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.Stating the obvious, Dwyer is describing a noteworthy state of affairs.
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...
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, 2018The 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.
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%
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, NaepBy 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!
New York City Public Schools, 2017
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
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!