Part 1—Perhaps a misleading selection: Let's start with some very good (apparent) news.
Over the course of the past dozen years, students in the Chicago Public Schools seem to have shown a lot of improvement, to some extent in reading but especially so math. We refer to their improving performance on the "gold standard" of domestic educational testing, the federally-run National Assessment of Educational Progress:
Over the course of the past dozen years, Chicago's scores in Grade 8 math have risen as shown below. Judged by a standard metric, these score gains represent large academic improvement:
Gains in average scores, Grade 8 math, NaepThe gain by white students is largest. But because Chicago's white student population is relatively small, that score gain may be least instructive.
Chicago Public Schools, 2005-2017
Black students: 14.62 points
White students: 24.74 points
Hispanic students: 13.59 points
Black and Hispanic kids have also made large score gains in Grade 8 math. Applying a standard, rough rule of thumb to the data shown above, last year's black and Hispanic eighth graders outscored their counterparts from 2005 by roughly 1.4 academic years.
Those would be large academic gains. Sadly, though, a large problem remains, as we can see in these additional average scores from last year's Naep:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2017 NaepIf we assume the basic validity of Naep scores, Chicago's black eighth-graders still sit on the undesirable end of huge achievement gaps.
Black students in Chicago: 259.45
Hispanic students in Chicago: 276.14
White students in Illinois: 291.38
White students nationwide: 292.16
On last year's Naep, they basically matched their black peers nationwide. (Average score nationwide: 259.60.) But even within their own city, they lagged behind Hispanic eighth-graders by a substantial margin.
Meanwhile, applying that very rough "ten point" rule, Chicago's black kids trailed the nation's white kids by more than three academic years! They were more than three years behind in math at the end of eighth grade.
Almost surely, that low average score represents years of unhappiness in school for a lot of good decent kids. It also represents a terrible loss in human potential, and a challenge to the life prospects of a large number of kids.
Chicago's black students have come a long way in the past dozen years, but they're still way "behind." That's why it was perhaps a bit strange to see the New York Times focus on Lavizzo Elementary School in this high-profile report last December, a report which may have seemed to say that Chicago is one of a handful of places "where students learn the most."
Even after years of improvement, Chicago's black kids plainly aren't "learning the most." And yet, the Times said nothing about this state of affairs in its high-profile report—and when it came time to showcase a school, it showcased Lavizzo:
BADGER AND QUEALY (12/13/17): On the city’s far South Side, scores have risen at Mildred I. Lavizzo Elementary School, which serves a student population that’s nearly 98 percent black and 93 percent low income. Several homes across the street are boarded up, and the area has lost population and jobs...An upbeat description continued from there. We'll look at that description tomorrow—but Lavizzo was the only individual school the Times report described.
For the record, Lavizzo is a very small school in a very large city. Though its official name describes it as an elementary school, it serves students from prekindergarten through Grade 8.
According to what seems to be its current CPS "Overview," Lavizzo currently enrolls 383 students. 97.4% of whom are identified as black. According to its official Illinois State Report Card, it enrolled 238 students in Grades 3-8 last year.
Lavizzo Elementary is a small school—and small schools can be very good. That said, Lavizzo mainly serves black kids, and Chicago's black kids are still on the short end of some daunting gaps.
For that reason, it might seem like a strange decision—the decision to showcase Lavizzo in a report about the places "where students learn the most." But of all the gin joints in all the country, the Times walked into Lavizzo.
Six of Lavizzo's students played a special role in the Times report. Above its upbeat hard-copy headline—"New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most"—the Time ran a large photograph of six adorable little girls.
The photo of those beautiful kids bore this upbeat caption:
NEW YORK TIMES PHOTO CAPTION: Students in gym class at Mildred I. Lavizzo Elementary School in Chicago. “Whatever kids come in here, we know we can grow them,” the school’s principal, Tracey Stelly, says.As you can see by clicking here, the children in that photograph are very little girls. They're just starting their years in their broad-shouldered city's important public schools.
How well will Lavizzo be able to "grow them" in the years ahead? That question takes us to the heart of our fading and failing humanity.
In truth, it's been a long time since the mainstream press, or the liberal world, actually seemed to worry or care about children like the little girls in that photograph. In fairness, we tend to fake a very good game. But where the Pill Hill is the beef?
Chicago's kids are important. Their lives and their interests should matter. With such novel thoughts in mind, we'll examine aspects of the Times report on Lavizzo Elementary during the course of this week.
In all candor, readers were sold a possble pig in a poke when editors chose to showcase those little girls, and their small school, in that Times report. In our view, this resembles the way the national press, and the liberal world, have treated children of their type, and their allegedly high-performing schools, for the past many years.
Based upon Chicago's gaps, that photograph may have sold something which doesn't (yet) exist to the New York Times' readers. But when it comes to the nation's black kids, this has gone on for a very long time, and there's no earthly sign that our liberal elites actually know or care.
Tomorrow: The trip to bountiful
Numbers please: For all Naep data, just click here. From there, you're on your own.