Race vs. Class in Education Personal Data Collection – An Alternative

by James C. Sherlock

Earlier I addressed the current method for collecting racial and ethnicity data for civil rights enforcement and found it lacking.

So why do we do it that way? Because we have done it for a long time? The constitutional concerns can’t be wished away, and there are new proofs available in genetic testing databases that the data are wrongly constructed and wrongly answered.

I spent some time in founding and running the nation’s largest military simulation facility in Suffolk, Virginia, in my last assignment for the Navy nearly 30 years ago.

What if we at least test alternatives using modern computer simulation methodologies and see what the results show? Simulations may give better estimates than the current system, or, importantly, show that civil rights concerns may be more efficiently and effectively focused on class rather than race.

The federal government has census and thousands of other databases with all kinds of personal information including race and incomes. I also submit it has far more than it needs if it would consolidate.

If someone privately collects a significant sample size of voluntary participants and goes into federal court with the results of genetic testing compared to the self-declared racial profiles of that same group before the genetic testing, the entire civil rights enforcement enterprise risks being thrown out.  

Since such a project can be done, it will be done whether the federal government does it or not. That project could be made relatively attractive by offering free test results for participation and then stripping the results of personal information in the data for simulations.

If the federal government does that work, then it can adjust the laws and regulations to fit the evidence.

The regulations will at some point soon have to define the statistically likely percentages of race and ethnicity that constitute being a member of a protected class, and thus how many members of that protected class exist in a particular situation like a school. Does someone like Barack Obama count as a black man?

I am confident that the results will prove that economic class is a far easier and more meaningful statistic than race for enforcing educational equity. Some racial minorities will be over-represented in the financially disadvantaged class. But then they would be disproportionately served by the remedies.

And perhaps we won’t have to send home those questionnaires that the parents can refuse to fill out, keying some “observer” at school to guess.

We absolutely need to enforce civil rights, and we certainly need better schools, but the sell-by-date is at hand for the basis of civil rights enforcement in schools being the current method of data collection on race and ethnicity.

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64 responses to “Race vs. Class in Education Personal Data Collection – An Alternative

  1. State and federal governments are attaching an increasing share of fiscal resources to communities based on explicitly racial criteria. However, no one has yet felt the need to define precisely what criteria one must meet to be classified as a “black” person, an “Asian” person, or a “Hispanic” person — or even a “white” person, for that matter. As Jim explains, it’s all been left to self-identification. But we live in an era in which people can “self identify” any way they want. The media has highlighted recently a number of white people who passed themselves off as black. Clearly, that cannot be permitted.

    As progressives purport to base their policies on “the science,” and now that “science” allows us to determine a person’s genetic makeup with great precision, perhaps progressives can lead the way in defining “scientifically” what it takes to be black, white, Asian or Hispanic.

    Such an effort might be reminiscent of the racial classification schemes of Nazi Germans and Southern segregationists, but it seems unavoidable. We can’t have people passing themselves off as members of another race, can we? If you thought “cultural appropriation” was bad, “racial appropriation” has got to be even worse.

    Perhaps some of the liberal commentators on Bacon’s Rebellion can tell us what racial classification schemes would look like.

    • Something to point out is how Native American decide who can live on a reservation or particupate in business on a reservation or casinos, and such.

      The point is that this kind of racial identification and special treatment has been around for some time.


    • No one has “scientifically” and precisely defined the races and their characteristics? That’s not correct. Modern understanding of race has its origins in the Linnean classification of humans into different races: https://www.linnean.org/learning/who-was-linnaeus/linnaeus-and-race. If a racial classification system smacks of eugenics, that’s because eugenics evolved out of such a classification system.

      Fortunately for progressives who like their policies to be supported by science, the scientific consensus is now that there is no scientific evidence that supports biological races, so we’re not interested in Linnean classification or, more recently, genetic tests as evidence of race (see: widespread condemnation on the left of Elizabeth Warren for using a genetic test to prove she had Native American ancestry).

      Until we see evidence of 1) widespread “racial appropriation” that 2) actually causes issues with successfully implementing policy relying on racial identification, then I think self-identification is an entirely sufficient method for identifying someone’s race.

      • Geez, I don’t know why I can’t proofread my own posts. “the scientific consensus is now that there is *no* scientific evidence that supports biological races…”

  2. “Research shows that while the correlation between parental education and child achievement has remained fairly stable since the 1960s, the relationship between parental income and child achievement has tightened, with income—rather than race—now a strong predictor of student success.”


    • So how about rich folks who send their kids to schools and play no role in their education other than paying for it?

    • John –

      While I do not disagree with the your quoted statement above, I believe it leaves the wrong impression, namely that wealth is the primary driver of childhood academic achievement and that it is also the primary divider between kids achievement levels, though superficially it may appear that way.

      I think that modern scientific research has largely debunked that argument just as the Success Academy has debunked it in modern classrooms and Thomas Sowell debunked it as regards many disadvantaged classrooms from and after the Civil War to the mid 195os.

      Another words, the major ingredients to student academic success increasingly appears to be family structure (at least one parent committed to academic success), along with safe, disciplined classrooms, run by empowered and committed teachers, teachings and grading the “basics rigorously along with requiring rigorous home study. This also presupposes early preschool childhood development facilitated by at least one committed parent.

      In short, the problem is NOT a race divide. Nor is it necessarily a class (wealth) divide. It is primarily a divide based on cultural values. In addition, new cutting edge research in cognitive sciences, including childhood cognitive development science, is making these requisites for successful learning increasingly clear. Unfortunately, too many educators are ignoring these findings.

    • Whew, that’s a relief – good thing there isn’t a correlation between race and wealth in this country that has been perpetuated by centuries of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous policies!

      • Then the substitution of class for race in targeting public protections and assistance will more accurately target those disadvantaged and will sooth the tensions that race-based policies enflame.

        Those are my two goals, and I have been offering in the public square policies trying to help the poor in Virginia for 15 years.

        Single minded focus on race (and racial justice campaign contributions) by the left in the General Assembly has gotten in the way of those efforts every time, each of which would have disproportionately helped black people but were not labeled as racial initiatives.

        Maryland Democrats, some of whose policies like Health Enterprise Zones I have tried to get Virginia to emulate, have been far smarter in targeting help for the poor without regards to race and it gets their policies support from Republicans and broad swaths of their people, including their Republican governor.

        The left, or some of it, wants the issue not solutions.

        • True, but it won’t address the “cultural values” issue that Reed Fawell 3rd suggests causes the disparities in success. Fortunately, I don’t believe this is a “cultural values” issue, so your proposal actually makes sense to me. What do you think about the suggestion that is “cultural values” that cause some groups to have better educational outcomes than others?

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Regarding Cultural Values impact on Education and learning, surely the amazing success of Asians of many races prove that point in America over and over.

            Thomas Sowell’s lifetime’s worth of cases also proves this fact over and over again with American disadvantaged kids of color since Civil War up to 1950s. This has been reaffirmed by Success Academy, among many other schools.

            With regard to other versions of cultural success, involving all kids read the recent book Becoming Human, a theory of Ontology by Harvard Professor Michael Tomasello who is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. From 1998 to 2018 he was Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and in 2017 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His scientific work has been recognized by institutions around the world, including the Guggenheim Foundation, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Netherlands, and the German National Academy of Sciences. The regards early childhood development.

            Also as regards cultural advantages for child and adult development and learning read The Weirdest People in the World, by Joseph Henrich who is an anthropologist and also the author of The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, among other books. He is the chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, where his research focuses on evolutionary approaches to psychology, decision-making, and culture.

          • Hard to quantify, but also unnecessary to quantify.

            If one wants to fix poorly performing schools, fix poorly performing schools. The Success Academy charter school model has shown the way. Cultural and racial discussions are nothing but distractions from that mission.

            Similarly, if one wishes to improve access to primary healthcare in poor communities, just do it. Maryland has shown the way with their phenomenally successful Health Enterprise Zones.

            As long as the conversations are focused on race and culture, the “solutions” will be divisive and will, like the “solution” of lowering the bar in schools and ignoring lack of not only performance, but even attendance, to guarantee equal outcomes, be destructive to the kids they propose to help.

          • Virginia Martin

            Reed – the books you cite look fascinating to someone who studied Anthropology in undergraduate with a particular focus on biological anthropology (me). Thanks for the recommendations! However, I don’t see anywhere in the descriptions or reviews of those books that helps me understand why you think they are good references for understanding how differing cultural values cause the disparities n educational outcomes by race or class in the US. Could you elaborate?

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Totally serious. Democrats will get what they want. The GOP will give in to education reforms in exchange for things they want to protect such as defense spending. Biden will get the rest by regulation with the new Sec of Education Cardona. It will wrinkle down even further with a McAuliffe win this November. Brace for impact.

        • Uh huh…The New Deal, the Great Society, The War on Poverty, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, AFDC, SNAP, guaranteed jobs programs…these are all liberal initiatives to ameliorate the effects of poverty that conservatives have resisted in implementation and fought (sometimes successfully) to stop or dismantle. Why you think anyone reading a political blog would be stupid enough to buy the line that Democrats don’t care about class concerns is beyond me.

          Since a fix to the problems of poverty is not forthcoming, the left has decided it can walk and chew gum and has started working on non-renumerative solutions to the racial problems in education instead by offering training for teachers and staff to not be racist or to even be anti-racist and by changing the intake standards for specialty schools to not be something that can be gamed by focused tutoring for an entrance exam(this initiative is also class conscious since it helps poor students regardless of race). These efforts, too, have met predictable backlash from the right.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Well you have four years to fix it. Ball is in your teams court now. Political monopoly. No excuses. Just win baby! Here is your teams chance to prove they are right about everything.

          • The “gap” is persistent and pretty much statewide with some schools have some small successes but others, a lot have 20, 30 point differences – even if you just look at economically disadvantaged only.

            Asians pretty much do better statewide except for a small number of divisionw where they don’t.

            The “gap” exists in other states also…

            The “gap” propagates up the K-12 grade levels and into College and/or into the job market.

            Ifyou have a high school diploma and the literacy of an eight grade , the die is cast. If you have kids – chances are they’re gonna be like you.

          • Virginia Martin

            James Wyatt Whitehead V – I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic. A 50-50 split in the Senate still requires a lot of bipartisan support to get bills through on anything that can be filibustered. Thus, even with control of Congress and the Presidency, the Democrats still have a tough road ahead on enacting their preferred agenda.

          • First, we are talking about two different Democratic parties. The Democrats that passed “the New Deal, the Great Society, the War on Poverty, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, AFDC and SNAP were not the radicals that drive the Democratic party agenda today.
            Even the Democrats that passed the Affordable Care Act were moderate by comparison.

            The works and political philosophies of those generations of Democrats are utterly and loudly rejected by the left today.

            Second, I think you would agree that it is best to judge programs by their results rather than their intentions.

            One of the pillars of the war on poverty, the Great Society AFDC program, destroyed the two-parent black family, the worst thing to happen to black people since slavery. It was certainly well meant.

            Same with today’s push to lower grading standards (see Albemarle County) rather that raising educational performance.

            Both AFDC and grade “equality” are the result of “caring” Democrats – the first moderates and the second radicals.

            A proven fix – charter schools in the poorest performing school districts. Chance of that in Virginia – zero. Democrats won’t hear of it.

            Caring Democrats and Republicans in Maryland passed Health Enterprise Zones Act in 2002 as a pilot program and will expand it statewide based on the tremendous success of that pilot with a bill in this year’s Maryland legislature. Virginia Democrats defeated a law submitted by a Republican for a program modeled after the Maryland law last year.

            “Democrats don’t care about class” is not the issue. It is whether the cure is worse than the disease.

    • That may be true as far as it goes. It is also true that there is a correlation between poverty (income) and race. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/1-demographic-trends-and-economic-well-being/

      Of course, we would not know about the relationship between parental income and child achievement, nor of the relationship between poverty and race if we had not collected the data needed to calculate these relationships.

  3. This whole discussion as to whether data related to race is “scientific” is a red herring. Of course, it is not scientific because race is a cultural concept, not a scientific one, as several on this blog have pointed out in the past.
    Whites did not move out of Richmond in the 1960s or pull their kids out of public schools and put them in private schools because of the “scientific” concept of race. Nor were those decisions based on the incomes or occupations of the parents of those kids for Black lawyers and doctors were not able to buy houses in the rich white areas and send their kids to predominately white schools. The decisions were made because of a deep-seated cultural bias against a group of kids due to the color of their skin, thinking that somehow made them inferior, dangerous, or something.
    While the boundaries are currently growing less distinct, there are still four primary racial/ethnic groups in society: non-hispanic whites, Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians. (This is not to imply that these groups are homogeneous; but that is a different issue.) And the data that government collects, however imperfect it may be, indicates that there are major disparities in the economic and social achievements among these groups. For example, from that data we learn that Black college graduates have a lower homeownership rate than white people who dropped out of college. https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/why-do-black-college-graduates-have-lower-homeownership-rate-white-people-who-dropped-out-high-school
    Hopefully, using the data we have can help us identify the gaps in income, education, and housing that can be correlated to race/ethnicity and prove to be an incentive to continue striving to eliminate those gaps. Of course, some people may be comfortable not knowing that race/ethnicity is still a major factor in the economic and social disparities facing this country.

    • Dick, if we measure with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or SOL tests that a particular school is not educating its kids, of what importance is the race of those children to the educational solution?

      • I don’t see that Dick argues anywhere that the educational solution should be race-based, simply that capturing data about race and educational outcomes allows us to identify when there are disparities between races. Due to a long history of racial discrimination in our country, it makes sense to be on the alert for such disparities. Further, if such disparities are related to racial discrimination (e.g., if Black children are more often suspended from school for the same behaviors as White children due to racial discrimination, and less time in class is correlated with worse test scores), then an educational solution may not be the appropriate solution at all. In the example I gave above, the solution is to apply suspension policies more neutrally across the races, not to do something different for each race.

        • I offered above a way to get data on race that is more accurate than the current system before the current system is sued out of existence from proof of its structural and accuracy defects. But commenters on the left have ignored that and accused me of not wanting the data.

          Second, by “apply suspension policies more neutrally” you mean by race. In the real world of public schools, that means quotas for suspensions.

          You equate correlation with causation in school discipline. Establishing correlation is easy. Establishing causality is harder if not impossible. The practical effect is asking teachers to try to teach in a classroom environment in which teaching and learning are impossible. But then the numbers will look better, so no price is too high.

          Right now the VDOE and the Governor join you in declaring correlation to equal causation, and going much further by declaring all white teachers – 84% of the Virginia K-12 teacher workforce – to be racist until proven otherwise. Very soon, the left won’t have to worry about the whiteness of public education classroom teachers in Virginia. The only question is who will replace them. 84%. There is no functional answer to that question.

          That includes teacher Pam Northam.

          I wonder if the Governor has had that conversation with her, and when she will attend anti-racism indoctrination and submit to the required career-long monitoring. Probably not.

          This reminds me of AFDC requiring the father to be out of the home before the mother can get her free apartment and monthly check. And liberals who set it up then decrying the lack of fathers in the home. Good results are often not correlated with good intentions.

          • Virginia Martin

            You can find my responses in-line with your comments, below:

            “I offered above a way to get data on race that is more accurate than the current system before the current system is sued out of existence from proof of its structural and accuracy defects. But commenters on the left have ignored that and accused me of not wanting the data.” This is neither here nor there when it comes to my comments, one of which asserts that establishing root causes for problems is important in order to better identify solutions, and the other in which I argue that race can be relevant when making education policy.

            “Second, by “apply suspension policies more neutrally” you mean by race. In the real world of public schools, that means quotas for suspensions.” Indeed I do not. It may be true that public schools would foolishly interpret such a policy that suspensions have to meet some sort of “race quota.” However, what I meant is what I wrote, which is race-neutral application of suspension rules, not the opposite of race-neutral suspension rules.

            “You equate correlation with causation in school discipline. Establishing correlation is easy. Establishing causality is harder if not impossible. The practical effect is asking teachers to try to teach in a classroom environment in which teaching and learning are impossible. But then the numbers will look better, so no price is too high.” I am doing no such thing. I have not made any claims at all about what causes suspensions at different rates, I simply provided an illustrative example of why I believe that the root cause is an important consideration when proposing solutions. Establishing causality IS hard. I don’t think that means that we shouldn’t try to do so. Why do you think that trying to establish causality of disciplinary problems – and perhaps other issues in K-12 education – will result in “asking teachers to try to teach in a classroom environment in which teaching and learning are impossible”? I don’t follow.

            “Right now the VDOE and the Governor join you in declaring correlation to equal causation, and going much further by declaring all white teachers – 84% of the Virginia K-12 teacher workforce – to be racist until proven otherwise. Very soon, the left won’t have to worry about the whiteness of public education classroom teachers in Virginia. The only question is who will replace them. 84%. There is no functional answer to that question.” Perhaps you should read my comments again and understand that I wasn’t asserting a particular position about race and suspension rates in them, simply providing illustrative examples in support of my argument about root causes and that race can be an important datum when making education policy decisions. Once again, VDOE and Northam declaring all teachers racist is neither here nor there.

            “That includes teacher Pam Northam.” Quel scandale!

            “I wonder if the Governor has had that conversation with her, and when she will attend anti-racism indoctrination and submit to the required career-long monitoring. Probably not.” We may never know.

            “This reminds me of AFDC requiring the father to be out of the home before the mother can get her free apartment and monthly check. And liberals who set it up then decrying the lack of fathers in the home. Good results are often not correlated with good intentions.” While I disagree with your framing of the assertion, who can disagree with the idea that good results are often not correlated with good intentions? Or a bit more more pithily, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

  4. When we pause from this useless navel gazing, political woolgathering and recrimination, we’ll all (black, white, whatever Americans) look up and see the Chinese running the world. None of this makes my top ten list of things to worry about. It’s a Titanic deck chair exercise.

    • Maybe in no small way because of their education system which does not seem to have the problems ours does?

    • It matters because if we don’t focus on solutions rather than “navel-gazing”, your prediction will come to pass. Racial and cultural focus block proven solutions like charter schools and health enterprise zones.

      If the state of America’s schools does not make your top ten, then your list is flawed.

      • I don’t have a problem with Charter schools that take the ED demograpic and provide full transparency of academic results.

        If they can do better than the public school system, I’m all for it.

        Call me a skeptic though – a “show me I’m from Missouri” – the Success Schools are not the entire answer… they use a lottery – i.e. not all kids have access – and they impose requirements on the parents that not all can do and finally they lose a lot of those kids before graduation. When they fail, they get booted out – not remediated and successfully graduated. Same problem public schools have.

        • Great point, Larry. If educational outcomes depend so heavily on parental involvement in their children’s education, then our society needs more and better policies to support that level of parental involvement. One example of such a policy would be to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, thus allowing parents to work for fewer hours in order to support their families, and have more time to support their children’s education.

        • “the Success Schools are not the entire answer… they use a lottery – i.e. not all kids have access”

          Try not to use that argument again. Not all kids have access because there are not enough of them. There are not enough of them because the teachers unions have the political power to block them, and do.

          ” they impose requirements on the parents that not all can do “. So what? Are the kids with mothers who want their kids to succeed and will make the effort to help to be penalized for the failure of others to comply?

          “When they fail, they get booted out – not remediated and successfully graduated.” What is your evidence for that statement?

          You failed to mention is that there are two keys to Success Academy that many public schools fail to emulate: classroom discipline and aggressive teacher mentoring.

          Classroom discipline starts with discipline in every part of the school. Uniforms for the kids. Disciplined arrivals. Disciplined attendance. Disciplined hallways. Disciplined classrooms. Disciplined personal conduct. It is that discipline that the mothers want for their children and line up in hundreds of thousands to attain for them. Thus the lotteries. It is that same discipline that so upsets the race industry.

          As for mentoring, the principals and APs at Success Academy manage my walking around, observing what is going on in the hallways and classrooms, and using what they see as mentoring moments for teachers. That is how they provide disciplined best practices to the classrooms. That is part of what upsets the teachers unions.

          Then there is the entire culture of joyful learning. With classroom discipline ensured, they work very hard to make learning fun and prideful.

          Those, Larry, are the factors that make Success Academies in NYC the most successful school system in the state by every measure.

          Those are also the reasons the left hates it so much. The achievements of Success Academies are a standing rebuke to everything they advocate about education.

          It exposes the white left as fundamentally anti-black where it matters most – their kids’ educations.

          • Virginia Martin

            I notice that it is apparently only mothers who are involved with their children’s education at Success Academy. Do fathers not need to be involved? Are you assuming that they are unavailable to provide that support for some reason? I’m interested in hearing more from you on this.

          • Certainly fathers are required, but the long term results of AFDC have driven the fathers out of many of these homes. I used the term mothers, because in the low income population of NYC that is by far the most common situation.

            Real numbers: In New York City, there are 425,000 children of single parents. Black and Latino children of single mothers experience poverty rates of 46 and 56 percent, respectively. This is almost three times the poverty rate for Black and Latino children of married couples; it is also double the rate of poverty for White children of single mothers (28 percent). https://citylimits.org/2019/10/25/amid-bright-signs-for-nyc-families-challenges-remain-for-single-parent-families/

          • As said before, I support any school model that produces real results. If they reall do perform, people will demand more of them and the politics will change.

            I just don’t see private or charter schools in Virginia claiming they produce better results for the ED demographic and/or provide transparently their academic performance.

            Success Academy problems: https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-success-for-charter-students-20180615-story.html

        • You are locked in, Larry.

          You deny the undeniable – the measured success of the best charter schools in massively improving the academic performance of poor minority children when compared to standard public schools operating in the same buildings and drawing from the same population over the several decades of measured performance.

          The simple fact is the reason there are charter schools is because regular public schools were not getting that done.

          So continue to crawl around the internet until you find an articles that suit your pre-set notions. You will certainly find them. Further discussion is useless.

          • Sorry Jim… show me some data… there are lots of claims but data is much harder to come by.

            Most Charter and Private schools are the province of high income folks.

            What’s the truth ? How do we substantiate what we believe?

            Again, I have no problems what-so-ever, providing public funding to any non-public school that performs with ED kids. But I have to see the data, it’s can’t be some unsubstantiated claim and I don’t see the data…

            I see one system the Success Academies – but I’m not at all convinced they have the entire answer and it’s clear they have a horrendous drop-out rate. The reason they’re not expanding is that there is some real questions not answered but the advocants prefer invoking the boogeman union stuff.

            New York is not the only place anyhow,

            I tell you – the critics of public education are sometimes worse than the teacher unions… they are “believers” no matter what and that’s simply not going to win the battle. Blame the teacher unions all you want but it’s folks like me and folks way to my right that you have to convince before we throw away tax dollars for a belief with little proof.

            I need to see real results – equivalent to what you guys use from VDOE to impugn the public schools.

            I want to see apples-to-apples data not what someone believes.

          • LarrytheG | January 10, 2021 at 2:25 pm “I need to see real results – equivalent to what you guys use from VDOE to impugn the public schools.”

            Larry, if you’re serious about wanting the information on charter schools, since you won’t take anyone else’s information, here are the links to get it:
            List and Description of the Commonwealth’s 8 Charter Schools: https://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/charter_schools/charter_schools.shtml

            SOL Test Results

          • So Carol, are these the actual academic results from these Charter schools?

            It looks like a list of Charter Schools and a page about SOLs in general.

            Is there a list of these schools with their SOL results?

            apples to apples – and full transparency of academic performance…

            Success Academy talking about their results. Let me see New York’s version of VDOE – not PR from Success.

          • Larry, do you really not see why you frustrate so many people who try to answer your questions?
            You said: “Is there a list of these schools with their SOL results? apples to apples – and full transparency of academic performance… “

            As I said, the first link in my post was to identify the names of the charter schools. The second:
            https://www.doe.virginia.gov/statistics_reports/sol-pass-rates/index.shtml provides links to every permutation of SOL results which are listed by county/city and school name. Click on the damn links. You’ve done it any number of other times.

          • Carol – have you actually done this yourself and been able to get the results on a per school basis for different demographics like I have done for many other regular schools in Virginia via build-a-table?

            Have you actually done this yourself and seen the results?

            How about Hillsboro in Loudoun, ED verses non ED kids…

            Actuall done that?

            If not.. then maybe we can discuss “dam” frustration and all that and why that justfiies childish name calling.

            You’d think that those who claim the Charter schools do better than public schools with Economically Disadvantaged wouldt just show that data to prove their point. No?

          • Yes, Larry, I did. Ask VDOE why they use the symbol <.
            And before you bring it up, Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy also doesn't show detailed breakdowns. It's a safe guess that it relates to havng only 40 students who all have "significant cognitive disabilities, lack a functional communication system, demonstrate significant deficits in social competence.."

            You don't want links to data. You want those who try to get you to respond and act in a reasonable way by giving you the facts and sources to get so frustrated they stop trying. Even though I resolve to do that at least once a week with you, sometimes I just cannot let your statements stand as if they were correct. And if you want to call me inane and ignorant again because I lost my temper with you and then deleted the post, go ahead. It's as valid a comment as the majority of what you post. Now I need to put a post-it on my computer to remind me about trying to teach pigs to sing.

      • Focusing on solutions is important, but if you don’t identify the correct root cause of the problem, then it is hard to identify the correct solution. In the example I gave above, we could look at the data about Black students being suspended at greater rates than White students and come up with different proposed solutions based on what we think the cause is. Perhaps we believe that Black students aren’t raised in a culture that values discipline and self-control, which is reflected in their higher rates of suspension. If that’s the case, then the solution is to try to find ways to change the students’ cultural values, either at home or at school. If we think that Black students are suspended at higher rates than White students because teachers (of all races) are more likely to suspend Black students for the same behaviors as White students, then training teachers on the application of suspension policies is a better solution. If we had unlimited resources (time, money), then we could try whatever solutions we wanted until one works. But we don’t have those unlimited resources, as we all know, so I believe it is indeed necessary to look at root causes of issues in order to most effectively and efficiently identify the solutions that will make the greatest difference for the greatest number of people.

        • Root causes are in the eye of the beholder. Defining and addressing them is a political exercise, not a statistical one.

          People can and do look at a problem and define it as having different causes and different solutions.

          In AFDC, the problem was poverty, which was measurable by statistics.

          The solution chosen was political. It was not intended to break up families, but with an aversion among Democrats to being seen as imposing a “judgmental” solution, that was the result.

          Another political approach may have rewarded vice penalized parents who stayed together, but that was not what was chosen.

          I agree that root causes are important, but in today’s highly charged political environment, any researcher unwise enough to try to isolate scientifically root causes for the issues you are discussing would be canceled. It is a fool’s errand.

          • re: ” Root causes are in the eye of the beholder. Defining and addressing them is a political exercise, not a statistical one.”

            so what you actually end up doing or not has to do with politics and not the actual root causes? There is no such thing as objective determination of such?

            Why should I believe your politics are the right answer?

        • Carol – The people who make the claims need to provide the data – the actual real data and prove what they claim – especially with regard to these kinds of schools.

          LINKS to REAL objective data – yes

          ED in this context, means Economically Disadvantaged –

          Make the claim – provide the data to back it up.

          and we may agree about pigs and flying and singing and anoyment, but probably not in the same way… and “deleted posts” that still show up – geeze…. but not the first time either… do better.

          frustrating, yes.

          • Assume a point mass suspended by a cable of infinite tensile strength over a frictionless pulley….

            Of course the solution is charter schools.

          • so here is some Virgina Schools Reading SOL for ED (economically disadvantaged) Only:

            includes both Charter and regular public schools

            here are the Charters:

            Murray High School – Albemarle County
            The Community Public Charter School – Albemarle County
            Middleburg Community Charter School – Loudoun County
            York River Academy – York County
            Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts – Richmond
            Green Run Collegiate – Virginia Beach City
            Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy –
            Hillsboro Charter Academy – Loudoun County

            The source is the VDOE build-a-table for all schools in Virginia Reading SOL pass rate for ED

            School Name Pass Rate

            Murray High 100 this is a charter so is the next
            Thomas Jefferson High for Science and Technology 100
            Open High 100
            Richmond Community High 100
            Old Donation School 100
            Green Run Collegiate 98.7
            Deep Run High 98.33
            Lincoln Elementary 97.87
            Belfast Elementary 97.56
            West Point High 97.4
            Western Albemarle High 96.84
            Freedom High 96.68
            Kilmer Center 96.67
            Langley High 96.67
            Emerick Elementary 96.63
            Briar Woods High 96.58
            Mountain View Elementary 96.49
            Poplar Tree Elementary 96.3
            Arlington Traditional 96.26
            Sangster Elementary 96.26
            Crystal Spring Elementary 96.25
            North Landing Elementary 96.25
            Jefferson Forest High 96.24
            George Mason High 96.22
            Grassfield High 96.19
            Haycock Elementary 96.18
            Highland High 96
            Hilton Elementary 95.77
            McLean High 95.72
            Kingston Elementary 95.47
            William Monroe High 95.42
            Floyd Kellam High 95.37
            Midlothian High 95.18
            Mills E. Godwin High 95.09
            Churchland High 95.05
            Cooper Middle 95.01
            Grafton High 94.9
            Colvin Run Elementary 94.82
            Hidden Valley High 94.78

            link to complete list:


  5. Virginia above says:

    “the books you cite look fascinating to someone who studied Anthropology in undergraduate with a particular focus on biological anthropology (me). Thanks for the recommendations! However, I don’t see anywhere in the descriptions or reviews of those books that helps me understand why you think they are good references for understanding how differing cultural values cause the disparities n educational outcomes by race or class in the US. Could you elaborate? ….

    I notice that it is apparently only mothers who are involved with their children’s education at Success Academy. Do fathers not need to be involved? Are you assuming that they are unavailable to provide that support for some reason? I’m interested in hearing more from you on this. …” End Quote

    In reply to Virginia, from edited version of earlier comments under earlier post.

    Why is the Weird book, and the Aeon article hereafter described, on fatherless children so vitally important today, times that demand that we read them? All boiled down, the base reasons are:

    The Weirdest People in the World explains how how the Catholic Church’s uncompromising demand that one man marry only one women who bore his children became the one essential building block of Western Civilization.

    In essence, this demand gave children the critical ingredient they required to their success in life, responsible and caring mothers and fathers. For, without responsible and caring mothers and fathers from birth onward, the great majority of kids are lost in a dark and dysfunctional society, without opportunity, hope, or inherent value as individual human beings.

    Later, Martin Luther, at the end of the dark ages, put this Christian idea on steroids when he demanded that mothers and fathers teach themselves and their children to read seriously, in particular the Bible so as to assess God and salvation.

    Thus millions of ordinary people in western civilization became literate, fully aware, and cognitively advantaged, as empowered and fully human beings, full and complete in God’s image, by reading with care the Bible, it strictures, ethics, and mandates, often each day. This was and is the crowning achievement of the modern age of the human species.

    Now, why is the Aeon article important, the one found here”https://aeon.co/essays/how-raising-children-can-change-a-fathers-brain

    This article explains how highly involved fatherhood radically changes men and society for the better. And how the LACK of active, highly involved fatherhood promotes violence and high dysfunction in society, most particularly men without empathy, responsibility and other vital social skills, particularly towards and in support of women, children, family, community, and God. The article raises an important and novel insight. Heretofore, we have focused on the damage done to children by irresponsible fathers. Now we also know about the great damage that irresponsible fathers do to themselves; it often results in a downward spiral of human destruction not only for the child, but for their father, and their mother, and the entire community around them. In short, men need women and resultant family to anchor them, restrain and inspire them, giving them purpose, and the skills to realize that purpose.

    So now we see how The Weird book and the Aeon fatherless article powerfully fit together for cumulative and exponential advantage and benefit, or in the alternative, living hell, in modern times.

    Correction: the book The Weirdest People in the World was 1st published in September of this year; the Aeon article was published this morning.

    NOTE – these comments came for earlier Bacon’s Rebellion Post Let’s “Reimagine” Public Safety Built around Involved Fathers

    I will elaborate on Becoming Human later today.

  6. So if we provided free tutors to all ED kids and/or free private school like rich folks send their kids to – would scores improve?

  7. Since there is a limit to the nesting of comments on WordPress, I’m starting a new thread here in response to James C. Sherlock’s earlier comment: “Certainly fathers are required, but the long term results of AFDC have driven the fathers out of most of these homes. I used the term mothers, because in the low income population of NYC that is by far the most common situation.”

    I think you’re likely correct that many of the children who attend Success Academy come from single mother households, but I’d be interested in seeing the data that backs up that claim. Do you have it?

    • It’s not a claim, it is a reasonable estimate based on the demographics of the population served. Go on Success Academies website and see if you can find the actual data.

      • I see you edited your original comment after my reply, so I’ll comment again in response to the part of it (“It’s not a claim, it is a reasonable estimate based on the demographics of the population served.”) I won’t get into the semantics of the word “claim,” as tempting as it is to do so, because sinking into pedantry is rarely productive. I already stated that I think you’re likely correct, so I’m not sure why you’re being defensive about me saying it is a “claim.” I just think then when anyone makes a “reasonable estimate[s] based on the demographics of the population served,” then it follows that the demographic data should be available. So it sounds like you don’t have the Success Academy data. That’s fine – do you have the data about NYC at large?

  8. I did, and other places besides, and I couldn’t find it. That’s why I’m asking you, the person who made the assertion.

    • On the “about” page. https://www.successacademies.org/about/

      “Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools is the largest and highest-performing free, public charter school network in New York City. Admission is open to all New York State children, including those with special needs and English language learners. Students are admitted by a random lottery held each April. Success Academy operates 47 schools serving 20,000 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Across the network, 78% of students are from low-income households; 8.5% are current and former English Language Learners, and 15% are current and former special needs students. About 53% of our students are black, 30% are Latino, 7% white, 5% Asian, and 5% multiracial or other.”

      More data from the NYC Department of Education about children other than those in public charter schools. In October 2018, the student population was 42% Hispanic and Latino, 26% African American, 15% Non-Hispanic White, and 16% Asian American. Another 3% were of multiple race categories. Of the students, 20% were disabled, 13% were English language learners, and 73% met the Department’s definition of poverty.

      So you can see from the data that Success Academies has a far higher percentage of black students (53% to 26%) and poor students (78% to 73%) and a far lower percentage are white students (7% to 15%) than in NYC public schools that are not charters.

      Other data: In New York City, there are 1.1 million children in NYC public schools and 425,000 children of single parents. Black and Latino children of single mothers experience poverty rates of 46 and 56 percent, respectively. This is almost three times the poverty rate for Black and Latino children of married couples; it is also double the rate of poverty for White children of single mothers (28 percent). https://citylimits.org/2019/10/25/amid-bright-signs-for-nyc-families-challenges-remain-for-single-parent-families/

      I hope you are not going to ask me to prove that demographic chosen by lottery in NYC has a high proportion of single parents. It is a statistical certainty that it does. If you need the actual numbers, call the school administration tomorrow and ask them the question.

      • “If you need the actual numbers, call the school administration tomorrow and ask them the question.” Seriously? Why so defensive? As I have now pointed out twice, I think you’re likely correct. You wrote that it was reasonable to talk about mothers and not fathers of Success Academy because single mother households are “by far the most common situation” in low-income NYC households. But I still haven’t seen any data that actually demonstrates that. How many low-income households are single mother households? And how many have to be to qualify for it being “by far the most common situation”?

        • Re-read the reply above. I have just amplified it. My point is that I don’t intend calling Success Academies tomorrow with that question.

          As I said, it is a statistical certainty that my assertion is correct.

          According to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau, out of 11 million single parent families with children under the age of 18, 80 percent were headed by single mothers. See https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2019/demo/families/cps-2019.html Table FG10

          If that is not good enough, you will have to dig further for the actual numbers if they will give them to you.

  9. Jim – Authorotative data – I cannot tell where this data actually came from.

    I need something like we see for VDOE data – New Yorks version of it, not just a schools version of it or essentially a PR thing.

    This is what I’m talking about. there needs to be full transparency from an objective source..

    • Are you challenging Success Academies test data or demographic data or what?

      The demographic data are in my answers to Virginia Martin above from Success Academies about their own student body and from NYC schools about the student bodies other than charters. The rest of the demographic data represented above about single parent households and such are from the census bureau.

      I don’t believe those sources to be controversial, inasmuch as the demographics of Success Academies have to be reported to and are verified by the city and the state.

      Success Academies New York State Regents test data and comparable test data on all New York School Districts in my earlier posts are from the state of New York.

      As I said before, you are locked in. No source of information will satisfy you if it does not fit your pre-conceived notions so it is a waste of time trying.

      • I’m saying it needs to be authortated by an objective party – not them.

        Provide a link to that data – through NY version of VDOE or some other objective source.

        This is what I mean by transparency.

        You demand it from VDOE and we actually use that data to condemn Va Schools. Before we hop to other schools that are claimed to be better – we need to have the same type data not unsubstantiated claims from supporters.

        What I’ve read is that there is a significant drop-out rate for Success Acadamies. The ones that survive are claimed to have better academics. Public School can’t really do that.

        What percentage of Success Academy kids make it to gradutation and what happens to the kids that wash out of Success Academies.

        Is that the kind of thing you are advocating for in Virginia?

        • You refuse to take anyone’s word for statistics no matter the source. You question data even when you do not have information that contradicts what is offered. Kind of a personal problem.

          So you will need to find the government data you want, Larry. It is as available to you as it is to anyone else. That is true no matter the issue. Happy hunting.

          • If you’re going to make the claim – back it up – and do so with real data.

            I went ahead and did one anyhow:

            here is Hillsboro Academy data from Loudoun – you tell me what it means in terms of doing a better job with ED kids:
            Subject Race Disadvantaged Pass Rate
            English:Reading Black N <50
            History and Social Science Black N 50
            English:Reading White N 80.7
            English:Reading White Y >50
            History and Social Science White N 72.22
            History and Social Science White Y >50
            Mathematics White N 89.47
            Mathematics White Y >50
            Science White N 100

            you do know what the means right?

            It looks like there are very few economically disadvantaged….

            How about the others?

            Or are you not talking about Virginia Charters and just Success?

            Folks claim Charters do better but they refuse to actually provide the data and then say it’s the job of those asking for proof and when they do , it is “frustrating”.
            go figure.

  10. This from earlier post titled How Childhood Traumas are Driving Special Needs Funding:

    “Racial disparities” have nothing whatever to do with “unequal outcomes”. “Racial disparities” is a false, non-existent construct. So is “systemic racism” a false non-existent construct. Rather it is an abstract monolithic mental construct with no grounding whatever in reality, whether it be now or in the past. History and biology have proven this again and again.

    Similarly, “Equal outcomes” for individuals, or groups of people, is an unattainable Fool’s Errand. I say Fool’s Errand because it has been tried and failed over and over again in modern times, only to result in debacle and disaster. History proves this conclusively.

    So if race and racist is not the problem, what is? And where might solutions be found?

    As I have suggested on this blog for a decade, these answers lie in our study of human cultures. How the culture of a society or human group invariable will drive that society and/or group to success and/or to ruin over time, and will do so irrespective of the color of anyone’s skin, or racial makeup. Here is where ethnicity, along with much else else, can play a roll. History proves this. Now too, increasingly, anthropology, psychology, economics, neuroscience, and biology prove this, as well.

    Earlier, I have mentioned a number of books, such as Becoming Human, that help us find our to way to this problem and its solution. Now, let me add another important new book just published.

    Written by Joseph Henrich, chair of Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, this book, The Weirdest People in the World, shows how our human cultures drive our successes and failures as individuals, groups, and societies. In short, race has nothing to do with success or failure. Our cultures – local, regional, worldwide – have everything to do with the success or failure of individuals and groups across the globe. This includes how they organize, think, feel, perceive, live, function, innovate, create wealth or lose it, and evolve in many ways on many levels, whatever their grouping. The human species, all of it, is far more plastic, adaptable, variable, and capable of all sorts of success or failures, more so than we ever imagined. Culture is the key to lifting all of our boats.

    And also this from post Racial Equity vs. Anti-racism:

    “Dick asks:
    “So, does that mean that kids without motivated families, or probably more the case, too overwhelmed to be motivated in terms of school, are doomed.”

    To short answer is yes. These kids are doomed in a great majority of cases, and it has been going on now for most of 50 years, without our denting problem, but indeed acerbating it.

    The state has played a significant roll here in promoting this problem, by destroying the family, and individuals’ sense responsibility for themselves and their children, and for other children and people, all social constructs that are critical for our children’s success. These simple facts, consequences and realities put in play by government policies have been known and documented, but ignored, since the 1960s and 1970s. Hence, our kids now reap what we have sown for decades.

    As a result, our children’s lost of family and strong supportive communities, and their values, has greatly damaged several generations of our children. This includes irreparable harm being done from their birth through the child’s sixth year, a critical, and typically irreplaceable, time for healthy childhood development, or its lack.

    This has always been the case historically, as these childhood needs are built into all humanity, each and everyone of us. Now these critical needs of all infants and young children are clearly understood, and should be appreciated, as never before by us. This is thanks to monumental advances in the research of childhood development over past 30 years, particularly over past decade. See discussion herein of books like “Becoming Human.”

    And here, Dick, the characterization you use, “without motivated families,” must include the neglect, abandonment, and outright abuse of children from birth on by those responsible for their well being. This devastates kids of all ages, but most particularly the very young.

    Too many kids now have far too little chance to succeed, even before they enter the first grade, absent great effort and luck in school. And now, far too often, the obstacles to many kid’s success pile up in public schools today, year after year, in our grievance society where no one feels truly responsible for them, and/or is in fact held responsible, much less to account.

    Instead these ‘responsible’ adults point their fingers every which way, except at themselves. All of us must change this shirking of responsibility, hard as it may be. Why? Because all of us deserve that change, most particularly those caught up in the problem and its horrible consequences visible all around us now, a collapsing society and culture.

    So we must attack these deep seated social problems vigorously on all fronts from birth, including calling them for what they are, and meeting them head on, in lieu of scapegoating and grievance mongering; and so we must honestly acknowledge these issues as “across the board problems” irrespective of race and skin color, which, in the real world, have little or nothing to do with the problems at hand or their solutions. This also means guaranteeing that all kids who are willing and motivated to learn must have the unfettered right, as human beings, to learn in a safe place with highly motivated and empowered teachers, in classrooms free of kids (and parents, and leaders) who otherwise make this impossible in their classrooms.

    This includes the building of a social ethic and environment that holds all parents to account. To do otherwise is a grave injustice to their kids, the parents themselves, and society generally. Most particularly it is a gross injustice to the great majority of kids (and their responsible parents) who have right to learn and earn a good education fully equal to theirs talents, motivation, and sense of responsibility to themselves and to others.”

    For another example, in the June 21, 2020 post The Coming K-12 Meltdown, I said:

    “Recently, in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Robert Hamilton, author of 7 Secrets of the Newborn, 2018, described the human child’s first year of life as being the first 3 months after the child’s birth “when kids are disoriented and angry at mom ripping them from womb. So during this period the newborn struggles to get its bearings outside in its new and alien place, as it struggles to sleep, feed, stay warm, and safe.”

    Then miraculously around 3 months outside the womb, the child, now oriented, seems transformed as it takes its first purposeful steps into its new world of wonders. Says Dr. Hamilton “These developments make (the doctor’s) three month check up (of an infant) an affair of joy and wonder, the look these babies have in their eyes, the guileless glance that convey hope and destiny, plus a furtive glimmer of self knowledge. Babies this age seem to have a sense of the human potential they’re soon to claim.”

    It is here that Michael Tomasello, in his seminal new book Becoming Human, “a grand synthesis of three decades of collaborative research at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig,” picks up the story of the human child’s cognitive and social development from the 1st year after birth to somewhere around 6th year of the child’s life that typically ends its kindergarten year before the 1st grade. If you understand that story, then you will understand why so many of our public schools as now operated fail our disadvantaged children while at the same time you will deeply appreciate why the methods and reasoning behind a child’s first year in kindergarten in a Success Academy put the child so firmly on the road to success. Those methods and reasoning behind the success of the Success Academies are described in Robert Pondiscio’s book How The Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, And The Battle Over School Choice after he spent a year closely observing Success Academy Bronx 1.

    To quote Mr. Pondiscio:

    “At the end of the school day, Syskowski and Matt Carnaghi empty their classrooms of their kindergarten-size chairs and arrange them in three rows in the open area adjacent to Liz Vandlik’s office. The children are held for dismissal, forcing parents to come upstairs and listen to the teachers before picking them up.

    At 3:45 p.m. sharp, Syskowski launches in. “The reason we’re having a meeting together is because there’s a lot of work to be done. We need to come together as a Bronx 1 community and figure out what’s going on and set goals.”

    She scans the thirty adults seated before her in chairs meant for five-year-olds. “As you can see, right now we have a meeting for ninety children and this is the parent turnout. It’s not good.”

    Syskowski walks them through the reading benchmarks for kindergarten. “It’s January. A number of our children are still Level A or pre-A, which means they don’t know how to read.”

    The kindergartnerers will be tested again in February, by which time they’re all expected to be at Level C.

    If the point is lost, Syskowski lays it out plainly. If their children are not at Level C by the end of February, they are unlikely to reach Level D by the end of the school year. “If they do not reach D, they do not go to first grade,” she says, “Do not. Period.”

    She pauses to let the message sink in, then repeats it. “They will not go to first grade if they’re not a Level D. That has been said before, and I’m just restating it.”

    Now that she has the parents’ full attention, Syskowski pivots from reading levels to school culture and expectations—for adults. “A lot of you are brand new to Success Academy. We know it’s a new world,” she tells them. “We want you to ask questions. We know what we teach here is a little different. It’s different than the way you learned and the way we learned. We received a lot of training and we know this is the best way that children learn. If there are things that you need, you need to ask. So, this is us reaching out, having that parent meeting and saying, ‘Here we are. This is our space. And we need to talk because we’re not meeting benchmarks.’”

    The benchmarks Syskowski is referring to are not only the reading-level chart in her classroom but achievement levels of the kindergarteners relative to dozens of other Success Academy schools.

    “Other schools within our network over in Brooklyn, in Manhattan and Queens, their children are reading at benchmarks,” she says pointedly. “All of us in this room are not doing enough for our kids. The children in Brooklyn and Queens and Manhattan can do it, and our kids can’t, even though we all have the same curriculum, we all have the same training.”

    There are no secrets in a Success Academy school. Classrooms and hallway “data walls” leave little to no doubt which children—by name—are at, above, or below academic standards. This can be off-putting to some parents and has been attacked by critics outside the network. On the other hand, it is the rare student in any school who isn’t aware of who the standouts and strugglers are in class. Success Academy puts it on the wall for all to see.

    Syskowski begins to spin a sobering tale of the trajectory children can find themselves on in the absence of energetic efforts. “First grade is a huuuuge literacy year,” she says. “If we don’t set them up in kindergarten, they will drown.”

    The parents sit silently. “We need to step it up.”

    Carnaghi has been standing alongside Syskowski, nodding stoically. He introduces himself as a “first-year LT,” or lead teacher, then adds almost apologetically, “I’m pretty resourceful and here for you guys.”

    But it’s Syskowski’s intervention, and she’s just getting started. Her tone is unfailingly warm and encouraging—she wants to win the parents over and make common cause, not alienate or antagonize them—but her words are unsparing.

    Standing behind the rows, I cannot see all the parents’ faces, but most appear to be nodding along. If there’s discontent with Syskowski’s brand of tough love, there’s no sign of it. “If your children are late or they’re not here, we can’t teach them,” she says. “We really need you to get your children here by 7:45 if not 7:30.”

    The first moments of each day, kindergarteners have breakfast with their class, and teachers do a “re-teach,” working with individual children on skills in which they’ve fallen behind. “If they are not here on time or not here at all, we can’t do that,” she says. “We have some children in this grade who’ve already been absent eleven times. Anytime I’m sick, I come here. I can’t afford to lose that day with your children. At the same time, your child cannot miss that day with any of us. We’re here, we need to be here, we want to be here, and every second is really . . .”

    A toddler starts crying loudly, drowning her out, and without breaking pace, Syskowski orders the toddler’s sister, Rama B., one of her students with a serious, almost adult face, to take her into a nearby classroom.

    Syskowski is rolling now and doesn’t want to lose her audience, which now fills all the chairs and spills down the hall. “You want your child to go to college. You sent them here to a college-bound school. Our philosophy is that every single child goes to college and it starts when they’re five. I know that you want that for them, because that’s why you brought them to Success Academy. At the same time, it’s a daily grind. You need to put that work in to get them there.”

    Syskowski asks for a show of hands. “Whose child is reading at a Level A right now?” A few hands go up. If the parents are aware of their child’s reading level, many more hands should be in the air. Carnaghi scans the room and jumps in. “There’s one,” he points and calls out. “Two. Anyone else? There are plenty here.”

    It is impossible to tell if the parents don’t know, don’t want to reveal that their child is below benchmarks, or are feeling called out and embarrassed. “We want to get it out there. You’re not alone!” Syskowski implores, trying to encourage more parents to own up and join in.

    “Level B?” More hands go up. “There’s three, four, five,” Carnaghi counts off. By the time she gets to Level D, only one hand is up. “So that means out of everyone here, we have one child who is ready for first grade,” Syskowski says, growing quiet. “We’re a community of parents. Use each other to help each other. I know you guys have daily struggles as parents. I’m not a parent, so I don’t know that struggle. I know that struggle as a classroom teacher when I’m with your scholar and really pushing them, and they’re like, ‘Ms. Syskowski, this is hard,’” she says plaintively. “And yeah, it’s hard.”

    Syskowski’s urgency is not misplaced. By January, the children should be learning to read. Midway through kindergarten, they should recognize and be able to name and write upper- and lowercase letters. They are acquiring those “print concepts,” such as understanding the basic structures of a book and that text moves from left to right, even if they are not fully able to decode the printed word.

    Five-year-olds are also developing phonological awareness, such as recognizing syllables, rhymes, and “phonemes,” the forty-four units of sound that make up every word in the English language. An essential literacy building block at this age is beginning “sound-symbol relationships” and the ability to read consonant-vowel-consonant words like “cat” and “dog.”

    Syskowski and her colleagues do not expect parents to be surrogate reading teachers or to have a nuanced understanding of these skills or progressions. But they nonetheless put a heavy lift on parents to read nightly with their children and to monitor and ensure that they are reading at home—something affluent parents tend to do reflexively, often without even knowing why.

    “We’re seeing two really big issues,” Syskowski says. “Your reading logs still have your scholars’ books on them. They can read those books by themselves. Those are not the books that go on the reading logs,” she instructs. The reading logs are for books that parents read aloud. Very young children can understand even sophisticated texts when they are read aloud, which, research indicates, helps them develop as readers by exposing them to new vocabulary and allowing them to hear mature readers’ fluent pronunciation and expression. Kindergarteners should also spend twenty minutes reading independently at home each night. “That doesn’t mean they read on their own, you go do laundry. It. Is. Challenging. I hear you. We need that patience and excitement to tell them, ‘You know what? You are a great reader, and you can do this.”

    Carnaghi has been largely silent, but now it’s his turn to take the lead. Reading logs must be completed 100 percent of the time. “If we look cross grade right now? Ninety percent. Ninety-two percent. Eighty-six percent,” he says, indicating the compliance rate in each of the kindergarten classrooms. “It’s not getting done.”

    If any other elementary schools in the neighborhood asked parents to maintain reading logs, 90 percent compliance would be a cause for celebration. Here it’s a crisis. “The reason we’re so on you about these reading logs is because it sets up routines, right?” he continues. “These routines help build up memory skills, problem-solving skills. These are all cognitive skills. If you’re not at home constantly building those, your child will not be successful.”

    There is a long pause as Carnaghi and the parents stare at one another. “Really cold, hard fact. You really need to listen. You need to hear it. Like hear it.”

    This is one of the first times I’ve seen Carnaghi “on.” While few restrictions have been placed on my observations, Vandlik asked early in the school year that I “give Mr. Carnaghi some room.” As a new teacher who expected to be an associate, not lead, teacher, it seemed an undue burden to be under an outsider’s microscope, unhelpful to him and a distraction to his students. As a result, I’ve barely set foot in his classroom. Like so many of his colleagues, he radiates earnestness, even as he tries to play bad cop to Syskowski’s good. “One in six children in our community who are not proficient readers by third grade—forget about college. They’re going to have a really hard time passing high school,” he says.

    It’s suddenly hard to hear over the delighted squeals of kindergarteners playing in the classroom behind me, unaware of the high-stakes conversation we are having about them. But the grim urgency Carnaghi is trying to communicate is not misplaced. Failure starts early in communities like Mott Haven. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. first graders who struggle in reading are still struggling in fourth grade; three out of four third-grade readers who are below grade level are still below grade level in ninth grade; and one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time—a failure rate four times greater than among proficient readers.

    If the ninety-odd kindergarteners of Bronx 1 steer clear of this grim vortex of failure that has been all but inevitable for children in this community for generations, it will be in no small part due to what Syskowski, Carnaghi, and the rest of the kindergarten teachers are doing this year—aided and abetted by fully engaged parents.

    “I assume right now that every single parent in this room knows exactly how to teach that kid because nobody comes up to me and asks me, ‘What can I do? How can I help my child? Is there anything else I can do?’” Carnaghi is making demands, almost hectoring, but his tone is plaintive, nearly pleading. “We’re here for your kids. But you’re not showing us that you’re here for your kids right now, because these routines are not getting set up. If you need to know what to do, raise your hand now.”

    Syskowski takes up the call. “Any question at all!”

    Now there are lots of hands. Parents ask about how to handle behavior problems at home. One says she has a hard time getting her child to focus. Another mother expresses frustration at how poorly her child is performing on sight-word quizzes. “When he’s in the house, he does the work perfectly fine. But when he comes here, I guess he gets a little bit scared. Whenever we do words in the house—‘they,’ ‘were,’ ‘was’—he does it perfect. When he gets here, he usually gets one right or two right. Sometimes he gets all three right. So, I’m a little bit . . .” She trails off.

    “Think about environment, right?” Carnaghi replies. “At home, your child is in such a relaxed environment. Do you time him?” Mom says no. “Start timing him. Get him used to timing in both environments. When he’s at home, he gets all the time in the world, he’s relaxed. That’s not a problem. But if you really want to see something different, put on a timer.”

    In other school settings, the suggestion that parents time their children, conduct weekly tests of sight words at home, or be forced to sit and listen to their child’s teacher lecturing them that they’re not living up to their parental responsibilities would cause an insurrection. But none of the parents raise an eyebrow, whether out of deference, intimidation, a shared sense of urgency, a reluctance to make waves, or some combination of these factors.

    Carnaghi adds, “Being timed makes anybody anxious, right?” He turns to the crowd. “Silent thumbs-up if that’s what makes it anxious for you?” and many turn their thumbs up while several chuckle audibly. “It’s not easy!”

    “We have an open-door policy here,” Syskowski reminds them, returning to her main theme. “Tell us the time you’re scheduled to be off from work. Tell us the time you want to come in. Schedule some time. Please!”

    Syskowski calls on a mother who is having trouble keeping her child’s frustrations in check. “Nyelle has that same problem. If she doesn’t know a word like ‘what,’ she actually gets angry. She cries and then we have to end it,” she explains. “I feel like she’s a little behind. I know she’s got a C, but I feel like she should already be at D. But the last, maybe, two weeks, we had to shut down early because she gets so emotional.”

    Syskowski senses a teachable moment. “You said something really awesome I wanted to get out in the open. Nyelle is very much a high-flier in my class. It’s very hard for me to challenge her, because she gets it in a snap,” she explains, pointing at the mother, but directing her comments to the whole group. “Right now, Nyelle’s mom is saying she’s really not doing her best. Yes, a C is past where we need to be right now, but knowing your child and saying, ‘That’s not good enough,’ keeps that bar high. Yes, it is going to be frustrating, and we will give you strategies to handle that frustration. They totally get frustrated here.”

    “We had a visitor in our class today, and he was like, ‘That’s the first time I saw tears’ today,’” Syskowski adds, and I realize she’s talking about me. She tells the parents what happened with the little boy who won’t be going to blocks tomorrow. “That was really tough for him to hear. At the same time, did I say, ‘It’s OK if you don’t finish your book review?’”

    Now it’s Syskowski who starts to tear up. “No. It’s not OK. Because why would I let him fail when other kids are surpassing it and they’ll go to first grade? You would not want me as your child’s classroom teacher. You would not want Mr. Carnaghi or Ms. Skinner to be your child’s teacher if we were like, ‘You know what? You’re right. It is really hard. Let’s just let them be a B.’” How about if they get two out of the four sight words correct? ‘That’s good enough.’ Where are they going to be in thirteen years? Then we won’t talk about college. And that’s something that . . .” Syskowski lowers her gaze to the floor. “I get chills. That’s something that’s really hard for me to . . .”

    Syskowski doesn’t finish the thought. She can’t. She’s crying. “I do get emotional. Because your children are amazing. They are absolutely amazing. I try to . . .” She quickly gathers herself. “We will never lower that bar because it’s too hard. We will figure out other paths to get to the destination.” She hammers every word—“Other. Paths. To get to the destination.” She adds, “We will not lower it.”

    Syskowski is spent. The meeting breaks up with a smattering of applause from the parents, who pull on their coats, collect their kids, and begin to melt away down the hallway. Vandlik emerges from her office and shoots me a smile as she heads down the hall toward the main office. It’s the biggest tell of the afternoon. In most schools, this kind of whole-grade, all-hands-on-deck meeting would be a major event. At Bronx 1, the principal didn’t even participate.” End Quote.

    For more of this fine book on how a serious and highly successful school for mostly all disadvantaged kids in the Bronx teaches kids extraordinary learning and success, please read How The Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, And The Battle Over School Choice (Avery, 2019, $27, 384 pages), by Robert Pondiscio.

    Note that at end of 2018-2019 school year, the students at Success Academy Bronx 1, 100% percent black or Hispanic and 84% economically disadvantaged, and all chosen by lottery, earned proficiency rates of 89.9% in English Language Arts and 98% in Math. Of these, 41% scored at the highest level in English Language Arts , as did 83% in Math. Thus these kids exceeded the performance of two of New York State’s highest preforming schools, Scarsdale and Bronxville where no students are disadvantaged and most are from highly affluent families.

    Also see 2015 article “What Explains Success at Success Academy” wherein, among many things, one finds:

    “Elementary students complete two “project-based learning” units in each grade, where students read and write about a particular subject for six weeks. In 4th grade, for example, children learn about the American Revolution. This year, Success is piloting two additional two-week “mini Core Knowledge” project-based learning units. “We love [Core Knowledge founder] E. D. Hirsch,” says Michele Caracappa, Success’s director of literacy.

    In middle school, Success adds independent reading time and includes a literature class. Students receive iPads loaded with books. Middle-school students must read seven key texts, typically comprising four novels, two nonfiction books, and one of poetry. (I saw middle-school students in Harlem reading The Block, which combines poetry of Langston Hughes with paintings of Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden.)

    Writing skills are emphasized in daily workshops from kindergarten through 8th grade. In later grades, students produce longer pieces across several genres, going through the entire writing process. Much focus is on revision; teachers are trained to give targeted feedback.

    Success’s children’s literature expert, Sara Yu, fills the schools with rich, engaging books at all levels. Yu worked for many years at the highly regarded bookstore affiliated with the Bank Street College of Education. She notes that books aren’t selected only to produce competent readers, but also to expose children to “relevant, important, beautiful material … diverse cultures, economic backgrounds, settings, and characters.”

    This devotion to content pays off. At the Success Academy in Bedford-Stuyvesant (one block the public housing complex where Jay Z grew up—still a tough neighborhood), 81 percent of 3rd graders were proficient in ELA last year (98 percent in math!). A 4th-grade English class dissects How My Parents Learned to Eat, the story of an American sailor learning to use chopsticks to impress his Japanese girlfriend. …” End Quote.

    From More Graduates, Less Learning

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