Part 3—A mystery that's easily solved: It's a bit like Rodney Dangerfield's boxing match—the famous fight at which the hockey game broke out.
In this case, a Los Angeles story was underway—and, to borrow from Woody Allen, a Manhattan mystery broke out!
The Los Angeles story of which we speak involves gigantic "achievement gaps." As you may recall, those achievement gaps look like this:
Average scores, Los Angeles Unified School DistrictAs judged by a very rough, though common-used, rule of thumb, those black kids are 4.5 years behind their white counterparts—at the end of eighth grade! That was our Los Angeles story. It's a story you'll never see discussed by your favorite corporate stars.
Grade 8 math, 2017 Naep
White students: 298.28
Black students: 253.66
Hispanic students: 259.99
Asian-American students: 300.54
Last week, this Los Angeles story was discussed in the New York Times. In the course of that discussion, our Manhattan mystery broke out.
The Los Angeles story was discussed in this opinion column. Back east, most likely in Manhattan, someone had decided to put the column in print—and at one point, the ccolumn said this:
KAPLAN (8/15/18): I believed, even as a fifth grader, that education is a social contract and that Los Angeles was uniquely suited to carry it out. Los Angeles would surely accomplish what Louisiana could not.According to the Times identity line, the author teaches writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Within the context of the column, it seems clear that she is saying that "integration" should be "the chief mechanism of school reform" in L.A.
I was wrong. Today Los Angeles and California as a whole have abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform and embraced charter schools instead.
Hence our Manhattan mystery! The mystery shapes up like this:
Why would someone at the New York Times decide to publish a column advancing such a suggestion? We ask that question because student demographics within the Los Angeles public schools look exactly like this:
Student population, LAUSDThat's a perfectly fine-looking mix to us. But who are you going to "integrate" there? And after you've accomplished this "integration," what is supposed to happen? How is that "integration" supposed to address those giant achievement gaps?
Latino students: 74.0%
White students: 9.8%
Black students: 8.4%
Asian-American students: 6.0%
Our Los Angeles story is simple. Those punishing achievement gaps plainly suggest that there's room for major improvement in L.A.'s schools, even room for "reform."
Our Manhattan mystery is this:
Why would someone at the New York Times think it makes sense to see "integration" as the answer to this Los Angeles problem?
When we write about urban schools, is there any requirement—any expectation—that our work needs to make any sense?
As Moses says to the Holy Trinity in the old Paul Reiser joke:
As we really going to play some golf? Or are we just here to BLANK around?
Tomorrow: The indifference keeps rolling along