Jordan gets it right (The Long): On a remarkably regular basis, the New York Times produces the worst education reporting found on the face of the earth.
According to the paper's well-bred reporters, the nation's giant achievement gaps are all the result of test prep! And not only that:
If we could only "desegregate" Gotham's schools, the children would all be well above average! Just like in Lake Wobegon!
Such heinous work is built around the need for performative virtue. After such fantastical demonstrations, it's off to the Hamptons for a weekend of play among the finer set!
So it goes, year after year, in the New York Times. Imagine, then, our surprise when we read Miriam Jordan's superlative profile of the Lake Worth, Florida public schools on the front page of yesterday's National section.
Jordan is a "national immigration reporter" for the Times. She came to the paper in May 2017 after years of experience covering immigration issues for the Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday, Jordan's report described the "challenges" public school systems may face when confronted with waves of immigrant kids. The report was deeply human and deeply humane, and intelligent to boot.
Jordan began as shown below. We include the hard-copy headlines:
JORDAN (7/10/19): Engulfed by Migrant Children, and Straining to Teach Them/Dayvin Mungia is seven years old. A photograph of the beautiful child provides the famous thousand words. He sits with Sakellarios, his second-grade teacher, as she gently prods him.
School districts across the country take on language barriers, illiteracy and traumas to educate newcomers.
LAKE WORTH, Fla.—Dayvin Mungia, 7, arrived from El Salvador at South Grade Elementary in South Florida last year with, it seemed, no schooling at all. “He didn’t even recognize the first letter of his name,” said Nicol Sakellarios, his second-grade teacher, as the smiling boy gamely stumbled through his ABC’s in summer school not long ago. “Good job, my love,” she said, prodding him on as he faltered again and again.
Jordan focuses on Lake Worth, a long-time haven for immigrants from Guatemala. According to Jordan, "spiraling violence and an unforgiving drought that has driven subsistence farmers off their land back home has caused a surge in departures [from Guatemala] in the last two years."
That recent surge in new arrivals has produced challenges within the Lake Worth schools. For starters, consider this:
JORDAN: Last year, the Palm Beach County school district enrolled 4,555 Guatemalan students in K through 12, nearly 50 percent more than two years earlier. Many of the students come from the country’s remote highlands and speak neither Spanish nor English. The number of elementary school students in K through 5 more than doubled to 2,119 in that same period.Dayvin Mungia, age 7, is one of the students in question. That said, the challenges facing Lake Worth's public schools extend beyond issues of language.
Critics say immigrant students could do better if the district provided more support, including hiring more interpreters. But district officials say it has been tough to hire speakers of Mayan languages, such as Q’anjob’al and Mam, whose educational qualifications fulfill state requirements. Currently, only four interpreters make the rounds of the entire district.
Trauma poses challenges too. In this passage, Jordan describes a situation at Munger Mountain Elementary, way off in the mountain west:
JORDAN: Nearly half of the books at the library in the Munger Mountain Elementary school in Jackson, Wyo., are in Spanish, where the immigrant population has ballooned in recent years. The school has recently begun offering all instruction in both English and SpanishHe feared his grandmother would be killed! Traumatizations of that type offer challenges too. Later, Jordan returned to Lake Worth to describe a similar situation:
Scott Eastman, the principal, said that students do not just arrive with learning deficiencies. One child had been separated from his family, and was so traumatized he didn’t speak for weeks. “He constantly cried, worrying that his grandmother was going to be killed back in El Salvador and that he would never see his parents again,” Mr. Eastman said.
JORDAN: “The constant state of anxiety creates toxic stress for every member of the family,” said Amanda Escobar, who leads the team of early-learning specialists from the Guatemalan-Maya Center. “The kids don’t feel safe and secure.”Jakelin Raquek is only 4! Before she saw her father arrested, she'd been making steady progress.
Jakelin Raquek, 4, was making steady progress in her pre-K class until her father was arrested by immigration agents in front of her, and later deported. “She was getting sassy in English,” said her teacher, Magda Arguelles. After the episode, she said, the little girl fell apart. “We were never able to get her back into learning mode.”
These are among the realities which exist in American schools. Back to Lake Worth, more specifically to South Grade Elementary:
According to Jordan's report, a quarter of the children enrolled at the school in third grade last year "were newcomers. Only 11 percent of kindergartners were assessed as 'kindergarten ready' when they started school.
"Dayvin Mungia, the second grader who had never attended school, was one of several students who were taught numbers and letters on the side by his teacher when the rest of the class was engaged in other activities," Jordan wrote.
Technically, those are educational issues. According to Jordan's report, South Grade Elementary is working with emotional issues too:
"Some fourth and fifth graders have been suicidal and depressed, school officials say." These are among the important realities found in our public schools.
We were startled to encounter the real world of actual public schools in yesterday's New York Times. Much more often, the paper constructs a phantasmagoric twilight zone when it lets its overprivileged "education reporters" wax about the imagined state of their imagined public school worlds.
New York Times public school reporting is routinely fantasy-based. Jordan's piece was not. It was intelligent and deeply humane.
Jordan described the types of challenges which exist in the nation's public schools, even in New York City. The specific challenges she was describing involve the lives of immigrant kids, but other challenges involve the native born.
And no, it isn't all test prep, the lunatic claim the toffs at the Times keep handing to their gullible readers. Based upon data from all across the nation, it's barely test prep at all.
One last point about Jordan's superb report. Her humanity extends to native-born citizens of Lake Worth, some of whom may leave the school district when their own kids come of age.
Below, you see the way Jordan's report ends. All the people quoted here are offering reasonable assessments, though one respondent may be working a bit too hard at being "incorrect:"
JORDAN: Many Lake Worth residents have welcomed the diversity brought by the city’s now numerous immigrants, but some also worry that they could be dragging down educational standards for other students.Is it possible? Is it possible that the challenges described in Jordan's report are "dragging down educational standards for other students" in some way?
“You have to be experiencing real hardship to carry your toddler through the desert to seek a better life,” said Dan Brown, a mail carrier, who said the new immigrants are “perfectly fine neighbors,” but who also said he was considering moving to a place with less-impacted schools when his 2-year-old son is ready for kindergarten.
Some other residents wondered whether they were subsidizing the newly arriving families.
“They’re poor and can’t make it here,” said Jonathan Harris, a real-estate investor who favors stronger controls on immigration. “I am pretty confident that we have enough people already here illegally to do all the jobs that Americans don’t want to get their hands dirty doing,” he said.
But Kim Lingle, a paralegal who has lived for years in Lake Worth, said the new families have been an asset. “The immigrants are loving, caring, hard-working families,” she said. “They contribute to the fabric of our kitschy little campy town.”
Well yes, of course it is!
In some sense or other, are long-time residents of Lake Worth "subsidizing the newly arriving families?"
Well yes, almost surely they are!
Will Brown be proving that he's a racist, or a xenophobe, possibly even a deplorable, if he moves "to a place with less-impacted schools?"
The toffs of the Times like to tell us such tales! They prepped at Dalton, then went to Columbia, and are happy to call out The Very Bad People who animate their novelized presentations.
Jordan's report was full of real life. Real life is rarely allowed to intrude on reports about public schools in the New York Times.
At the Times, the kids are all above average. That said, the Asian kids are stealing everyone else's seats through their reliance on test prep, for which they paid thousands of dollars.
We were amazed by Jordan's humane dispatch from the real world. Tomorrow, still in the public school realm, The Atlantic just can't seem to quit a certain gloomy claim.
Tomorrow: The Short