TIMES AND SCHOOLS: The mayor's new education plan!

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2022

And the New York Times' new reporter: It was an unusual moment in the recent history of the New York Times.

When it comes to the New York City Public Schools, the paper of record typically concerns itself with the highest achieving students only—with the top few percent. 

Which of these higher-achieving kids, and from which racial and ethnic groups, will get into Stuyvesant High, then possibly move on to Yale? As we've noted again and again and again, the New York Times fills its front pages with anguished reports about those questions. 

The vast majority of students—the good, decent kids who won't be going to Yale—are rarely given the time of day in this Hamptons-based upper-class newspaper.  

Last Friday morning, the New York Times published different type of report. This news report concerned the struggles of the hundreds of thousands of good, decent kids who won't proceed from Gotham's public schools to the hallowed halls of Yale or Harvard or Brown.

Amazingly, New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams, has voiced concern about Gotham's more numerous and more typical kids! He has voiced concern about the way those hundreds of thousands of good, decent kids may struggle in hit city's public schools. 

This new mayor has even produced a proposal addressing the needs of these good, decent kids! In last Friday's New York Times, the news report about his proposal started like this, headline included:

Mayor Adams Unveils Program to Address Dyslexia in N.Y.C. Schools

Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday the details of a plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City and, in particular, to serve thousands of children in public schools who may have dyslexia, an issue deeply personal to the mayor, who has said his own undiagnosed dyslexia   hurt his academic career.

School officials plan to screen nearly all students for dyslexia, while 80 elementary schools and 80 middle schools will receive additional support for addressing the needs of children with dyslexia. The city will also open two new dyslexia programs—one at P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche in Harlem and the other at P.S. 161 Juan Ponce de Leon in the South Bronx—with a goal of opening similar programs in each borough by 2023.

Officials also plan to train all teachers, and will create a new dyslexia task force. School leaders are requiring school principals to pivot to a phonics-based literacy curriculum, which literacy experts say is the most effective way to teach reading to most children.

“Dyslexia holds back too many of our children in school but most importantly in life,” Mr. Adams said during a press briefing Thursday morning, adding that it “haunts you forever until you can get the proper treatment that you deserve.”

According to the news report, the mayor has released a plan designed "to turn around a literacy crisis" in New York City's public schools. His proposal will focus on screening kids for dyslexia, whatever dyslexia is.

For the record, reports about admission to Stuyvesant High tend to appear on the New York Times' front page. This report about the mayor's far-reaching plan was banished to page A21.

That said, we start by tipping our hat to the mayor for caring about the mass of New York City's kids, not just the top few percent. Beyond that, we tip our hat to the mayor for understanding the way his city's kids can be "haunted," damaged, forever harmed if they're unlucky enough to be among the large number of kids who struggle in Gotham's public schools.

We applaud the new mayor for his focus. At this point, "the eternal note of sadness" must also be brought to the fore.

To anyone with an ounce of sense or a bit of experience, that instant reference to "turn[ing] around a literacy crisis" will surely sound perhaps a bit Pollyannish. As she continued, reporter Lola Fadulu offered this capsule account of the size and shape of the problem found in the city's schools:

FADULU (continuing directly from above): 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.

The lack of easily accessible academic support for children with dyslexia has been an issue that has been top of mind for the mayor. He has said his own dyslexia went undiagnosed for years because his mother didn’t have the necessary information to get him screened. He recalled “not wanting to come into school every day because I just couldn’t keep up.”

Developing a universal dyslexia screening program in the city’s schools was one of the few specific policy prescriptions the mayor offered during his campaign. He has devoted $7.4 million in his proposed budget for addressing dyslexia and other literacy issues.

In 2019, in grades 3-8, fewer than half of Gotham's public school kids "were proficient on the state reading exams." The proficiency rate of black and Hispanic kids stood at roughly 36 percent.

Before the week is done, we'll offer you a more detailed statistical look at this state of affairs. 

In some ways, this situation may be better than you think; in some ways, it might be worse. But to the extent that this is "a literary crisis," it's a crisis which has been faced by the public schools of New York City and the nation dating back many long years.

At this site, we tip our hat to Mayor Adams for the shape of his concern. He's concerned about the many kids in his giant city, not just the top few percent!

At the Times, this focus pushed last Friday's report from page A1 back to A21. The best and the brightest get love at the Times. Other children may get left behind.

Our question today is this:

Can Mayor Adams, for all his good intentions, really "turn around" this "literary crisis?" Does his proposal make good sense? Is there reason to think that it will succeed—and if so, to what extent?

What are the prospects for this proposal? As someone who's watched public schools since the 1960s, we're forced to voice a bit of skepticism about the mayor's plan. 

The mayor is very new to this game, and many ballyhooed proposals have preceded his. We admire the mayor for his focus, but we'd want to hear more—much, much more—about the actual shape of his plan.

It's at this point that we turn again to the journalistic culture of the Times. Mayor Adams is new to this task, but so is the very bright Fadulu—a young, relatively inexperienced reporter who isn't an education specialist.

Nothing we say in the course of this week will be intended as a criticism of Fadulu. She didn't assign herself this task of covering this proposal. It isn't her judgment, or her doing, that has a "general assignment reporter" covering this sweeping new plan in this highly technical area.

The decision to assign Fadulu to this task comes from the heart of the Times itself. And at the Times, the pattern holds:

The Times assigns its education specialists (such as they are) to its front-page news reports about the top few percent. Reports about the mass of kids are assigned to less experienced scribes.

Fadulu is young, and she's smart. That said, she isn't experienced in this field, and it seems to us that her report displays this lack of experience at various junctures.

This is the way the New York Times tends to cover the public schools. If you're headed for Brown, you can stick around! Everyone else can get back.

Tomorrow: For starters, what's dyslexia? 


  1. "For starters, what's dyslexia?"

    Yawn. Nobody cares, dear Bob. Really.

    Here's a funny piece about your shitlib 'paper of record', plus all the rest of your shitlib dembot media:

    Ukraine - For Laughs

    ...but at least we have learned now that "evacuation" translates from your dembot shitlib language as "surrender". Something new every day, eh? Cheers, dear.

    1. Here’s the moral core of Bob’s current followers.

    2. Translated

      Bob's current followers: anyone besides the 1-3 commenters that attempt to tear down every single thing Bob writes, without regard for logic or internal consistency of their argument

      Moral core: worst example that could be found to paint them as badly as possible

    3. You misunderstand. Commenters here are not trying to tear down anything simply because Somerby wrote it. Somerby remains himself and thus keeps saying stupid things that deserve to be "torn down".

      Somerby has no internal consistency or logic -- that makes it hard for those critiquing him to find anything consistent or logical. Those who do express their own opinions here, do tend to have a great deal more internal consistency and logic than Somerby does. For one thing they keeps saying that same things in their objections to Somerby's garbage.

      There are more than 1-3 commenters who are critical of Somerby. But if attributing all of the criticisms to just a few people makes you feel better, have at it. It won't make anything Somerby says more valid to mischaracterize those who disagree with him.

  2. "That said, we start by tipping our hat to the mayor for caring about the mass of New York City's kids, not just the top few percent. "

    This report is about addressing dyslexia, an important problem, but not one that affects "the mass of NYC's kids". The top few percent out of a school district with 1.1 million kids, is at least 22,000 kids (depending on how you interpret the words "top few percent"). The incidence of dyslexia is estimated at 10-20%, so that would affect 110,000-220,000 kids.

    This program is a good idea because around 46% of those in prison have dyslexia and their illiteracy rate is about 65%. But Somerby takes this a step further and claims that none of the dyslexic kids will attend top colleges or participate in the special science high school programs. This is unlikely to be true. Studies like the one described at the following link, show no differences in college performance or after-college jobs success for students with dyslexia at Yale: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40817-020-00094-3 Top colleges such as Yale both admit and help students with learning disabilities, who have a graduation rate of 36%.

    Somerby complains because the announcement of the program was on page A12 compared to the headlines and front page news about the science high schools. Somerby apparently doesn't understand that the science high school stories were controversial and people held strong opinions about them. Further, the programs were being used as a political issue against DeBlasio. In contrast, no one opposes helping dyslexic kids, nor is this anything anyone is upset about, nor is it an attack on the mayor. That makes it important information to the small percentage of parents with dyslexic kids in school (out of the entire NYC news audience), but not relevant to the mass of NY Times readers.

    Even Somerby has nothing bad to say about this new program, other than that he thinks it won't work. He also says it is about time -- but why should NY engage in another anti-dyslexia program if they don't work? Somerby doesn't explain that.

    But he does, once again, launch into criticism of the NY Times for assigning Fadulu to this story -- even though he expresses no actual criticism of her work, other than saying vaguely that her work displays her lack of experience (in his opinion), without any specific examples of that. Calling someone "very bright" doesn't excuse making an unsupported criticism of their work, without any evidence whatsoever. That is just a smear. And why would Somerby smear this youngish reporter? Maybe because she is female, maybe because she is black, maybe because she "...was the David Rosenbaum reporting fellow in the Washington bureau, where she covered poverty and federal safety-net programs." He doesn't say.

  3. Needless to say, other problems produce lack of performance on readings tests besides dyslexia. This seems like a step in the right direction, after years of advocacy by parents of dyslexic kids.


    1. https://www.advocatesforchildren.org/news_and_media/afc_in_the_news

      Here is another group that has been working on this issue, now being addressed by the new mayor.

    2. Note that this is the first time Somerby has said anything whatsoever about dyslexia among black kids in all of his time writing this blog. Somerby apparently taught math, but he is happy to jump on this bandwagon, as long as he gets to criticize a black female reporter in the process.

    3. Is it true that there previously was not a program, plan, or procedures to deal with dyslexia in NYC? Is it possible the proposed plan is not necessarily the best way forward, or would supersede better procedures already in progress?

      These are potentially dangerous questions, I wouldn't want Somerby to soil his trousers.

    4. Apparently there was not previously screening and no program in public schools. There are private schools with good programs. Parents have been advocating for this. Google it.

  4. "...are rarely given the time of day in this Hamptons-based upper-class newspaper"

    For the record, the NY Times is a New York City newspaper based in Manhattan. Its circulation is 5,496,000 people. The population of the Hamptons is 58,000. That is far too few people to support a major paper such as the NY Times.

    Somerby used to complain about the people associated with the NY Times who lived in the Hamptons, but that was decades ago, and many of those people are long gone. I doubt Fadulu lives there, for example. The current publisher is A.G. Sulzberger, who just took over and most likely does not live in the Hamptons either.

  5. "David Leonhardt: “Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.”

    “Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.”

  6. For starters, we don't need to know what dyslexia is to be in favor of the school doing whatever will improve education for poor readers.

  7. This post illustrates Robert Conquest's First Law of Politics:

    Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

    Bob doubts that a new government program will be effective in elementary education, the area he knows best. Doubting the effectiveness of government is the conservative position. OTOH as a liberal, he believes that government programs in other areas are a good idea.

    1. There is no evidence that education is the area Somerby knows best.

    2. David keeps quoting this stupid "law" as though it had some truth value. There is no evidence supporting it either. Especially not when you think about the word conservative in a political sense.

    3. Do Conservatives doubt the police, the military? Conservatives seem to also like the effectiveness of government when it comes to gun rights, they like it when government bans things, like abortion and gay marriage, and they like it when government forces us to pray or say the Pledge of Allegiance, they like it when government shoves christian values down out throats. They like it when government provides welfare for Wall Street and Big Pharma and Big Oil and loonies like Musk. Conservatives love it when government eases the tax burden on fat cats while punishing those most in need. This is what they live for!

      Conservatives love the "effectiveness" of government.

    4. Conservatives seem to also like the effectiveness of government when it comes to gun rights

      On the contrary, one reason conservatives favor gun rights is that they doubt the effectiveness of government to protect them. They want honest people to own guns, so that they can rely more on self defense.

      It's hard for me to understand what liberals think on this issue. On the one hand, they don't want people to own guns, so they're relying on the police to protect them. OTOH they favor a weaker police force.

    5. As a liberal who listens to the NRA, I believe every black male should be given a gun, and the training on how to use it, on their 18th Birthday, so they will have the ability to protect themselves and to fight the tyranny of the government.
      What say Conservatives?

  8. " ... will surely sound perhaps a bit Pollyannish."

    Perfect illustration of mealy-mouth commentary.