Part 4—School 54, where are you?: Like so many people around the country, Irene Butler, a Manhattan resident, is almost surely a good decent admirable person.
Almost surely, a novelizing journalist would describe Butler as "salt of the earth." Her grandson is a sixth-grader at West Prep Academy, a Manhattan middle school where Butler says students are struggling.
Butler thinks her her grandson might be better off academically at Manhattan's School 54, a higher-performing middle school located two blocks away from West Prep. It's possible that she's right about that. It's possible that she's wrong.
For the record, School 54's higher performance is based on the fact that its students were higher-performing back in fifth grade, before they set foot in the school. That said, it's possible that Butler's grandson would gain from attending a school with so many higher-performing, higher-income kids.
Then too, other things could happen:
It's possible that her grandson would be placed in a "remedial" math class, based on his relatively low math achievement level. This academic assignment might make perfect sense, but in this class, he wouldn't interact with the higher-performing kids who make the school higher-performing.
Here's something else which could happen:
It's possible that District 3's proposed "desegregation plan" might produce a bit of a backlash. School 54's higher-performing kids might look down on the lower-performing kids for whom seats at the school would be reserved under terms of the plan.
This backlash might even extend to the higher-performing black and Hispanic kids who already attend the school. As has sometimes happened elsewhere, white and Asian-American kids might start looking down on all their black and Hispanic schoolmates, assuming they all attend the school by dint of the proposed plan.
It's also possible that some families—white, black, Hispanic, Asian—might take their kids out of the New York City Public schools as a result of the plan. A certain number of higher-performing kids would end up at lower-performing West Prep as a result of the plan. Inevitably, a certain percentage of these kids would likely end up in parochial or private schools.
As everyone knows, these are the downsides which may sometimes tend to result from "desegregation plans" like the current District 3 proposal. Presumably, these are the sorts of downsides Mayor de Blasio had in mind when he spoke with the New York Times' Mara Gay, who proceeded to roast him for failing to "see the light" about "city-wide integration," as she herself has done.
Along the way, a deserving kid like Butler's grandson might end up doing better in class—or then again, he might not. But as we ponder all these possibilities, make no mistake about this:
Across New York City, across the nation, few such approaches can be taken with respect to our giant achievement gaps. In most urban settings, there is no School 54, just two blocks away, into which a small number of struggling kids can gain admission.
There's no such school in many of New York City's 33 other districts. Then too, consider Detroit:
New York City is a bit of an outlier among our big urban school systems. Its demographics make it stand out. According to Professor Reardon, those demographics looked like this in grades 3-8 during his recent nationwide study:
New York City Public Schools, grades 3-8Within the high-minded framework of the Times, New York City has an unusual number of "desirable" kids, as urban school systems go. In parts of the system like District 3, its schools retain an unusual number of middle- and upper-income kids. Most gloriously of all, the overall system is only 70% black and Hispanic!
White kids: 15 percent
Black kids: 30 percent
Hispanic kids: 40 percent
Asian-American kids: 15 percent
Median family income: $42,000
The blinkered meliorists of the Times look on these data with pride. They rush to support "desegregation plans" which may save a few of the less desirable kids.
Whatever one thinks of District 3's proposed plan, such approaches are impossible almost everywhere else. Is Detroit, to cite one example, there's "nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide" for unhappy kids who are struggling in school. In Reardon's study, the Motor City's demographics looked like this:
Detroit Public Schools, grades 3-8School 54, where are you? There is no pool of higher-income white kids to draw on in Detroit. And the kids of Detroit need a lot of help. Below, you see some punishing data from last year's Naep math tests:
White kids: 2 percent
Black kids: 87 percent
Hispanic kids: 9 percent
Asian-American kids: 1 percent
Median family income: $27,000
Average scores by percentiles, 2017 NaepThe river is very wide! Applying a very rough rule of thumb, the eighth-grader in Detroit who scored at the 50th percentile citywide was almost four years behind the nation's average eighth-grader in math.
Grade 4 math, Detroit Public Schools
50th percentile: 199.23
25th percentile: 181.84
(National average: 239.16)
Grade 8 math, Detroit Public Schools
50th percentile: 244.25
25th percentile: 226.16
(National average: 281.96)
That river is extremely wide—and twenty-five percent of Detroit's kids were substantially farther behind than that! Having said that, please understand:
Modern Detroit has no School 54's to which these kids can be sent. In Detroit, as in so many big cities, such schools simply don't exist.
"Can't forget the Motor City," Martha Reeves sang long ago. By now, it's much too late for any such thought as that.
By now, the struggling kids of Detroit have been completely forgotten. More accurately, they've been disappeared within our self-involved, upper-end "liberal" frameworks.
Their classroom struggles don't get discussed, and certainly not by seven- and eight-figure corporate stars like Rachel, Chris and Lawrence. Those kids don't count, don't even exist. Neither do millions of kids in other systems which have no School 54's.
We liberals! At the New York Times, we like to strut about District 3's plan. We like to fret about the mayor who hasn't yet "seen the light."
We posture about the handful of kids who might end up at School 54. All those other kids "across the nation" can just go hang in the yard.
Whatever one thinks of the District 3 plan, we can't "desegregate" our way out of our giant gaps! Tomorrow, though, we'll visit Chicago, to see what this peculiar type of posturing currently looks like there.
We'll recall de Blasio's crazy remark, in which he said that you could have good schools with just black and Hispanic kids! And we'll quote a third parent from District 3—a parent who, like everyone else, says we just need more "good schools."
Tomorrow: Everyone wants "good schools!"
Can so forget the Motor City: Reeves emerged from the Motor City in the early 1960s. To see her list the cities whose children have been abandoned by our big liberal stars, you can just click here.
In our view, that young person's smile, which couldn't be taught, was a statement about human greatness. On the other hand, Rachel has some wonderful entertainment product to fob off on you tonight.