(This is a guest post by Matthew Ladner, executive editor of redefinED. He has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform, and his articles have appeared in Education Next; the Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice; and the British Journal of Political Science. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. He lives in Phoenix with his wife and three children.)
In the film “The Matrix,” Laurence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, explains to the protagonist that the world he perceived himself to be living in actually had been a neural computer simulation. Humanity had lost a war against its own artificial intelligence mechanical creations years before. Human beings were grown captive in tanks, kept under control by a system known as the Matrix, and used as batteries.
The film’s final scene and credits roll to a song by Rage Against the Machine called “Wake Up.”
Last week, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten gave an interview on MSNBC. Host Stephanie Ruhle posed this scenario for Weingarten’s comment:
We know that there are kids living in cities in this country where those cities and those schools are not serving them. If you live in an inner city and you’ve got kids, your best chance for economic mobility for your child is through a great education, and there are schools that are not serving our kids.
And those schools need to get fixed like we did in New York City.
New York City schools may have been “fixed,” but this raises the question, “fixed for whom?”
Weingarten’s organization virulently opposed the education reforms of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who left office in 2013. Since 2013, New York City has been run by American Federation of Teachers ally Mayor Bill de Blasio. Have New York City Schools been fixed since 2013?
Fortunately, New York City is one of the districts included in the Trial Urban District Assessment of the NAEP. The chart below looks at trends for black and Hispanic students since 2013. On these tests, 10 points approximately equals a grade level’s worth of average progress.
Most of both groups of fourth graders scored “Below Basic” on the 2019 fourth-grade reading exam. The schools clearly are not “fixed” for the sort of students in New York City that Stephanie Ruhle asked Weingarten about in the interview.
In fact, the schools needed improvement in 2013, and then got worse rather than better. If New York City schools have not been fixed for students, for whose benefit have they been fixed? The United States Census Bureau offers a telling clue:
Weingarten’s confusion is understandable, but New York City schools have not been fixed for all students. Rather, they look to have been rigged for her organization and others.
Wake up, New York.