WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2021
At the New York Times, no one cares: Let's return to Sunday's report about the Minneapolis public schools.
The report appeared on the front page of Sunday's New York Times. Inevitably, this means that the report focused on the school district's plan to "integrate / desegregate" its high schools.
In theory—if not always in practice—it's a good idea when districts attempt to improve racial balance in their various schools. But as we've noted again and again, there's no other aspect of public schooling the Times seems to care about, or even to have heard of.
"Desegregation" just sounds so good, if only for performative purposes! Along the way, the Times routinely pays zero attention to throw-away statements like this:
MERVOSH (11/28/21): “There is not a single school district in the U.S. that is even moderately segregated that does not have a large achievement gap,” said Sean Reardon, the lead author on the paper and the director of the Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University.
The situation is especially stark in Minneapolis, a deeply segregated city. The district of 30,500 students is diverse: about 41 percent white, 35 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian American and 4 percent Native American.
But white students test four to five grade levels ahead of Black, Hispanic and Native students, and two and a half grade levels ahead of Asian students, making the district’s disparities one of the worst in the country, according to the Educational Opportunity Project. A large gap also exists between poor and nonpoor students.
At the Times, performance is all! Consider:
Its newly assigned education reporter made no attempt to explain the claim that Minneapolis is "a deeply segregated city."
Earlier in her report, she made no attempt to support the even more aggressive claim that Minneapolis ranks "among the most segregated school districts in the country."
Who knows? Each of those statements could even be true in some sense! But when it comes to performative fare, simply making the high-minded claims is the source of the larger joy.
At this point, we come to the part of the deal on which the Times rarely wastes its breath. We refer to this stunning though remarkably fuzzy assertion:
"But white students test four to five grade levels ahead of Black, Hispanic and Native students...making the district’s disparities one of the worst in the country."
In Minneapolis, white students test four to five grade levels ahead of black students? That's what the passage says.
Meanwhile, alas! Editors at the Times were too incompetent—or too uncaring—to ask Mervosh to say at what grade level this claim could be true.
Incredibly, the statement is based upon data including kids from Grade 3 through Grade 8! This seems to mean that this yawning disparity is already in place by, let's say, the end of sixth grade.
We agree! That doesn't exactly seem to make sense, but it's good enough for public school work at the New York Times. It's good enough when the Times is discussing the only public school topic it actually seems to care about—the topic of "desegregation."
In Sunday's report, the editors let Mervosh hurry on from that remarkable statement about achievement gaps without further explication. Nor will this newspaper ever attempt to clarify, or further explore, this puzzling bit of work.
What do data actually show about black and white kids in Minneapolis? "Achievement gaps" are harder to measure than height or weight, but how much do we actually know about the size of such gaps?
Education reporters at the Times tend to avoid such questions. It's to Mervosh's credit that those unexplained data appeared in her lengthy report at all, before she hurried along to talk about "desegregation."
What's the actual state of play in this city's schools? What kinds of gaps appear in the early grades, and what can be done about them?
Questions like these will rarely or never be discussed in a newspaper like the Times. An irony lurks at this heart of this matter:
The Times is almost completely illiterate (and innumerate) when it comes to such topics as this.
The New York Times likes to thrill the crowd with vastly underfed work on questions of "desegregation." As it does, it walks away from the serious questions involving the good and decent kids, of all types and all descriptions, who attend our nation's public schools.
Mervosh is new to the public school beat. Her inexperience isn't her doing or her fault.
The problem lies with the clownlike newspaper for which she currently works. What's happening in this nation's schools?
You'll never find out at the New York Times. Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves:
At the New York Times, Homey don't care!