We have several topics to hit: Did California have "great public schools" in the decades before 1978? So said Miriam Pawel, while offering zero evidence, in Tuesday's New York Times.
How about it? Did California have "great public schools" during that alleged golden age? More specifically, did the state's schools do a fabulous job serving low-income and "minority" kids?
We know of no reason to think so. As far as we know, there are no data which would lead us to such a belief. That said, our pseudo-journalistic elites simply adore fairy tales of that kind, and the Hamptons-based losers who run the Times never tire of selling the tales which constitute modern pseudo-liberal belief.
At present, California kids in all major demographic groups score roughly at the national average as compared to their peers nationwide. For an overview, see Kevin Drum's recent graphology
That said, good grief! As we noted on Wednesday, here's the way scores improved for two groups of "minority" kids over a recent span of 39 years, dating back to the golden age in question:
Average scores, Long-Term Trends study, NaepOver those 39 years, black and Hispanic 13-year-olds apparently advanced roughly three years in math as compared to their predecessors. If we accept Naep data (and rules of thumb) as reliable, does anybody really think that California's Hispanic kids were scoring better, during that alleged golden age, than their counterparts are scoring today?
13-year-old students nationwide, math
In Tuesday's New York Times, Miriam Pawel was selling that dream, though in the absence of evidence. The dream she was selling is very familiar, but it's a pipe dream—a con.
Test scores can't be the sole measure, of course. But helping kids learn how to read and how to do math are basic functions of public schools. If we assume that Naep data (and rules of thumb) are real, it's very, very hard to believe that Pawel's unsubstantiated bundle of claims was anything but the usual dreck served by the usual non-specialists.
With that, an obvious question arises. Should we regard Naep data (and rules of thumb) as reliable? Should we assume that black and Hispanic kids actually gained as much in math as those Long-Term Trend data suggest?
We can't exactly answer that question, in part because we read the New York Times. Simply put, that famous newspaper will never attempt to address such basic questions. It won't do so because, in actual point of fact, its club members don't care about basic questions like these, or about kids in general. Few things could be more clear.
We thought there were two more points to touch upon in Pawel's column. We'll start with the tiny "glimmers of hope" she managed to spot in the Golden State's ratty schools:
PAWEL (1/15/19): This [Los Angeles teachers] strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.Pawel's "glimmers of hope" involve nothing but funding issues. Because she isn't an education specialist, we'll guess that she has never set eyes on "glimmers of hope" like these:
Average scores, Main NaepFor all Naep data, start here.
California public schools, Grade 8 math
Black students, 1990: 231.46
Black students, 2017: 254.55
Hispanic students, 1990: 235.89
Hispanic students, 2017: 262.25
Can you spot the glimmers of hope in those data? By apparent rule of law, you'll never be told about such glimmers in the Times or the Washington Post. As our nation slides toward the sea, its elites are too lazy to examine elementary data and too detached to care.
(Similar score gains have been recorded in the Los Angeles schools, though the Naep can only track that progress back to 2003. If you're a reader of the Times, you'll never be told about such matters. Instead, you'll be told that things were great in 1973.)
Our final point concerns the funding which has Pawel so concerned. In this passage, she says that California's schools have never recovered from the revenue losses following 1978's Proposition 13. She then compares California's spending to spending in the state of New York:
PAWEL: Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help....The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?We state no view on the funding measures which are now being considered. But since Pawel compared California to New York, we decided to look at the two states' current Naep scores.
California still ranks low in average per-pupil spending, roughly half the amount spent in New York. California legislators have already filed bills proposing billions of dollars in additional aid, one of many competing pressures that face the new governor, Gavin Newsom, as he begins negotiations on his first state budget.
As best we can tell, the state of New York does spend roughly twice as much as California per pupil. Below, you see one set of results:
Average scores, Main NaepHow much bang has the Empire State received for its bucks? We report, you decide. Comparative math scores are roughly similar.
California and New York State
Grade 8 reading, 2017
Black students, California: 249.96
Black students, New York: 251.27
Hispanic students, California: 251.24
Hispanic students, New York: 252.81
White students, California: 278.11
White students, New York: 271.68
Pawel isn't an education specialist. Uncaring newspapers like the Times don't worry themselves about that.
That said, might those data perhaps suggest that funding isn't a determining factor in public school performance? You'll never see such questions explored by uncaring rags like the Times!
Here's something else you'll never see. You'll never see a serious discussion of educational methods. What might help California's 6-year-old "minority" kids enjoy their lives in their public schools? What might heighten their love of the world? What might increase their various forms of learning?
The Times doesn't bother with bullshit like that. They serve you pleasing pseudo scripts, after which they light out for the Hamptons.
Our "elite" news orgs have behaved this way for decades. Why on earth should we be surprised to see a Trump in the White House?