110 thoughts on “Politics Open Thread, Feb 21-27

  1. “My savings is gone,” said Scott Willoughby, a 63-year-old Army veteran who lives on Social Security payments in a Dallas suburb. He said he had nearly emptied his savings account so that he would be able to pay the $16,752 electric bill charged to his credit card — 70 times what he usually pays for all of his utilities combined. “There’s nothing I can do about it, but it’s broken me.”

    Willoughby is among scores of Texans who have reported skyrocketing electric bills as the price of keeping lights on and refrigerators humming shot upward. For customers whose electricity prices are not fixed and are instead tied to the fluctuating wholesale price, the spikes have been astronomical.

    Hum…

  2. I vaguely recall Houston posting a while back about how she had to select an electricity provider from a bunch of choices. Very different from here, where we have one choice. When I was in SV, PG&E gave us two options, flat rate or time of day pricing.

    “For customers whose electricity prices are not fixed and are instead tied to the fluctuating wholesale price”

    I wonder if a lot of customers are going to move to providers/plans with fixed prices.

  3. I thought this article did a decent job of summarizing how this state is different from others in the continental US.

  4. 20 years ago (give or take) California deregulated the electricity market. Worked out great, till supply got constrained, and the state had to pony up outrageous amounts to ensure supply. Enron ring a bell? Gov. Gray Davis was recalled because of it.

  5. I am so angry about those people being stuck with those bills I am beside myself. We talk about executive function on here all the time. For the state of Texas to assume all its citizens understand the risk they are assuming by selecting variable rate plans is ridiculous. If you ask some of our politicians to explain it to you, I doubt they could. Texas has a rainy day fund. They need to tap it to help people like Mr Willoughby. It’s f*%# electricity. It shouldn’t be this hard.

    Essential services are a core government function. This experiment in turning it into a free market resulted in people dying in their homes or depleting their saving to pay bills over $10K. This is not a government that it is serving its constituents.

  6. “This is not a government that it is serving its constituents.”

    This is a very basic failure.

  7. As a TX resident, I have spent hours pouring over the website when selecting my provider. It is a arduous task even for someone highly educated who does analysis every day. The companies are always being bought or going out of business. They have lots of information, but companies always add fees or other things to confuse you. i.e., $40/month if <=1000kwh, $.15/kwh after, etc. (my small house ranges from 400-1500kwh/month) Or the free nights and weekends offered by another provider. I always stick to fixed, although the variable prices look cheaper. I feel bad for those on the pay as you go plans. I wonder if they cut people off. I had a friend on one of those and he miscalculated the expenses of his kids being at home all day during summer. They called him in a panic because the power was out.

    They did a study a few years back that said electricity rates were actually higher in the deregulated cities. Most people don't bother to keep up with the contracts and just get the default rate, which is, of course, higher.

    I also think it is ridiculous that several of the ERCOT board members live out of state. There are plenty of competent people in the state knowledgeable on energy issues.

  8. A comment on Covid. I know we had very high infection rates and rates are falling but I’m surprised that we are not back to at least yellow. The spike was very high for us.
    Last night I dreamed that I went somewhere and didn’t have a mask, was panicking but it turns out I didn’t need one. I saw a woman with a nice shade of lipstick and I complimented her on it.

  9. I am not surprised because most people I know are not staying home. DD was the only person in her friend group that didn’t go away last week. People went to Florida, Caribbean islands, college tours and Vermont. Many of her friends went skiing last week. It is safe and requires a reservation, but then they shared houses or stayed with friends overnight. The same is true for high school students around here getting together every weekend. I hear about a new case from a high school student almost everyday, and then we usually hear about more cases in their homes because they infected at least one parent or sibling.This isn’t an age group (10-55) that is getting vaccinated yet, and they are going in each other’s homes and cars. Everything is inside because it is so cold. My county is still rated as extremely high risk and remains as a dark shade of purple due to the number of positive cases. I hope this starts to change as more people receive the vaccine.

  10. Lauren – On the going on vacation, I hear the same thing from DD’s friends as well. The weeks after Easter/Spring Break are going to be problematic.
    The political fallout aside, I wasn’t surprised that Ted Cruz’s family decided to go to Cancun. The private schools are in person but they have a drip, drip of cases as families travel. Now, at least they just quarantine the closest kids and for a shorter time per the CDC guidance without putting the entire class in quarantine.

  11. Many universities, including mine, cancelled spring break to prevent this kind of travel. I do not see why our school districts did not do the same. We are just finishing a week long “winter break”. What was the point? We have tons of parents screaming at school board meetings that their kids need to be in school, so why waste a week on a vacation when it just encourages people to travel and do unsafe activities. I don’t get it. Maybe the ski lobby paid off someone?

  12. “I do not see why our school districts did not do the same.”

    Simple, IMHO. Teachers’ Union Contracts.

  13. Massachusetts has had a slow rollout, poor websites, and an emphasis on large sites, but this is what I did Sunday. Parking lot behind the bank. Wait in car for 15 min after shot, then they bring you your CDC card and schedule next appt. No reason why this couldnt be replicated in towns across the commonwealth, maybe in parking lots of ghostly shopping centers or office buildings.

  14. I think I am the only one of my friends not going somewhere for Spring Break. There is a lot of “oh, we’re driving” as a nod to it being “safe”. (I’m not sure the plane is the more risky part of this…) A few people going to National Parks which are presumably more geared toward outdoor activities. But I also have friends going to Disney and stuff like that. Is Disney risky? I don’t know – a lot of that is outside, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near a crowd right now voluntarily. I guess I am still one of the more conservative ones.

    That said, between the >12% of people who have gotten at least one dose and the number of people who have actually had the virus recently, I am cautiously optimistic that things will just continue to get better regardless. And I will continue to try to be especially careful as I do not want to get this stupid virus at the very end of the wait for a vaccine after 12 months of cautiousness.

  15. The Supremes denied certiorari and cleared the way to the NY grand jury to obtain Trump’s financial records. Evidently 6-3.

  16. I’d love to go somewhere — even snowshoeing up in the mountains — but “retired” DH is buried with work. I heard him this morning taking depositions for some case, occasionally saying “I object to the form of the question”. When he came out to get coffee I said “How’s it going?” “Opposing counsel is slime,” he growled, slamming the door to the office. Okay then. No snowshoeing til mid-March when discovery for this stupid case is over.

  17. We visited some museums over Christmas break. They were really well managed though, with people well spaced and masked and good ventilation.

  18. RMS – your DH is having more fun than snow shoeing !
    I am going to use “I object to the form of the question”.
    Such civilized arguments !

  19. LOL, Louise. I don’t think he is having that much fun, but there are lots of legal phrases that are useful in family life. I recall Honolulu used to say “Objection — asked and answered” when her kids wouldn’t shut up about something.

  20. @ DD – but you are vaccinated. It makes a huge difference. I would not feel comfortable flying at this point if I were not vaccinate.

  21. @ DD – but you are vaccinated. It makes a huge difference. I would not feel comfortable flying at this point if I were not vaccinated.

  22. DH wants to fly for business reasons. I told him that he must get the vaccine first.

    We are going to drive to visit family this summer, and that will be our only vacation unless we are all vaccinated first.

  23. On kids and covid…..I saw lots of pictures this weekend of small groups of kid (8-15ish in size) having pseudo sweetheart dances, which instead became dinner and after parties – no school dance. Today, I’m on a call with someone who got sick over the weekend, and said his kids have friends who have covid, and his son lost his taste Friday night but otherwise feels fine. Said kid IS AT SCHOOL today. We had to convince him he (the adult) should go get tested, because he said he figures he probably has it. Our most convincing argument was their planned trip to Mexico for spring break and that he might still test positive by then. It’s a really hard line right now, I try and keep my thoughts to myself about risks others are taking……but this is in my ‘hood. If people are out mingling as normal when they just lost their taste, wtaf?

  24. @ DD – but you are vaccinated. It makes a huge difference. I would not feel comfortable flying at this point if I were not vaccinated.

    I flew last fall before I was vaccinated and I felt comfortable with it.

  25. DW and DD haven’t been vaccinated and the three of us are flying to see DS in a couple of weeks and we are comfortable with it. Obviously everyone has to make their own risk assessments, but I think flying is as safe as anything else right now.

  26. But DD, didn’t you test positive for antibodies? So you did catch it.

    It’s much more likely I picked it up at work than from flying.

  27. “It’s much more likely I picked it up at work than from flying.”

    Your day to day life is riskier than many of ours, e.g., I’ve been WFH almost entirely since summer, and hardly leave the house other than to go walking.

    So for you, flying is a lower relative risk than me.

  28. Finn, my opinion is that flying has the same risk as going to Costco. Others may disagree.

  29. I live in an area where my electricity is provided by a municipal utility so I do not have choice of an electric power provider. THANK GOD! BITD, I did some work related to electric utility deregulation and all I could think about was how much I did not want to add figuring that out to my plate.

    As a country, we shove a lot of decision making choices that require a lot of executive function onto consumers. Collectively, we are more capable than the average consumer at figuring these things out, have the income for more than one option to be affordable, and the time to spend thinking about it. We talk about the frustration and/or confusion we have found when trying to compare various insurance options or selecting an electric, landline or cell phone provider. We have talked about whether you need to be the “best” plan or if “good enough” is okay.

    I am not sure that full governmental regulation of everything is the answer either, but many adults could sure use support in learning how to work through these choices.

  30. If I was in Texas I think I would fret over picking a power utility. So many options to figure out.

    My city leaves trash pickup to the residence to contract. When I moved here I didn’t know anyone and the prior owner used Waste Management, so that is who I called and was under contract for two years. Only later did I realize that there are six main haulers to choose from, and they all have different rates and deals, and basically I was paying almost double for my trash because I had no clue. I hate price shopping for trash haulers…I can’t imagine doing it for Electric.

  31. Becky, thanks for posting that.

    Here’s something directly from that website:

    ” Variable plans allow customers to benefit from falling market prices, but they also have an increased risk for higher rates if electricity prices spike due to natural disasters, cold winters, or adverse market conditions. “

  32. As a country, we shove a lot of decision making choices that require a lot of executive function onto consumers.

    Yes this. Our parents who lived in the home country don’t really understand this. There is a sign up for almost everything and at least a glance at your choices, if not in depth research is required, year after year. Each item comes with its own deadline to act. All this takes effort and time if you want to make sure nothing important slips through the cracks.

  33. ” Variable plans allow customers to benefit from falling market prices, but they also have an increased risk for higher rates if electricity prices spike due to natural disasters, cold winters, or adverse market conditions. “

    Sure, but when the average person thinks of “higher rates”, they aren’t thinking of thousands of dollars for a week’s usage.

  34. “Sure, but when the average person thinks of “higher rates”, they aren’t thinking of thousands of dollars for a week’s usage.”

    Yes, that was my reaction too.
    Cautious Customer: “It might go from $200 to $300.
    No customer ever: “It might go from $200 to $16,000.”

  35. I just went to the Savonenergy site and typed in zip code 77380 (The Woodlands). There are 67 plans to choose from! There’s Fixed rates, Variable rates, Indexed rates. Not to mention they give you an estimate of a monthly rate…so you need to be aware of how much energy you generally use to make an educated decision. And if there is a pandemic that requires everyone to be home all.the.time, then your usage is going to be much higher than you anticipated when you made that choice. Yikes!

  36. Kinda like how we have a billion mutual fund choices that are all slightly different from each other.

  37. Kim, did you switch? We made the switch a while ago to the sustainable option.The rates were guaranteed for a period of time, but then we received a letter earlier this year that showed a dramatic increase in the rates because they went 100% sustainable, and it was no longer a guaranteed rate. We were conflicted about trying to save the planet, but we went back to Con Ed in January because the difference was significant. The “choice” in this area was new and our Town Supervisor held multiple forums for people to ask questions and understand what it meant to choose a provider that was not Con Ed.

  38. We have some options for choice too. I haven’t historically had any issues with power outages or strange charges, and our electric bill is not a material part of our bills, even in summer. I have no interest in taking this on. Our spend on internet and cell service is at least 3x our electric, so makes much more sense to spend my time/energy there.

    Also, the “choice” options have always had that feeling of being very scammy – they send people door to door trying to get people to sign up, and the flavor/quality of the mailers/fliers does not lead me to have much confidence that they are going to be an improvement on ComEd (who still actually generates and supplies the power anyway).

    https://www.pluginillinois.org/FAQ.aspx

    A few key items from the FAQ:

    Are there any different rate options even if I currently do not want to select a different electric supplier?
    Yes. Ameren Illinois and ComEd both offer real time or hourly pricing options to help residential customers manage their usage better. Hourly prices for electricity are posted a day ahead so customers can determine the best time to run major appliances for the next day. The real time pricing option requires a special meter to be installed at your home. Visit the real-time pricing websites at the links above for more information.

    IVY: NO effing way am I looking at hourly rates every day to decide how/when to use the A/C. You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Will I save money?
    That depends. You will need to contact suppliers providing service in your area for pricing information and then compare prices, charges and other agreement terms of the offers.

    IVY: Sounds like a nightmare.

  39. A few years ago we got something from Xcel about an alternative rate plan, and they were promoting that it was much better than the current plan. I figured if they were encouraging people to pick the new plan that meant it was in their favor, so I stuck with the old plan.

  40. Lauren, I never switched to an alternative provider. It was mostly due to inertia and lack of interest in researching the options.

  41. “A few years ago we got something from Xcel about an alternative rate plan”

    DD, would it even matter to you, given that you have rooftop PV?

  42. Can I just say I kind of like Romney’s proposal on the minimum wage hike? While higher would be better, this is a good place to start compromising. And the “poison” tied to it is to require employers to use e-Verify, something I actually support.
    The AOC gang will be against it of course, and I bet the Republican donors won’t go for it either.

  43. I’m glad that I don’t have a choice on gas, electric, and water/garbage (bill is combined from the city). The bill varies as we aren’t on a budget/fixed bill, but I budget $100/month for gas, $100/month for electric, and $150/month for water/garbage and that covers the bill within +/- $25 every month. In this case, it is nice to not have choices.

  44. DD, would it even matter to you, given that you have rooftop PV?

    Yes, because it only covers 80% of our usage, more or less.

  45. Mandatory e-verify makes a lot of sense. It is more humane and likely more effective than trying to stop the immigrants themselves from coming. They will keep coming as long as there are employers willing and able to hire them. I actually think Dems would vote for e-verify as part of comprehensive immigration reform that includes legal status for Dreamers and other undocumented who have been here a long time and stayed out of trouble. Wasn’t that included in the immigration package that passed the Senate under Obama?

  46. “Can I just say I kind of like Romney’s proposal on the minimum wage hike?”

    I’m not a fan of a single federal minimum wage. There’s too much regional variation in market wage rates for it to make sense. A cautionary tale is how a federal minimum wage rate caused great harm to the economy of American Samoa.

    I’m also not a fan at all of minimum wage increases for the purposes of a ‘living wage.’ There’s no economic reason to connect the two, and there’s the obvious questions of what a ‘living wage’ is for HS students in their first PT jobs, how a single federal minimum wage addresses regional differences in COL, and whether a ‘living wage’ depends on how many dependents one has.

    As we’ve discussed many times here, the EITC is a better way to increase low-wage workers’ incomes. Among the relative benefits, it won’t put people working at the current minimum wage out of work.

  47. The problem with mandatory E-Verify is that Chamber of Commerce Republicans, the donors, would be against it.

  48. From my newsfeed this morning:
    The deregulation of electricity suppliers in Texas promised to lower costs for customers, but an analysis of Energy Information Administration data by The Wall Street Journal finds they have paid $28 billion more over the past two decades than they would have under traditional suppliers. There are concerns that customer bills will go even higher following the state’s recent outages.

    The full article is in the WSJ. (I’m paywalled so can’t share.)

  49. I have long been a proponent of E-Verify enforcement. The problem is, as MM says, the Republican party has gotten itself into a trap – they need the donor class money, and they have a vested interested in keeping illegal immigration high. But they need the votes of the “tough on immigration crowd” which is a pretty broad spectrum that runs the gamut from the moderate enforce/reform crowd to the foaming-at-the-mouth white supremacists.

    The Democrats are getting into a bit of the same situation with the far left, but it’s not as bad yet as the actual Democrats in power are far more Moderate than the fringe. So far.

  50. Cassandra—Glad you’re getting more, though definitely very slowly (understandably frustrating!). Curious: any thoughts on how small population counties like Mono (14k residents), Sierra (3k), and Alpine (1k) got a disproportionate amount? Is it a minimum order issue? The counties are a mix politically. My back of napkin calculation shows they should have roughly 41%, 36%, and 67% of their 16+ population with at least one shot in their arm. (Sacramento is likely at 12% and some counties with very low allocations are around 9-10%.)

  51. Minca, I don’t know. I’m not familiar enough with those counties, although it could be a function of age, maybe. I don’t know if Sierra even has a hospital, they were always lumped in with Plumas when I was a kid.

    My county is just above five percent with shots in the arm.

  52. Continued from Friday’s thread:

    “Why is mostly Black/Hispanic worse than mostly Asian/Pacific Islander (which describes public schools here)?”

    The principal reason for this is the fact of Asian-American achievement. This is an embarrassment to progressives because it undermines the claim that structural racism dooms nonwhite citizens to the margins of the American dream. So Asian-American achievement must either be dismissed as somehow white or sacrificed at the altar of equity.

    Examples abound. A report last year called “The Secret Shame” notes how public schools in America’s most progressive cities have been failing their black and Latino children for decades. How does New York Mayor Bill de Blasio respond? In January America’s self-styled progressive in chief announced that New York will abolish the entrance exam for the city’s gifted-and-talented programs for young students. If you can’t fix the schools that are broken, you cut down to size the schools that are working.

    In 2019 Mr. de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group reported that though Asians are only 17% of New York’s kindergarten population, they account for 42% of the gifted-and-talented seats. Plainly the mayor’s “success” requires reducing the number of Asian-Americans no matter how qualified they are. The mayor has also tried to abolish the entrance exam for the city’s high-performing high schools, where Asian-American students again are “overrepresented.” And the progressive war on merit is by no means confined to New York. San Francisco’s renowned Lowell High School abolished its own merit-based admissions this month, again in large part because a student body selected by merit will have too many Asian-Americans and too few students from other minority groups.

    More at the link.

    Boston:

  53. Carranza took some similar actions in Houston, if I remember correctly. I didn’t like them because it gave my kids a smaller chance of getting into the high schools that I liked, but it gave more kids (and kids with less involved parents) a better shot at these desired schools.

  54. As it stands, it’s just unsolvable. The real solution is to make all the schools better, so that there’s less demand for the few elite schools that guarantee success. But that’s expensive and hard to implement.

  55. I think you have to be forceful to desegregate–I’d say increase the size of the elite high schools in NYC and mandate 50% Hispanic/Black.

  56. So in Chicago, they used to have racial quotas for selective-enrollment admissions, but that was abandoned when DS was a baby. Now they use socio-economic tiers based on your address/census tract. Census tracts are only a few blocks each. It works relatively well, IMHO. The lower tiers have lower test score requirements for entry, but is helps balance out all the wealthier kids’ test prep and other advantages. The diversity of the SEHS is a bit closer to the total district than in NYC, IIRC. Of course, people game the system, but overall – I think it is as fair as you can make it without dumbing down the selective enrollment schools. (those are the “elite” test-in schools, there is a whole other choice system of magnets and charters as well)

    The bigger issue is that a lot of kids don’t want to travel all the way across the city for HS (duh), so there are schools in certain areas that are more dominated by one race because they reflect the surrounding neighborhoods. Desegregating the city itself is a much different and bigger issue.

  57. If schools are desegregated, you would expect each school to have students that reflect overall percentages in the area. The problem in NYC is that 34% of the residents are white, but only 15% of the public school students are. So there is no way to end up with schools that represent the actual demographics. And if you try to do things that Houston is suggesting, the 16% Asian enrollment and 15% white enrollment will go even further down. You can’t escape that. Asian families in particular see the exam schools as their only chance.

  58. “So in Chicago, they used to have racial quotas for selective-enrollment admissions, but that was abandoned when DS was a baby. “

    Was that a policy decision, or was that a decision forced on the schools because racial quotas were deemed illegal?

    “The lower tiers have lower test score requirements for entry, but is helps balance out all the wealthier kids’ test prep and other advantages. “

    IDK if that would work in NYC, where many of the exam school students are not wealthy.

    “Desegregating the city itself is a much different and bigger issue. “

    And not necessarily desirable, depending on the reason for the segregation.

    Immigrant communities, for example, often form because the immigrants find comfort in living near others who share the same language and cultural background, not necessarily because they were prevented from living elsewhere.

  59. “Carranza took some similar actions in Houston “

    That suggests that he was hired largely because of his history of trying to change admissions policies for elite schools.

  60. “If schools are desegregated, you would expect each school to have students that reflect overall percentages in the area. “

    By that definition of desegregated, if a city is segregated, and kids attend local schools, the schools are desegregated.

    My understanding is that in NYC, neighborhoods tend to be segregated, and local schools often reflect that. And more broadly, isn’t that sort of thing why school integration often involved busing?

    But I don’t know much about the NYC schools and would welcome input from those who do.

  61. My issue with Carranza and DeBlasio is that they’re gutting G&T instead of fixing it. My kids’ G&T classed throughout were minority majority, mostly Black and Latino. Yes testing 4 and 5 year olds is nuts, so test them at 1st grade and then again and again through 6th. Let kids join in later years, let kids leave if it’s no longer a fit. Fix middle schools, which are awful. Expand the test schools; have more of them. Stop gutting the few things that work at least somewhat and focus on lifting the quality across the board.

  62. “I’d say increase the size of the elite high schools in NYC and mandate 50% Hispanic/Black. “

    I’m not sure that mandate would be legally possible.

    I definitely agree with you on expanding the elite high schools in NYC, whether by increasing the size of the existing schools or creating more of them. I still don’t get why I never heard of di Blasio or Carranza ever proposing that.

    I looked up the history of the exam schools. After the first 3 were started by the state in 1972, 5 more were added during Bloomberg’s mayorship. Those of you from NY, was that expansion entirely a Bloomberg initiative, or did he just continue what had already been set in motion? In any case, from what I can see, that expansion has been a success, and seems to be an example that begs to be emulated, not just in NYC but also in other places with similar schools like Lowell, TJ, and the ones in Boston.

    BTW,TMK this history also explains why the first 3 schools’ admissions policy is set by the state, but the others are set by NYC. I’m not sure about the Fame school, and largely ignore it in my discussions of the exam schools.

    One thing I suggest can be done very quickly in NYC is increasing the exam school enrollments by, say, 5 to 10 kids per school per class, and setting aside those additional seats for kids near the cutoff (e.g., scores >95% of cutoff scores) from underrepresented middle schools, or some other proxy for largely Black/Hispanic middle schools, i.e., taking a page from TX universities.

  63. Finn, UT admissions policy resulted in a fairly diverse student base. I’d support the top 5% of each graduating middle school class getting auto entry into the exam schools. Because the schools themselves are segregated, it would result in a more diverse student body.

  64. “UT admissions policy resulted in a fairly diverse student base.”

    Yes, that’s why I suggested that model as one possibly proxy for race that might pass legal muster.

    I’ve read stories that when UT first implemented that policy, there were issues with many students being unprepared for college at that level.

    I suspect something similar would happen at the exam schools. I don’t know that putting kids into that situation would benefit them. That’s why I’d lean to limiting expansion to kids near the cutoff. Perhaps the policy could be that kids in the top 5% and scoring within 95% of what would be cutoff, based on current policy, would be guaranteed spots.

  65. Having listened in on many public HS school zoom calls the past few months (in replacement of in person tours), NYC has a wide variety of interesting HS programs but many of them are tiny (90-140 kids per grade) and housed in buildings with other schools, the school facilities are old, crappy (we have no gym) and in poor shape, and many schools are not easy to get to. I sincerely wish all parents luck in navigating this crazy system.

  66. “My issue with Carranza and DeBlasio is that they’re gutting G&T instead of fixing it… Stop gutting the few things that work at least somewhat and focus on lifting the quality across the board.”

    Carranza’s history suggests a crab in the bucket mentality.

  67. The neighborhoods in NYC are segregated on a micro level and all jam up against each other. It isn’t like some other cities where areas are black (or white or HIspanic) across huge areas. We were driving on one of the boulevards in Brooklyn today, and saw this firsthand – about 6 blocks of it was very black with Haitian and black churches along the boulevard (it wasn’t a commercial boulevard, mostly apartment buildings and religious), then suddenly it became Hasidic and that went on for 5 or so blocks and then it started morphing into young white families with stroller as we neard the Brooklyn Museum (our destination). Going back on another route,it was the same – young white trendies shivering at outside bar tables, then suddenly it was very, very Hasidic and a bit later became Chinese.
    The other thing about NYC is that because of school choice, the demographics of a given school often do not reflect at all the demographics of the surrouding neighborhood.

  68. One more thing about the exams schools – it is really an Asian vs Black/Hispanic issue. White students are a minority at those schools. According to to this site
    https://council.nyc.gov/data/school-diversity-in-nyc/

    It is even more Asian at the schools we discuss the most – Bronix High School of Science is 65% Asian, 22% white, 7% Hispanic, and 2% black. Stuyvesant is 73% Asian, 18% white, 3% Hispanic, some teeny fractional bit black, and 4% multiracial. Queens HIgh School of Science is 82% Asian,6% white, 4% Hispanic, 3% black, and 5% multiracial. Only the HIgh School for American Studies is majority white at 56%

    The entire debate about the specialized high schools pits poor Asian kids against poor black and Hispanci kids and that is why it so toxic and so different from the overall desegregation debate

  69. “HS programs but many of them are tiny (90-140 kids per grade”

    My kids’ high school classes ranged from 105-115 kids per grade, and they are in the biggest high school in the county. We all live very different lives, but I do think that improving all schools should be done and does NOT require gutting the exam schools.

  70. “about the exams schools – it is really an Asian vs Black/Hispanic issue.”

    From where I sit (admittedly 6 time zones removed), I’m not sure that’s the case.

    What it seems like to me is that the kids who get in to the exam schools are, to large extent, kids who prepped for the exam. TMK, the exam is not intended to be a test of how well kids have learned what’s been covered in school to that point, so I don’t think it’d accurate to blame the elementary and middle schools for not preparing the kids to do well on the test.

    That a high %age of the exam school students are eligible for free/reduced cost lunch suggests that wealth/income is not a bar to getting into those schools. These are not schools for privileged kids.

    These two factors suggest that the kids who get in come from families who prioritize getting in.

    I think it was City Mom who posted here about sending her kid non-Asian to test prep. Her experience suggests that test prep businesses are not closed to non-Asians.

    IIRC, NYC has offered free test prep classes, but that didn’t seem to move the needle.

    Lauren has posted links to some articles discussing why the exam schools’ Black representation has gone down from being much higher, and IIRC it had a lot to do with school choice, and how that led to reductions in GT programs. Speculatively reading between the lines, I’m guessing those changes largely eliminated elementary through middle school peer groups including many Black or Hispanic kids that collectively aspired to the exam schools.

    I wonder how many Black or Hispanic kids, or their parents, aspire to the exam schools? I’d guess that there being so few of them probably is a factor.

    I’m guessing this is where segregation plays a factor. Asian families living in Asian neighborhoods are probably well aware of the exam schools and have easy geographical access to test prep centers, while the same is probably not true of Black/Hispanic families living in Black/Hispanic neighborhoods.

  71. I don’t think increasing the size or diversity of exam schools = gutting them. I think that poor black kids have many more challenges than poor Asian kids, due to discrimination trends and should get more of a boost. I say this as a parent of Asian kids.

  72. Finn – you don’t think Black families want their kids to get into the test-in schools?! You have no idea what you’re talking about and, you may not realize this, but are being incredibly insulting.

    Please stop speculating and pontificating about things you know very little about.

  73. Cassandra – My HS class was around 100 kids but I didn’t grow up in NYC. The class sizes used to be larger here. There also used to be only one school in a building. (I’d never heard of multiple schools in a building before moving here.) Now, there are often multiple smaller schools in the same building that share certain facilities – cafeteria, gym, science labs, etc. – and have staggered start/stop times and/or limits on which floors and staircases the kids use. Some of the smaller schools are very interesting. This approach has allowed for some innovation but it also stresses the system. It really is an overwhelming process for parents to try and figure out which school is a fit, and whether your kid has a chance at getting in.

  74. I am sure there are lots of factors behind the reasons that the exams schools are so Asian. But the whole thing pits poor kids of color against poor kids of color, and the politics are very ugly.

  75. And Finn, your article says what everyone knows -the exam schools are fiercely competitive even once you get in. I suspect it is a reason why there are so many white kids there – they have other choices and don’t see the need to subject themselves to that.

  76. Typo-should say “I suspect that is a reason why there are not that many white kids at those schools.”

  77. The Crimson article is pretty much how life is for students in the home country aspiring to STEM careers. Even admissions to top business schools is brutal.
    My kids face nowhere near that kind of pressure. Some of my friends took career paths that did not require academic rigor because they were so burnt out.

  78. I would say raise the standards at all schools. If a portion of students wants to compete for the exam schools that’s fine but it should not be the be all and end all. There should be graduates from other city schools who should be qualified enough to go to selective colleges if they want to.

  79. Let me first say that I’m not claiming any knowledge beyond what I’ve read in articles, and I welcome corrections to my perceptions based on those articles. I don’t particularly have any skin in the game directly, so this is water cooler type discussion.

    “you don’t think Black families want their kids to get into the test-in schools?”

    Not to the same degree as Asian families, and I don’t think this is baseless speculation.

    I think part of that is awareness and groupthink. E.g., if you live in an Asian community, walk by a test prep business regularly, and know of kids in the community going to those schools, you’re more likely to be aware of the schools, what it takes to get in, and their perceived desirability.

    I’ve read articles that said that the test takers are disproportionately Asian, which is consistent with Asian families wanting their kids to get in to a higher degree. I’ve also read about test prep businesses being mostly located in Asian neighborhoods, with mostly Asian clientele, which also is consistent.

    I’ve also read in articles about TJ that cited black kids choosing not to attend, or not even test, because they didn’t want to be part of such an underrepresented minority, and speculatively (but not baselessly) extrapolated that.

  80. “the whole thing pits poor kids of color against poor kids of color”

    Those schools are competitive, so they generally pit kids against kids.

    Poor kids of color aren’t just competing against other poor kids of color, some the same color, and some of other colors; they’re also competing against not poor kids, of color as well as not of color.

  81. Finn, I am not talking about the kids competing on the tests. I am talking about the politics and the political choices. Focusing on changing the exam schools instead of focusing on the many other aspects of the system is a political choice, and it is one that pits Asian families against Black and Hispanic families, even though the press frames it as a white privilege issue. The blowback from the Asian-American community has been fierce and may be one reason why Carranza had to go.

  82. Mooshi, yes, at that level it seems like Carranza and di Blasio framed it that way, as a zero-sum game, unnecessarily IMO.

  83. Finn- I’m not going to get into a discussion with you about Asian culture v. Black culture around education. I don’t think it would change your perception of the issue and you would continue to be insulting. I don’t think you are familiar enough with Black communities to have a meaningful, informed discussion on this topic without resorting to stereotypes. You are engaging in just exactly what Mooshi described the politicians doing – pitting one group against another, instead of focussing on systemic inequities and the multitude of other issues with schooling in NYC.

    I just came from picking up my kids from the SHSAT. Trust me there are a lot of Black families that care deeply about their kids’ education and are trying to take their shot at having their kids attend these specialized high schools.

  84. Kerri, I’m sorry if you choose not to discuss.

    I’m fascinated by the whole exam school situation, but I’ve largely been limited to news media as sources of information, so what I’ve been posting has largely been my perceptions based on what I’ve read, and trying to fill in the very large holes with extrapolations and guesses. I’ve never lived anywhere like NYC, so those extrapolations and guesses are based on experience that is likely not very relevant.

    I’d really welcome corrections to my perceptions, as well as accounts of actual experiences within that system.

    One example is just hearing about picking up your kids, which tells me the test was administered this year. I was wondering how admissions would be handled, given the pandemic, and the risks associated with testing. Were those tests for admission to schools for the 21-22 school year, and is the policy for that year unchanged and still totally based on that test?

  85. My DD also took a high school placement test. The stakes in her case is class placement. The high school tracks the incoming students. Note, students are already tracked into high school level classes for Math and Foreign language and most will continue on that track. The high school is not open on what test exactly they will administer so the students can’t prep for a specific test.
    I am just stating my experience here, because with my first kid, I was unaware of the tracking that went on in Math and language before the start of the 8th grade.
    Mooshi’s comments over the years have been very helpful to me in this regard. I have voiced my opinion to the school that they should be more transparent about tracking. There have been changes at the middle school level and there is definitely more transparent communication around this. Tracking at various schools begins earlier than one would expect.

  86. In public schools here tracking of a sort begins with admissions to magnet schools. There is a very desirable middle school magnet program in my area. Many of my neighbors kids go there. Once those kids graduate middle school they automatically go to the IB magnet at the high school. The IB magnet is a school within the larger zoned high school. If you didn’t know that there was a magnet lottery and 5th grade scores were also considered, your child would have missed the opportunity. Navigation of educational choices here is far more complicated than in the home country. If things are not made automatic then children without advocates are going to be left behind

  87. Kerry, since your kids are Hispanic, would you personally prefer that the admission be 100% test score based or would you hope for some sort of quota that would help their chances? I really wished for no quotas because I didn’t want my kids to feel resented, but also, their test scores might not be good enough. (2 of my 3 boys were not outstanding test takers)

  88. “Kerry, since your kids are Hispanic”

    I’ve asked DH if he thinks the kids are Hispanic and he just shrugs. He is Hispanic and identifies as such. I am not. I don’t think the kids identify as Hispanic and we’ve left the decision to them. Neither speaks Spanish. DH is technically not 100% Hispanic, because he has an Asian great grandfather (who lived in Cuba), and I am such a mutt heritage-wise. All this is to say I really struggle with this and I’m not sure it’s my place to label the kids as Hispanic.

    Personally I wish the test actually tested what its supposed to and scores couldn’t be bettered simply with test prep. I wish no one had to do test prep. I wish the public schools were good enough to provide kids with the knowledge and skills they needed to qualify for these schools. I wish there were more of these schools and more seats at these schools. I think how the current system treats really bright kids is a travesty.

    I don’t like quotas – I’ve seen them used to diminish people who are clearly well qualified. Yet, the outcomes appear to be so unjust without quotas I see how they could be a tool to give more (qualified) kids a shot.

    I’m such a rule-follower type that I hate having to “work the system” but at the end of the day, I will to make sure the kids are not disadvantaged. For example, the kids did do some test prep for the SHSAT.

    And, with most things, I’m probably over thinking this. =)

  89. Mafalda – I have one kid that is a fantastic test taker; the other it depends on the day. The latter sometimes freezes up and doesn’t finish all the questions – and the underlying reasons for that are not straightforward, especially this year.

    Aside from the specialized schools (the test only schools), NYC DOE has moved to prioritize lower income families for seats at public high schools, so regardless of their ethnicity my kids don’t qualify for that grouping. Whether being Hispanic or not gives them priority within their grouping is clear as mud, as the rules changed a lot this year and the NYC DOE is not always very transparent.

  90. “Personally I wish the test actually tested what its supposed to and scores couldn’t be bettered simply with test prep.”
    “I’m such a rule-follower type that I hate having to “work the system” but at the end of the day, I will to make sure the kids are not disadvantaged. For example, the kids did do some test prep for the SHSAT.”

    @Kerri – This is where I am completely. I learned my lesson with 7th grade entrance. Do the test prep because every other kid my kid is competing with is doing it. There is no reason not to make sure my kid has every legal/ethical advantage. DS has starts test prep next weekend for his 9th grade entrance exams (one is in May, the other next fall/winter).

    ” If you didn’t know that there was a magnet lottery and 5th grade scores were also considered, your child would have missed the opportunity. ”

    @Louise – Since we switched to public school, the school and the teachers have been really involved in the 7th and 9th grade application process. I’m not sure this is the case at all of the public schools, but it has been at ours.

  91. Kerri, I can relate completely. My three boys vary how they answer ethnicity questions constantly!

  92. “I’m such a rule-follower type that I hate having to “work the system” but at the end of the day, I will to make sure the kids are not disadvantaged. For example, the kids did do some test prep for the SHSAT.”

    TMK, having your kids prep for the SHSAT isn’t breaking any rules.

    IMO, and I believe one shared by many, one of the beauties of the NYC exam school admissions policy is its transparency. You want your kid to get in, you do what you can do get your kid to do well on the test. The rules are the rules, in this case quite clear, and IMO doing what you can within those rules is fair.

    Or perhaps more generally, it’s possible to work the system without breaking rules. People do it all the time with the tax code, e.g., back-door Roths. Trying to pick the optimum time to start collecting SS is another example.

    “And, with most things, I’m probably over thinking this. =)”

    I don’t think so. You’re your kids’ mom. You want the best for your kids. That sort of thinking is the basis of economic theory.

    I’m sure you’re also aware of the flip side, that if you didn’t think things through to the extent that you do, there might be regret down the road that you didn’t. You do the best you can, and it’s much harder to second guess yourself later.

  93. Finn – throwing money at the problem is not something everyone can do. It shouldn’t be necessary or “part of the rules”.

  94. “I wish the test actually tested what its supposed to and scores couldn’t be bettered simply with test prep.”

    I’m sympathetic to that wish, but what is the test supposed to test?

    My admittedly limited understanding is that the goal of the test is not to test how well the kids have learned what the schools are supposed to have covered to that point. It’s intended to identify really bright kids who are capable of learning more and more difficult material than the normal curriculum covers.

    So by design, the test covers stuff far beyond what’s been in the 8th grade curriculum. The problem, of course, is that doesn’t mean kids can’t learn that stuff outside of school.

    It’s the same problem the SAT has, or at least had before they changed it to be more aligned with the common core. No one seems to have figured out a way to test for aptitude/cognitive ability that can’t be affected by prep.

    I suppose in a way it’s an admission that the school curricula aren’t rigorous enough for the brightest, most motivated kids. Perhaps that suggests that the test prep material should be an optional part of schools leading up to the test, but OTOH parents could still get tutors for their kids just as they can for anything else their kids’ schools are covering.

  95. “No one seems to have figured out a way to test for aptitude/cognitive ability that can’t be affected by prep.”

    Right. Even when the entrance exam is supposed to be aptitude based and not achievement-based like the CogAt, test prep works. Teaching them ahead of time how the hole punch/paper folding works and teaching tips & tricks raises scores significantly compared to going in “cold”.

  96. “throwing money at the problem is not something everyone can do. It shouldn’t be necessary or “part of the rules”.”

    Perhaps, but it’s also a priority choice parents are free to make, albeit within the limits of their means.

    It’s not unlike sports, where parents can increase the chances of their kids making teams by throwing money in the form of private coaching and travel teams and better equipment.

    I wonder (and I really don’t know the answer to this) if at least part of the problem is that there is a big dropoff, or perceived dropoff, from the exam schools to the schools the kids who just miss the cutoff end up attending.

    IOW, is it not analogous to colleges, where as DD often points out, you can go to State U or Directional U and still get a good education and end up doing fine?

  97. “I wish there were more of these schools and more seats at these schools.”

    I really don’t get why di Blasio and Carranza apparently didn’t push this. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

    Those of you in the NYC area, has the creation of additional exam schools been considered a success?

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