Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Star Gets It Right About Pima County Standardized Test Scores

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 2:41 PM


Since my last post was a rant about some misleading headlines in Tuesday's Star, let me begin this post by saying, the headline for this Star article is right on the money.
Pima County students lag rest of Arizona in passing standardized math tests
Here's what I like about it.

First, it focuses on Pima County, not TUSD. Star headlines and stories about standardized test scores often focus on TUSD's scores, which are always lower than most other districts in the area. Knocking TUSD sells papers, which is the only reason I can figure that the Star is so fond of going for the district's jugular. But not this time.

Second, by saying the Pima County scores are lower than the state average in math, the headline implies that county schools equalled the rest of the state in English, which you learn in the story is true. I even like the word "lag," which suggests that the math scores trail the rest of the state, but not by much. That's true as well. Statewide, 42 percent of students passed the math test. In Pima County, it was 40 percent.

A good headline is a good headline is a good headline. Let me raise my glass and toast its creators.

The story is even better than the headline. When the Star's annual standardized test stories come out, I often find myself shaking my head and muttering, "Comparing district test scores means nothing unless you factor in family incomes." Then I sit down and write a post picking the article apart.

But as I read this article, I found myself nodding "Yes." After the first three paragraphs summarizing the county scores, the reporter launches into a discussion of why the districts' scores break down the way they do.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Star's Creative Headline Writing Team Was Hard At Work In Tuesday's Print Edition

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 2:07 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock

A headline sitting atop an op-ed in the Star's Tuesday print edition jumped out at me this morning.
What's worse? Schiff's parody or GOP's fantasies?
Did the column's author really find Schiff's parody of Trump's call with Ukraine's President Zelensky bad, then try to figure out whether or not it was worse than the GOP's fantasies?

Absolutely not. The author praises Schiff's use of parody and calls the Republican outrage   "overwrought," "disingenuous" and "easily dismissible."

That's the ease conveyed by two headlines I found elsewhere.
Impeachment and the death of parody
We should mourn parody’s demise
You'll find the first version on the Star's website.

What the Star's Creative Headline Writing Team wrote is a classic example of false equivalency. "I guess both Schiff and the Republicans were acting badly," it implies. If Crisp wrote that, fine, but it's nowhere to be found in his column.

In 2010 I posted regularly about the Star's tendency to rewrite headlines to make them more conservative-friendly. I even conducted a poll where readers could choose the worst Star headline of the year. For years after that, I rarely spotted a blatantly misleading headline. Until recently, that is. In September I caught at least three of them in the print edition.

If it sounds like I'm nitpicking, I'm not. Headlines are the first thing people read — for many stories the only thing they read. When the heads don't accurately reflect the content of the story, readers get an incorrect sense of the story. Even if people read beyond the headline, those words in big, boldface type have an effect on how they understand the actual story.

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Friday, October 4, 2019

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Ducey Descends To the Depths Of Trumpism

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 8:52 AM


“It’s time for Judge Wake to retire. He’s an embarrassment to the legal community.”

“There are third-year law students . . . that can write a more coherent opinion than the one that he put forward.”

“He stopped being a judge and started being a politician."

“This is an activist judge."

It sounds like something from one of Trump's 3 a.m. tweet storms, but it's not. Those quotes came from our generally mild-mannered, soft-spoken Governor Ducey. That scares the hell out of me. It means the take-no-prisoners Republican strategy outlined by Newt Gingrich, honed to a razor's edge by the Tea Party and wielded like a bludgeon by Trump will not end when our current president leaves, or is driven out of office. Trump's diseased style, his politics of personal annihilation, has metastasized. It has spread over the Republican body politic. Mild-mannered Doug Ducey is the latest politician to be infected.

The reason others have adopted Trump's style is, it works. Trump has managed to neutralize or destroy his enemies and make others too fearful to challenge him. Why shouldn't Ducey and other Republicans around the country give it a try? And if it works once and there are no negative consequences, why not try it again?

Who is this politically motivated, activist judge who is an embarrassment to the legal community? He is Neil Wake, appointed by George W. Bush with recommendations from then-Senators John Kyl and John McCain. As a private lawyer, he helped Arizona's Republicans argue their case for redistricting. As a judge, he has made a variety of decisions, some favorable to Republicans, some to Democrats.

Wake is a down-the-middle judge with Republican leanings. But Ducey wasn't satisfied to say, "I disagree with Wake's recent decision," or even "Wake made a terrible decision." In Trumpian fashion, Ducey attacked the man's competence and character because of one unfavorable call. That's all it takes.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Reid Park Zoo Giraffe Elinor Developed Cancer

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 10:55 AM

Elinor the giraffe - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Elinor the giraffe
After receiving the results of a necropsy, the Reid Park Zoo announced that Elinor, the 20-year-old reticulated giraffe that passed away earlier this month, developed lymphoma before she died.

The necropsy (an animal autopsy) was performed at the University of Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“Elinor died of an aggressive, malignant cancer known as lymphoma,” said chief veterinarian Dr. Alexis Roth, in a statement. “Her symptoms and progression of disease were rapid. Although a common form of cancer in people and many animals, lymphoma is extremely rare in giraffe and not much is known about successful treatment.”

The median life expectancy for reticulated giraffes is 19 years. Elinor lived at Reid Park Zoo with two other giraffes: Jasiri, an 8-year-old male, and Denver, a 30-year-old female who is the second oldest giraffe in an AZA-accredited Zoo.

“Elinor was loved so much by staff and guests,” said Sue Tygielski, director of zoo operations, in a release. “Little kids that visit the zoo knew her from the other giraffe and would wait to visit with and feed Elinor. She had her own special fan club. While some guests marveled at Jasiri’s tall height, and others at Denver’s bold nature, Elinor was often the sweet favorite.”

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Friday, September 27, 2019

There's No Difference Between Student Performance In Charters And District Schools. So Says the U.S. Department of Education

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2019 at 1:56 PM


Betsy DeVos and her Department of Education are sure charters run rings around district schools when it comes to student performance.

How sure are they? Here's one of those exquisite moments of self parody, in case you missed it:

A top Department of Ed official came to Tucson recently as part of his national tour of successful schools. He visited TUSD's University High School, proclaiming its Blue Ribbon status is proof "that Arizona charter schools have done something really unique in the past decade."

Say what? UHS a charter school?

A Star reporter (I'm guessing it was Danyelle Khmara who wrote the story) corrected him, saying that University High is a public school. Undaunted, the official corrected the reporter: “No, University High School is a charter school,” he said, then mansplained (charter-splained?) that the reporter was laboring under a "misconception" about charters.

DeVos & Co. are strict adherents of the Trump doctrine: Never let facts get in the way of a good story. If the students are high achievers, it's a charter or a private school. Any questions?

So it might come as something of a surprise that a U.S. Department of Education document released this month, School Choice in the United States: 2019, concludes there is no discernible difference between the performance of students in charter and district schools. Here's the finding from the executive summary.
In 2017, at grades 4 and 8, no measurable differences in average reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were observed between students in traditional public and public charter schools.
The most recent results at the department's disposal are from 2017, and the NAEP is the closest we have to a gold standard in national standardized testing, so the study is using the best and most recent data available.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Grijalva: "We Have the Power and Responsibility To Take Action and Proceed Toward Impeachment"

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2019 at 4:06 PM

Rep. Raúl Grijalva: Impeachment time is here!
  • Rep. Raúl Grijalva: Impeachment time is here!
Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement that the U.S. House of Representatives would open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Congressman Raul Grijalva released a statement supporting the effort.

Grijalva's words:
The President’s invitation for a foreign power to investigate a political rival and invite interference in our elections is against the law. Trump has consistently put his personal interests ahead of those of the American people, reiterated his belief of being above the law, and obstructed important Congressional oversight investigations into the corruption plaguing his administration.

As Members of Congress we have the power and the responsibility to take action and proceed toward impeachment. I hope my Republican colleagues recognize the gravity of this moment and understand that their ongoing silence makes them complicit in Trump’s disdain of the rule of law and our democracy.

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Rep. Tom O'Halleran Tip-Toeing Toward Supporting Impeachment?

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2019 at 1:52 PM

Rep. Tom O'Halleran: "If the administration does not cooperate with Congress on the investigation of a shocking abuse of power, then further action is warranted."
  • Rep. Tom O'Halleran: "If the administration does not cooperate with Congress on the investigation of a shocking abuse of power, then further action is warranted."
Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who represents Congressional District 1, is the only Democrat in the Arizona House delegation who hasn't yet called for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's administration.

But O'Halleran might be moving in that direction, although he didn't use the "I" word. In a statement today, he called for an investigation into the allegations that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine while he was pressuring them into investigating political rival Joe Biden and added that if the administration continued to stonewall, then "further action is warranted."

O'Halleran's statement:
The serious allegation that the Administration withheld foreign aid from Ukraine in order to pressure their government into digging up dirt on a political opponent requires a prompt and thorough investigation. We must act now to get the facts. As a former criminal investigator, I am focused on getting the evidence necessary for Congress to complete our investigations into corruption, foreign influence in our elections, and these new allegations. If the Administration does not cooperate with Congress on the investigation of a shocking abuse of power, then further action is warranted.

Melania Trump. The New York Stock Exchange. "Be Best." The United Nations. I'm Trying To Weave The Threads Together

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2019 at 12:07 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock

I'm trying to figure out how to fit all the pieces into one coherent narrative.

I think I've got it: Total cluelessness.

Or maybe not. Maybe it's more than that.

"Be Best" is the unparse-able name of first lady Melania Trump's half-hearted effort to give some purpose to her stay in the White House other than her clothes (designer) and her posture (model-perfect). The wife of the Bully-In-Chief has made anti-bullying her signature issue.

Melania carried her "Be Best" crusade to The New York Stock Exchange. Because where better to celebrate the work she says she is doing for children?  According to a White House press release, there is no better place.
"The NYSE is a great example of the strength of our economic system, which allows programs to grow and to support children around the globe."
Accompanying Melania to the NYSE were ten children from the private United Nations International School, whose name includes both an institution and an idea her husband despises: the United Nations and Internationalism.

A group of parents at the school were enraged. They felt the school was being used for a photo op which implied an endorsement of Trump administration policies.

The White House thought otherwise. The children should feel honored to participate, according to the first lady's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham (who is also the current White House press secretary).
"Mrs. Trump will be taking part in an iconic New York City tradition, and encouraging children to be best, through her initiative."
And so, to celebrate "Be Best," the United Nations International School children accompanied Melania on a tour of the stock exchange and participated in, as the White House press release put it, "the timeless tradition of ringing the Opening Bell in celebration of the well being of children, a pillar of her Be Best campaign."

Cluelessness On Parade, courtesy of the tone-deaf wife of our discordant president.

Or maybe something other than cluelessness is going on. Maybe underneath the NYSE-appropriate clothing Melania wore for the event, she was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words she wore on her back when she flew to Texas to visit migrant children who were separated from their parents because of her husband's immigration policies: "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?"

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