...the data may diverge from the tale: Darn those voluminous math and reading scores from the Naep!
In this era of "resegregation," it can be hard to maintain preferred tribal tales in the face of those darn test scores!
Within our hapless modern press culture, elementary data and basic facts really aren't "stubborn things." Quite routinely, elite journalists prefer to tell tribally pleasing tales.
This is especially true when the New York Times reports on public schools.
Nothing will change the preferred story lines; our brains aren't wired for such work, especially on elite levels. But as we showed you yesterday, actual data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) complicate a preferred story line:
Over the past several decades, CMS has become "the most segregated school district in North Carolina," or so we were told in a lengthy report in Sunday's New York Times. Depending on how you measure such things, that assessment may even be accurate.
That said, wouldn't you know it? According to data from the so-called Main Naep, Charlotte-Mecklenburg's score gains in grade 8 math have gone through the roof in the past fourteen years, for black and white kids alike! It's "the most segregated school system" in the whole state—but its score gains have come thick and fast!
How awkward are those actual facts—the actual facts which went unmentioned and undiscussed in Sunday's New York Times? In yesterday's report, we showed you the score gains which have occurred since Charlotte-Mecklenburg began taking part in the Naep's Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in 2003.
The systems's score gains in grade 8 math have gone through the roof. For an additional framework, here's how lower-income black kids scored in grade 8 math on the last administration of the Naep, with CMS ruling the world:
Average scores, lower-income black kidsFor all Main Naep data, start here.
Grade 8 math, Naep, 2017
Public schools nationwide: 255.02
Public schools statewide (North Carolina): 252.84
Los Angeles: 243.15
New York City: 253.10
San Diego: 255.53
Applying a standard though very rough rule of thumb, lower-income black kids in CMS outperformed their peers statewide by roughly one academic year.
They also outperformed their peers nationwide, and in every other urban system which takes part in the TUDA. (It's part of the Main Naep.) Among the big urban systems which were tested, only Houston, and maybe Boston, really came all that close.
That said, uh-oh! As CMS was "resegregating," performance substantially grew! Compared to other North Carolina systems, black kids in CMS showed tremendous score gains in grade 8 math, even as their system allegedly became the most "segregated" in the entire state.
This complicates the pleasing tale we were fed in Sunday's Times. In a lengthy report by Nikole Hannah-Jones, we were basically told, without quite being told, that this sort of thing can't/doesn't happen.
In our view, it's better when kids get to go to school with kids of other "races" and ethnicities. If we could bus in kids from Tibet, we'd support that approach.
That said, our liberal academics and journalists often substitute fairy tales for data and basic facts.
All too often, they seem to love their tribal tales more than the truth itself. Because they want their tales to stand, they may throw basic facts under the bus, with the interests of black kids to follow.
Let's be thorough! Charlotte-Mecklenburg hasn't recorded similar gains in the area of grade 8 reading. We'll look at those data tomorrow.
That said, it's amazing to see a major journalist go out of her way to cite CMS as a prime example of a familiar, pleasing tale—a familiar tribal tale which isn't gigantically accurate.
To offer a larger perspective, let's outline the story Hannah-Jones told about overall national progress in the years since the Brown decision outlawed dual school systems. Tomorrow, we'll compare the picture she drew to the actual national data.
Below, we reproduce two paragraphs from Sunday's Times report. We think they define a familiar story, one we were basically told in Sunday's Times without quite being told:
HANNAH-JONES (7/14/19): For years, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, where the community decided to make busing work, were some of the most integrated in the country, and both black and white students saw achievement gains. The district was forced to return to neighborhood schools after a white family brought down the desegregation order, and Charlotte is now the most segregated district in North Carolina. We should question why in the narrative of busing we remember Boston but not Charlotte.Hannah-Jones makes the following claims. In the process, other impressions may be conveyed—impressions which may be inaccurate:
We now know that school desegregation significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children—cutting it in half for some black age groups without harming white children. No other reform has reduced the gap on this scale. Rather, the opposite is true: The test-score gap between black and white students reached its narrowest point ever at the peak of desegregation and has widened as schools have resegregated.
Five basic claims:Quickly, let's run through those claims. After that, we'll identify the important fact which didn't bark.
1) School desegregation significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children.
2) The gap was cut in half for some age groups.
3) This was done without harming white children.
4) The test score gap has widened as schools have resegregated.
5) When Charlotte-Mecklenburg was forced to integrate, "both black and white students saw achievement gains."
In our view, the first of those five statements clearly seems to be accurate.
Based on the Naep data to which Hannah-Jones links, the achievement gap was indeed "significantly reduced" during roughly the first two decades of testing, starting in 1971. (Hannah-Jones describes 1988 as the point where "desegregation had peaked.")
(Warning: the large changes which occurred in this era would have been concentrated in the South. They would perhaps have reflected a one-time-only gain as southern systems were forced to abandon their horrendous "blacks only" schools and procedures.)
The second statement is also true, though we note the key word "some."
Within the "Long Term Trend" Naep data to which Hannah-Jones links, the gap wasn't cut in half, or anything like it, for 9-year-old students—not in reading, not in math. It was cut in half for 13-year-old students, though only if we assume that the "best" year of testing represents an "accurate" statistical representation.
Was this achieved "without harming white children?" White test scores stayed largely the same during this period. There's no way to know what would have happened if integration hadn't been forced on the South during this era. Nor does this matter, of course.
So far, Hannah-Jones' portrait is largely accurate. But when we reach statements 4 and 5, accuracy may start to suffer.
Is it true that "the test score gap has widened as schools have resegregated?" We'd score that as significantly misleading at best, possibly as flatly false. We'll show you data tomorrow.
With that, it's on to Charlotte! Is it true that "both black and white students saw achievement gains" in CMS during the era of busing?
There are no data which address that question at the link Hannah-Jones provides. At this point, Hannah-Jones has started to tell us a pleasing story without providing any actual facts.
She also declined to tell us this:
In CMS, "both black and white students" have made large gains in grade 8 math during the era she describes as "resegregation." But then, that's also true on a national basis.
This brings us to a major fact which almost never barks:
Over the past twenty-five years, black, white and Hispanic students have all recorded very large gains in math on the Naep, accompanied by fairly large gains in reading.
Those gains have been recorded during the era of "resegregation." In one very basic sense, that should be seen as good news.
Guess what! There is no way that our big urban systems will ever produce "integration" drawn from the era of Leave It To Beaver. Sadly, though, it's from that thoroughly bygone era that people at the New York Times seem to fashion their unhelpful dreams.
Moving forward, our big urban systems will continue to be heavily "segregated." Urban population patterns make that abundantly clear.
We can't "integrate" our way out of our current achievement levels or out of our current achievement gaps! But so what? In destructive service to a simple-minded dream, Hannah-Jones failed to mention the substantial test score gains the public should, at long last, be told about—the substantial score gains which could prove to be our salvation.
How did Charlotte-Mecklenburg produce those score gains in grade 8 math over that 14-year span? Why are its lower-income black kids outperforming their peers nationwide?
A decent person would wonder about the answer to such questions. But at the Hamptons-based New York Times, the very fact of those scores and those score gains must be disappeared!
As we've noted for years, this is a long-standing, amazingly uniform journalistic practice. You're allowed to hear about the gaps, but you can't be told about the gains! In such ways, basic facts keep getting disappeared in service to preferred tribal tales.
The public isn't allowed to know about the score gains which have occurred. In this way, the interests of black and Hispanic kids keep getting thrown under the court-ordered buses which aren't going to reappear.
Tomorrow: Some actual national data