I'm a little over the top in my comments, but still I think this is worth printing because it demonstrates the need for good research savvy and it shows that even the most respected news organizations can make really poor research-assessment mistakes.
Egads!! Why is the New York Times giving so much "above-the-fold" visibility to a poorly-conceived research study funded by a conservative think tank with obvious biases?
Why isn't at least one of your contributors a research-savvy person who could comment on the soundness of the research? Instead, your contributors assume the research is sound.
Did you notice that the references in the original research report were not from top-tier refereed scientific journals?
In the original article from the Thomas Fordham Institute (a conservative-funded enterprise), the authors try to wash away criticisms about regression-to-the-mean and test-variability, but this bone against the obvious–and most damaging, and most valid–criticisms is not good enough.
If you took the top 10% of players in the baseball draft, the football draft, any company's onboarding class, any randomly selected group of maple trees, a large percentage of the top performers would not be top performers a year or two later. Damn, ask any baseball scout whether picking out the best prospects is a sure thing. It's not!
And, in the cases I mentioned above, the measures are more objective than an educational test, which has much higher variability–which would make more top performers leak out of the top ranks.
NY Times–you should be embarrassed to have published these responses to this non-study. Seriously, don't you have any research-savvy people left on your staff?
We have scientific journals because the research is vetted by experts.