The problem we all ignore: Last Tuesday, on the New York Times' front page, the headline ran across five columns.
It described the problem we all pretend to abhor. In print editions, the headline read like this:
New York's Most Selective Public High School Has 895 Spots. Black Students Got 7.It happens every spring! Within our pseudo-liberal world, we express our shock about data like those. We express our shock for several days, then proceed to slumber and snore all through the rest of the year.
Over at The Atlantic, Mark Harris, who seems completely sincere, was especially struck by those enrollment data. That said, he was also struck by the way we liberals are shocked, just shocked, buy these data every year.
Harris began as shown below. He'd gone back five years in time:
HARRIS (3/20/19): The first sentence of the New York Times story was like a blow to the gut. “Seven black students have been offered a chance to start classes at Stuyvesant High School in September,” out of 952 total offers. It was two fewer black students than the nine the school had accepted the year prior in a freshman class of 963 students. In response, a state lawmaker declared that he would redraft a bill he had introduced three years earlier to change the admissions policies at the school; the city reeled. It was 2014.That's right, folks! The Times wrote that same front-page report back in 2014! As he continued, Harris noted the way last week's report mirrored the earlier effort.
A conspiratorial tone crept in as Harris proceeded from there. But we were struck by the the reaction he attributed to the Times, and to the rest of our pseudo-lib world:
HARRIS: It’s an uncomfortable truth that, at this point, this is the result that the New York City public-school admissions infrastructure seems designed to produce. But the result is so galling that, year after year, it triggers a shocked response. Monday’s Times headline: “Only 7 Black Students Got Into N.Y.’s Most Selective High School, Out of 895 Spots.” A different byline, a different year, the same problem. Only seven students, again.We pseudos! Not unlike Captain Renault, we're shocked, shocked by these results every single year. Indeed, as Harris finished his report, he predicted that the same darn thing would happen again next year:
"It is likely that next year the internet will be shocked once again by the staggering disparity in black enrollment at Stuyvesant, and there will be another conversation about what needs to happen to fix it."
Next year, we'll be shocked all over again, for at least several days. After that, we'll return to our slumbers.
In our view, Harris was perhaps too kind when he implied that a real "conversation" exists about how to address this problem.
Black and Hispanic kids get very few seats at New York City's most competitive high schools. According to last week's report in the Times, such kids received ten percent of admission offers to Gotham's eight "specialized high schools" this year, even though they constitute 70 percent of the city's public school enrollment.
In fairness, it's true that these figures set off an annual "conversation" of sorts, one which lasts several days.
Some, like Harris, will darkly suggest that this is "the result that the New York City public-school admissions infrastructure seems designed to produce." Others will point the finger of blame at familiar memorized demons.
The admission test is biased, they'll say. "Test prep" makes the whole thing absurdly unfair.
Certain groups are "gaming admissions," certain pseudos will darkly suggest. At a site like Vox, we'll even be told that there are waves of "brilliant students" who don't make the cut for these schools, despite good grades and good attendance.
On that basis, we'll be able to sleep that night, reinforced in our belief that some Very Bad People Over There are responsible for the manifest unfairness described in last week's headline. Gotham is crawling with brilliant students who are being denied their due!
Why do so few black and Hispanic kids gain admission to these highly competitive high schools? We pseudos have memorized the explanations that let us enjoy the sleep of the just.
On an annual basis, we're reinforced in our favorite beliefs by the hacks at the New York Times, who state their loathing for "segregation" as they head out the door, perhaps Thursday at noon, to weekend in the Hamptons.
We pseudos will be told that the problem lies with Them, not Us. But of one thing you can be certain:
If you read the New York Times, you will never see the basic data which underlie this vast educational problem, the current version of Norman Rockwell's famous illustration, "The Problem We All Live With."
In Rockwell's famous illustration, the problem we were all living with involved overt racial hatred. In the modern context, the problem we all don't care about derives from such basic data as these—data you will never see in the New York Times:
Average scores, Grade 8 mathYou'll never see those data in the Times. Reason? The New York Times doesn't care!
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Let's make sure we understand what those data seem to mean:
The Naep is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally-run testing program which is considered to be our one reliable domestic source of public school achievement data.
Those data come from the Naep's most recent testing of eighth grade students. Regarding those data, let us say this:
Based on a standard if very rough rule of thumb, the "achievement gaps" between those four groups are very wide, indeed vast.
According to that rule of thumb, ten points on the Naep scale is roughly equivalent to one academic year. Applying that very rough rule to the Gotham data, we see that the average Asian-American eighth grader was four to five years ahead of his or her black or Hispanic counterpart in this most recent testing, after less than eight years of schooling.
The achievement gaps are extremely wide. On the brighter side, you will never see this fact discussed by Eliza Shapiro and the rest of the pseudo-liberal hacks who con you, at the expense of black kids, on the front page of the Times.
Those data show you the average scores for four different groups of kids. That said, average students don't get into Stuyvesant. Kids from these sub-groups do:
90th percentile scores, Grade 8 mathThose data show you the scores of kids who scored at the 90th percentile for those different groups. At the 90th percentile, the achievement gaps are huge. Do we start to see why so many Asian kids were offered enrollment at Gotham's most competitive "specialized high school?"
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 337.79
Black students: 299.75
Hispanic students: 309.51
Asian-American students: 355.63
We'll offer you one more set of statistics. As we do, we'll remind you that you will never see any data like these in the hackwork you get handed by the New York Times or at your favorite pseudo-lib sites:
Percentage scoring at Advanced level, Grade 8 mathThe Naep (it's called "America's report card") defines four levels of achievement: Below basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced.
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 13.2%
Black students: 0.9%
Hispanic students: 2.1%
Asian-American students: 27.3%
In Grade 8 math, a student needs to score 333 or above to be rated "Advanced." In the 2017 testing, 27.3% percent of New York City's Asian kids scored at that level.
You can see how the other groups did. Does this possibly start to explain Stuyvesant's enrollment figures?
More to the point, do these data start to define the problem we all currently live with? The problem we basically choose to ignore? The one we don't care about?
Do these data start to define the problem we currently live with? If so, it's time to assail the New York Times, because you will never see basic data like these in that upper-class newspaper.
Why won't the New York Times publish such basic data? We're forced to speculate as we answer your question:
For starters, "Data are hard!" The New York Times is a silly newspaper which tends to sidestep such matters.
Beyond that, though, these data are painful and embarrassing. The New York Times prefers to feed you on tales of "segregation" and "gaming the system" through test prep—tales that let us pseudo-liberals sleep the sleep of the moral and just while dreaming of 1955.
Concerning test prep, the New York Times won't spoil the fun by asking if test prep actually works. Having said that, let us also say this:
There are no specific "test prep" classes for the Naep. No one specifically prepares for the Naep. The Naep is just simple, straight-ahead, competent testing. It generates data like these.
We'll leave you today with a basic point before we continue tomorrow:
The basic problem confronting New York City doesn't involve enrollment at Stuyvesant High. The basic sweeping problem concerns those giant achievement gaps in Grade 8 math—achievement gaps which remove the mystery from Stuyvesant's enrollment patterns.
The achievement gaps in question were recorded during the eighth grade year. What explains the vast size of those gaps? How did those gaps get so large?
The New York Times won't tackle that question, except in its standard amazingly silly ways. The New York Times won't tackle that question because the Times will never show you those data in the first place.
Do the lives of Gotham's black kids matter? Again and again, when we read the Times, we suspect that the answer is no.
This has been true for a very long time. Eventually, we'll quote Ben Johnson in The Last Picture Show.
Tomorrow: The brilliant students of Vox
For all Naep data: For all Naep data, start here.
After that, you're on your own. You'll be traveling through a land where no journalists go.