Despite Occasional Errors, FiveThirtyEight Still a Helpful Addition

Screenshot 2015-06-04 13.25.38

Screengrab from FiveThirtyEight.

My basic feeling is the more coverage of education there is, the better. And I’m particularly excited about newer outlets like VICE, Vox, AJAM, Mic, and FiveThirtyEight taking on the job at least some of the time. 

But there are obvious perils to having new outlets dip into education issues only occasionally, and FiveThirtyEight demonstrates one of them with its latest education story about a Chicago-based program called Becoming A Man (BAM) that’s supposed to help young African-American males do better in school and life.

The piece (Teaching Youth To Think ‘Slow’ May Help Reduce Crime) describes how the program works. Writer Andrew Flowers describes the program and the NBER research findings using randomized assignment that have been produced by the UofChicago Crime Lab.

But the original version of the piece included a small but important error, describing the program as an after-school program rather than an in-school event. 

Screenshot 2015-06-04 13.25.57

It’s a small error, in some ways, and seems to have been corrected pretty quickly.  But readers expect outlets like this to get things pretty much 100 percent right the first time, and this isn’t the first time that FiveThirtyEight has struggled with education-related posts.  In September, one of its first foray into education-land, which focused on an international assessment known as TIMSS, got things pretty wrong: got things pretty wrong.

All that being said, it’s still great having FiveThirtyEight cover education news and research.  Just look at all the charts, maps, and tables from them that I’ve posted from them in the past few months: “We Still Don’t Have A Lot Of Data”Record Numbers Of High School Grads Skipping CollegeHalf The Teacher Who “Leave” Are Just Changing SchoolsUS Kids Spend 943 Hours In Class A Year – More Than All But 3 Other Nations*That Falling Blue Line Represents The Plummeting Hispanic Dropout Rate.


Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at