The 9.1 percent lack of a solution: Under the circumstances, the thing you need to know about Washington, D.C.'s schools appears on page 44, deep inside this new report by UCLA's Professor Orfield.
Under the circumstances, here's the thing you need to know:
The 2013-2014 school year is the most recent year the professor records. In that year, student enrollment in the D.C. schools, "traditional public" plus "public charter," stood at 9.1 percent white.
Only 9.1 percent of D.C. students were white. For that reason, there is no way to create a city full of "integrated" schools in D.C., at least not in any significant sense. And by the way:
If you tried to do some such thing, many of those white students would end up in private schools, especially given the high income levels of D.C.'s white student population. Almost surely, that overall 9.1 percent would soon be substantially lower.
We mention this after reading a new report at The Atlantic. The report was written by George Joseph, who graduated from college (Columbia) last June—in June 2016!
You read that right. Joseph may go on to have a superb journalistic career, but he's in his first year out of college, and it pretty much shows. Our view? When publications like The Atlantic assign people like Joseph to write major reports about low-income urban schools, they're displaying open contempt for the lives and the interests of black kids.
Joseph may well go on to be a brilliant journalist. To ponder his street-fighting background, you can just click here.
Today, he's less than one year out of college, and his Atlantic report appears beneath this headline:
"What Could Reverse D.C'.s Intense School Segregation?"
The answer to that question is "nothing," except in the narrow technical sense in which Professor Orfield, and his inexperienced Atlantic acolyte, tend to define the exciting term "segregation."
Below, you see a pointless nugget from Joseph. The researchers to whom he refers are Professor Orfield and his associate, Jongyeon Ee:
JOSEPH (2/19/17): The researchers found that D.C. charter schools, which serve over 40 percent of the city’s student population, are more segregated than D.C.’s other public schools. In 2012, over two-thirds of charter schools, Orfield and Ee note, were “apartheid schools” (defined as having less than 1 percent white enrollment), whereas only 50 percent of public schools had such completely segregated populations.According to Orfield's definition, a school is "segregated" (in the sense referred to in that headline) if its student population is 0.8% white. It isn't "segregated" in that sense if its population is 1.2% white.
That's a distinction without any serious difference. The same is true of the distinction Joseph flogs in that passage, in which "only half" the city's traditional public schools are "apartheid schools" (exciting!), while two-thirds of the public charters can be so described.
As noted: if you waved a magic wand and created instant demographic balance, each D.C. school would be 9.1 percent white. Also as noted, that percentage would almost surely drop as some white parents sent their kids to private schools.
Also, within those demographically balanced schools, "tracking" procedures would tend to separate groups of students within each school. These are basic facts of life within American schooling today, especially in a city like D.C., where the white student population tends to come from highly affluent, highly-educated families in a small number of upper-end neighborhoods.
It's maddening to see kids straight out of college asked to play teacher with topics like this. Maddening too is the predictable work from Professor Orfield, a 75-year-old aging hippie who can't seem to quit his 60s-era conceptual framework.
Orfield is the reigning king of anti-"segregation" academic thinking. His latest report suggests, once again, that it's time for him to rethink or retire.
Forgive us for thinking, as he starts his report, that he plans to spend more time discussing himself than discussing the actual lives of black students. At any rate, his work hits rock bottom on page 37, where a bungled graphic ("Figure 3") is offered to reinforce the claims made in this passage:
ORFIELD AND EE (page 36): Right now the DC public schools have suffered greatly from misguided policy and from the departure of great numbers of students and families to charter schools of every shape and educational approach and every level of success and failure. Unfortunately, the charter schools have been even less effective in reflecting the city’s diversity than the regular public schools. They look more like the Washington of several decades in the past than the changing city of the present and future.Please note: Professor Orfield knows why the racial achievement gaps are so large in the D.C. schools. In large measure, it's because of the unusually high affluence of the district's white student population ("the affluence of many white families of DC school children").
The racial achievement gap has been a goal of many of the reforms, but the gap remains massive. NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress, often known as the “nation’s report card”) scores show it has actually grown rather than declined as hoped (Figure 3). That could reflect the continuing loss of more successful black families to the suburbs and the affluence of many white families of DC school children. The only objective external assessment of test scores in DC is from the National Assessment of Educational Progress which shows in the following chart a significant recent increase in the scores of white students, irregular changes in the small Hispanic enrollment, and basically a flat line of achievement scores on reading for black students over an eight year period. With whites gaining and blacks stuck at a low level, the gap has actually widened. The chart shows a large racial gap that is still growing and relative stagnation of black and Latino students’ test scores.
That said, Figure 3 is bungled in so many ways that it defies comprehension. For unknown reasons, Professor Orfield has simply taken this bungled graphic from a bungled blog post by the Washington Post, a blog post which is now several years old.
Because the graphic is old, so are its data, which end in 2013. The graphic considers reading scores but skips math, presumably for the standard reason among those peddling gloom. (All over the country, score gains have been higher in math than in reading. If you want to peddle gloom, you tend to disappear math scores.)
Most strikingly, the bungled graphic compares apples to oranges in the case of D.C.'s black and Hispanic test scores. Rather, it compares apples-plus-oranges to oranges alone. (The 2005 scores represent all D.C. school kids. The 2013 scores only represent kids who have stayed in "traditional public" schools as kids who tend to be higher scoring have moved into charters.)
The graphic was bungled when the Post first presented it. It's still bungled today, when a professor who probably ought to hang them up inexplicably cut-and-pasted it for a major report.
(For what it's worth, D.C.'s black kids recorded substantial score gains in reading and math from 2005 to 2013, as long as you compare all the kids from 2005 with all the kids from 2013. Was that because of charters, or in spite of charters? We have no idea. Just for the record, why didn't "the researchers" construct their own graphics, instead of copying a graphic from an old Post blog? Go ahead—you tell us! Joseph didn't ask.)
This latest report by The Atlantic is straight outta The Karate Kid. A gee-whiz cub reporter straight out of college reports on a 75-year-old professor who ought to hang it up.
That said, this is typical of the way The Atlantic reports on low-income kids in urban schools. In doing so, the magazine seems to display contempt for the nation's black kids. Apparently, work like this is close enough for low-income public school work. After all, it makes us feel morally good!
All things being equal, we'd like to see kids going to school as part of student bodies which "look like America." A few weeks back, we journeyed to the annual school-wide spelling bee at one such neighborhood school in a North Carolina city where we know one scholar well.
It seems to us that the kids at her upbeat, (low-income) neighborhood school are getting a very good deal. That said, there is no way, in D.C., to replicate that happy school's happy student blend, which features kids who aren't speaking English yet along with professors' kids and kids from public housing.
Orfield keeps teaching liberals to use the most exciting possible language about urban schools, and to do nothing else. Given the student population of D.C., there is no way to create a bunch of schools which "look like America" or which are "integrated" in any hugely significant sense.
It's silly to pretend otherwise. It's silly, and it demonstrates contempt for actual kids.
How can D.C. improve its schools? Michelle Rhee never seem to have any ideas. Orfield doesn't seem to either.
On the brighter side, The Atlantic has a passel of kid reporters in tow. This is good for the bottom line. It's also an ongoing insult to the nation's urban black kids and their parents.
Joseph will be a great scribe some day. Today, he represents a way to save coin for the people who own him.
Final point: That graphic is astounding. Also, par for the course.