DO BLACK KIDS (ACTUALLY) MATTER: The brilliant students of tribal lore!


At Vox, does anyone care?:
"How did things ever get so far?"

We believe Marlon Brando said that. He was delivering a scripted line from a little-known film, The Godfather.

Brando's question might also be asked about the remarkable state of affairs which seems to obtain in the New York City Public Schools. Yesterday, we showed you the relevant data, which are constantly disappeared:
Average scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
How did things ever get so far? As we look at data like these, we're forced to say that Brando was asking a very good question.

Those data define a vast problem. According to a standard, though very rough, rule of thumb, those data say that the average black kid in Gotham is five years behind his or her Asian-American counterpart in math, just by the time of eighth grade.

If true, that should be a gigantic concern. Almost surely, this explains why data like these are constantly disappeared.

Those data concern average scores by the kids in four different groups. That said, average achievers aren't the kids who get admitted to Stuyvesant High, the source of so much pseudo-liberal hand-wringing last week.

By long-standing design, spots at Stuyvesant go to Gotham's highest achievers. With regard to Gotham's highest achievers, the relevant data say this:
90th percentile scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

White students: 337.79
Black students: 299.75
Hispanic students: 309.51
Asian-American students: 355.63
Those are ugly, horrible data. Luckily, you'll never see them in the New York Times, an upper-class, Hamptons-based newspaper where it seems that nobody cares a whole lot about the lives, and the interests, of Gotham's black kids..

Those data are drawn from the most recent administration of the Naep, the widely-described "gold standard" of domestic educational testing.

There's no such thing as specialized "test prep" for the Naep; it's just plain straight-ahead testing. Nobody preps for the Naep. For the individual kids who get tested, it's a "no-stakes" test.

Meanwhile, can that very rough rule of thumb possibly be correct? Can it really be true that, at the 90th percentile, Asian eighth-graders in New York are more than five years ahead of their black counterparts?

Should such a rough assessment be believed? Measures like that tend to lose meaning when such large statistical gaps are involved. That said, you'll never see that issue discussed in the New York Times, which joins an array of pseudo-liberal news orgs in selling silly tribal dreams to vastly misled subscribers.

Tomorrow, we'll show you how dumb it can get when the Times sells you those dreams. For today, let's consider "the brilliant students of Vox"—the high-achievers the Ezra Klein rag sold to its readers last week.

Within the pseudo-liberal world, everyone knew what stories to tell when admission offers to Stuyvesant High were accounced last week. As usual, we liberals were told it was all "test prep," with a bit of test bias thrown in.

Kevin Drum objected to the latter idea.
Tomorrow, we'll show you what Drum said about that, and we'll examine some of the clueless comments left by a range of his liberal readers.

For today, let's consider the way we liberals manage to get so misinformed. Let's consider the brilliant students of Vox, the ones to whom we were introduced in this presumably well-intentioned report.

The report was written by Jose Vilson, an experienced middle school math teacher in Manhattan. Vilson didn't mention the brutal data we've shown you. Instead, he started like this:
VILSON (3/22/19): When news broke this week that only seven black students were accepted into New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, an elite public school that supposedly only takes the most advanced students in the city, I wasn’t surprised. In my 14-year career as a middle school math teacher in Manhattan with majority black or Latinx students, I’ve had thousands of kids who were rejected from magnet public schools like Stuyvesant. It breaks my heart every time.


I’ve had to console far too many brilliant students who didn’t get chosen for the high school they wanted to go to. They checked off all the proverbial boxes: great attendance, high grades, strong work ethic, and had positive relationships with adults and peers. They studied hard for the Specialized High School Admission Test—an assessment given to eighth or ninth graders for entry into eight of the elite magnet public schools in New York City—for months. Because a student’s score on that test is the only criterion for high school admissions, the stressful three hours spent taking this exam could determine a student’s future.

As a teacher, I try to assure my students that they will be fine regardless of which school they attend. But I often wonder if we educators are doing a disservice—and perpetuating the lie of meritocracy—by continuing to tell kids that if they work hard and excel then they can get what they want in life.
For starters, who would tell eighth-graders something like that? Who would tell a bunch of eighth-graders that if they work hard and excel, "they can get what they want in life?"

What if they work hard and "excel" but a lot of other kids work hard and excel even more? Already, this essay was making little sense, except on an emotional level.

That said, if Vox readers got all the way to Vilson's third paragraph, they read about the "many brilliant students" who don't get admitted to Stuyvesant High each year. Eventually, the conspiratorial strain would come in, with these readers being told that "none of this is by accident."

As he continued, Vilson noted the remarkable fact that black kids received only 3 percent of admission offers last week to Gotham's eight "specialized high schools." Why are black kids so under-represented? Under a heading about "segregation," Vilson fingered the usual scapegoats:
VILSON: None of this is by accident. Some forty years after Stuyvesant High School opened, New York State passed the Calandra-Hecht Act in 1971 which stated that “admissions to [these specialized high schools] shall be solely and exclusively by taking a competitive, objective and scholastic achievement examination.” The bill was passed to preempt city investigations as to whether these institutions were racially discriminatory.


The Specialized High School Admission Test, much like the IQ tests of yore and the SAT or ACT of the present, has been gamed since its inception. Everything from expensive test prep centers concentrated in specific neighborhoods to private tutors who spend hours with students across the city helps exacerbate admissions, and with it racial disparity.

Any number of initiatives may provide free resources for students to improve their scores. But the history of schooling suggests this will only push the already privileged to seek more advantages. Even if we buy the premise that the test is a valid assessment, which it isn’t, we already see how the multimillion dollar test prep industry makes the prospect of taking this test daunting for black and brown children in our city.
The admission test isn't a valid assessment! Beyond that, the test has been gamed!

"Expensive test prep centers" have helped drive "racial disparity," thus helping "the already privileged." The reliance on an admission test, rather than on a (vastly subjective) measure like grades, has been "tacitly keeping these schools out of reach for under-resourced students."

To some extent, each of these claims may have some limited merit. That said, "expensive test prep centers" don't exist for the Naep, and Vox didn't ask Vilson to tell its readers what Naep data seem to show.

Nor was Vilson asked to say that the Asian kids who dominate enrollment at Stuyvesant come from the least economically privileged demographic group in Gotham. This fact has been widely noted, but it tends to disappear when sites like Vox peddle our tribe's favorite tales.

All is fair in love and war—and in dumbing us liberals down while ignoring the interests of black kids! Vox editors were even prepared to publish this in the never-ending drive to keep our tribe's piddle alive:
VILSON: These days, standardized tests don’t just create inequitable conditions for schools; they also bolster arguments of those who already preferred to consolidate education to the privileged few. In historian Horace Mann Bond’s 1924 paper “Intelligence Tests and Propaganda,” Bond brings this point home: “[T]o claim that the results of the tests given to such diverse groups, drawn from such varying strata of the social complex, are in any wise accurate, is to expose a fatuous sense of unfairness and lack of appreciation of the great environmental factors of modern urban life.”
Yes, you read that correctly. In that ridiculous passage, Vilson claims that Gotham's Specialized High Schools Admission Test is designed to serve the interests of "the privileged few" based upon a real-time assessment of IQ tests as they existed in 1924!

At Vox, some editor put that in print. There's truly no limit to what we'll do to keep preferred scripts alive.

In the process, we refuse to discuss the lives and interests of black kids. We refuse to report, let alone discuss or assess, these data from the Naep.

We started our review with a striking claim by Vilson. He claimed that "many brilliant students" are being kept out of schools like Stuyvesant under current arrangements.

Late in his piece, he returns to this pleasing claim. It's a type of claim our tribe has been making since the 1960s:
VILSON: Especially tragic is that so much of this debate ignores the brilliance that I get to witness on a daily basis from my students of color. I’ve seen the ways my students master scientific notation and systems of equations better than I could at their age. I hear them debate each other—often in vociferous ways—on whether a set of relations determines a function. I, and so many of their teachers, believe in their present and future.
Does Vilson witness brilliance every day from various students of color? We have no way of assessing that claim.

That said, we showed you the relevant data from the Naep. Edited down a tad, those data look like this:
90th percentile scores, Grade 8 math
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep

Black students: 299.75
Asian-American students: 355.63
Stuyvesant is currently full of high-achieving Asian-American kids. Does that fact remain a mystery after you've see those data?

Those brutal data from the Naep define "the problem we all [currently] live with." They also define a second problem:

They define the sweeping problem the people at Vox won't tell you about.

They define the sweeping problem you'll never read about in the Times, which uses Naep data for everything else, but won't report data like those.

According to our most reliable data, Gotham's highest performing black kids are many years behind their Asian and white counterparts by the time of eighth grade. That is the sweeping problem confronting New York City and the nation, not the much more limited, upper-end question of who gets into Stuyvesant.

Vox readers were told a pleasing old story last week. They were told that Vilson teaches brilliant black and Hispanic students every day of the week.

That may be true, of course; it all depends on what the meaning of "brilliant" is! But our most reliable data suggest that, as a general rule, their low-income Asian-American counterparts are outperforming them in the classroom by a very wide margin indeed.

Enter the role of disinformation! As liberals, we're kept from hearing such things at our favorite pseudo-lib sites. You will never hear such things at the New York Times.

As such, you'll never hear about a very large societal problem—the problem we're all ignoring.

Does editor-at-large Ezra Klein give a fig about the interests of black kids? Reading the pleasing piddle at Vox, we sometimes feel inclined to say that the answer might tilt towards no.

Tomorrow: Mara Gay hits rock bottom


  1. "Gotham's highest performing black kids are many years behind their Asian and white counterparts by the time of eighth grade. That is the sweeping problem"

    Why is it a problem? Is it a problem because those data show a difference in the performance of different ethnic groups? Is it a problem because we break it down by ethnic groups? Is it a problem because we have a system of "grades" and expectations that all groups should demonstrate the same aptitudes at the same ages, or at all?

    1. It points to the systemic racism of the USA. That's only a "problem", if you're in denial.

    2. I'd say, the problem is that they break it down by ethnic groups.

      And while doing it, they're actually forcing children into these categories, liberal 'identities'.

      You know, in France it's forbidden, by law, to classify people by 'race'/ethnicity. And in the US it's virtually the only thing liberals do.

    3. Exactly right, Mao.

    4. Mao no one forces you to suck your mother's cock every night yet still you do it, faggot scumbag.

  2. Drum says this:
    “Over the past several decades, the organizations that create these tests have gone to considerable lengths to address racial bias”

    ...without citing any proof. This statement may well be true, but it isn’t true simply because Drum or Somerby say it.

    Then Somerby cites data he extracted from the NAEP database to refute an article which discusses New York City’s SHSAT. The two tests aren’t related.

    And it is a bit ill-advised for a non-statistician like Somerby to use statistics to try to make some point that may not be warranted. There may be a connection between NAEP scores and the SHSAT, but it may not be determinative.

    It’s also never been clear what Somerby thinks the implications of the achievement gaps are. Would he agree that they imply that “much of the fault lies with our schools”, as Drum says? That seems a logical stretch, given what researchers know about the gaps.

    Also, if you look at the NAEP long term trends, the average scores for all racial groups have increased over the past 40 years, and, interestingly, the achievement gaps have diminished over that time frame as well.

  3. Greater levels of vitriol do not enhance the persuasiveness or plausibility of the argument, Bob.

    In fact, the opposite is true.

  4. If black kids are not achieving, why is it the fault of the schools? This doesn't seem to be a problem with white or Asian students. Could it be that the environment provided to the by their alleged families does not lend itself to getting the most from the school system? Oh, that's right we are not allowed to discuss the culture that many minorities are brought up in.

    1. "families"?
      Do you mean the parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet financially, because business has been stiffing labor since the 1970s?

      It's much more likely, the environment provided by their alleged government does not lend itself to learning.
      Tough break for those kids having to live in a country where Right-wingers have governmental power.

    2. This is the reason throwing money at education isn't the answer. Small religious or other privates schools perform better than public schools by a long shot, and spend a fraction of what public schools spend per pupil. The variable is the families. You're not allowed to say that because leftists detest "family" because it implies a married male and female mother and father raising their kids. The most powerful and effective social program that exists.

    3. This leftist thinks at least one parent should be able to stay home to care for the family, if the other works.
      How come the right is ok with businesses stiffing labor?

    4. 1:46,
      Don't be such a lazy bastard. Call your Congressperson, and demand passage of a $25 minimum hourly wage, champ.

  5. I am as shocked as Bob is at the media. How can they ignore a 5-year difference in ability and instead attribute the difference to racism? Furthermore, this dreadful reporting hurts blacks in two ways.

    1. It generates an unjustified sense of resentment.
    2. It encourages the wrong solution to this problem and discourages proper solutions.

    But, liberal media will pay themselves on the back of ignoring the nub of the problem.

    1. We all know structural racism ended May 17, 1954.

      Racism itself ceased to exist as a force in our politics at some slightly later date. I’m going to say...August 3, 1980, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, when Reagan just wiped it out of our politics.

  6. “Does Vilson witness brilliance every day from various students of color? We have no way of assessing that claim.”

    What did Somerby witness when he was a teacher in Baltimore? Nothing? Anything? Or was he too busy dreaming of a glamorous career in comedy to give a damn? This incessant faux outrage from Somerby is a tired shtick. Is Vilson supposed to be a “pseudo” because his essay is in Vox? Vilson never identifies his political beliefs. Is Somerby taking a dump on Vilson, implying he is perhaps insincere, or lying, because Somerby has no way of “assessing his claims?”

    Do the “lives and interests” of black kids include frustrations about not being able to go to a fancy high school? Do the lives and interests of black adults, who were once those black kids, matter to Somerby? Specifically, their life experiences and their opinions?

    Somerby’s tiresome “I’m a real liberal and you’re not” gets really old. What did he say to *his* black students? “I notice you’re black, and your test scores aren’t too good. That is in line with the average for your race, so don’t fret. Also, don’t set your sights too high. You can take lower-paying more menial jobs. That is baked in because of something called “achievement gaps.” Let me show you some data...”

  7. Racism and bigotry can work to improve academic results. In my case, working in a traditionally antisemitic industry, I felt I needed to perform particularly well on the actuarial exams. Jews and Asians, on average, outperform whites academically. Perhaps they're motivated by being discriminated against, just as I was.

    I recall a biography of Arthur Ashe. An early coach instructed him and other black tennis players to call their opponents' balls in, even if they were an inch or two out. Of course this was terribly unfair, but perhaps it motivated the players to try extra hard. In any event, this unfairness didn't prevent Ashe from becoming a great champion.

    In summary, I don't think it's right to blame black and Hispanic academic results on bigotry.

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