 9:09 pm

  6. I think I'd better point out that Iowahawk cites a set of statistics that is not comparable to those used by Krugman and only partially comparable to those used the Economist. Krugman cites graduation rates, while Iowahawk cites standardized tests administered to fouth and eight graders–and the Economist is referring to the ACT, meaning a standardized test administered to a large percentage of high school students, but not all of them (at the very least, those who don't take the test because they have no plans for college). There's some sense in comparing the one set of tests to another, but it's of limited use; and neither one can really be compared to graduation rates, which is something completely different: the only thing graduation really quantifies is the fact that a student spent the appropriate number of days in class for twelve years. And the other statistics which Krugman cites have nothing to with educational achievement; they're simply irrelevant to Iowahawk's post.

    Comment by kishnevi — 3/2/2011 @ 9:12 pm

  7. Kish–My take is that Iowahawk's exact point is that data from standardized tests in various grades, and further broken down by ethnic groups– then compared across the states– is a better measurement of comparative school effectiveness than either ACT or graduation rates which often are skewed by societal factors and school policies. He is faulting Krugman for finding and using simplistic data which supports his worldview rather than searching for the truth. I think that is a very fair jab that he gives Krugman.

    Comment by elissa — 3/2/2011 @ 9:41 pm

  8. You have statistics and I have statistics and the world goes round and round.

    And no one will address the real problem. With certain devitiations, children of single parent households tend, but not always, to score lower on standardized tests.

    Children in less affluent households, regardless of race, tend to perform less well than children with parents of means. There are always children who excell regardless of means or affluence.

    All children are born with the innate ability to learn. Some are also smarter than others.

    However, all of the social engineering in the world will not make any child smarter in comparison to another. All we can do is to make sure that the opportunity to succeed exists.

    The societal failure in this goal may be that we continue to use the same, outmoded models that came into the fore three or four decades ago.

    It's funny to me that the progress for the future of this nation is bound in a definition of progressivism with roots in the mid-1800s.

    We simply can't put the failed ideas of the past away because too many have too much invested in the natterings of dead people that thought telegraphs were the latest technology.

    Comment by Ag80 — 3/2/2011 @ 9:53 pm

  9. "I think I'd better point out that Iowahawk cites a set of statistics that is not comparable to those used by Krugman and only partially comparable to those used the Economist."

    Kishnevi – I think I'd better point out that the above was self-evident to anybody paying attention.

    Comment by daleyrocks — 3/2/2011 @ 9:57 pm

  10. Krugman to write a scathing op-ed at the NY times calling Iowahawk an egotistical poopiehead in 5…4…3…2…1…

    Comment by DohBiden — 3/2/2011 @ 9:59 pm

  11. Wisconsin only manages to get 34% of its eighth graders reading at proficient or higher.

    My solution is pay the teachers 34% of their salaries. The percentage can be increased to the current percentage as scores improve.

    Comment by Have Blue — 3/2/2011 @ 10:09 pm

  12. most of the school systems where the students do the worst are generally in the areas where we have had the most social engineering.

    Comment by tommy mc donnell — 3/2/2011 @ 11:39 pm

  13. Kish:

    That you felt the need to note the point suggests you missed it when iowahawk made it.

    Comment by Patterico — 3/3/2011 @ 1:09 am

  14. Politifact has labeled the test score/collective bargaining correlation a "lie". The Wisc. teachers union that first posted it on their Facebook page has taken it down.

    The figures they used originally were from 1999. Yet SAT and ACT scores by state are made available every year.

    Most significantly, participation rates in the two tests vary from state to state, for reasons particular to each state.

    For example, the Univ. of Wisconsin system requires all applicants to take the ACT, while the SAT is optional. Result? Only 4% of high school seniors in Wisconsin take the SAT.

    And, as it turns out, those students mostly opt to take the SAT because they are looking at out of state schools — many times top academic institutions in the country that require the SAT — like the Ivy League schools.

    The SAT takers are 1) self-selecting, and 2) tend to be the cream of the college bound students.

    So, when the teachers tell you Wisconsin is 4th nationally in SAT scores, you know that number is meaningless.

    Comment by shipwreckedcrew — 3/3/2011 @ 2:40 am

  15. texas has become the latest target of the deranged left.

    but it is never wise to mess with texas.

    Comment by Aaron Worthing — 3/3/2011 @ 5:38 am

  16. texas our texas all hail the mighty state!


    Comment by happyfeet — 3/3/2011 @ 5:46 am

  17. I'm always leery of anyone citing 'graduation rates' as proof of anything.

    Unless you know the criteria, it's meaningless. Did anyone who put in the 4 years get to 'graduate' or was there a mandated minimum competency requirement to receive the diploma?

    You can have a huge non-graduation rate because you choose not to rubber-stamp all seniors with a diploma (and still point fingers at poor instruction having an impact on that non-graduation factor if you want; low graduation rates are not proof of "high standards" any more than they are proof of "poor teaching" – they're ambiguous).

    Or you can have a 100% graduation rate but less than half of all graduates reading at a given competency level, so good graduation rates are also no indicator of the quality of instruction or of the capabilities of students.

    Which of those two statistics – competency against a given qualification or 'graduation rates' – is "reported" generally depends on which side of the story the reporter aligned himself before he started writing.

    Comment by rtrski — 3/3/2011 @ 6:06 am

  18. Paul Krugman needs several putazos in el culo.

    Comment by mreastla — 3/3/2011 @ 6:54 am

  19. Comment by Patterico — 3/3/2011 @ 1:09 am
    I noted the point because it means that Iowahawk did not "destroy" Krugman and the Economist. He simply threw up a competing set of statistics without even giving an explanation of why it's better. rtrski (comment 17) did. I suggest you amend your post title to say "rtrski destroys Klugman".

    Comment by kishnevi — 3/3/2011 @ 7:10 am

  20. Krugman, not Klugman.

    Paul Krugman is a great wordspewer.
    Jack Klugman was a great actor. I once had the privilege of seeing him in the role of the father in "All My Sons" at a dress rehearsal. Even though it was "only" a dress rehearsal, he gave the best performance by an actor I've ever seen in my life.

    Comment by kishnevi — 3/3/2011 @ 7:15 am

  21. Take a look at the highly educated mindless twits running the country(into the ground) today. I'll put my junior college education and the fact that I actually owned my own business up against them any day. Must be why I refuse to read anything out of the New York Toilet paper…I mean Times.

    Comment by Joseph Brown — 3/3/2011 @ 7:35 am

  22. I think I'd better point out that the factors Iowahawk illustrates in his piece destroying Paul Krugman's deceptive piece at the NY Times also have a direct impact on graduation rates according to the Department of Education.

    "Across all reporting states, the Averaged Freshmen Graduation Rate (AFGR) was highest for Asian/Pacific Islander students (91.4 percent) (table 2). The rates for other groups of students were 81.0 percent for White students, 64.2 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native students,263.5 percent for Hispanic students, and 61.5 percent for Black students. 2″

    Comment by daleyrocks — 3/3/2011 @ 7:46 am

  23. Why the comparison between Wisconsin and Texas? Why not compare all states. I don't know what to do with these numbers. I've heard that Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has as high as a 55% dropout rate. Then apparently they got better two years ago and only have a 34.9% dropout rate. See High School Dropout Rate Climbs to 34.9% at the LA Times (I know, I know, just because it's from the LA Times the numbers are suspect).

    If I were an employee of LAUSD, I'd be ashamed of those numbers, not proud. I believe the union controlled public school system is a failure. That's why at great hardship to me, I sent my children to private school.

    Comment by Tanny O'Haley — 3/3/2011 @ 8:32 am

  24. @Tanny (#23) – as I recall most drop-out statistics use 9th grade as the base year for the calculation. Unfortunately, this disregards the number of kids who never get that far due to a variety of factors – but increasingly, due to components of cultural norms about what constitutes an acceptable level of education.

    I just read a review about the shifting population demographics in TX. By 2040 fully 30% of the workforce there is expected to lack a high school diploma.

    Comment by in_awe — 3/3/2011 @ 9:08 am


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