DO BLACK KIDS (ACTUALLY) MATTER: The basic data you'll never be shown!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2019

The problem we all ignore:
Last Tuesday, on the New York Times' front page, the headline ran across five columns.

It described the problem we all pretend to abhor. In print editions, the headline read like this:
New York's Most Selective Public High School Has 895 Spots. Black Students Got 7.
It happens every spring! Within our pseudo-liberal world, we express our shock about data like those. We express our shock for several days, then proceed to slumber and snore all through the rest of the year.

Over at The Atlantic, Mark Harris, who seems completely sincere, was especially struck by those enrollment data. That said, he was also struck by the way we liberals are shocked, just shocked, buy these data every year.

Harris began as shown below. He'd gone back five years in time:
HARRIS (3/20/19): The first sentence of the New York Times story was like a blow to the gut. “Seven black students have been offered a chance to start classes at Stuyvesant High School in September,” out of 952 total offers. It was two fewer black students than the nine the school had accepted the year prior in a freshman class of 963 students. In response, a state lawmaker declared that he would redraft a bill he had introduced three years earlier to change the admissions policies at the school; the city reeled. It was 2014.
That's right, folks! The Times wrote that same front-page report back in 2014! As he continued, Harris noted the way last week's report mirrored the earlier effort.

A conspiratorial tone crept in as Harris proceeded from there. But we were struck by the the reaction he attributed to the Times, and to the rest of our pseudo-lib world:
HARRIS: It’s an uncomfortable truth that, at this point, this is the result that the New York City public-school admissions infrastructure seems designed to produce. But the result is so galling that, year after year, it triggers a shocked response. Monday’s Times headline: “Only 7 Black Students Got Into N.Y.’s Most Selective High School, Out of 895 Spots.” A different byline, a different year, the same problem. Only seven students, again.
We pseudos! Not unlike Captain Renault, we're shocked, shocked by these results every single year. Indeed, as Harris finished his report, he predicted that the same darn thing would happen again next year:

"It is likely that next year the internet will be shocked once again by the staggering disparity in black enrollment at Stuyvesant, and there will be another conversation about what needs to happen to fix it."

Next year, we'll be shocked all over again, for at least several days. After that, we'll return to our slumbers.

In our view, Harris was perhaps too kind when he implied that a real "conversation" exists about how to address this problem.

Black and Hispanic kids get very few seats at New York City's most competitive high schools. According to last week's report in the Times, such kids received ten percent of admission offers to Gotham's eight "specialized high schools" this year, even though they constitute 70 percent of the city's public school enrollment.

In fairness, it's true that these figures set off an annual "conversation" of sorts, one which lasts several days.

Some, like Harris, will darkly suggest that this is "the result that the New York City public-school admissions infrastructure seems designed to produce." Others will point the finger of blame at familiar memorized demons.

The admission test is biased, they'll say. "Test prep" makes the whole thing absurdly unfair.

Certain groups are "gaming admissions," certain pseudos will darkly suggest. At a site like Vox, we'll even be told that there are waves of "brilliant students" who don't make the cut for these schools, despite good grades and good attendance.

On that basis, we'll be able to sleep that night, reinforced in our belief that some Very Bad People Over There are responsible for the manifest unfairness described in last week's headline. Gotham is crawling with brilliant students who are being denied their due!

Why do so few black and Hispanic kids gain admission to these highly competitive high schools? We pseudos have memorized the explanations that let us enjoy the sleep of the just.

On an annual basis, we're reinforced in our favorite beliefs by the hacks at the New York Times, who state their loathing for "segregation" as they head out the door, perhaps Thursday at noon, to weekend in the Hamptons.

We pseudos will be told that the problem lies with Them, not Us. But of one thing you can be certain:

If you read the New York Times, you will never see the basic data which underlie this vast educational problem, the current version of Norman Rockwell's famous illustration, "The Problem We All Live With."

In Rockwell's famous illustration, the problem we were all living with involved overt racial hatred. In the modern context, the problem we all don't care about derives from such basic data as these—data you will never see in the New York Times:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
You'll never see those data in the Times. Reason? The New York Times doesn't care!

Let's make sure we understand what those data seem to mean:

The Naep is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally-run testing program which is considered to be our one reliable domestic source of public school achievement data.

Those data come from the Naep's most recent testing of eighth grade students. Regarding those data, let us say this:

Based on a standard if very rough rule of thumb, the "achievement gaps" between those four groups are very wide, indeed vast.

According to that rule of thumb, ten points on the Naep scale is roughly equivalent to one academic year. Applying that very rough rule to the Gotham data, we see that the average Asian-American eighth grader was four to five years ahead of his or her black or Hispanic counterpart in this most recent testing, after less than eight years of schooling.

The achievement gaps are extremely wide. On the brighter side, you will never see this fact discussed by Eliza Shapiro and the rest of the pseudo-liberal hacks who con you, at the expense of black kids, on the front page of the Times.

Those data show you the average scores for four different groups of kids. That said, average students don't get into Stuyvesant. Kids from these sub-groups do:
90th percentile scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 337.79
Black students: 299.75
Hispanic students: 309.51
Asian-American students: 355.63
Those data show you the scores of kids who scored at the 90th percentile for those different groups. At the 90th percentile, the achievement gaps are huge. Do we start to see why so many Asian kids were offered enrollment at Gotham's most competitive "specialized high school?"

We'll offer you one more set of statistics. As we do, we'll remind you that you will never see any data like these in the hackwork you get handed by the New York Times or at your favorite pseudo-lib sites:
Percentage scoring at Advanced level, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 13.2%
Black students: 0.9%
Hispanic students: 2.1%
Asian-American students: 27.3%
The Naep (it's called "America's report card") defines four levels of achievement: Below basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced.

In Grade 8 math, a student needs to score 333 or above to be rated "Advanced." In the 2017 testing, 27.3% percent of New York City's Asian kids scored at that level.

You can see how the other groups did. Does this possibly start to explain Stuyvesant's enrollment figures?

More to the point, do these data start to define the problem we all currently live with? The problem we basically choose to ignore? The one we don't care about?

Do these data start to define the problem we currently live with? If so, it's time to assail the New York Times, because you will never see basic data like these in that upper-class newspaper.

Why won't the New York Times publish such basic data? We're forced to speculate as we answer your question:

For starters, "Data are hard!" The New York Times is a silly newspaper which tends to sidestep such matters.

Beyond that, though, these data are painful and embarrassing. The New York Times prefers to feed you on tales of "segregation" and "gaming the system" through test prep—tales that let us pseudo-liberals sleep the sleep of the moral and just while dreaming of 1955.

Concerning test prep, the New York Times won't spoil the fun by asking if test prep actually works. Having said that, let us also say this:

There are no specific "test prep" classes for the Naep. No one specifically prepares for the Naep. The Naep is just simple, straight-ahead, competent testing. It generates data like these.

We'll leave you today with a basic point before we continue tomorrow:

The basic problem confronting New York City doesn't involve enrollment at Stuyvesant High. The basic sweeping problem concerns those giant achievement gaps in Grade 8 math—achievement gaps which remove the mystery from Stuyvesant's enrollment patterns.

The achievement gaps in question were recorded during the eighth grade year. What explains the vast size of those gaps? How did those gaps get so large?

The New York Times won't tackle that question, except in its standard amazingly silly ways. The New York Times won't tackle that question because the Times will never show you those data in the first place.

Do the lives of Gotham's black kids matter? Again and again, when we read the Times, we suspect that the answer is no.

This has been true for a very long time. Eventually, we'll quote Ben Johnson in The Last Picture Show.

Tomorrow: The brilliant students of Vox

For all Naep data: For all Naep data, start here.

After that, you're on your own. You'll be traveling through a land where no journalists go.

23 comments:

  1. "The basic sweeping problem concerns those giant achievement gaps in Grade 8 math"

    What problem, Bob? Some do well in math, and others not so well. Hopefully they're good at something else. Or they're mediocre at everything, like most of us; so what. It takes all kinds.

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    1. It must suck to be told that because other racial groups do better than yours at math, the resulting "gap"identified must be addressed by government and society. Efforts toward "diversity"in academic settings and jobs are racist and backwards.

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  2. “What explains the vast size of those gaps? How did those gaps get so large?”

    Good questions. But you won’t see an attempt to answer them, either at the New York Times or at TDH.

    Somerby has had 20 years of blogging during which he could have led his readers in an actual discussion of this problem. The achievement gap phenomenon was identified over 50 years ago and is widely known amongst educators and academics. There is research, there are discussions. Somerby just chooses not to look outside the Times to follow any of it.

    At the very least, given the amount of (almost identical) posts he has devoted to quoting NAEP statistics showing achievement gaps, it would further his own thinking and that of his readers if he might contemplate the answers to his own questions. It would be nice if he could be a leader in this area and discuss the actual problem from a human perspective, rather than solely through the lens of “liberals” or “the New York Times”.

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    1. Once again,that that's not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is media critique. The point of the Times is to explore and explain these issues, and it's failing miserably.

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    2. "Somerby has had 20 years of blogging during which he could have led his readers in an actual discussion of this problem."

      What "problem"?

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  3. This is a delicate subject to even discuss. The Bell Curve pointed out differences in average IQ and specifically said that the lower black average could NOT be attributed to genetic differences. Nevertheless, the book was called "racist", with many critics mis-stating what the book said.

    Can one speculate that Asians are genetically smarter than blacks? No, that's taboo. E.g., see Lab Severs Ties With James Watson, Citing ‘Unsubstantiated and Reckless’ Remarks https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/science/watson-dna-genetics.html

    Can one speculate that Asian culture is more conducive to learning than black American culture? That's also a no-no. So, it's safer to ignore the figures entirely, or, at least, to not try to explain the difference.

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    1. I'd much rather talk about the "Trump Economic Miracle", which has led to a 10% reduction in the nation's education department budget, as well as the complete non-funding of the Special Olympics.

      Some may see this as typical Right-wingers being evil bastards by not caring about investing in the education of the citizenry, but i've been assured by Somerby, the corporate-owned media, and DavidinCal himself, that Right-wingers, most assuredly are not total pieces of shit.

      The Right-wing was put in charge and ran the economy into the ditch (again).
      Why is the (not at all) liberal media ignoring this important story?

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    2. Here's one for ya, DinC.

      “Murray often gets the better of his opponents because they stretch the case against him beyond its limits, allowing him to correctly point out that they are misrepresenting him.”

      LINK

      But aside from that, I think you’ll be disappointed with this article.

      Leroy


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    3. Thanks for the link, Leroy. You're right that I disagree with a great deal of it. Here's one statement that's only partly accurate
      Let us be clear, then: Charles Murray does not conclude that the black-white gap in IQ test scores must entirely be the product of genetic inferiority, nor that black social outcomes are entirely genetic in origin.

      Actually, The Bell Curve explicitly says, more than once, that because the historical way that blacks were treated, one cannot conclude that any part of the IQ difference is genetic.

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    4. To be fair to the now woke Charles Murray, he no longer thinks people are poor because they are black, rather, since 2012, his insight has been that they're poor because they are lazy- turns out it's been a matter of ethnicity all along. See Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 LINK

      [QUOTE]
      The New “Culture of Poverty” LINK
      by Chris Maisano

      In Coming Apart, Murray showed that his reactionary ideas could just as easily be applied to poor whites as poor blacks. In his view, the intensifying class polarization among whites in recent decades can also be explained by divergent cultural values and behavioral repertoires.

      The white elite is well off because it works hard, goes to college, stays married, goes to church, and gives to charity. The white underclass, by contrast, has more in common with the black welfare queens of popular imagination. In Murray’s telling, they’re poor not because of structural problems but because they drop out of school, have children out of wedlock, avoid work whenever possible, depend on welfare, sell and abuse drugs, and engage in criminal activity — all the while dooming their offspring to a similar fate.

      To break the cycle, upper-crust whites must begin to “preach what they practice” and inspire their poor relations to get their acts together. Like their counterparts on the other side of town, an expanded welfare state won’t save them — only a steady diet of bourgeois virtue can.

      Murray’s influence permeates the pages of Hillbilly Elegy, the bestselling memoir by Appalachian boy-made-good J.D. Vance. In the wake of the election, Vance has become the punditocracy’s go-to native informant on all things white trash. He and Murray have spoken together at think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, and their views are often linked in media reports on the white poor.

      As Vance somewhat awkwardly discloses at the outset of the book, “There is an ethnic component lurking in the background of my story.”

      continued...

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    5. [QUOTE]
      For Vance, class is not a matter of political-economic structures but cultural identity, something close to a racial category in itself. In his view, the poor Scots-Irish Americans he grew up with aren’t held back by the bleak economic prospects confronting them, but by a Lamarckian moral degeneracy transmitted from one generation of hillbillies to the next.

      As he claims in one particularly appalling passage, back home “you can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than twenty hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.”

      He is often compelled to acknowledge the grim realities of the region’s economic collapse, but quickly retrains his fire on “a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”

      It’s a vicious little book, a litany of well-worn complaints against the intemperate and shiftless poor disguised as a hardscrabble personal narrative.

      The likes of Murray and Vance are not wrong to discern a cultural chasm between the white elite and the increasingly immiserated ranks of the white poor. Clear divergences in marriage and divorce rates, out-of-wedlock births, church attendance, and drug abuse are all observable phenomena and appear to have intensified in recent years. But that’s to be expected when almost all the growth in new income accrues to the top, while real wages and living standards collapse at the bottom.

      It would be quite an achievement if working-class communities and family structures held up under such enormous economic strain. But they have not, and the fallout from these developments should not come as a surprise. Vance’s grandparents could relocate from their corner of eastern Kentucky to Ohio for well-paid work at a unionized steel plant. How many people can follow the same strategy today?

      Who in their right mind would uproot themselves to drive an Uber or pack boxes at an Amazon warehouse for low wages and no benefits? Under these circumstances, staying home to collect disability checks or sell meth looks like a much more rational decision....
      [END QUOTE]

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    6. Oh dear. Why would you attempt to refute the theory that Mr Murray is being smeared by liberals by producing what sounds like another liberal smear?

      As for the culture, one would have to be a braindead lib to deny that the middle-class, working-class, and ghetto cultures are obviously and noticeably different. And 'cultural reproduction' is a well-known phenomenon.

      It's all trivial, and if you too feel outraged by it, you must be a zombie, I'm afraid.

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    7. Whatever happened to the capitalist notion that people respond to incentives? The availability of jobs and good wages (good wages in the context of a given time and place) create a working class ethos in a population, not the other way around. No matter how pervasive a working class ethos is, it will not create jobs and good wages for all in an economy the powerful have set up and which requires the existence of the presence of a large underclass. As it happens, our society currently is going through a phase in which the powerful are trying to grow the underclass as a way both to enrich themselves and exert further control over the population.

      Sure, there are historical examples of peasants and members of other exploited other classes living out their lives according to the dictates of a social order that the aristocratic class deems as noble. Inter generational demonstrations of such conformity, however, will not necessarily lead to an improvement of the material well being of the impoverished. Only the discovery of a bountiful new and seemingly limitless frontier of some sort or a change in the existing social and economic order will do that.

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    8. I don't disagree with any of this. Relations of production constitute the base, capitalism requires the reserve army of unemployed, all that.

      But one can also make observations or write a book about cultural specifics of different social strata, their effects on social mobility, and so on.

      My objection is to the attitude, liberal loathing for anything that doesn't exactly match the current talking points. Dogmatism, intolerance. Accusations of racism and all that.

      You could just say that you disagree with Murray, or whoever else it might be.

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    9. Thanks for the civil response, every now and then you surprise me Mao.

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    10. Good to see you Cmike, been a while. NJR started the conversation (for me, at least, in terms of parsing Murray), and you added quite a bit more to the mix. The silence of DinC is understandable. Here’s another one from NJR, which speaks quite well to Mao’s objections.

      LINK

      If ya got any more recommended links to C-Span, let us know.

      Leroy

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    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    12. BTW, thanks for pointing to Catalyst.

      Leroy

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    13. Thanks for the welcome back Leroy. I thought I'd slip in here while the red baiting members of the tedious Resistance are away from these threads, mourning the close of the Mueller investigation.

      As for DinC's absence, given he's as long winded as any of us, I suspect it's more likely the weather has just turned glorious where he is and he's off taking advantage of it than that he doesn't have a lot more to say in defense of a Movement Conservative guru of Charles Murray's stature.

      That's a devastating take down of the Southern Poverty Law Center by Nathan Robinson. As smart as he is, it's hard to believe in his appearances on the Current Affairs YouTube channel Robinson hasn't figured out both the sartorial look and the nasality of tone he's trying to pull off require that he wear a bow tie.

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    14. CMike, that last was fuckin' hilarious. You’re right, Robinson is kind of like a modern lefty Nixon, (a leftist himself by today’s standards) prior to his handlers cleaning him up. Just doesn't present well on TV.

      Cheers,
      Leroy

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  4. @2:57 wrote, The Right-wing was put in charge and ran the economy into the ditch (again).
    Why is the (not at all) liberal media ignoring this important story?


    Reality is the opposite of this comment. The economy is booming. People are finally getting raises in excess of inflation. The unemployment rate is low. Many new jobs are being created. Five million people became wealthy enough to come off food stamps. The stock market is near a record high.

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    1. Despite the rosy economy Republicans propose cutting the education budget by 10% and Special Olympics funding altogether.
      Remind me again why it's unfair to view them as evil pieces of shit. Also, try to backing it up with something other than your opinion this time.

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    2. I look forward to David gaslighting all of us about how Republicans don't get off on the cruelty towards, and the suffering of, the most vulnerable members of society.

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