GAPS AND SEGREGATION: One approach to closing the gaps!

MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018

Part 1—Who is Mara Gay:
Of all our public school achievement gaps, the most painful is the "racial" gap. Here's one way it looks:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
American public schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 292.16
Black students: 259.60
Hispanic students: 268.49
Asian-American students: 309.52
The gains in test scores have been large in the past several decades. More specifically, the gains have been large for all four of those demographic groups. (You almost never hear that.)

That said, the gaps are still very large. Based on a common rule of thumb, those numbers from last year's Naep suggest that the average white student is roughly three years ahead of the average black student in math by the end of eighth grade.

Those are only averages, of course. But (something like) three years by the end of eighth grade is a very large, punishing gap. Decent people—the people our TV stars are not—would presumably try to figure out the ways we might address it.

That said, it's abundantly clear that virtually nobody cares about any of this. In particular, you'll never hear your favorite "liberal" cable stars expending their breath on this.

Dearest darlings, it isn't done! Liberal stars rarely degrade themselves by attempting to address those brutal achievement gaps and the interests of low-income kids.

It rarely happens! But when the very occasional liberal does voice concern about this topic, she'll often take the approach Mara Gay took in last Friday's New York Times.

Gay is the newest, apparently youngest member of the New York Times editorial board. She graduated from Michigan in the class of 2008.

She was appointed to the board at the end of March. We'd call it a good appointment.

When Gay's appointment to the board was announced, the poobahs said she was going to be "lead opinion writer on state and local affairs." Last Friday, in an Editorial Observer essay, she discussed a local matter concerning the New York City schools.

Gay "got her start in opinion journalism at The Michigan Daily," the editors wrote when she joined the board. That was long ago and far away, but after some perusals this weekend, we're happy to say that we think she did some excellent work, even then.

We like the cut of Gay's jib! On balance, though, we're inclined to skepticism concerning the approach she took in Friday's essay.

In a word, Gay wrote in praise of the "desegregation" of New York City's schools. She said Gotham's schools are "intensely segregated." Indeed, she said the city contains "some of the most segregated schools in the country."

Are Gotham's public schools "segregated," even "intensely" so? We'll start discussing that question tomorrow.

For today, here's the way Gay's essay began, hard-copy headline included:
GAY (5/4/18): Parents Start Desegregating Schools

It was enough to make you want to cheer.

On the Upper West Side last week, a middle school principal stood before a crowd of angry white parents—furious about a plan to help the poorest students gain access to some of the city’s most desirable schools—and told them they were wrong.

“There are kids that are tremendously disadvantaged,” Henry Zymeck, principal of the Computer School, told the parents, his voice filled with the disappointment of an educator whose pupils had betrayed their most sacred lesson. “To compare these students and say, ‘My already advantaged kid needs more advantage, they need to be kept away from those kids!’ is tremendously offensive to me.”

How thrilling it was to hear those words in a city with some of the most segregated schools in the country, a city where black and Latino children are often herded into classrooms with such concentrated poverty that one out of four of the students are homeless, while other children attend public schools with P.T.A.s that can raise $1 million.
Needless to say, that middle school principal was perfectly right in his basic assertion. A lot of the kids on the wrong end of our achievement gaps are, in fact, "tremendously disadvantaged" as compared to the bulk of their peers.

It's also true that a lot of those kids come from low-income families. They're among our "poorest students" in the financial sense.

Given these facts, it will seem to make perfect sense to argue that disadvantaged kids like these should be given "access to some of the city’s most desirable schools." It's natural to want to cheer when you see a principal advocate such a proposal.

Here's something else that's easy to do, especially for modern-day liberals who may have paid little attention to the actual workings of our public schools. It's easy to want to cheer when a parent activist says what follows, as one such person does in Gay's essay:

“Public school is a public good, so we need to do the best for all our kids."

We need to do the best for all our kids? Presumably, that goes without saying! That said, we think the "desegregation" approach is frequently built around a boatload of pleasing delusions. We'll examine that notion all week.

Let's be clear! Gay didn't claim in Friday's essay that some type of "desegregation" can solve our public school problems or erase that brutal achievement gap. In the main, she's talking about one proposal, for one collection of public schools, in one part of Manhattan—though she goes on to advocate for "a comprehensive citywide plan," suggesting that Mayor de Blasio is dragging his heels about that.

(Online, the New York Times headline says this: "Parents Do What the Mayor Hasn’t—Integrate Schools.")

Gay doesn't claim that "desegregation" can erase that brutal gap, though she seems to suggest it will help. That said, it's easy for liberals—especially since we've been so lazy and indifferent for so long—to thrill ourselves with the idea that "desegrgation" provides an easy solution to our punishing public school gaps, one which lets us feel that we're standing with the great civil rights heroes of the past.

Rather plainly, we aren't. We're doing so such thing.

It's easy for liberals to imagine that "desegregation" will be the simple magic solution, the type of solution toward which we've always defaulted in the few minutes we devote to matters like this. In our view, Gay may perhaps encourage some such thinking with some of the things she says.

Liberals ardent for desperate glory may gain an impression, from Gay's essay, about the way "integration plans" could effect New York City's schools—and, by extension, our public schools across the nation. Such readers may set down an essay like this filled with the highest moral feeling—and perhaps a bit deluded.

Are New York City's schools "segregated" in some sensible sense of the term? Are its schools intensely segregated? Does the city really have "some of the most segregated schools in the country?"

More significantly, to what extent can disadvantaged kids be helped by "desegregation" plans, both in New York City itself and across the land? We'll discuss these topics all week, producing zero further discussion.

The liberal world quit on low-income kids a long, long time ago. All too often, we may be inclined to soothe our demons by momentarily cheering high-minded crusades which suggest that we're heroically fighting great battles from the past.

"Heroic" is something we aren't. In the main, we're much more in love with Stormy Daniels and her heroic money grabs.

Below, we'll show you that one brutal gap again. Within the liberal and mainstream press worlds, we almost never discuss such gaps. It's abundantly clear that, on the whole, we liberals simply don't care.

Tomorrow: Public school "segregation" in New York City and around the U.S.

One last lingering look: Once again, a look at a gap we never discuss and plainly don't care much about:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
American public schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 292.16
Black students: 259.60
Hispanic students: 268.49
Asian-American students: 309.52
When's the last time you saw that discussed by our favorite corporate TV stars? The answer, of course, is never.

They talk about Stormy's adventures instead. Such talk has produced great ratings.


  1. "she seems to suggest"

    Why Bob seems to attract such great commentary.

  2. LORD.

    First Bob berates a book convincingly that, after all, he shouldn't talk about before even completing. Then he commits and embarrasing error equal to anything Chozick is likely to match in the remainder of her tome.
    Duh. the problem, BOB, you incredible nincompoop, was that Trump DENIED COHEN WAS HANDLING STORMY DANIELS FOR HIM, something he hadn't previously admitted. I know this subject makes Bob a little crazy, and Avenatti's effective seeming on air pursuit of Trump has ruduced Bob to frazzled name calling, but this is just gross inclometence on Bob's part. Glad he's big on attorney client privilege, which by the way, does not always protect illegal activity always, by the way.

  3. If a child can't do arithmetic, will she be helped by making calculus available to her?

    I would suggest that the highly rated middle school probably has good statistics because the students are good, not because it has better teachers or better facilities.

    1. I think the answer to your question is yes, she will be helped.

      Role models are important. Opportunities down the road are important for motivating effort at the beginning. If there are only a handful of children ready for calculus, they need to have the chance to do the work at that more advanced level. If a school must hire a teacher capable of teaching calculus, that teacher will do a better job with arithmetic too, since the teacher's knowledge of math will be deeper. (With the shortage of STEM teachers, some teachers were being assigned classes that they were poorly prepared to teach.)

      Your suggestion that highly rated schools are highly rated because of their students can be and has been addressed statistically using regression models and by examining the manner in which students are selected to attend that school. It is true in some cases and not in others. There is no reason why a school cannot have good students AND good teachers. But these questions can be addressed and have been in the literature.

  4. "the most painful is the "racial" gap"

    I'm sure the daughters of your demigod Barry are doing fine at school. All these "gaps" are bullshit. What people need is decent well-paying jobs.

    Your liberal-globalist dogma demands deindustrialization and shipping domestic jobs abroad, with a promise of redistributing the loot downwards through handouts. This promise, of course, never materializes. Your liberal sages blame the Evil Rs, but of course in reality no meaningful downward redistribution is possible without a revolution. Moreover, even if they were real, normal people wouldn't want your handouts anyway.

    Hopefully, Mr. Trump's protectionism will bring a bunch of decent jobs back, reduce poverty, and alleviate your "gaps".

  5. "Within the liberal and mainstream press worlds, we almost never discuss such gaps. It's abundantly clear that, on the whole, we liberals simply don't care."

    Whenever you call attention to gaps like these it opens the door for bigots to proclaim that blacks and minorities are inherently less intelligent due to genetics, that trying to address such gaps is a waste of resources, that no matter how much attention has been given to these gaps over the years they remain and are intransigent thus proving the inherent superiority of whites (and Asians?). No one wants to have those arguments again. After The Bell Curve came out, everyone was exhausted by the furor that arose when conservatives made those same arguments. No one wants that to start again because it disrupts school funding and undermines the hard work of people who daily address such gaps with real life children.

    So, it isn't that liberals don't care about minority children. It is that they recognize that calling attention to this situation will not be helpful and may hurt efforts to DO SOMETHING ABOUT the gaps.

    This again is why we cannot have any real discussion about race in America.

    1. So lemme get this straight...

      "We cannot have any real discussion about race in America" because the Right would (quite correctly) point to the large and lingering cognitive gaps between Whites and Blacks, thus destroying the current orthodoxy, which must be preserved against heresy at all costs.

      The Right would love to have a real discussion about Race in America. It's about damn time someone did....

    2. "Culture" is simply a racial construct. It is the collective product of the genetic makeup of the individuals that populate it.

    3. David,
      How's the funding going for your midterms project, where you blanket the rural, small towns of America with ads pointing out that blacks and Hispanics have it great under President Trump?
      Don't weasel out now. I think you can really make a big difference at the polls with that strategy.

  6. The "corporate TV stars" don't discuss this. Ok. Let's grant that. It doesn't mean that "the liberal world" doesn't care. Those stars are not "the liberal world."

    A high-profile "liberal" who promotes a solution that Somerby doesn't like? Just because Somerby doesn't like the proposed idea, doesn't mean that "liberals" don't care about low-income kids. That person doesn't represent all liberals. And it's also possible that Somerby is wrong.

    Somerby's mindset prevents him from criticizing an idea without criticizing the person holding the idea, and his ego prevents him from crediting the possibility that he is wrong and not as knowledgeable as he believes about educational matters.

    For example, his reaction to any discussion of "segregation" is purely visceral. He does not provide any factual objections, and he pretends that liberals "thrill ourselves with the idea that "desegrgation" provides an easy solution", as if this were the sole component of any ideas put forward.

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