A new report, “Is Demography Still Destiny?”, released today by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, a leading nonpartisan research organization affiliated with Brown University, reveals new evidence that after a decade of expanded high school choice—five hundred new small schools and one hundred new charter schools—New York City neighborhoods with the highest percentages of African-American and Latino residents still have lowest college readiness rates. Analyzing data from the New York City Department of Education and U.S. Census Bureau, the report shows that racial demographics and average neighborhood income are strong predictors of whether students graduate ready for college.
Outraged parents, elected officials, students, and community leaders gathered in front of Pace University to discuss the report and demand that Mayor Bloomberg and his Department of Education address this shameful failure to prepare students for college. Participants included City Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller and Board of Education President Bill Thompson, City Council Education Chair Robert Jackson, college students, members of the Professional Staff Congress from CUNY, and 100 parents from the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.
Parents held up 100 balloons, 13 green and 87 red, to visualize the alarming statistic of only 13% African-American and Latino students graduating prepared for college.
Also, the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice launched an interactive map that enables parents and other key stakeholders to track the percentage of students graduating college-ready in every neighborhood. The map is at www.nyccej.org/college-readiness.
“My neighborhood is 100% Black & Latino, and only 11% college ready,” said Natasha Capers parent from PS 298 in Brownsville, the neighborhood with the lowest college readiness rate in BK, “I’m angry that in 2012, the race and income of my neighborhood, still determines the chances of my two sons graduating ready for college—I’m fighting to make sure the next Mayor in 2013 finally implements successful models that will get my kids ready for college.”
“It’s clear from the report that school choice alone will not help youth of color achieve stronger educational outcomes. By failing to address existing patterns of inequality, we are limiting educational opportunities for those with the greatest need. We need to move the focus of our educational policy debates from structural issues and teacher contracts to more concrete ways of improving elementary and middle schools, and a greater role for guidance and counseling supports in the daily lives of our students,” said David Jones, President of the Community Service Society
“During my high school experience there was a total disconnect,” said Domingo Estevez, a student from Borough of Manhattan Community College, “instead of a supportive school with a relevant curriculum, all I found at the school were low expectations, test-prep drilling and an under-resourced school, all of which led me to drop out my 3rd year in high school. Now in college, I’m spending hundreds of dollars on remedial classes—I wish the high school I went to had made a real effort to keep me enrolled and get me prepared for college.”
New Yorkers for Great Public Schools have put together a handy image that lays out what the $80 million, that the Dept. of Education has spent on ARIS (Achievement Reporting and Innovation System) over the last four years, could have provided to NYC schools. This image was informed by a study from New York University, written about in a Wall Street Journal article.
Bronx District 9 Parents & Elected Officials to the Department of Education: “Walk In Our Children’s Shoes”
Parents, Advocates and Electeds Lead March Highlighting Abysmal School Opportunities for South Bronx Children; Demand Action Plan
Bronx, NY- Frustrated by a decade of ineffectual reforms, while seeing almost half of their schools on state lists for poor performance, Bronx students, parents, community advocates and elected officials, including Senator Gustavo Rivera, led a “Walk in Our Children’s Shoes” tour of District 9 schools on Wednesday.
Although already abysmal scores had nowhere to go but up when Mayor Bloomberg entered office, reading scores have barely budged—putting almost half the schools in District 9 on state lists of failing schools, more than any other district in the city. Only 28% of District 9 students are reading at grade level, and the percentage of 4th graders passing the ELA exam has gone down since 2003.
To their children’s “path to nowhere,” District 9 parents and leaders made stops at the zoned elementary, middle and high school options for a 1-year-old child named Angeles who lives in Mount Eden, all of which are on the “priority” list of the bottom 5% of schools in the state. Angeles’ mother, Araceli Espejel, articulated her hopes and dreams for her daughters at the beginning of the march: “I am here, far from my parents, my family, and my roots, so that my girls can have a better future, a better education, so that they don’t have to emigrate to another country like I did.”
State Senator Gustavo Rivera (33rd SD) and a representative from Councilwoman Helen Foster’s office also addressed the crowd of over fifty parents. “The reason I’m here today is very simple: The way we start to deal with the problems in our schools is to actually come to the schools, walk with the parents and listen to the issues that parents and students have.” Parents and students speakers subsequently shared their concerns about community engagement in schools, the low numbers of students who are reading at grade level, and the lack of a college-ready curriculum for middle and high schoolers. Parent Juana Gonzalez worried that her 8th grade son, a student at another “priority” school in District 9, isn’t being prepared for high school or college. “He isn’t learning to write or build his vocabulary,” she said. “He doesn’t write compositions: he just does multiple choice questions- test prep!” Parents closed the march by inviting participants to a parent summit to continue work on a community-driven district improvement plan for District 9.
The march was organized by the New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee, a multicultural group of concerned parents, guardians, and community members dedicated to improving the quality of education for all children in New York City, with an emphasis on District 9 in the Bronx.
A LOST DECADE IN DISTRICT 9
FACT: Fewer fourth graders can read and write on grade level today than a decade ago.
|4th Grade ELA, District 9||4th Grade Math, District 9|
|Change, 2003-12||-1 points||-10 points|
FACT: In the past decade, the achievement gaps between District 9 and the rest of the city have increased.
|ELA District 9||ELA Citywide||Gap|
|Change, 2003-12||+4 points||+ 6 points||+2 points|
|Math District 9||Math Citywide||Gap|
|Change, 2003-12||+14 points||+18 points||+4 points|
Sources: NYC DOE, Results of the State and City CTB-Mathematics Tests; NYC DOE, New York City Results on the New York State English Language
FACT: District 9’s local high school, William H. Taft High School, was closed in 2006 and five new schools were opened on the campus. One of those schools is academically selective and is thriving. Here is how the rest of the schools are performing:
|Urban Assembly Academy for Young Men||Closing
|Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications||Failing (NY State Education Dept)|
|Bronx High School of Business||Failing (NY State Education Dept)|
|Dreamyard Preparatory High School||Failing (NY State Education Dept)|
Last night, parents held a mock Red Carpet Event outside the world premiere of “Won’t Back Down,” a fictionalized story inspired by California’s Parent Trigger law, legislation which allows parents to vote to close their school or turn it over to a private corporation.
Speaking out against the film, parents walked their own red carpet, held movie posters with superimposed images of two of the film’s prominent supporters, News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein, and celebrated real parent empowerment in the fight for community schools with a toast.
“I’m the real Maggie Gyllenhaal” said Tanya King, grandparent that led the fight to keep ABCD in Bed-Stuy from closing last year, “what we wanted was for the school system to stop neglecting us and invest in our struggling school as much as they invest in making charter schools work– however, our story didn’t have a Hollywood ending, as our school was closed, leaving many of our kids to be reshuffled into other struggling schools.”
Parents said the Parent Trigger law, drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), presents itself as legislation that empowers parents to take control of their local schools. The reality is that the law lets the school be turned over to private companies who are not required to include parent voices in the decision making process.
The film is being distributed by Fox, whose parent company, News Corp. has an education division headed by former New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein. News Corp has been a member of both ALEC’s Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force. Wireless Generation, a for-profit software and testing is also a subsidiary of New Corp., whose founder, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, referred to education as a “$500 billion sector in the U.S. alone.” 1
“It’s a beautiful thing to see parents coming together,” said Juan Pagan, a parent leader with New York Communities for Change. “But what the movie doesn’t show you is what happens next — when a private company takes over the school and shuts out parent voices. We want community schools where parents, students and teachers are partners not corporate schools where companies like News Corp are calling all the shots.”
Joel Klein also sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY, a lobbying group that promotes the corporatizing market-based reforms behind parent trigger law. StudentsFirst has actively promoting Won’t Back Down, hosting screenings across the country including at the Democratic National Convention. StudentsFirstNY has set out to raise $50 million to influence education policy in the upcoming New York City mayoral elections and continue Mayor Bloomberg’s current education policies. Today, Micah Lasher, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY, sent an e-blast supporting the film and promoting Parent Trigger legislation.
“I have two children, one in a charter school and one in a district school, and I have been involved with fights to improve low-performing Bronx schools for years. While school choice is important, charter schools aren’t right for every parent and child, and they can’t be the silver bullet solution to the hundreds of struggling schools in NYC,” said Lynn Sanchez, parent with the Coalition for Educational Justice and New Settlement Apartments. “Parents just want good quality schools in their neighborhood. And we want a say in those schools that goes far beyond just signing a petition – we want to be involved and heard in decisions about our children’s education all through the school year.”
“We won’t back down when it comes to the misuse of high-stakes standardized tests to assess student learning and teacher performance, just like we won’t back down as corporate profiteers try to take over public education” said Janine Sopp, Brooklyn parent and member of Change the Stakes, “Like the main characters in the film, we simply want a rich curriculum for our kids and small classes so they get the quality education and individual attention they deserve”
The event, organized by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools Coalition, Coalition for Educational Justice, New York Communities for Change, Alliance for a Quality Education, Make the Road NY, Class Size Matters, Change the Stakes and Parent VoicesNY, is part of an ongoing campaign to reject to policies of corporate education “reform” groups and support community schools and real parent engagement in all schools.
by Norm Fruchter
Last April, the New York City Working Group on School Transformation issued a report examining the impact of the school closing policy of the city’s Department of Education (DOE). The Working Group’s report argued that by closing schools instead of helping them to improve, the DOE was abdicating its responsibility to support struggling schools. The Working Group’s report called on the DOE to develop a Success Zone to help struggling schools improve, and to build instructional capacity across all the city’s schools so that many fewer would need to be closed.
The Working Group presented the following evidence that specific DOE policies exacerbated the problems of struggling schools:
- The schools the DOE has closed since 2002 had significantly higher percentages of incoming 9th graders with below-level 8th grade math and reading scores, as well as significantly higher percentages of English Language Learners and students with disabilities, than the school system’s averages.
- In the five years before many of the system’s struggling schools were targeted for closure, the DOE significantly increased the percentages of students with low-level 8th grade math and reading scores at those schools, and also increased the percentages of English Language Learners and students with disabilities.
- In the five years before many of the system’s struggling schools were targeted for closure, the DOE significantly increased the assignment of over-the-counter students in many of those schools.
- This increased concentration of high-risk, high needs students at schools the DOE targeted for closure runs counter to the advice of the Parthenon Group, whose study advised the DOE to decrease concentrations of high-needs students in specific schools because that concentration would lower school-level graduation rates.
When the Working Group’s released its report in mid-April, the DOE dismissed the report’s arguments and questioned the accuracy of its data. But in early July, a Gotham Gazette article reported that the DOE had promised the NY State Education Department (SED) that it would reduce the concentration of high-risk, high-needs students at schools it targets for closure. The DOE also pledged not to concentrate over-the- counter students at such schools. Those DOE acknowledgements of how its policies have intensified the burdens of struggling schools were included in the city’s request to approve federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds for 24 schools the city was trying to place in the federal school turnaround program. (An arbitrator and a state Supreme Court judge have put that effort on hold.)
According to the Gotham Gazette article, the city’s letter disclosed that,, “over the past 18 months, NYC has been working with the New York State Education Department to address its concerns about situations where our choice-based system may be leading to an over-concentration of students with disabilities, English language learners, and/or students that are performing below proficiency in certain schools.” According to the Gazette, the city’s letter “also provides data to show that students at most of the SIG high schools entered ninth grade performing below the average of other students in their boroughs on state tests. Many of the SIG middle and high schools also enrolled a higher percentage of special education students and English language learners than the average for their districts.”
So in spite of its initial denials, the DOE has ultimately vindicated the Working Group’s report about how the DOE policies exacerbate the challenges struggling schools face, and ultimately close the schools thus targeted. Such policies must end because they punish schools rather than help them improve. What struggling schools need are interventions and support that build their staff’s capacity for improvement.
(Full disclosure – the author was a member of the NYC Working Group on School Transformation.)
Norm Fruchter is a senior policy analyst at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Here on EdVox we’re excited to bring you the latest news about education issues and policies affecting our communities. It can be hard to keep up with all of the events and happenings, so – in case you missed it… Here is a recap of the latest stories in NYC education news, starting with Monday of last week: