Thoroughly apt response to New York Times' clueless post: Back in March, New York City's eight "specialized" high schools sent out their annual admission offers.
Demographically, this year's admission offers were almost exactly the same as they've been in recent years. Here's something else that's true:
On the most obvious, straightforward level, everyone knows why the bulk of these admission offers go to Asian-American and white kids, with black and Hispanic kids receiving far fewer offers.
Sadly enough, this year's numbers weren't surprising at all—and the basic reason for the numbers is completely obvious. But over at the New York Times, the reporting team of Eliza Shapiro and Dodai Stewart (Shapiro's editor) were completely gobsmacked when the data appeared.
Sad! In this "Times Insider" report, Shapiro said that when she and Stewart saw the (fully predictable) numbers, "our jaws dropped." Excitedly, Shapiro then turned to a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" forum to broadcast her amazement and incomprehension.
Shapiro seemed to lack the first clue. This is what she wrote:
SHAPIRO (3/22/19): I’m Eliza Shapiro, an education reporter for the New York Times who reported Monday that only 7 black students were admitted to the next class of New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, one of the most prestigious public schools in the nation. AMA.Later, Shapiro thanked her Reddit readers "for all the great questions."
How is it possible that out of 5,500 black students who took the high-stakes test to gain entry into New York’s eight elite public high schools, only 190 black students got in? And only 7 of those students got into Stuyvesant, the most prestigious of the schools, which offered admission to 895 students?
Though the number of black and Hispanic students in the schools has been dwindling for decades, this year’s admissions statistics are especially important: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed a plan to scrap the specialized high school entrance exam altogether. But he has faced a huge backlash: some alumni of the schools say a system that admits top performers from each city middle school would water down the schools’ academics. And some Asian-American families say they feel the mayor is discriminating against them, under his proposal, the population of Asian students would drop by roughly half at the schools. Stuyvesant is currently 74 percent Asian-American.
This has become one of the biggest fights in New York politics, and has raised the stakes of the debate about affirmative action and the college admissions scandal.
You can read the story here.
At the risk of being unkind, we'll once again state the obvious. On the most straightforward level, everyone knows "how it's possible"—how it's possible "that out of 5,500 black students who took the high-stakes test...only 190 black students got in."
Everyone knows how that's possible—everyone but the eager young scribe the Times has assigned to this topic.
As stated, of course, Shapiro's comment doesn't exactly make sense. In her Reddit post, she failed to compare the percentage of black (and Hispanic) kids who gained admission to these schools with the percentage of such kids in the New York City system as a whole.
That said, Reddit readers seemed to understand that black and Hispanic kids are vastly underrepresented at these eight "elite" schools. The part of this that's hard to fathom is Shapiro's apparent failure to understand why this undesirable situation comes to pass each year.
It's hard to be more clueless than Shapiro seemed to be this day. What explains the gross imbalance in annual admissions to membership among the elite?
We've answered that question again and again. Which part of "brutal achievement gaps" doesn't the Times understand?
Average scores, Grade 8 mathBy a common though very rough rule of thumb, ten points on the Naep scale is often said to be roughly equivalent to one academic year. There is no "test prep" for the Naep, and achievement gaps like these appear on a national basis, not just in New York City.
New York City Public Schools, 2017 Naep
White kids: 290.71
Black kids: 255.63
Hispanic kids: 263.56
Asian-American kids: 306.03
Once these basic facts are in place, how hard is it to understand the answer to Shapiro's question?
That said, whatever! As usual, the highly-connected though rather young scribe seemed to lack the first freaking clue about the enrollment patterns at those eight "elite" schools. Meanwhile, she was being assisted by a newly-hired editor who had no apparent background in education reporting, and who had recently answered a profile question like this:
INTERVIEWER (9/17): What is your favorite thing right now?There's a whole lot more where that came from. That idea that this person was given this crucial assignment by the Times makes our low-income kid-lovin' blood boil every single time.
FUTURE NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR: I love tarot and fortune telling, and just got these Art Oracle cards—you draw one and get some life/work/inspiration advice. Tonight I really wanted to draw a Warhol, a Koons, a Basquiat or an O'Keefe but instead I pulled a William Blake: “Hell is hypocrisy on earth. Vision requires not sight but spirit. Madness in life, genius in death.” Thanks? I suspect soon my favorite thing will be Rihanna’s new Fenty Beauty line, which drops later tonight.
At any rate, those were a few of the future education editor's favorite things. Having a clue about public schools didn't appear on the list.
Except to the extent that it may be feigned, the cluelessness of Shapiro and Stewart ranks as a public disgrace. For what it's worth, the cluelessness isn't restricted to Shapiro's apparent incomprehension concerning the basic, straightforward explanation for the enrollment patterns at those "elite" high schools—the only high schools the New York Times seems able to care about.
In her Reddit post—as in all her Times reporting—Shapiro was also rich in incomprehension about the mayor's proposal for those eight elite schools, a proposal which is astoundingly ham-handed, bizarre and unwise. (More on that to come.)
For today, we'll only direct you to this. After Shapiro posted her ask, she was greeted, very quickly, with a very apt reply.
Shapiro wanted to know "how it's possible" that so few black and Hispanic kids gain admission to Stuyvesant High each year. That would be an excellent question, if the answer wasn't already so clear.
At any rate, she e quickly got a straightforward reply from someone less clueless than she. Her respondent wondered about all Gotham's schools and all Gotham's kids, not just the handful of kids admitted to the elite eight.
Here's what the respondent said:
MR. ZIP: Why is there so little outrage at the quality of elementary and middle schools until the stark results of the poor education are laid out in sharp relief in the form of specialized high school results? The demographic makeup of specialized high schools is a SYMPTOM of the root issue, not the actual issue that needs to be addressed."What am I missing?" this commenter asked. We'd be inclined to say, "Not much."
It seems like cheap politics to allow the mayor/chancellor to claim a diversity victory despite not fixing the actual lack of good education for most black/hispanic students in NYC. What am I missing?
In truth, we'd be inclined to challenge this commenter on some basic points. He's asking a very good question about how those brutal achievement gaps come to be so large and so daunting, but it isn't as simple as simply suggesting that the schools screwed things up in third grade.
That said, this respondent's basic point of view is entirely apt.
Despite his humble status as a mere Reddit respondent, the commenter understood that there's more to the New York City Public Schools than a tiny number of "elite" schools serving The Gotham One [Percent].
He seemed to know that the vast majority of Gotham's kids will never go to Stuyvesant High or to the other seven. Incredibly, he seemed to think that the lives and interests of the 99 percent count as much as those of The Gotham One! The basic type of understanding cannot be found at the Times.
Shapiro's respondent wanted to know how it is that black and Hispanic kids, on average, get so far "behind." He seemed to think that their lives and interests matter too, not just those of people like Shapiro and Stewart. (Each bears an Ivy pedigree, with a stint at Dalton thrown in.)
The respondent even seemed to see the dumbness, and the possible ugliness, of the mayor's proposal, in which huge numbers of high-performing Asian kids would be denied admission to these highly academic schools so that other kids—kids who would often be much lower-performing—could take their places instead. Now for an obvious question:
If de Blasio feels there are lots of kids who can handle the Stuyvesant curriculum, who doesn't he create additional seats, perhaps opening a Stuyvesant Two? Shapiro never raises this blindingly obvious question.
The Times is sunk in "performative desegregation virtue" pretty much all the way down. The only thing that seems to matter is kicking out one group of kids in the course of admitting another.
We have a visitor today and tomorrow—an old friend from high school! With that in mind, we may not post again until Saturday. For today, we thought it was worth comparing Shapiro's apparently clueless post with that respondent's instant reply.
"Where's the outrage?" the respondent asked. Amazingly, he seemed to think that all Gotham's kids should count!
For ourselves, we're not sure we've ever seen journalism as bad as the work that's being churned by Shapiro and Stewart in the Times' "desegregation" crusade. Nor have we ever seen black and Hispanic kids thrown so completely under the bus—not counting the one percent!
That commenter was asking a very good question. He wondered why Shapiro doesn't seem to care about the 99 percent—doesn't seem to wonder how they got to be on the short end of those brutal achievement gaps in the first place. Of course, that's a major American question—a question which is being ignored all over the country.
Does the New York Times care about the black and Hispanic kids who won't be going to Stuyvesant High? That question occurs to us every time we read Shapiro's work.
We ask it about the New York Times, not about the paper's young scribe and her fortune-teller editor. Can the newspaper focus on all the kids, or just on The Gotham One?
Still coming: Much more to come, though likely not tomorrow