Monday, October 25, 2021

NYC Schools and Discrimination

Glenn Loury had a woman on who is the head of the Chinese-American something-or-other challenging the blatant discrimination against Asians in placement in the seven NYC advanced high schools. At present, 97% of the admissions have been on the basis of a single test, administered yearly. The other 3% are students who were very near the cutoff, but can demonstrate some sort of disadvantage. Asians currently have about 50% of the places, but under pressure to become more demographically similar to New York as a whole, deBlasio wants to move to a different balance, which would have about 25% Asians, and more Blacks in particular.

She is absolutely right, but people just don't like reality. She made an excellent point when Loury, attempting to clarify and summarise, used the words "under-represented" and "over-represented." She countered that these children aren't "representing" anything or anyone but themselves. That is frankly, a very American or even simply Western idea we might be glad that people from the East have figured out and adopted just fine. Yet that is not the prevailing thinking in education, nor in liberal advocacy groups in general at present.

However, I wonder how much it matters.  I don't think schools matter that much in student outcomes. When we look at school district outcomes not in terms of final product, but in terms of difference between kindergarten and graduation testing, they aren't that different, and the differences can usually be tied pretty clearly to demographic changes during those 13 years. Hanover High School likes to think of itself as the best public school in the state on the basis of its highest test scores every year, but its two main industries are Dartmouth College and world-class Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital distributed over a small population of a few towns.  Those kids come into kindergarten with the best scores in the state as well.

Schools that are not safe matter, though measuring even that has the confounding factors that the surrounding neighborhoods, and the genetics of the people in those neighborhoods is not the same either. Let us grant that there is likely some depression of the education of some kids who might otherwise have succeeded, even though I don't know of studies that demonstrate it. I also admit that most studies of schools are not measuring the effect on the brightest students, but on the population as a whole. There might be some real effect of putting the brightest kids together. I doubt it. The advantages are going to be the same ones that the kid entered with, plus whatever the prestige factor is.

However, the more that colleges don't screen for testing and move toward the much more discriminatory holistic admissions, the more that the selective places will secretly rely on the remaining places that do test, regarding mere admission there as their clue. Graduate programs forced to stop looking at GREs will just look at where you got into college instead. Fewer diamonds in the rough going forward.


james said...

I'd think schools matter a lot for fields like math. You're not allowed to be an autodidact anymore; you have to warm a seat in what sometimes seems a madhouse (To be fair, the real chaos was rare, but this is in a fairly good elementary school. I don't want to think about the bad ones.)
When they push you out the door, you may still have a lot of native skill, but you'll have a lot to catch up on. That can hurt, and if you're one of those with the gifts to be a mathematician, you've got the problem that the best work is generally done early, and you've lost some of that time.

One thing kids need is hope. Bad schools tend to squash that--and so will schools where your ethnicity matters more than your skills.

Ribro90 said...

school culture and expectations matter, I went to a high school (in 1962) that pushed us towards college, I chose tech but the expectation was always that you did your best.
If you're not challenged as a child you won't thriv

HMS Defiant said...

In both Korea and Japan the actual schools DO matter so it might also be a cultural thing and of course listen to the wealthy talk about the Academy little precious is attending before the 100% sure trip to Yale or even Dartmouth.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I'm not sure the South Korean and Japanese schools actually do matter. We keep hearing that they do so well on the PISA tests because they are so disciplined, and then hear that Finland does so well because they are laid back. Those can't both be true. My belief continues to be that the baseline of genetics is the overriding factor for both. Jews, Northern Europe, NE Asia are better no matter what they hell is happening in their schools, apparently. We are multi-ethnic, but each of our ethnic groups does better than the home countries. I conclude we are mostly fine.

HMS Defiant said...

I was referring to the actual nationals of both countries. My
Korean friend’s wife was still really upset 11 years after the fact that she made into the second ranked school in Seoul and not the first ranked school.
I agree, we are mostly fine and I don’t forget that great minds don’t come all the time from great schools.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Got it