“You can’t separate a 28 percent graduate rate in New York City of black males with the fact that 50 percent of black males in New York City are unemployed.” That’s what John Jackson, president of the Cambridge-based Schott Foundation for Public Education said at the 54th annual Conference of the Council of the Great City Schools last year.

Added James Williams, superintendent of Buffalo public schools: “Our public education system was not geared to educate all children. Blacks were not in the equation.” Even Arick West, president of the Kansas City, Missouri, School Board, grimly noted that the unemployment rate for black men in his community is double the rate of everyone else and that college is not seen as an option for many black youths (Urban Educator, November/December 2010).

In the parlance of education reformers, this is known as “the racial gap” in public education, which has continued in New York City throughout the control of the schools by the Education Mayor and former chancellor Joel Klein. After his successor, Cathie Black, completed her listening tour of some schools, she was challenged by Ernie Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators: “We need to have a serious attempt to address the fact that we have not closed [the achievement gap] between males of color and the rest of the kids in the system” (New York Post, January 3).

And Gregory Hodge, principal of Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, educated Cathie Black on this significant, largely unmentioned fact: “Bronx Science is a stellar school, Brooklyn Tech is a stellar school, Stuyvesant is a stellar school . . . but in these schools of eliteness, you have an infinitesimal percentage of children of color” (New York Times, January 3).

There’s no longer any point questioning Cathie Black’s qualifications for a job that will impact the future lives of so many New York kids. She has the gig, so I take her word that she is exhilarated by the challenge.

I assume that by now she knows that the national cheers Bloomberg and Klein got—along with their self-glorification—for their alleged regeneration of the school system were based on the rampant inflation of the state’s standardized test scores. This traumatic truth bludgeoned principals, teachers, and parents when State Education Commissioner David Steiner ended the fantasy.

In all the news stories about the shock, the feelings of the affected kids were left out. Learning that they were no longer “proficient” in reading and math, they also learned that they were dumb. How much that lowered their confidence—a necessary spurt to learning—we will never know.

As The New York Times reported (August 1, 2010): “Much of the city’s progress in reducing the achievement gap between minority [that also means Hispanic] students was eroded by the new numbers, revealing that more black and Hispanic students had [actually] been merely passing under the old [fake] numbers.”

Dig this, Cathie: “The percentage of black elementary and middle school students proficient in math fell to 40 percent, from 75 percent, while among white students, passing rates declined to 75 percent, from 92 percent. . . . At some schools, the drop was breathtaking. . . . At the main campus of the Harlem Promise Academy, one of the city’s top-ranked charter schools, proficiency in third-grade math dropped from 100 percent to 56 percent.”

“When I got those scores,” said Linda Singer, principal of public school 255 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, “I thought I would die. Everything is changed.”

Not everything. The racial gap still stays on, though it was somehow not mentioned in Joel Klein’s self-congratulatory farewells and Bloomberg’s prideful, italicized reminder that it was he who had brought Joel Klein in to resuscitate our schools. Not a word from Bloomberg about the entrenched racial gap that surfaced in the lead paragraph to Barbara Martinez’s story, “Klein Trumpets SAT Score Rises” (Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2010): “The SAT scores of New York City high school seniors improved in 2010 versus the year before though the gains were mostly attributable to white and Asian students” (emphasis added).

In “The sound of bubbles bursting” (New York Post, August 1, 2010), Diane Ravitch—the premier historian of the New York schools—aimed at the “historic gains” trumpeted by Bloomberg and Klein: “Look at the achievement gap between the performance of white students and that of minorities. Last year, black students were 22 points behind white students in passing the state English exam. This year—after the state corrected its scoring—the gap increased to 30.4 points.

“In math, the gap grew even more. Black students were 17 points behind whites last year. Now, they’ve fallen 30 points behind.”

I wouldn’t expect Bloomberg to have even been aware that something was dangerously wrong with the state scores that made him look so good. But Klein, both as a penetrating government, and a private corporate lawyer, had a reputation, not as an educator but as a skewer of scams. But, like Bloomberg, those rising scores enlarged his future prospects. Why question them?

We don’t know yet what plans and strategies chancellor Cathie Black will develop to begin to end the racial inequality in Bloomberg schools but among the daunting obstacles in her way are the still rising financial deficits in cities, states, and the federal government. But, as Bloomberg has told us, she is a first-rate manager. Now’s the time, Ms. Black!

This is what confronts you: Last November, Bloomberg declared $1.6 billion in budget cuts, with more to come. As of this writing, Carol Kellermann (president of the Citizens Budget Commission) and Jennifer March-Joly (executive director of the Citizens Commission for Children) predict: “The proposed reduction in teaching staff is more than 9,600 or 8 percent,” and among corollary services that can impact students are “21 percent in the Agency for Children’s Services and 11 percent in the Department of Youth and Community Development” (Daily News, December 5, 2010).

As for the persistent racial gap especially afflicting black males, a 2010 MIT study of incarceration and inequality confirms the findings of New York’s Community Service Society report last year: “The incarceration rate for young black males without high school diplomas has surged since 1980. In 1980, these young men faced a 10 percent incarceration rate, while in 2008 this number had increased to 35 percent. . . . White youth without a high school diploma . . . face an 11 percent incarceration rate” (Examiner.com, December 14).

Chancellor Black, you do have the most important job you’ve ever had, one that determines the future of many black males, among many other students.

My next column: a historic victory for this city’s public school students’ civil liberties—particularly black and Hispanic students—against Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg. Surprisingly, this was at last accomplished by the City Council after years of investigative insistence principally by the New York Civil Liberties Union, along with other organizations, and The Village Voice. Chancellor Black is now mandated to take the responsibility for guarding these students’ constitutional rights that her predecessor, Joel Klein, abandoned to Ray Kelly—who urgently needs a remedial course on the Constitution, whether or not he runs to succeed the present mayor.

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14 comments
richbarnett
richbarnett

Hey John, guess what? You're wrong. Hoisting yourself with your own petard is lame. Trying to diagram a sentence which I wrote is lamer and is an obvious expression of frustration on your part.

Regarding your self professed professional credentials: Who cares? Do you care that I have an MBA from a way better school than you? Of course not. Why should you??

Standardized testing is fair.

Pamela m
Pamela m

In this age of political correctness at the expense of truth and knowledge, a few well known facts are being obscured.

Blacks always score lower than any other ethnic group on all standardized testing. This includes African Americans from middle and upper class families, and from good public and private schools.

This figures into scores on standardized testing for say, decision making positions in jobs where safety and knowledge are important. As we know from recent court decisions, the African Americans get those promotions with scores hovering in the 30 percentile range, while whites and Hispanics scoring in the ninety percent range get passed over. Especially in positions where these decisions have impacted lives and caused deaths, this is insanity.

If you pay attention to cultural differences with black families, and that of illegal Mexicans, keep in mind that schools constantly struggle to deal with difficult issues. Read Bill Cosby's angrily received talk a few years ago to black parents about the lack of emphasis in education.

It is altogether easy to blame everything on the schools, and they deserve a lot of criticism, but there is blame to go around on this issue, and it all starts with the family.

Benishalzr
Benishalzr

I believe that there is no correlation between a students race and how he is or is not given opportunities in public schools, where testing plays the most important part!

richbarnett
richbarnett

It's one little anecdote but my children are receiving a stellar education in the nyc public school system,. I believe I received the same great education.

The schools which require SHSAT scores for entry, are, by law, only permitted to consider these scores for entry.

Until I hear a reasonable explanation for how or why this an unfair requirement, it's probably about the fairest thing that happens in this town.

JohnSpiers
JohnSpiers

Hey Rich, the "only" in your second sentence goes after "consider" to express what you mean to state.

The SHSAT is a white man's test, something anyone with an MA in Ed Admin knows from studying the design and execution. It is just one small gambit along with Hawthorne Effect and Stockholm Syndrome we use in education to get the desired results.

Extreme violence directed at blacks also culls the best and brightest from the herd early on, helping drive down overall scores. There is nothing said about blacks in "studies" today that was not said about the Irish by the Brits 100 years ago. And look, it turns out the Irish are not really monkeys after all.

AS to your estimation of the excellence of the education you and your children are receiving, read NY Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto for a more sober view.

John Spiers MA Ed Admin

Dr. Arod423
Dr. Arod423

Exams don't make anything race- neutral. The specialized high school exams are based on experiential background and information that is almost impossible for children of color to have if they have not had an extremly focused educational experience with consistent qualified teachers. Testing shows only one aspect of learning. As the mother of a Black boy who graduated from Sty over a decade ago, and as a testing psychologist, I can assure you that we have a long way to go before anything having to do with academic assessment is ' netural'Dr. Andrea Rodriguez

Truth Endures
Truth Endures

This fact the author and I can agree on: Black male students perform worse than other students.

Now Hentoff would like you to believe that this happens because these students are not given the resources to succeed. As she quotes “Bronx Science is a stellar school, Brooklyn Tech is a stellar school, Stuyvesant is a stellar school . . . but in these schools of eliteness, you have an infinitesimal percentage of children of color”

But anyone who is ready to not be blinded by political correctness understands that Hentoff lies.

Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant all have admissions based on exams, which makes them race-neutral. Black students are under-represented because they perform poorly in the exams.

So what is Hentoff's point? She pushes the idea that black students are being discriminated against. The truth is that people like Hentoff make their careers pushing such fraudulent ideas.

TE

Jr1500
Jr1500

TE:

You're not very informed. Hentoff has been writing for 50 years and he is a MAN.

Jar2
Jar2

"Waiting for Superman" showed that there are plenty of minority parents who are concerned and involved in their childrens' education. What's missing are quality schools for these children to attend. My modest proposal? Every year give the parents of the children attending the bottom 10% of public schools vouchers for the FULL per-pupil expenditure of NYC's rotten school system, to use at the public or private school of their choice. Such students should be allowed to attend out-of-district public schools (if the school will have them) as well as any private or parochial school in the city. Competition breeds excellence!

Guest
Guest

Nat needs to retire I am tired of his 'race card' commentaries.. He does not care about Black students he is drivne by his envy of Bloomberg....Ms. Black is out of her element as most white educators when they confront the "academic gap"..

Richardm665
Richardm665

Not once did I read any mention of parental involvement,or the student's own responsibility for this mess.

Jseddinsok
Jseddinsok

Reguardless of rqce, children with competent teachers, will progress unevenly. The spread between high and low achievement will grow.

tc1
tc1

...except all the statistics point to a gap according to race, which correlates to socioeconomic status...

 
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