GAPS AND LAVIZZO: The Times returns to District 3!

FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2018

Part 5—Please disregard the gaps:
For the past two weeks, we've been discussing a New York Times news report about the Chicago Public Schools.

We thought the report was deeply flawed. That said, neither reporter was an education specialist; the New York Times doesn't develop or hire such people. Beyond that, the flawed report was flawed in traditional happy-talk ways. It featured the approach our big newspapers have long brought to the lives of the nation's black kids.

Our first reaction to the report went something like this:

First, we pondered its basic claim, which said the average eighth-grader in Chicago has gained six years of academic learning over the previous five years.

Then, we looked at Naep results, according to which the average black eighth grader in Chicago was at least three years behind the nation's white kids in math at the end of last year. After gaining six academic years, they were still three years behind.

After gaining six years of math, they were still three years behind? All told, these claims would imply that the average black kid in Chicago was something like four years behind in math at the end of third grade! These are the ways arcane formulations crawl into the bushes to die.

The Times report suffered from a very basic flaw. It didn't present our most straightforward data about Chicago's kids, the data from the biannual Naep testing.

Alas! Within the upper-end press, a basic tenet of Hard Pundit Law obtains. Everybody praises the Nsep, but no one reports its data!

Those basic data can be embarrassing and depressing, and so newspapers like the Times and the Washington Post tend to "walk on by." For the last and final time, we're going to post the data which didn't appear in the New York Times during its happy talk about Chicago:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
Naep, 2017

Black students in Chicago: 259.45
White students in Chicago: 305.81
White students nationwide: 292.16
Asian-American students nationwide: 309.52
Oof! Data like those don't make upscale readers feel good, and so they rarely appear. Instead, we see photographs of adorable little girls smiling big smiles in the face of the problem the New York Times tends to evade.

Those Times reporters weren't specialists. We'll guess it never occurred to them to look at the most recent Naep scores to get a basic idea of where matters currently stand in Chicago's improving schools.

That said, it's long been true. The lives of black kids get major short shrift in the upper-end mainstream press and in the liberal world. Education reporting is often a joke, as is liberal activism. Consider the news report which appeared in yesterday's New York Times.

Once again, for perhaps the ten millionth time, the Times was reporting on a "desegregation" plan for the middle schools of New York City's District 3, a section of the public school system located in parts of Manhattan.

Is this proposed plan a good idea? That's a matter of judgment. For the record, there's only so much "desegregation" you can achieve in a system whose student population is only 15% white.

But "desegregation" and "diversity" are major gods at the New York Times. They're also gods for liberal happy-talk do-gooders, for people who rarely seem to grasp the size of the problem we all quite happily live with.

The New York Times' Winnie Hu isn't an education specialist. Obviously, that isn't her fault, and she was reporting on a plan which, whatever its merits may be, is drowning in gimmickry and euphemism.

None of that is Hu's fault. That said, her report appeared benath a somehwat comical headline, and she put her thumb on the scale right in her opening sentence.

Hu's report began this way, puzzling headline included:
HU (6/7/18): Low Scores Would Earn Admission to Select Middle Schools in Desegregation Plan

Students with low test scores are usually shut out of New York City’s best public schools.

But next year, such students could be offered a quarter of the sixth-grade seats at even the most selective middle schools in Manhattan’s District 3 as part of a desegregation plan being debated in the district, which stretches from the Upper West Side to Harlem.
Say what? According to that headline, low test scores would "earn admission" to Gotham's select middle schools? Granting admission on the basis of low test scores is part of "desegregation?"

That headline walked a hall of mirrors—and Hu instantly put her thumb on the scales. District 3's "most selective middle schools" are among the city's "best" schools, she instantly said, making a familiar conflation which can impose a world of hurt.

Just for once, let's be clear. Those admission-based schools are among the city's highest-scoring schools, but that's because their high-scoring students were high-scoring coming in.

Teachers at those selective schools don't possess some sort of magic which can make all other kids high-scoring too. There's no guarantee that they'll know how to help the city's lowest-achieving kids. Indeed, there's no guarantee that they won't resent the presence of the new low-scoring kids, won't view them with annoyance and contempt.

Within Hu's report, you'll quickly encounter the type of liberal do-gooders who perhaps rarely know what they're talking about. They assume that going to the "best" schools will help the city's lowest-achieving kids.

We know of no reason to make that assumption. And of course, the gaps are extremely wide:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
New York City, 2017

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Those data didn't appear in Hu's report. Because those data didn't appear, there was no need to explain, with rough rules of thumb, how wide those gaps really are.

If New York's lowest-achieving kids are admitted to its "most selective schools," will the teachers at those schools respect those low-achievers? If they do respect those struggling kids, will they magically know what to do to help them across those enormous gaps?

The Times doesn't ask its upscale readers to wonder about such things. Instead, the Times sends its mandated signals about racist white parents and acts like all will be well.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for the way this journalistic/activist system works. We think of the contempt expressed by Willa Cather's protagonist in My Antonia, Book II, Chapter IX—his contempt for the weak-spirited Anglo boys who refuse to act on their attraction to the vibrant beauty of the immigrant girls.

We also think of Wilfred Owen, trudging behind the dying and the dead during the Great War:
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
In truth, a lot of "old lies" exist in the world, told by those ardent for desperate glory, perhaps of the pseudolib kind.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for those self-assured do-gooders who are able to love their gods so much because the Hamptons-based newspaper they consume refuses to show them the truth.

The Times doesn't bother with public school specialists, or with gruesome test score data. Dearest darlings! Use your heads!

Use your heads! Who cares?


  1. "Please disregard the gaps"

    Should it be something like 'don't mind the gap'?

    "It's hard to have sufficient contempt for those self-assured do-gooders "

    They're zombies, Bob. Contempt is unseemly, for they know not what they do. Pity and sadness would be a more appropriate reaction. In my opinion.

    1. Like you, Comrade, el Presidente asks "How high?" when your paymaster asks him to jump:

    2. What's wrong with doing good? What's wrong with attempting to do good?

    3. Why, nothing, dear.

      The phenomenon mentioned by Bob here (and in almost every other post) is best known, I believe, as 'phariseeism'. Look it up.

      Though personally, I prefer 'lib-zombieism'. It works better, attracting more dembots and dem-spammers.

    4. Mao is not a serious commenter, Mao does not believe any of his/her comments, they are drenched with irony and sarcasm. Mao is a laugh for progressives and liberals. Mao provides entertainment for Democratics. Mao's act is old and stale. Mao's lack of creativity indicates despondency.

      Mao gets additional pay for every response Mao generates.

      Enjoy a dinner out on me, Mao. Or a pee hooker if that floats your boat.


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  2. The poem - which is great - is Wilfred Owen, not Matthew Arnold. Arnold died in 1888; Owen, unfortunately, died in the last week or so of WW1.

    1. Did it say Matthew Arnold before? Seems to be fixed now.

    2. It did. I just noticed that. Damn, for as big a fan as I am Bob didn't have to go and make me look like I'm out of my mind.

  3. Want to know what Josh Marshall thinks about Uncle Vova and Mr Trump?

    Want to know what Domenico Losurdo thinks about liberalism?

    1. This is a much more timely read:

  4. "Hu's report began this way, puzzling headline included:
    "HU (6/7/18): Low Scores Would Earn Admission to Select Middle Schools in Desegregation Plan"

    First off, when you click the link, you see the following headline:
    "In a Twist, Low Scores Would Earn Admission to Select Schools"

    Check your links, Bob.

    ""Granting admission on the basis of low test scores is part of "desegregation?""

    The horror; the word "desegregation" appears. Here's what the article said:

    "School desegregation efforts around the city have mostly been centered on students who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, a widely accepted measure of poverty, which has generally been correlated with race in the city."

    Somerby says: ""Within Hu's report, you'll quickly encounter the type of liberal do-gooders who perhaps rarely know what they're talking about.""

    Who exactly are the liberals in the article? Was it:

    Kristen Berger, a mother of a fifth-grade student who is the chairwoman of the middle school committee for District 3’s Community Education Council, a parent group that advises on admission policy?

    Or was it Joe Fiordaliso, a consultant with a daughter in seventh grade at West End Secondary School?

    Or was it Sharon Parker, an arts educator and parent in the district?

    Or maybe the entire city Department of Education?

    None were identified as liberal, so who knows how Bob Somerby knows this.

    Somerby says: ""They assume that going to the "best" schools will help the city's lowest-achieving kids.

    We know of no reason to make that assumption."

    Well, here's some actual data to back it up:

    The report states this: "Decades of educational research have shown that mixed-ability classrooms can raise achievement especially for low-performing students"

    And there is a link:

    The study states this: "The findings suggest that the detracking reform had appreciable effects on low-ability student achievement and no effects on average and high-ability student achievement. Therefore, detracking should be encouraged, especially in schools where the lower-track classes have been traditionally assigned fewer resources."

    Somerby, speaking of teachers: "There's no guarantee that they'll know how to help the city's lowest-achieving kids"

    The reporter Wu, who Somerby assures us, isn't an "education specialist" (and that isn't her "fault" as he so magnanimously opines), quotes an actual education specialist on this very topic: "Amy Stuart Wells, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, said that all students can achieve at a higher level if teachers are well-trained and use an approach targeted to each child’s level of achievement, among other things."

    Such bs from Somerby. He is not an education specialist himself, but he seems like one of those people he refers to who might possibly not know what they're talking about. Though there's no guarantee of course.

  5. What exactly were the lies in Wu's report? It's about helping low-performing kids. The performance scores come from other tests, not the NAEP, since the NAEP does not show results for individual students. Not mentioning NAEP test scores is not a lie. The new idea in NY is aimed at low performers, not just black kids.

  6. "Those admission-based schools are among the city's highest-scoring schools, but that's because their high-scoring students were high-scoring coming in."

    Might be an appropriate time to discuss the rise of admission-based public schools and the effect they might have on the overall public school school system.

    Or not.

  7. We just cannot concede the truth that Somerby's correct about the way the New York Times reports on education: it denies its readers relevant facts about testing, it assigns non-specialist reporters, it refuse to reference realities as it touts preferred narratives.

    Instead, we trivia hunt ("THE HEADLINE GOT CHANGED!!", "NOBODY SELF-ID'd AS A LIBERAL") and otherwise misdirect. It's a blast!

  8. Somerby seems to be just throwing in literary allusions at random now. Willa Cather's book about plains immigrants has nothing whatsoever to do with education issues. Neither does Wilfrid Owen's anti-war poem. Both were required reading in high school, so his familiarity with them isn't remarkable. But it is kind of like padding an essay question with tangential knowledge because you don't know the answer to the question. What does it have to do with anything being discussed? Kids? Nothing. Desegregation? Nothing. Schooling? Nothing. My Antonia is a wonderful book, but it has nothing to do with this topic. Neither did Nabokov yesterday. Probably not Chekov either, but I haven't read that story. Scarlet Letter was irrelevant before that.

    Frankly, it would be more interesting to discuss literature than to hear about NAEP scores again. Note that I am not saying kids and education are boring, but those NAEP scores are calculated to drive away whatever lingering audience remains here. Maybe that is the point?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Amazing timing, Anon of 1:16, demonstrating the point made by Bob's Readers at... 1:16.

      Guess some things just can't wait.

    3. Yeah, when talking of institutional blinkered cant in the face of ruination what could be more incongruent than those references, right.

  9. 1:16, all the literary references you mention made sense in their contexts. Remove the beam from your own eye and try reading those posts again, assuming you really even give a damn. And for the umpteenth time, will all of the ceaseless bemoaners of what Bob writes ever just do us and them both a favor and leave?

    1. Or you could leave. That would save the rest of us some trouble and there are more of us than there are of you.

    2. Eric's the poltroon that presonally attacks commenters critical of a particular blogpost oftentimes weeks after the particular post and comment.

      Practically all of his/her/its comments ignore the gist of the post-and-comment, lazily avoid countering the the criticism with a rebuttal (unlike eg. deadrat or Jonny), and instead whine "for the umpteenth time, will all of the ceaseless bemoaners of what Bob writes ever just do us and them both a favor and leave?"

      With embarrassments like Eric and Nona Nym and their ilk as friends, who needs enemies?

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