Gotham's kids tackle New York State!

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2022

Let's take a look at the data: New York City "is facing a literary crisis," New York Times readers were told.

Are the city's novelists moving upstate? Actually, as it turned out, the actual crisis is this:

New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data. Research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened those outcomes.

Those numbers came from the annual statewide reading exams—and they didn't sound very good. 

Last week, we showed you that Gotham's kids (grades 3-8) seemed to outperform their counterparts around the state on that particular test. We also noted a few of the shortcomings built into those annual tests.

Today, we'll offer you a quick look at some data which may be more reliable. They come from the reading test on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the federally-run program which has long been considered to be the gold standard of domestic educational testing.

How did Gotham's public school kids fare on that reading test? Here are the "proficiency rates" for Grade 8, in reading and in math:

Proficiency rates, New York City Public Schools
Grade 8 reading, 2019 Naep
White kids: 46.3%
Black kids: 13.9%
Hispanic kids: 20.3%
Asian ancestry kids: 41.3%
Proficiency rates, New York City Public Schools
Grade 8 math, 2019 Naep
White kids: 48.3%
Black kids: 10.0%
Hispanic kids: 14.4%
Asian ancestry kids: 60.4%

We remind you that any measurement of "proficiency" involves the setting of a subjective standard. It has been said that the Naep sets the bar for "proficiency" artificially high, driving proficiency rates down. 

That said, the demographic "achievement gaps" are easy to spot in those data. Meanwhile, we'll take a quick guess:

Quite a few of Gotham's Asian kids may be English language learners. That may explain why their proficiency rate was substantially higher in math.

How did Gotham's kids compare to their peers, across the state and across the nation, on these two Naep tests? Long story short:

Gotham's white kids slightly outperformed their peers, across the nation and across the state, in both reading and math. Average socioeconomic status and parental literacy may start to explain this conquest.

For other groups, maybe not. Here are the reading stats for the state and the nation:

Proficiency rates, New York State public schools
Grade 8 reading, 2019 Naep
White kids: 41.2%
Black kids: 18.5%
Hispanic kids: 21.0%
Asian ancestry kids: 46.1%

Proficiency rates, U.S. public schools
Grade 8 reading, 2019 Naep
White kids: 41.3%
Black kids: 14.7%
Hispanic kids: 21.4%
Asian ancestry kids: 54.2%

You can scope the comparisons for yourselves. All in all, of course, nobody cares.

For all Naep data, start here.


  1. Some politicians care about education.
    It’s not like it’s small business, which no politician cares about unless they or their family own it.

  2. "Quite a few of Gotham's Asian kids may be English language learners. That may explain why their proficiency rate was substantially higher in math."

    Quite a few of Gotham's Hispanic kids may be English language learners too. Does that explain their lack of proficiency at math? What does?

    It really seems like Somerby doesn't care much about Hispanic kids -- and never has.

  3. "All in all, of course, nobody cares."

    Somerby didn't even care enough to read his comments for the bogus things he said last week.

  4. Does Somerby imagine he has said anything about whether or not NYC has a literacy crisis? He hasn't focused at all on the basic reading skills group, he hasn't discussed the problems of low income kids who are struggling with reading and math (because math too depends on literacy skills). Why does he present only the proficiency numbers -- they only tell us what % of kids are in the top reading group? A literacy crisis may not be about the percentage who are proficient but rather about helping the kids in the lowest groups read well enough to function in our society and stay out of jail.

    Somerby behaves as if he just threw some numbers together without thinking about what he wanted to say about literacy in NYC. Because telling us who reads well says nothing about those who don't.

    How are the Asian, Hispanic, Black and White kids divided between the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced groups? When you only report the Proficient percentages, we don't know what is happening with the rest of the kids.

  5. New York City is not Gotham. Gotham is a fictitious comic book city in which Batman captures criminals. The latest Batman movie portrays Gotham as a dark, crime-ridden place that bears no resemblance to NY City. It's climax involves the city being flooded by several bombs set off around the city's retaining wall (separating the city from the river and ocean). The amount of flooding, to the point of submerging streets and drowning people in waves, is not possible in New York City (with current sea levels), even if there were bombs set off along its perimeter. The tsunami and drownings could not happen. That makes it clear that the city of Batman is NOT New York City.

    Somerby's continual use of the name Gotham strikes me as an attempt to smear NY City. This desire to denigrate blue urban areas is one of the tactics being used by Republicans to attack libers and Democrats (who largely govern such cities). Those in power in Gotham are corrupt. That makes Somerby's attempts to draw parallels a clear attack on liberals and large cities. Somerby isn't even subtle with this stuff. And no, liberals don't go around talking about urban problems and big city sleaze the way Republicans do. Somerby is once again spouting the Republican party line, in accordance with Republican talking points and campaign themes.

    Is this accidental? Perhaps the result of being a Batman fan? Not likely. This whole series is a way of attacking the new Democratic Mayor. Somerby doesn't care about reading problems of poor kids, or black kids either.

  6. We talk a good game about the importance of education, then proceed to underfund it.

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