GAPS AND THEIR AVOIDANCE: Dwyer describes a troubling state of affairs!

TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2018

Part 2—While avoiding the gaps:
In New York City, the gaps hit hard when it comes to the city's eight (or nine) "specialized high schools."

The gaps help create a remarkable story. At the start of last Saturday's column, Jim Dwyer described its basic outlines.

Warning! We don't know where Dwyer got his numbers. The real numbers seem to be worse:
DWYER (6/9/18): In New York's ragged history of race, class, privilege and equity, the city's specialized high schools have long been proxies. For some, they are the ideal of meritocratic opportunity, incubators of working-class genius and talent; others see their admissions policies as the picture of ''monumental injustice,'' as Mayor Bill de Blasio described them this month in Chalkbeat.

Now, in a system where the overwhelming majority of students have no access to advanced science or math classes, no matter how capable they are, the mayor and the new schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, are campaigning to change the admission process at the specialized schools, the most famous and prestigious in the city.

A single competitive test on one day decides admission. Black and Latino students, who make up about two-thirds of the public school population, are only 15 percent of those offered seats at the eight specialized schools.

Those admission policies, affecting just about 2 percent of the city's students, are nevertheless charged with high-voltage symbolism...
Stating the obvious, Dwyer is describing a noteworthy state of affairs.

At the eight prestigious, high-powered high schools to which he refers, he says that black and Hispanic kids received only 15 percent of admission offers, presumably in some recent year. He also notes that black and Hispanic kids constitute roughly two-thirds of the city's overall student population!

The real numbers may be even worse. In the Chalkbeat essay to which Dwyer refers, Mayor de Blasio cited figures according to which black and Hispanic kids received only 9.4 percent of the admission offers. "Around nine percent," he says.

We also don't know where those numbers came from. According to data which seem reliable, the numbers look like this for the coming ninth-grade year:
New York City, 2018
Percentage of eighth-grade students offered admission to one of eight specialized high schools:

White students: 26.2%
Black students: 4.1%
Hispanic students: 6.3%
Asian-American students: 51.7%
Multiracial students: 2.5%
Unknown race/ethnicity: 8.3%
The data become a bit complex due to the number of multiracial kids and the number of "unknowns." But any way you slice the data, black and Hispanic kids are grossly underrepresented on purely numerical grounds.

Last year's numbers are similar. To peruse those data, click here.

Readers of the New York Times my be surprised by one part of that data set. Dwyer addresses that part of the data later on in his column. (Once again, he uses one number we don't understand.):
DWYER: [In 1971]. white students made up close to 90 percent of the specialized schools; today, they are fewer than 20 percent. Most students are Asian. The number of black and Latino students has risen and fallen, but has never come close to keeping up with their presence in the city schools. At Stuyvesant, the most competitive of the schools, only 10 black students received offers this year. The specialized schools are far from bastions of privilege, dominated by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Say what? At those eight high-powered schools, do white kids really constitute less than 20% of the student population?

Dwyer provides no link in support of this claim, and the claim seems a bit low, as compared to the apparent number of admission offers in the past two years.

That said, Times readers may be surprised to learn that Asian kids are in the majority at these prestigious, high-powered schools. We say that because the Times seems to specialize in news reports which feature white parents complaining about "desegregation" plans at highly selective schools.

They seem to be complaining for reasons which—well, we Times readers probably know how those white parents are!

Despite the familiar presence of those white parents, the largest group at these high-powered schools are Asian-American kids. They get there by achieving high scores on a one-day test—New York City's own Specialized High School Admissions Test, the awkwardly-acronymed SHSAT.

Should kids be admitted to these schools on the basis of a single test, full stop? That doesn't sound like an ideal admission system. In fairness, there are no ideal admission systems at any educational level.

Mayor de Blasio has proposed changing the current admission system; we'll review his proposals tomorrow. For today, we'll ask you to consider two noteworthy facts—the fact that black and Hispanic kids are grossly underrepresented at these schools, and the fact that Asian-American kids are heavily over-represented on a purely numerical basis.

Those Asian kids get into those schools by scoring well on a challenging test. That said, no one should be hugely surprised by their representation if we simply consider those punishing achievement gaps—the part of this story people like Dwyer are de Blasio may perhaps tend to disappear.

Why did so many Asian kids get admission offers in recent years? Again, we'll offer you a straightforward look at some very large, deeply punishing gaps, courtesy of data from our most reliable source:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
New York City Public Schools, 2017

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
By a standard, very rough rule of thumb, the average Asian eighth-grader outscored his white counterpart by roughly 1.5 academic years in 2017. According to that very rough rule of thumb, she outscored her average black counterpart by—well, by maybe five years!

No one familiar with those data—with those mind-boggling achievement gaps—would be surprised by the demographic breakdown at those specialized high schools. We also call your attention to an important part of what Dwyer wrote, jumbled though his poorly-edited sentence is:

"The specialized schools are far from bastions of privilege, dominated by immigrants or the children of immigrants."

By that, Dwyer seems to mean that those Asian-American kids, as a group, aren't your classic "children of privilege." They're actually immigrant kids, or the children of immigrants, who are doing quite well in school.

No one familiar with those data from the Naep would be surprised by the demographic breakdown at those prestigious high schools. With that in mind, we mention something we noticed when we read Dwyer's column—and when we read the de Blasio essay to which Dwyer refers.

Especially in the mayor's piece, we noticed this:

It isn't just that Dwyer and de Blasio fail to mention Gotham's enormous achievement gaps. We'd have to say they make it sound like the gaps pretty much don't exist.

They seem to describe a public school nirvana, a super-Wobegon, where all the different student groups are way above average. In such ways, we liberals have thrown low-income kids under the bus for a great many years.

We lose elections in the process. Most of all, we turn our backs on black and Hispanic kids.

Tomorrow: Bill de Blasio's dream

Let's take a look at the record: For all Naep data, just click here.

That takes you to the Naep Data Explorer. From there, you're on your own.

Of one thing you can be fairly certain. You'll encounter no journalists there!


  1. Quite a bit of liberal race-mongering bullshit - for someone who recently declared 'race' a meaningless concept. Alas, I'm afraid lib-zombie infection is progressing in you, Bob.

    1. "'race' a meaningless concept."

      Yesterday's Right-wing Supreme Court decision in favor of voter suppression, notwithstanding, of course.

    2. More good news for those mythical economically anxious tRump voters sitting in their MW diners.

      Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner earned at least $82 million last year from investments and business concerns outside of their jobs as unpaid senior advisers to the president, according to financial disclosures released by the White House.

      The documents released Monday show that Ivanka Trump earned $3.9 million from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. She earned another $2 million in salary and severance from the Trump Organization and a further $5 million from the trust that controls her clothing brand.

      Jared Kushner's filings reveal a sprawling real estate empire, with property in states including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Ohio and Connecticut generating millions in rent. Several of those properties created at least $5 million in passive income last year.

    3. I like it how liberals are well aware that minorities are so low-agency that having any requirements at all to vote constitutes "votes suppression." Well, that and they know damn well that illegals and the dead are voting democrat.

    4. I like it how deplorable repugnant republicans are so scared of voters that they work night and day, 24/7, 365 days a year devising ever more devious despicable schemes to keep citizens from voting.

    5. mm,
      They are who we thought they were.

    6. "I like it how liberals are well aware that minorities are so low-agency that having any requirements at all to vote constitutes "votes suppression.""

      Good point, but it would be better expressed without introducing your own biases: it's not that liberals are "well aware that minorities are so low-agency", but rather: D-bosses are so contemptuous of 'their' voters (lib-zombies) that the commonsense requirement to produce a picture ID creates a panic... Quickly transformed by goebbelsian propaganda into fake outrage.

    7. It's Conservatives who are contemptuous of voters.
      That's why they support voter suppression tactics.

    8. Dear debot, most of everyone is conservative, including you, unless you're a cocaine-sniffing nudist swinger, or something.

      And as the political label, a plurality of Americans identify as 'conservatives'.

      I appreciate your consistency, but may I suggest that perhaps it's time for you to change the record, find a brand-new, less idiotic obsession?

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  2. Dwyer's numbers and Somerby's are closely similar.

    Is Somerby lamenting the fact that not all children in any demographic group can go to one of the specialized high schools, or is he complaining because of the under-representation of African American and Hispanic kids, which De Blasio is trying to address?

    Is Somerby's point that the enormous gaps make it impossible for there to be proportionate representation? Does he think Dwyer and de Blasio should be arguing for a quota system, like India has for its castes? Does he think kids who cannot score well on the entrance test will nevertheless succeed in a competitive specialized school? Or does he think there is no point in trying to increase participation by under-represented groups?

    It is hard to tell what Somerby thinks other than a nebulous tone of complaint aimed non-specially at Dwyer and de Blasio and focused on the gaps, which he thinks no one knows about, but I suspect everyone knows about.

    What does Somerby think people would say if they talked about the gaps? Would the schools who have been withholding wondrous teaching methods, out of spite, suddenly start helping gap kids do better? Would there be a miraculous overnight change in performance? Or would minority kids be further shut out of opportunities on the assumption that they all have gaps (even though there are obviously some who can and do succeed academically)?

    Or does Somerby want to undermine de Blasio's accomplishments by blaming him for massive school failure that actually occurs nationwide and through no fault of de Blasio's? Does he want to create unhappiness with the schools on the part of gap-kid parents, who may believe their kids are being mistreated in some way that undermines their performance? If Somerby thinks there is mistreatment, he should be pointing out what it is.

    Should the kids who do well, often through impressive effort not just talent, be set aside and told there is no place for them in a specialized high school, to make room for a child who has not earned a spot and likely will fail to meet the higher expectations of such a school? Is that Somerby's idea of fairness? He doesn't say -- but then again, he doesn't say much of anything today.

    1. Sorry to say you're 147.8 points below median. By a (very) rough rule of thumb that means you can neither read for comprehension nor think straight.

      Go back and re-read the blog entry. Sound out the words if you have to. Then try to figure out what those words mean. Hint: To do this it will be unnecessary to determine what TDH really thinks.

    2. Hint: not all questions express curiosity.

      "Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind."

    3. Too bad RIF didn't work for you, 2:51A. Where do I say that the questions express curiosity? Here they merely indicate an inability to read for comprehension or to think straight. Didja even try to understand what TDH wrote?

      Hint: On the intertubes anyone can pretend to have read the Upanishads.

  3. "We lose elections in the process. Most of all, we turn our backs on black and Hispanic kids."

    How is meeting the needs of high performing kids necessarily turning our backs on low performing kids?

    Education is not a zero-sum game. Teachers can address the needs of both high and low performing kids, in different ways.

    I see no harm in de Blasio trying to increase the representation of black and Hispanic kids at the selective high schools. It doesn't mean he is not concerned with gaps and it certainly doesn't mean he has turned his back on certain kids.

    Somerby accuses de Blasio of pretending that all the kids in NYC are above average, but it is actually Somerby himself who is insisting that all the kids need to be equal by asserting that if attention is paid to the needs of the high performing kids, it means that the low performing kids are neglected. By Somerby's reasoning, the high performing kids would never receive any attention at all, because by definition there will always be lower performing kids than they are.

    This particular article was not about gaps and not about low performing kids. It was about increasing the number of high performing African American and Hispanic kids admitted to selective schools. It is Somerby who assumes there are no such kids, that all Hispanic and African American kids must be doing poorly because the mean is so much lower.

    I teach at a majority Hispanic-serving university. I have seen exceptional students come from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and low-performing high schools, from neighborhoods with gangs where very few students would do well on the NAEP. Such students need the encouragement of seeing open doors up the line, having their aspirations nurtured, not being treated as if they are doomed to low performance because they are Hispanic or live in a certain area, or spoke Spanish most of their childhoods. A magnet school would do much good for such students, and some do manage to reach such high schools. Many don't. Perhaps because of attitudes like Somerby's -- that all of our focus must be on the lowest performers.

    The parents of such children, often immigrants, may not vote at all. But we should address their kids needs whether they vote or not. Because it is about the kids needs, not Democratic or Republican party needs.

  4. "It isn't just that Dwyer and de Blasio fail to mention Gotham's enormous achievement gaps. We'd have to say they make it sound like the gaps pretty much don't exist.

    They seem to describe a public school nirvana, a super-Wobegon, where all the different student groups are way above average. In such ways, we liberals have thrown low-income kids under the bus for a great many years."

    This seems to be Somerby's main point in this post. It doesn't make sense. Where in DeBlasio's piece does he say or pretend that achievement gaps don't exist? His proposal isn't targeting achievement gaps per se. He proposes this:
    "we’ll expand the Discovery Program to offer 20 percent of specialized high school seats to economically disadvantaged students who just missed the test cut-off."

    Those "economically disadvantaged students" are likely the top performers at their respective schools, but couldn't get into the specialized high schools. The new proposal is designed to help this specific group of economically disadvantaged, i.e. low-income, students. So, how exactly does this "throw low-income kids under the bus?" At least some of them stand to be significantly helped by it.

    The proposal is not intended or viewed as a way of eradicating all achievement gaps from the face of the earth. Is that even possible?

    And as long as Somerby keeps saying stuff like "we liberals..." when posting about schools, he shows himself to be utterly unserious on the subject. It's all about politics and liberal bashing for him.

    By the way, here is DeBlasio uttering the magic phrase "achievement gaps":

    1. I imagine we'll find out tomorrow (which, as of my posting date, is last week. Whatev.) but my guess is that Somerby is concerned with the second aspect of DeBlasio's plan, which is to restrict the eligible pool of 8th graders to the top 7% in each middle school. That makes sense only if you think the top students at all of these schools are in the same ballpark academically; lots of school-by-school test results suggest they are not.

  5. "we'll review his proposals tomorrow"

    But today, we'll tell you that liberals like DeBlasio, when they specifically write about their new proposal, but don't mention achievement gaps, are throwing low-income kids under the bus.

    So, let's make sure to put our thumb on the scales and prejudge the matter by telling you that DeBlasio, like all liberals, has consistently thrown low-income kids under the bus.

    You know, just to make sure Howler readers won't give any honest consideration to DeBlasio's proposals.

    The verdict is in before the evidence has even been examined.

  6. Is it true that "black and Hispanic kids are grossly underrepresented at these schools." I say NO, because the students at these schools are not representatives; they're people -- individuals who are seeking education appropriate to their abilities and talents. The percentage of people at these schools may be different than the percentage in the general New York City population as regards race, religion, height, hair color, political leaning, number of letters in their name, or a million other conceivable classifications. So, what!

    1. The notion that "abilities and talents" are not necessarily innate and largely dependent on one's environment diminishes your point. Race, which is biologically insignificant but exists because RACISM, is hugely more determinative than the other traits you listed, because RACISM.

      You may be pro meritocracy like many centrist liberals - Hillary, Obama, etc - but solidarity is a much more positive force for society.

      So What

    2. I don't think racism is the answer, or not the primary answer. Historically there was considerable discrimination against Jews, Asians, and Mormons (though not nearly as great as against blacks.) Still, these three discriminated-against groups far excel whites.

      IMHO group culture is the most significant factor.

    3. David is not a liberal, centrist or any other kind.

    4. IMHO - that's the 10th verbatim "group culture" slag against blacks you've made this year, jackass.

    5. Those are whites, with a few exceptions their skin is relatively pale.

      David I think your heart is in the right place but the issue is more complicated and nuanced than your comment suggests. This is a good place to start getting a better sense of the issue:

      Political power and the racial wealth gap
      The Ezra Klein Show

    6. David - I know you don't think I mean well toward you, which exemplifies your willingness to lie even when you don't have to and I know that despite the gaudy patter and the "bi-racial cousins" nonsense that you've now repeated for the 3rd time, you're a stone bigot spewing the crocodile tears of false concern in order to come off as "sincere" and "reasonable.".

      Whether or not you truly have a screw loose, I'll leave that to the professionals.


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