ONCE AGAIN, THAT'S RICH: All the narratives that are fit to consider!

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016

Part 5—The New York Times colors the schools:
If we might borrow the language of Hughes, life for the good decent black kids of Berkeley ain't been no golden stair—relatively speaking, of course.

In a massive new study, Stanford's Sean Reardon has compared the academic achievement of kids in our public schools to their socioeconomic advantage as assessed through reference to six different measures.

In determining children's SES, Reardon considered measures of family income and employment. He also recorded the number of kids from two-parent homes, and the educational attainment of the children's parents.

By those measures, Berkeley's black kids, as a group, seem to be among the nation's least advantaged. To check that out, just click here for the New York Times' report about Reardon's study. Then scroll down to the second interactive graphic, the one with all the pink and green and blue dots.

The little green dots acquaint us with the academic achievement and SES of black kids in a large number of school districts. The SES of Berkeley's black kids seems to be rather low.

Don't get us wrong! Black kids in many other districts boast even less advantage in the measures of SES Reardon compiled. According to Reardon's measure, black kids in Berkeley are more advantaged that their counterparts in the schools of Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Columbus (among others).

On the other hand, Berkeley's black kids are less advantaged, by Reardon's measure, than black kids in nearby Oakland, and in distant New Haven. They seem to be a bit less advantaged than the black kids of Philadelphia.

They're less advantaged than their peers in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Beaumont. They're less advantaged than the black kids in Houston's public schools.

They're even less advantaged than the black kids in the war-torn city of Baltimore! Berkeley's kids are less advantaged even than that!

Might we offer a quick aside? For ourselves, we see admirable kids in Baltimore every day of the week.

In the past year, the piteous plight of those good decent kids has perhaps been overstated everywhere press corps narrative is sold. But at any rate, according to Professor Reardon's measure, the good decent black kids in Berkeley's schools are substantially less advantaged than their counterparts in this, our own now-famous realm.

Might we add a further comment? All over the country, test scores by black kids have been on the rise over the past forty years. Also over the past twenty years.

The gains by those good decent kids have been large; by normal standards, that should count as superlative news. But you virtually never encounter that news in your country's major newspapers, including the famous New York Times.

Instead, your newspapers peddle a noxious narrative in which nothing has worked in our schools.

Reform gurus like Bloomberg and Gates help drive that deeply familiar narrative—a narrative which is commonly used to denigrate the work of our public schools and our public school teachers and kids. For reasons we can't begin to explain, major newspapers like the Times agree to keep you from learning the facts about the major gains which have been achieved by the nation's black and Hispanic kids.

That said, this selective presentation of fact is part of a wider pattern. For years, we've told you a basic fact about the way our discourse works. In one area after another, facts have virtually ceased to exist; it's narrative all the way down!

Nowhere is this any more true than in the case of the public schools. And indeed: when the New York Times ran its report about Professor Reardon's study, it seemed to sift its facts rather carefully.

Readers got an array of narratives, pretty much all the way down. For starters, consider the way Motoko Rich explained the large achievement gaps in school districts like Berkeley's.

Why would anyone be surprised by large achievement gaps in Berkeley? A cursory glance at that second graphic will show you that white kids in Berkeley's schools are massively more advantaged, by Reardon's measure of SES, than their black counterparts and friends.

As you can see from that second graphic, Chapel Hill also shows a very large gap between black and white SES. So does Evanston, to a slightly lesser degree.

No one with an ounce of sense would be surprised by the large achievement gaps which obtain in these districts. But look at the way the New York Times described these districts. More strikingly, consider the remarkably jaundiced way Rich chose to explain those gaps.

You're looking at paragraphs 3-7 of Rich's lengthy report. If Jeff Nash is being quoted fairly, we'll suggest that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools may need to put in a little work on their community relations:
RICH (5/3/16): Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts...

Even more sobering, the analysis shows that the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates emerge in some of the wealthiest communities, such as Berkeley, Calif.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Evanston, Ill.

The study, by Sean F. Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides and Kenneth Shores of Stanford, also reveals large academic gaps in places like Atlanta, which has a high level of segregation in the public schools.

Why racial achievement gaps were so pronounced in affluent school districts is a puzzling question raised by the data. Part of the answer might be that in such communities, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success. As parents hire tutors, enroll their children in robotics classes and push them to solve obscure math problems, those children keep pulling away from those who can’t afford the enrichment.

“Our high-end students who are coming in are scoring off the charts,” said Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

The school system is near the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina, and 30 percent of students in the schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, below the national average.

The wealthier students tend to come from families where, “let’s face it, both the parents are Ph.D.s, and that kid, no matter what happens in the school, is pressured from kindergarten to succeed,” Mr. Nash said. “So even though our minority students are outscoring minority students in other districts near us, there is still a bigger gap here because of that.”
In our view, that's an extremely strange presentation. Here's why:

Rich starts by telling you something that's basically false. Unless we're basically being silly, Berkeley, Chapel Hill and Evanston pretty much aren't among the nation's "wealthiest communities." Nor were they described that way in this report about Reardon's study from the Stanford Graduate School of Ed.

Rich starts with that puzzling misstatement. She never mentions a highly relevant fact; in all three of these school district, there is a very large gap in SES between a highly advantaged population of white kids and a much less advantaged population of black kids.

Once you know that those SES gaps exist, there's nothing "puzzling" about the achievement gaps in those misdescribed "wealthiest" districts. But Rich doesn't mention the SES gaps! She just plows ahead.

She does mention the fact that thirty percent of Chapel Hill kids qualify for the federal lunch program, but she doesn't identify the race of those kids. She doesn't tell you that "wealthiest community" Chapel Hill has a 21.7 poverty rate, according to current Census Bureau estimates. She doesn't tell you that in Berkeley, one of our "wealthiest communities," the poverty rate among black residents now stands at 29.2 percent, according to those estimates.

She also doesn't tell you this: In Chapel Hill, the current poverty rate among black citizens stands at 40.4 percent! That is a very high number. Is it still "puzzling" to think that Chapel Hill may have large achievement gaps?

That number is less directly relevant to the questions at hand than Reardon's measure of SES, which considers only the families of school-age children, not the whole community in which a school district exists. But should anyone be "puzzled" by Chapel Hill's achievement gaps in the face of Reardon's data? It's hard to imagine why.

That said, consider where the explanation for Chapel Hill's achievement gap takes us. Before you do, let us offer this:

By happenstance, we've visited Chapel Hill in recent years, along with a near-by, somewhat similar city. We've observed some of the region's medium- to high-SES parents. With great admiration, we've seen the way they interact with their medium- to high-SES children.

Last year, we journeyed to one such city to observe a school-wide spelling bee. After school let out, we crossed the street with a third-grade contestant. We entered the local donut shop, joining one of her best friends, the adorable [Name Withheld].

Name Withheld was with her father, learning how to play chess. They were opposed by a first-grade boy and his father, neither of whom we knew.

As she learned the rules of chess from her loving father, Name Withheld was reaping the academic advantage of high SES. For kids from high-SES families, these academic advantages start on the first days of life, as everyone knows by now.

As voluminous research has shown, these good decent kids are spoken to more from the first days of life. As time goes by, their questions are answered more frequently. They learn vastly more words. They're introduced to the various habits of ratiocination.

By age 3, they have a large advantage in vocabulary over their lower-SES peers. On the day they enter public schools, they have large academic advantages.

Nothing is "fair" about this; decent people want to find ways to extend those advantages to kids from lower-SES families. That said, that process is what we saw in that donut shop as Name Withheld, an adorable child, snuggled and chatted with her admirable father.

For years, sensible people have been looking for ways to spread these kinds of advantages to the children of low-SES families. That said, let's revisit the way this process of snuggling, chatting and building brains was cuffed aside in the glorious Times last week:
RICH: Why racial achievement gaps were so pronounced in affluent school districts is a puzzling question raised by the data. Part of the answer might be that in such communities, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success. As parents hire tutors, enroll their children in robotics classes and push them to solve obscure math problems, those children keep pulling away from those who can’t afford the enrichment.

“Our high-end students who are coming in are scoring off the charts,” said Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

[...]

The wealthier students tend to come from families where, “let’s face it, both the parents are Ph.D.s, and that kid, no matter what happens in the school, is pressured from kindergarten to succeed,” Mr. Nash said. “So even though our minority students are outscoring minority students in other districts near us, there is still a bigger gap here because of that.”
What a peculiar account! According to Nash, the adorable child we observed that day wasn't snuggling and chatting with her father at all! She was being "pressured to succeed," as she'd been pressured since kindergarten.

According to Rich, she wasn't learning how to play chess, something she seemed to want to do. She was being "pushed to solve [a type of] obscure math problem!" It may have been part of the way she had been "constantly competing for ever more academic success."

What a jaundiced account of the way children gain access to the culture of literacy! Sometimes children are "pressured," of course. But in the portrait Rich composed, nothing else was allowed to intrude on the jaundiced account.

Why did Rich compose such a jaundiced portrait of this important process? Tomorrow, as we finish our series, we'll speculate about that. We'll also see how Rich explains some other situations which seem to appear in Reardon's data.

How does Rich explain the fact that some school systems seem to perform above their students' SES? How does she discuss the handful of districts she claims to have found in which minority kids of higher SES fail to achieve as much as their lower-SES white peers?

Most importantly, how does Rich explain the way middle-class black kids seem to underachieve on average, as compared to white kids of similar income? That is a very important question. Attention should be paid!

That is a very important question; attention should be paid to that important matter. In the midst of all her nonsense and error, how does Rich explain this important part of those children's lives?

Narratives run through Rich's piece. So does a lot of targeted jaundice. So do disappeared facts.

Tomorrow: Narratives, unhelpful jaundice, also disappeared facts

13 comments:

  1. the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates...

    Rich is using "minority" as a synonym for "black" in this phrase. But, as it stands, the statement is false. Asians are also minorities, and a pretty significant one. According to the 2010 Census, Asians were 19.3% of Berkeley's population. Blacks were on ly 10.0%.

    BTW a commenter yesterday suggested that Asian students were excluded from the Palo Alto analysis because there were too few. That's incorrect. Palo Alto was 27.1% Asian, according to the 2010 census.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. David, as Somerby has explained twice now, there needed to be 100 black, 100 Hispanic and 100 Asian at each grade level in order for a school district to be included. In Palo Alto, there may have been 100 Asian students but there were not 100 black students.

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    2. Sorry, that is a mistake. There needed to be 100 black, 100 Hispanic and 100 white students at each grade level. Asian students were not included because there were not 100 at each grade level. Palo Alto was not included because there were not 100 black students at each grade level.

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    3. Somerby's point about SES remains. The Asian families in Palo Alto are more likely to have high SES whereas Asian families in Garden Grove, for example, have low SES.

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  2. We NYT writers and readers believe with all of our being that it was the correct decision to be enrolled in private schools when we were young. Anything that supports that obvious, absolute truth is right. Anything that offers "reasoning" that questions the hard-earned wisdom of that should be, rightly, scoffed at.

    Anyway, public school is for losers. Money spent on these losers is just a waste. It just doesn't make sense to give money to these people who will turn into nothing, especially when our tuition bills aren't even deductible!

    But I do love a good story that proves once again that we do deserve to have all of this money.

    Oh, I mean, "what a pity that these disadvantaged kids have such a hard time! I bet those Republicans don't care about them at all, (sotto voce) you know, because they're racist."

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  3. Parents of gifted kids are always being accused of "pushing" them in order to meet their own emotional needs for success. But experts who study gifted kids say it is the other way around, the kids push the parents/schools. Gifted kids are often underserved by schools that do not adjust their curriculum to meet the needs of the students, just as kids who are below grade level may be underserved when a teacher emphasizes whatever is standard for that grade level without regard to whether students are ready for it (or past it). It may be that the schools that do a better job are those that are more flexible about individuation, with teachers who have sufficient training to provide it.

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    ReplyDelete
  5. Forget all the bad news. The good news is that we have succeeded in making police less aggressive in their jobs! It took a lot of lying and fabricating and Salem histrionics, but it worked, people! Police are standing down because they fear lawsuits and becoming Al Sharpton's next scapegoat.

    The only downside is that the murder rate has SPIKED SKY-HIGH because aggressive policing has ended. But what do black lives matter when we progressives got to feel so good and "empowered" by our SJW crusades? The result we have fought so hard for.

    Police have easier jobs with less risk and we hate that, but other than that we won. Progs get to feel smug and superior, and more blacks are murdered, giving progs more fodder for selling their crippling victimology that gets the blacks and the women voting for democrats.

    Progress!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What was your bid for Zim's Kel-Tec PF-9?

      Delete
    2. I've no need for a new weapon but hope he gets at least what it's worth. It would be hard to part with the item that saved your life.

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    3. I thought blacks and women were voting for democrats because of all the free stuff.

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    4. Is the 'Ferguson effect' real? Researcher has second thoughts

      ‘Some version’ of theory linking protests over police killings to increase in crime may be best explanation for increase in murders in 2015, St Louis criminologist says after deeper analysis of crime trends.
      http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/13/ferguson-effect-real-researcher-richard-rosenfield-second-thoughts

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    5. Ferguson effect combined with viral videos but both have the same effect. Setting the victim machine in motion and bringing harm to police officers doing their dirty job of dealing with violent thugs. The ultimate effect is dead blacks, which is just they way the Sharpton left likes it because it lets them enjoy their SJW feelz.

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