Part 1—"Desegregation" trumps gaps: The New York City Public Schools have a major problem.
That said, prominent people can't always agree on what that problem is.
What is Gotham's most significant problem? For ourselves, we'd point to those giant achievement gaps. As you may have heard by now, the problem here is quite large:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, NaepThat's the giant, major problem we'd like to see reported, discussed, addressed.
New York City Public Schools, 2017
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
That said, the New York Times seems to see a different problem. To the Times, the school system's most significant problem is this:
Student demographics, 2017-2018To the Times, those numbers seem to mean that Booker T. Washington is a "segregated" school—indeed, that it's "highly segregated."
Booker T. Washington Middle School
White students: 61.9%
Black students: 7.9%
Hispanic students: 12.7%
Asian-American students: 11.2%
Multiracial students: 3.1%
(In this morning's lengthy sole editorial, Times editors seem to say that schools like this are "profoundly segregated." They declare that New York City's school system is "not only the nation's largest but also its most segregated." These strike us as peculiar claims. For unknown reasons, but all too typically, the giant editorial has not yet appeared online.)
Booker T. Washington—School 54—is said to be "segregated," and perhaps "highly" so. That's the problem the New York Times, and the school system's leadership, apparently want to address.
School 54 is part of the school system's District 3—one of the 34 districts which constitute the New York City Public Schools. District 3 has just come up with a "desegregation" plan which will change those enrollment numbers at School 54—though only to a certain extent, and in a way which could almost be seen as comical.
The District 3 plan is designed to effect "integration." As best we can tell at the present time, School 54's numbers will look more like this when the plan has taken full effect:
Student demographics, future yearThose numbers look good to us! But what about those giant, systemwide achievement gaps? What's been proposed about them?
Booker T. Washington Middle School
White students: 42%
Black students: 20%
Hispanic students: 25%
Asian-American students: 6%
Multiracial students: 3%
Last Thursday morning, Winnie Hu described the District 3 "desegregation plan" in this New York Times news report. Without question, the plan will adjust the racial and ethnic demographics of the district's middle schools, though only to a certain extent.
But what about academic achievement? What will happen to that? Will overall academic attainment improve across District 3's middle schools? And what will happen to the gaps which obtain across the whole system?
This new plan for District 3 was announced last Wednesday. It's one of the two "desegregation plans" we'll be discussing this week.
The second such plan has come from Mayor de Blasio himself. He announced the plan a few weeks back, aiming it at the racial and ethnic composition of the city's eight "specialized high schools."
Back on June 6, Elizabeth Harris joined Hu in the Times' report on that plan. To read their report, click here.
These plans are intended to affect "segregation," not to address those yawning achievement gaps. "Integrate New York's Best Schools," today's typically ardent editorial proclaims in its hard-copy headline.
We think the Times' aim isn't true. We think the mayor, the district, and the ardent editorial board are doing what we liberals have done since perhaps the 1960s. In our view, they're ardently serving a miscast desire for self-affirming moral greatness. In the process, they're throwing the larger interests of Gotham's black and Hispanic kids under that big yellow bus.
Our view? To de Blasio, as to the New York Times, those punishing achievement gaps mainly exist to be wished away—and first, to be disappeared.
You will never see those brutal Naep data in the New York Times. As for de Blasio, he's behaving in the way we liberal have behaved for decades now:
He's acting like those giant gaps are all a silly mistake. Increasing diversity, or increasing the appearance of same, is the key within this blinkered framework. Those gaps will take care of themselves!
All this week, we'll be discussing those two "desegregation plans"—District 3's plan for its middle schools, and the mayor's plan for the city's eight "specialized high schools."
Those plans will affect a very small number of kids, in ways which won't necessarily be helpful. In the meantime, those giant achievement gaps—those giant systemwide gaps—will of course remain.
Diversity numbers will change, a bit, in a small number of schools. As this moral greatness unfolds, something else will surely happen:
In the ardent and moral New York Times, the size of those giant achievement gaps will never even be reported, let alone discussed. Symbolic gestures are highly important. One million real students don't count!
Tomorrow: Close enough for public school reporting!