The Times and the mayor collude: The New York City Public Schools are looking at two problems.
One is a much more limited problem. It concerns a limited number of black and Hispanic kids who don't get admitted to Stuyvesant High, the city's most "prestigious" high school.
Though limited, this problem is real. It's defined by these stunning statistics:
Admission offers to Stuyvesant High, March 2019New York City's student enrollment is roughly 70% black and Hispanic. For that reason, those statistics are jaw-dropping.
Asian-American students: 587
White students: 194
Hispanic students: 33
Black students: 7
That said, very few kids from any group will ever get to attend Stuyvesant High—and there are more than a million kids in Gotham's giant school system.
That first problem involves a limited number of kids. The second problem is much more sweeping. It's defined by these stunning statistics:
Average scores, Grade 8 mathBased upon those punishing data, and according to a standard though very rough rule of thumb, the average black kid in New York City is five years behind his Asian-American counterpart in math, by the time they're all in the eighth grade!
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
Can the achievement gap in Gotham possibly be that large? You'll never see that question discussed in the famously upper-class Times.
That's because you'll never see those basic Naep data reported in the Times. Instead, you'll see the New York Times do what we pseudo-liberals have been doing since the 1960s:
You'll see the famously upper-class Times wish those achievement gaps away—pretend they're some sort of illusion! In this way, the Times absolves itself of the task of worrying about the vast majority of New York City's black and Hispanic kids.
Upper-class pseudo-liberals have been doing this sort of thing since exactly forever. At the Times, the current tale involves test prep, as we see in this recent insane exchange on NPR's All Things Considered:
CHANG (3/19/19): So what have been the explanations for why these stark racial disparities exist at these eight elite schools?Asked to explain the shocking disparities in admission offers to eight elite high schools, Shapiro mentioned "two things"—"test prep" and test "awareness."
SHAPIRO: Yeah, so I think there's two things. The biggest issue here is test prep. We've seen the same debate with the SAT and ACT, certainly, in light of the college admissions scandal. There is a huge test prep industry in New York that prepares kids who are aware of the test to master it. So test prep is one. The other, which is related, is awareness. Some kids know about these schools from the minute they're in kindergarten. Some kids learn about the existence of the specialized high school system and the test to get into them a few months before they can sit to take the test.
She mentioned no other factors. Essentially, mistreated customers of All Things Considered were told that those yawning achievement gaps simply don't exist. This lets us go merrily on our way, assuming the only problem in New York City is the "segregation" at those eight "specialized high schools."
We liberals have been behaving this way since the 1960s. Next week, we'll touch briefly on this history, a history which is alive and well at the New York Times.
For today, let's close the week with some thoughts about "test prep." Does it really make sense to think that those Stuyvesant admission offers, and those brutal scores on the Naep, really result, in whole or in substantial part, from some such relatively trivial cause?
You'll never see that question discussed in the New York Times. Instead, you'll see propagandists like Eliza Shapiro make statements like the one shown above, as elite journalists like NPR's Ailsa Chang obligingly pretend that such statements make sense.
On March 26, Times board member Mara Gay kept making the same suggestion in her 19-minute conversation with Slate's Mary Harris, the so-called "worst conversation in all of human history." To punish yourselves, click this.
According to Harris, Asian-Americans families "scrimp and save so their kids can cram for this one exam and have seen results." Gay voiced her concern for the Asian-American parents "who have spent thousands of dollars that, frankly, I don't think they should have had to spend, helping their kid prepare for this test."
Neither Harris nor Gay tried to explain those brutal results from the Naep, for which there is no test prep industry and nothing resembling test prep. Within the world of the brilliantly moral pseudo-liberal, discussions like that aren't allowed.
Apparently, a test prep industry does exist for the SHSAT, the admission test used for Gotham's eight "specialized high schools." Apparently, some families do spend substantial amounts so their kids can engage in this prep.
That said, what percentage of Asian-American families do this? You'll never see such a report in the New York Times. Test prep simply works too well as an all-purpose explanation for a horrible state of affairs the Times doesn't want to discuss.
Nor are you likely to see a discussion of an even more basic question. Given that test prep does exist, does test prep actually work?
Does test prep actually work? If so, to what extent does it work? We can't answer your sensible questions. But on April 3, Daniel Engber penned this report for Slate, suggesting that test prep courses for the SAT have limited results.
This recent report in the Washington Post made a similar point.
More directly, consider the recent effort in New York City to make test prep for the SHSAT available to all low-income students. In this groaning editorial, the Times explained what happened, perhaps without grasping the general thrust of what it was reporting:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (3/31/19): [Use of the SHSAT] has also spawned a cottage industry in which parents—including Asian New Yorkers living in poverty—feel compelled to spend thousands of dollars on test preparation over several years to give their children a shot at one of these coveted seats. Other students have little chance to compete.According to that editorial, "other students have little chance to compete" for admission to Stuyvesant because of the way Those Asian Families shell out thousands of dollars for test prep.
To help more black and Latino students succeed on the exam, the city spent $6 million this year to offer test preparation for low-income students and increase outreach and the number of schools offering the exam. Those efforts seem to have done little good.
The editorial then reports that the city spent $6 million to offer free test prep to all low-income kids last year. This "seems to have done little good," the editorial says.
Since no one on the Times editorial board is an education specialist, we'll guess that Gay was forced to write that editorial. Whoever wrote it didn't seem to see what that passage seems to imply—that it may not be the expensive "test prep" which is driving the large "achievement gaps" within New York City's schools.
Like public schools all over the nation, New York City's public schools are facing a very large problem. It's defined by those brutal average scores from the Naep—brutal scores which suggest the existence of giant achievement gaps, a situation the New York Times doesn't want to report or discuss.
The Times prefers to weep and moan over the relative handful of kids who might end up at Yale. Those kids are important too, of course. But what about all the others?
Our nation's public schools face a very large problem. On their way out the door to a five-day weekend in the Hamptons, the poobahs at the New York Times prefer to discuss the elite.
The Times thus decides to collude with the mayor. His remarkably simple-minded recent proposal—his "seven percent solution"— concerns the needs of the top few percent, full stop.
The mayor has simply ignored all the rest. Within our self-impressed liberal tribe, this is a very old practice.
Next week: Imagining what could be done