Monday, December 05, 2005

Myth of Education Gap Closing in NYC Schools and the Nation

NYC Black Radical Congress leader Sam Anderson critiques NYC Superintendent Joel Klein's claims of 'closing the gap' .... from the NYTimes article from December 2, 2005. Anderson was a founding member of the NY Chapter of the Black Panther Party and now serves as Education Director at Medgar Evers College’s Center for Law & Social Justice.

In the aftermath of NYC's elimination of their community school boards in 2002, Anderson and others formed the Independent Commission on Public Education (iCOPE) which is forming an independent task force of parents, community members, students, teachers, principals, policy-makers, elected officials, scholars and business leaders to shape a new common vision for our schools based on human rights.

The Myth of Education Gap-Closing in NYC Scools (and the Nation)
From: "S. E. Anderson

Malcolm X said (I'm paraphrasing): When a man with a 12 inch knife in your back pulls it out 3 inches, you don't call that "Progress."
The Bloomberg/Klein spinmasters at the NY Times have produced another "gem" of mythical propaganda with Dec 2's news article rosily headlined: "City's Schools Cut Racial Gap in Test Scores". (the link to the full article below) also visit <> for the data.

DAVID M. HERSZENHORN's raggedy mishmash article is a classic attempt to abuse statistics for the sake of shoring up and covering up a major corporate-sponsored education implosion. Herszenhorn and The Times can get away with it because 99% of US citizens don't have a clue about analyzing statistical data. Let's be real here: there is a real educational meltdown going on in NYC's public schools (as well as the rest of the US's public education system).
So let's take a look at the Times's attempt at bamboozling and obscuring and fabricating....
"The results are divided into four categories: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced."
What The Times DOES NOT tell you is that "below basic" and "basic" are actually about being super-illiterate/innumerate and functionally illiterate/innumerate. A "proficient" score means that your child is AT grade level.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) lumps the "basic" level with the "proficient" and "advanced" levels, thus distorting the reality of literacy and numeracy in the US. It prettifies a national horror of tens of millions of academically ill-prepared young citizens (but that's what present-day capitalism needs!). So when you go to: <> and look at the stats, regroup the stats to have basic and below basic together to get a better picture of the depth and breadth of US miseducation.
For example: if we look at the nationwide Black 8th graders Math scores this way, we'll see that 92 out of 100 Black 8th graders are incapable of doing -at best- 7th and 8th grade math! And 89 out of 100 NYC's Black students are in the same devastating state. see: data.

"Mirroring a nationwide pattern on state by state results released last month, reading scores in the urban districts were up in the fourth grade but flat or lower in the eighth grade."
So how's this education progress when by the 8th grade, most children -at best- know only as much as they did in the 4th grade?

"New York City's strongest results over all were in fourth-grade math, with the number of students scoring at the basic level up 6 percentage points, to 73 percent, from 2003."
You get these results by:
(1) making the test even easier than all the previous ones...
(2) ...then spend 80-90% of classroom time teaching-to-the-test (meaning that no real math education is going on... resulting in disastrous test scores and grades by the 8th grade AND nurturing the pre-high school dropout rate)
(3) Give the test earlier in the year, thus testing more 3rd grade material than 4th grade material.
(4) systematically weed out low performing students test time.

"In fourth-grade reading, New York City's gap between the average score of black and white students shrank by 10 points. Among Hispanic students the gap shrank 7 points."
10% and 7% shrinkage from what gap? It's never revealed. So these numbers sound good but have no context. How wide was the gap? That's key to see how much progress is being made and how long it will take to achieve parity.

"In all, 36 percent of white fourth graders achieved reading proficiency on this year's test, compared with 16 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic students."
64 out of 100 white 4th grade students being illiterate is an alarmingly horrific figure! But the Times hides this horror thru its glazing data-ese. 84 out of 100 Black 4th grade students can't read and 85 out of 100 Latino students can't read. This is beyond horrific. This is educational genocide. But all this is counched in the shroud of "progress" and "gap closing." I am convinced that if white, Black, Latino parents are given test data in this manner, there would be more outrage and action against Bloomberg/Klein (mis)education policies. But the Times's job is not to give a true picture of the education crisis. There job is to say: "You're doing a good job Bloomie!"

"...New York had the most striking gains in fourth-grade reading scores, with 57 percent of students testing at the basic level this year, up from 47 percent in 2002...."
(1) How do you get 57% from the data state above: 36% white proficiency, 16% Black profiency and 15% Latino profiency? Even if the Asian and "other" 4th graders scored 100% proficiency (which they did not), they only constitute an even smaller-than-white-students percentage of 4th graders.
(2) Don't forget: not ALL 4th graders took the tests: thousands were "absent" from the exams thru various underhanded bureaucratic maneuverings.

"But while New York City could boast of encouraging gains in several areas, the overall picture of student achievement remains sobering. The results showed that in the city 43 percent of students remained at the below basic level in reading in the fourth grade. And eighth-grade reading scores fell slightly on the federal test, to 20 percent at the proficient level from 22 percent in 2003. The eighth-grade reading scores were the one area where the gap between white and black students widened."

(1) Education regression is progress according to The Times: "sobering progress." I hate to see "drunken progress."
(2) Now we see reality: "...eighth-grade reading scores fell slightly on the federal test, to 20 percent at the proficient level from 22 percent in 2003." Translation: By the time your 4th grader gets to an 8th grade class in NYC public school system he/she will most likely be among the 80 out of 100 who CANNOT READ at either the 7th or 8th grade level (because the test content is really wieghted on 7th grade material).
(3) "The eighth-grade reading scores were the one area where the gap between white and black students widened." Why is the widening happening?
(a) Teacher expectation is higher for white teens than for Black or Latino teens.(b) More tutorial support (via parents and schools) for white students(c) White teens are surrounded by white achievement and power(d) Black/Latino teens are surrounded by oppression, negative/criminal imagery, eurocentric curriculum(e) Black/Latino accept a form of racial inferiority complex about low test-score expectations(f) White Teens go to qualitatively better middle schools than Black/latinos

"Mr. Klein played down the fact that gains were made in moving students to the basic levels, but not to the level of proficiency required by President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind law."
Bloomberg/Klein Progress = getting students to basic level NOT proficiency level. Emphasize this to parents and media rather than he reality that the city's children are, for the most part, functionally illiterate.

"New York City's gains among black and Hispanic students were also accompanied by drops in scores among white students that both national experts and local school officials were at a loss to explain.
Some said the drop might be a result of the fact that the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests a sample of students rather than the entire district. Both gains or declines in scores must exceed the margin of error to be statistically significant."

The Real Deal: When you gear all your teaching to making sure students pass exams, this has a ripple effect thruout the system. One result is "white student alienation." That is, there are culturally given expectations for white student's intellectual development. Their family, their friends, their neighborhood expects that. But being immersed in a test-driven schooling system collides with these expectations by the time of the 8th grade test.

Remember, most of these white students and their families are already looking at high school and college. But many of them have experienced only teaching-to-the-test and very little critical thinking that's essential for being college bound. Hence, many white students join the ranks of the academically aliented... and just tune out of his miseducation scene.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress's sampling is done in the standard scientific manner: maximizing the possibility of getting a true representation of NYC's white student population. So... don't blame NAEP for the white student score decline: it's a result of years of teaching-to-the-test having a negative impact on thousands of white teens.

"Mr. Easton, one of several officials making the presentation, cited research in Chicago showing that ninth-grade outcomes are highly predictive of high school success or failure, and he noted that black eighth graders in about half of the urban districts had very low math scores."
This telling fact is buried near the end of the article. One thing we never see in these news articles is projection. That is, given these data how long will it take for Black/Latino 4th and 8th graders to reach parity with white/Asian students? They don't want us to look at this because it would reveal that it would take DECADES to reach parity. Remember, the education gap existed from the end of slavery and was exacerbated by segregation's separate and unequal policies both NORTH and SOUTH.

Only total systemchange based on the premise that education is a Human Right can reverse this education pogrom/implosion. No Bloomberg/Klein mandates of corporate intervention can do it. No moral and intellectual suasion with Bloomberg/Klein can do it. It's parents, students, teachers, communities emnvisioning another educational system grounded in critical thinking and truly embracing New York's vast cosmopolitan culture and fighting to make it real.

NY Times Article


Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning at the last school board meeting that the top schools to be closed are in the Western Addition and BVHP. These are also largely neighborhood schools.
With the expiration of the Consent Decree in December, has the school board considered instituting community schools (where schools have multiple uses, such as Tenderloin Community School) such as LAUSD is doing?

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