Part 5—New York City is full of great kids: How many kids would benefit?
Let's be a bit more precise:
How many kids in New York City would benefit from admission to high-powered academic programs of the type that are pursued in Gotham's eight "specialized high schools?"
According to the New York Times, 5.3% of New York City's high school kids attend those eight high-powered schools. How many additional kids would benefit from such programs? What would the ideal enrollment number be? What percentage of Gotham's kids would benefit from taking that challenge?
We can't answer that question, of course. Ultimately, there's no way that anyone could give a hard-and-fast number.
That said, the good news begins with Mayor de Blasio's current assessment. The mayor says that lots of New York City kids would benefit from such high-powered programs.
Anywhere except in this veil of tears, that assessment would seem like wonderful news. Beyond that, it would lead in an obvious direction:
We would decide to open more schools with those same high-powered programs. As we did, we might look for ways to lessen the sense that only the eight pre-existing schools are "elite" and "prestigious," "the best."
At any rate, we'd look for ways to let all those (great) kids be challenged and served by those challenging programs. Anywhere but in this veil of tears, that's what real humans would do. Those same real humans would also do this:
They'd look for ways to make sure that all the other kids—the kids who weren't the highest academic achievers—could also be challenged and served in appropriate ways, though not at that high-powered level.
Duh! Everybody can't be served by instruction at the highest-powered level! Except in this pitiful veil of tears, every human knows this.
It's also true that every kid in New York City has talents and endless personal worth. By definition, every person won't be ready for "advanced" academic work.
That said, we shouldn't restrict our attention to the kids who are ready for high-powered work. We should find ways to challenge and serve all the other kids too.
(As everyone knows, the greatest kids aren't always the highest academic achievers. Also, the highest achievers won't always be the ones who go on to serve.)
These are blindingly obvious observations. Now, let's return to this veil of tears, and to the mayor's plan.
The mayor wants to keep the eight "specialized schools," but change who gets to attend them. Full and complete puzzling stop.
Most simply put, he doesn't want to serve the additional kids who would benefit from high-powered programs. He wants to kick the Asian kids out, and bring black and Hispanic kids in. (None of this is the doing or fault of any of these kids.)
It's hard to believe that a mayor would ever make such an ugly proposal, but that's what de Blasio wants. It's hard to believe that an editorial board would think this was a good idea, but we're talking about the New York Times—about its low-powered board.
On Monday, the board published a giant, full-page editorial straight outta this veil of tears. Along the way, the reliably bumbling board failed to get its magnum opus posted in the normal ways online.
Even today, the editorial doesn't appear on the "Today's Paper" page for Monday's Times. Even today, you can't find it by scrolling back through the editorials on the Times' "Editorials" page.
Who except the New York Times bumbles through life in this way? Having floated that question, we want to proceed to a more basic question today:
How many additional Gotham kids would benefit from enrollment in those high-powered programs? How many additional high-powered seat does the New York City Public Schools need?
There's no precise way to answer that question. We'll tease you with some data below, but before we do, we want you to see the way the board keeps advancing a destructive, 50-year-old pseudo-liberal storyline:
We refer to the time-honored claim that the black and Hispanic kids are just as capable, as a general matter and on this day, as the white and Asian kids who the mayor wants to banish. We refer to the idea that it's all some giant mistake when we get the idea that some groups of kids are more academically advanced, as a general matter and on this day, as some other groups are.
We liberals have been pushing this poisonous notion since at least the 1960s. Over that fifty-year period, we seem to have developed a fuller understanding of the ways those "achievement gaps" come into existence, starting in the earliest days of life.
We seem to have developed a wider base of knowledge. But this is the upper-class New York Times, and the editors cling to their dogmas.
In Monday's editorial, the editors insist on spreading a modern version of this poisonous notion. They want us to think that Asian kids score better on the city's Specialized High School Admission Test because they've paid for "test prep."
In their gruesome editorial, the editors come disgracefully close to reviving xenophobic scripts about those inscrutable, shifty Orientals. Did Donald J. Trump write parts of this piece? At certain points in the editors' ludicrous screed, a sensible person might wonder.
Those inscrutable Asians! Readers, there they go again! They will literally go without food to take Our Kids' seats away!
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (6/25/18): In recent weeks, some Asian groups have protested outside City Hall and in Brooklyn, saying that Asian students will lose seats. Asian children are about 16 percent of the district’s student body but a majority at schools like Stuyvesant. Many come from families that have scrimped on essentials like food to pay for test prep. Such objections are understandable, but they don’t change the fact that the admissions policy is flawed and unfair to other children.How can Our Kids compete with Those People when they're prepared to do that? Two paragraphs later, the editors recall the latest statement by Chancellor Malaprop:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: In an interview, the city’s new schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, argued that relying on a single test harmed all New Yorkers, including Asian families who spend scarce resources on test prep. “I’m sorry that the system has forced you to spend your time, your treasure on preparing your kids for that test,” he said. “Help is on the way.”Chancellor Malaprop to Those People:
Help is on the way! We're booting your kids from our high-powered schools. On the brighter side, you'll get to save money on test prep!
Does Donald J. Trump write Malaprop's stuff? Inquiring minds start to wonder!
Meanwhile, notice this about the board's editorial. At no point do the editors attempt to support their insinuation—the insinuation that the Asian kids are taking Our Seats at the "best schools" because of all the points they gain from SHSAT "test prep" classes.
Such classes do exist in New York. People pay money for their kids to take them. That said, to what extent do those SHSAT-specific classes actually affect SHSAT scores?
Indeed, do they affect those test scores at all? The editors don't seem to know!
Earth to Gotham: To the extent that your test is affected by test prep, you're using a lousy test. But if you're going to suggest that "achievement gaps" on the SHSAT result from pay-to-play "test prep," you need to make some minor effort to show that your claim is accurate.
The editors don't bother to do that! That said, did we mention the fact that this is the New York Times?
In closing, though just for today, we want to show you three bundles of data. Two bundles may be new.
Do Asian kids do well on the SHSAT because they've taken SHSAT-specific test prep classes? Everything is possible! But here are those other punishing gaps, the ones you won't see in the Times:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, NaepThose are giant achievement gaps. That said, there are no Naep-specific "test prep" classes which explain those brutal gaps.
New York City Public Schools, 2017
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Are the Asian kids scoring so well because of their fiendish knowledge of test-taking strategies in general? Because of generalized "test prep" savvy?
Everything is possible! But this is where the gaps stood last year among Gotham's fourth-graders:
Average scores, Grade 4 math, NaepAt the end of just the fourth grade, the white and Asian kids were roughly 2.5 years ahead. Were those gaps the result of test prep? And when, after more than fifty years, do we pseudo-libs stop pretending?
New York City Public Schools, 2017
White students: 245.82
Black students: 220.23
Hispanic students: 220.63
Asian-American students: 246.63
We're not suggesting that de Blasio is wrong, full stop, about black and Hispanic kids. Almost surely, there are plenty of black and Hispanic eighth-graders in New York who would benefit from admission to those high-powered high school programs.
We say that for a reason. We've been showing you average scores, but it isn't the average student who should, in a sensible world, go into those high-powered programs.
The average kid should be challenged and pushed hard too. But, in a sensible world, it's the above average student who benefits from "advanced" academic programs.
You might say it's the kids from the "(even more) talented tenth!" With that in mind, here's what New York City's Naep scores looked like last year at the 90th percentile:
Scores at 90th percentile, Grade 8 math, NaepTen percent of New York City's black eighth-graders scored above 299. Within that group, there are surely some high-performing kids who would benefit from the challenge of those high-powered programs—kids who aren't being admitted under current procedures.
New York City Public Schools, 2017
White kids: 337.79
Black kids: 299.75
Hispanic kids: 309.51
Asian-American kids: 355.63
(National average, white kids: 292.16)
That said, look where the Asian-American 90th percentile score landed! Are we sure we want to boot those kids so others can take their seats? Why would we want to do that?
As we close, let's return to first principles. In a sensible, rational, human world, we'd create enough high-powered programs so that every kid who would benefit from such instruction would attend a "specialized high school." By way of contrast, with a hat tip to Goofus:
In the world of the mayor's race war, we vow to freeze the number of seats, and we kick the Asian kids out.
In the world of the mayor's race war, the New York Times editorial board signs on to this weird approach. They barely bother to ask how their city's public schools might reduce or eliminate those brutal gaps. Instead, they find the latest way to pretend that those gaps don't really exist, and they kick the Asian kids out.
It's just test prep, these people cry. Then they light out for the Hamptons.
What could New York City's schools do to wipe those gaps away? In the meantime, what should New York City do for the 94.7% percent of its high school kids who can't sit in one of the seats at those eight "best schools?"
What should Gotham do to inspire, serve and challenge the kids who aren't the highest academic achievers? We'll address those questions in the weeks ahead.
The editors don't seem to know or to care. Did we mention that this is the Times?
Tomorrow: A legacy at The Atlantic
Where do data come from: For all Naep data, just click here. From there, you're on your own.