Part 2—Slanted all the way down: The New York Times thinks Gotham's public schools shouldn't engage in "tracking."
Check that! The Times believes that tracking—or "screening" by academic achievement—shouldn't be part of the school admission process. Or at least, the Times believes that the New York City Public Schools allows too much screening of this type.
Alas! It's a bit hard to know what the Times believes because the paper didn't announce its beliefs in an editorial. It announced its beliefs in a front-page "news report" this Monday—a front-page news report which was spectacularly slanted.
The report appeared on Monday's front page. Tomorrow, we'll start to show you why some form of "tracking" is inevitable—unavoidable, unless we're all crazy—in a gigantic school system like New York's.
For today, though, let's take a look at the slanting in Monday's front-page report. The report was slanted all the way down, in a way which might helps us see why some conservatives say they don't believe a thing they read in the New York Times.
How slanted was Monday's news report? The slanting began in the headlines.
Yesterday, we showed you the highly evocative headline which appeared on the front page of Monday's print editions. ("Cherry Picking Students Leaves Minorities Behind.")
In fact, the "cherry picking" in question only left some minorities behind, if you want to use that evocative term. Asian-Americans are a "minority" too, and Asian kids are the monumental winners in the "cherry picking" at issue, in which kids are required to take an achievement test and are admitted to the schools in question based upon their scores.
Do we want to call that process "cherry picking?" At the Times, some editor did, in a front-page headline! But here's the headline which originally appeared on line. In this highly evocative headline, we'd say the slanting is good:
A Shadow System of Tracking by School Feeds SegregationIn that headline, the process of deciding admission by means of a test is described as "a shadow system of tracking." This shadow system "feeds segregation," the suggestible reader is told.
(Note: That online headline has been changed. It now reads, "A Shadow System Feeds Segregation in New York City Schools.")
When it comes to the pushing of buttons, no button was left behind in that original headline! In fact, the high schools which result from this "shadow system" aren't "segregated" in the traditional sense of the term. Students from all racial/ethnic groups attend these schools, though not in the percentages found throughout New York's schools as a whole.
Deciding admission by academic performance does create something like "racial imbalance," both in the admission schools and in the system's remaining schools, which tilt more heavily black and Hispanic kids as a result of the "screening" procedure.
That said, the term "segregation" stirs the soul in a way which "racial imbalance" doesn't. As a result, some editor at the Times decided to make that choice.
That on-line headline was heavily slanted. Before the week is through, we'll show you the more accurate headline the Times would never publish.
We'll set that embarrassing task aside for another day. For today, this is the way the front-page news report started:
HU AND HARRIS (6/18/18): No other city in the country screens students for as many schools as New York—a startling fact all but lost in the furor that has erupted over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent proposal to change the admissions process for the city’s handful of elite high schools.In our view, the slanting is already general. To wit:
One in five middle and high schools in New York, the nation’s largest school district, now choose all of their students based on factors like grades or state test scores. That intensifies an already raw debate about equity, representation and opportunity that has raged since Mr. de Blasio proposed scrapping the one-day test now required to gain entry into New York’s eight elite high schools. Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in many of the most selective screened middle and high schools, just as they are in the specialized high schools.
In Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest district, there are only two selective high schools and two “highly gifted” magnet schools. Boston has seven schools that screen—all high schools—including the prestigious Boston Latin School, a feeder for Harvard University that has an entrance exam akin to New York’s specialized high school test. In Seattle, the only screened schools are two elementary schools with accelerated curriculums for “highly capable” students who pass a district-administered gifted test.
“When we have a publicly funded school system, the notion that you can pick and choose your students is problematic,” said Matt Gonzales, director of the school diversity project at New York Appleseed, an organization that pushes for integrated schools. “It undermines the democratic, and free and open nature of public education.”
Is it "problematic" to "pick and choose" public schools' students in this way and to this extent? That's certainly possible—though, inevitably, it's a matter of judgment.
That said, the thumbs are already on the scales when we're told it's "a startling fact" that New York screens admission this much—and when the person the New York Times chooses to quote is devoted to "integration."
Why did Hu and Harris choose to quote Gonzales, rather than someone with a different view? Why did they introduce the evocative term "integration" into their news report?
We can't answer those questions! We can tell you this—it may not be such a "startling fact" that New York "screens" students in twenty percent of its schools, while Boston only screens students in seven high schools.
According to the system itself, the Boston Public Schools only runs something like 24 high schools. If students are screened for admission to seven, that's almost 30 percent!
That said, we've found find no record of which seven schools screen admission in Boston. The system itself repeatedly says that it runs three "exam schools."
That's even fewer than seven! However, this blog report from last July makes the following statement: "The three exam schools enroll roughly a quarter of BPS students in grades 7 through 12." If, as seems to be the case, that statement is even dimly accurate, how "startling" is the degree of screening in New York City's schools
None of this tells us whether New York's amount of screening is a good idea. It does help us see the way our biggest newspapers may sometimes slant their front-page "news reports," with various thumbs on the scales.
That said, let's return to the question at hand. Does New York City's amount of screening "undermine the democratic, and free and open nature of public education?"
Everything is possible! It's even possible that someone will be able to explain what that evocative statement means!
The amount of screening in New York may be a bad idea. But as Hu and Harris continue, so does the lusty slanting of their news report:
HU AND HARRIS (continuing directly): Unlike many cities, New York, with its 1.1 million students, also has a large base of middle-class families that attend the public schools, said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Screened schools are a way to appeal to them and keep their children in the public schools, especially in a city where public housing projects sit beside million-dollar apartments, he said.Let us translate that:
But the result has been that New York, in essence, has replaced tracking within schools with tracking by school, where children with the best records can benefit from advanced classes and active parent and alumni associations. According to the city, of the more than 830 middle schools and high schools, roughly 190 screen all of their students. Many of these screened schools are clustered in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with enrollments that are more white, Asian and affluent than the overall school population.
Edwin Franco, a father of two girls who lives in the Bronx, said that too many selective schools cherry pick the best students—and deprive everyone else of opportunities. “They’re almost like a factory,” he said. “They’re churning out high-performing kids who are doing great while the rest of the kids are trying to figure it out on their own because they don’t have the same resources.”
Richard A. Carranza, the schools chancellor, said in an interview that screened schools have a limited place in a public school system, providing an option for those students who want an “intense academic environment” and can thrive in it. But, he said, “the role of those kinds of schools in a portfolio as large as New York City’s is very specific.”
In paragraph 5, we're told that Gotham's screened schools constitute " a way to appeal to [middle-class families] and keep their children in the public schools."
Almost surely, that's true. The reference to "million-dollar apartments" suggests that these screened schools also represent an outreach to wealthy families.
Almost surely, this presentation will make Times readers think of middle-class and wealthy white families. The role these schools play for lower-income immigrant families goes unmentioned here. Asian-American kids disappear.
In paragraph 6, we're told that this admission screening is really a form of "tracking." This is a perfectly reasonable statement—though we'll note the fact that the term "tracking" has long been tangled, in our liberal tribe's lore, with allegations of racism.
In paragraph 7, a highly opinionated parent is quoted—Edwin Franco from the Bronx. He thinks the screening is a rip-off and a scam, aimed at families like his.
He says the kids who don't get admitted to the screened schools are being deprived of opportunities and resources. (He even says that kids like his end up "on their own.") Regarding the loss of opportunity, Hu and Harris have already said something similar in paragraph 6.
Why is this one parent quoted? Why are no other parents quoted? There are many parents in New York City who regard these schools are godsends. In Monday morning's front-page report, you didn't hear from them!
Hu and Harris composed a front-page report. Journalistically, it was a mess.
You only heard from those who oppose the screened schools or find them barely tolerable. You didn't hear from those who support them. Every evocative button got pushed, including the buttons about "tracking," "cherry picking," "shadow systems" and of course "integration."
Tomorrow, we'll offer a public service! We'll help you see why some form of "tracking" is inevitable in a system like New York's, unless we're all out of our minds—which in fact we've basically been since the 1960s.
"Tracking" has long been a dirty word in pseudo-liberal circles. Tomorrow, we'll show you how utterly clueless—and how deeply uncaring—we liberals can actually be.
For today, let's end with a note about Seattle, the shining city school system on a hill the authors cited at the start of their report. Unlike New York, with its shadow system and its segregation, heroic Seattle barely screens admission to schools at all:
HU AND HARRIS: ...Boston has seven schools that screen—all high schools—including the prestigious Boston Latin School, a feeder for Harvard University that has an entrance exam akin to New York’s specialized high school test. In Seattle, the only screened schools are two elementary schools with accelerated curriculums for “highly capable” students who pass a district-administered gifted test.Three cheers for high-minded Seattle! But here's what got left out:
According to it basic data page, Seattle is a rather small, heavily middle-class system. Its enrollment this years was 53,000. The New York City Public Schools enroll 1.1 million students.
Only 34 percent of Seattle's students are "low income." In New York City, the figure stands at 77 percent.
Aside from being middle-class, Seattle's system is heavily white and Asian-American. It faces many fewer demographic challenges than New York City's does.
Despite these facts, and for all its greatness, Seattle boasts an enormous achievement gap between its white and black students. According to the New York Times graphics which illustrate Professor Reardon's recent study, Seattle's black/white achievement gap stood at 3.7 years at or around the start of sixth grade.
In horribly segregated Gotham, Reardon placed the black/white gap at 2.3 years. According to Reardon, Seattle's black kids were 1.7 years behind grade level. Gotham's black kids were exactly one year in arrears.
Gotham's figure is unacceptable. But it's much better than Seattle's.
Middle-class cities like Seattle don't have to struggle to forestall middle-class flight (of all races and ethnicities) in the way a city like Gotham might. Despite this fact, it sounds to us like several of Seattle's twelve (12) high schools are involved in something like the academic selectivity the New York Times now decries:
James A. Garfield High School is a public high school in the Seattle Public Schools...Garfield draws students from all over the city. Garfield is also one of two options for the district's Highly Capable Cohort for academically highly gifted students, with the other being Ingraham International School. As a result, it has many college-level classes available ranging from calculus-based physics to Advanced Placement (AP) studio art.Whatever! But at the start of Monday's report, Seattle's small, middle-class system was used to help us see how vile New York's "segregation" is. So it goes as readers of the Hamptons-based Times are dumbed down within an inch of their lives—and as black kids are thrown under the bus as part of our tribe's long tradition.
(The logic behind that claim follows.)
Monday's report by Hu and Harris was a parody of public school reporting. In the main, it served the purpose of telling pseudo-liberal Times readers that they're moral, upstanding and good.
Along the way, Hu and Harris seemed perhaps a bit concerned by the very notion of "tracking." Why can't we all get along? Perhaps in one big rollicking ninth-grade math class?
Yes, Virginia, we have to have "tracking!" Prepare for a giant heart attack when we show you why.
Tomorrow: Gotham's (non-racial) achievement gaps. Warning! Percentiles involved!