The concerns of the top two percent: This very morning, right on its front page, the New York Times could almost be said to be at it again.
We refer to the latest front-page report by education reporter Eliza Shapiro. Inevitably, the report is built around the question of who gets to go to Stuyvesant High, the city's most elite public high school.
At the Times, few things matter except for Stuyvesant High. Shapiro's report starts like this:
SHAPIRO (4/27/19): Ronald S. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir, and Richard D. Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup, have for decades had their hands in New York City affairs. Mr. Lauder ran a failed bid for mayor and successfully led a campaign for term limits for local elected officials. Mr. Parsons has been a prominent adviser to two mayors.You could say that Shapiro, and with her the Times, is just reporting the news. You could say that the Times is simply reporting an attempt "to influence one of the city’s most intractable and divisive debates"—an attempt by two public figures who "have for decades had their hands in New York City affairs."
Now, they are teaming up to try to influence one of the city’s most intractable and divisive debates: how to address the lack of black and Hispanic students at Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and the other elite public high schools that use a test to determine admission.
In saying that, you'll want to ignore that slightly peculiar choice of words on Shapiro's part. You might also be looking past a basic question concerning what sorts of "debates" go on the front page of the Times.
In this instance, the New York Times has once again given a chunk of its front page to the question of why gets to go to the city's most elite public high schools. This involves a tiny handful of students—the most talented two percent.
The New York Times cares about kids and concerns of that type—but trust us! As we've told you before, we'll tell you again:
You'll never see the New York Times mar its front page with this:
Average scores, Grade 8 mathThose brutal data define the giant achievement gaps which exist within the New York City Public Schools. (Also, within public schools across the nation.)
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White students: 290.71
Black students: 255.63
Hispanic students: 263.56
Asian-American students: 306.03
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 data define the plight of the hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic kids who will never get a sniff of Stuyvesant High, or of its demanding curriculum. Those kids aren't part of this lofty "debate." Again and again, they simply aren't part of the world of the New York Times.
Those brutal data define the interests of the vast majority of New York City kids. It's abundantly clear that the New York Times doesn't care about those kinds of kids.
The New York Times cares about the elite. The rest of those kids can go jump in the Hudson—and sure enough! Tragicomically, Shapiro is soon writing this:
SHAPIRO: [Lauder and Parsons] are trying to make their mark on the future of the system, the nation’s largest, with 1.1 million students.A person could say that Shapiro is simply reporting the news as it exists. That assessment wouldn't exactly be "wrong."
Their effort amounts to a new challenge to Mr. de Blasio’s education agenda from people whose ideas are more reminiscent of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s vision. They are seeking to forge connections to leaders in Albany who are skeptical of the mayor’s philosophy.
They are championing a range of educational ideas that include more gifted and talented programs, more test preparation, better middle schools and more elite high schools. Mr. de Blasio’s administration, on the other hand, is skeptical of high-stakes testing and academic tracking in the school system.
Mr. de Blasio is seeking to replace the test for the eight so-called specialized schools with an approach where top performers from each middle school would be offered spots.
That said, go ahead! You're permitted to laugh out loud at what Shapiro has written.
According to Shapiro, Lauder and Parsons favor "better middle schools" in New York City! We're left to assume what's probably true—that Mayor de Blasio doesn't.
The mayor favors getting more black kids into Stuyvesant. That certainly isn't the world's worst idea, but that seems to be where this ridiculous mayor's educational vision ends.
Why do so few black kids currently get into Stuyvesant? The answer to that question starts with those achievement gaps—the giant gaps which have emerged by the end of Gotham kids' years in New York's middle schools.
Those data suggest that something isn't happening in those middle schools. (Earlier gaps in Naep data suggest the possible need for "better elementary schools" too!)
Lauder and Parsons seem to think that New York City should try to improve the middle schools from which those data emerge. Do Lauder and Parson have any idea how to accomplish that task?
We'd be surprised if they did. But here's the choice the reader is offered on the front page of the Times:
Lauder and Parsons want to improve Gotham's middle schools. There's no obvious sign that they know how to do that, and it seems that the mayor doesn't share this goal.
That's the way this clownish discussion goes down in the Times. The dumbness of this clownish discussion emerges from a basic fact:
The New York Times refuses to publish or discuss the data which define those crushing achievement gaps. Last month, Shapiro even went on NPR's All Things Considered and seemed to say that the gaps don't really exist—that they're just an artifact of "test prep," full and complete total stop.
Truly, you can't get dumber than that. But that's what Shapiro said.
The New York Times deeply cares about who gets into Stuyvesant. After all, such kids may later get into Yale and go on to get invited to high-end cocktail parties.
By way of contrast, the Times refuses to discuss the basic facts about the vast majority of Gotham kids. At the Times, that extremely wide range of good decent kids can just go live in the park.
Those brutal data define "the problem we all [uncaringly] live with." But at the Hamptons-based Times, the front page belongs to one central question:
Who will get sent to Stuyvesant High, and perhaps move on to Yale?
Another flight of fancy: Let's consider a different part of Shapiro's nugget presentation:
SHAPIRO: [Lauder and Parsons] are championing a range of educational ideas that include more gifted and talented programs, more test preparation, better middle schools and more elite high schools. Mr. de Blasio’s administration, on the other hand, is skeptical of high-stakes testing and academic tracking in the school system.The mayor "is skeptical of academic tracking!" With that in mind, consider one additional set of data from the Naep:
Scores by percentile, Grade 8 mathFor all Naep data, start here.
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
90th percentile: 329.72
75th percentile: 303.23
50th percentile: 272.76
25th percentile: 245.27
10th percentile: 222.66
In the most recent Naep testing, ten percent of Gotham's kids scored above 329.76 on the Grade 8 math test. Ten percent of Gotham's kids scored below 222.66.
Based on standard rules of thumb, the gap between those two groups of kids is several light-years past enormous. But so what? Gotham's extremely peculiar mayor thinks those kids should all be taking the same Grade 8 and Grade 9 math!
Here too, Shapiro's childish report is operating "on first grade level." This dumbness persists because the upper-class New York Times refuses to report, analyze or discuss the most basic educational data.
You currently live in a very dumb world. The dumbness starts at the New York Times, where only the talented two percent even seem to exist.