A Tale of Two School Systems?
by Carol Boyd
Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities begins “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times”.
For far too many students and families, today’s school system can only be described as the best of times or the worst of times as there may be only one city, but there are surely two school systems: those that thrive and those that falter. Although I reside in persistently under-performing Bronx school District 9, I am happy and fortunate to enjoy the best of times for my two children who attend high schools in Manhattan District 2. Well worth the trip I might add. Yet, I am also very sad that children who live next door to, above, below and across the street from my family are experiencing the worst of times as most of them attend local schools that are failing or closing.
The prevailing culture of viewing schools as items of planned obsolescence is a design for failure. Despite its current popularity, the practice of closing schools does not contribute to the greater good. In fact, research has shown that school closures have negative impacts on both the students they serve as well as the community at large because of the disproportionate numbers of high needs students that end up in the surviving schools. Newly created small schools are usually ill equipped to serve these students. It is this kind of musical school chairs that contributed to the demise of the schools that have been slated for closure. What remains are schools filled with all the children who have been left behind.
Resolutions 156 and 157, introduced in the City Council yesterday by Education Chair Robert Jackson, call for the establishment of a School Transformation Zone to improve low performing schools and to redesign and expand the school day for children. Both of these are positive intervention strategies to turn around schools and avoid school closure. They are historic in nature because they are based on a model proposed by the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice of which I am a proud Parent Leader. Further, these resolutions provide the tenets for leveling the playing fields by enabling schools that continually hover on the brink of under-performance to receive necessary support to avoid future closure.
Although the City Council does not have the power to realize these initiatives, more than 70 elected officials, unions and community-based organizations have lent their support. It is time to put an end to the tales of two school systems. Let’s ensure that the delivery of public education in our city is the best of times for all students. Should not all our schools be given the chance to become great schools?