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Two separate education systems in New York?

July 2, 2007 pm31 5:26 pm

The Supreme Court decision against looking at race to help desegregate schools, I don’t think we had any such plan in New York City. Not to say our schools aren’t segregated. But the reality in New York City is that the majority of public school students are Black or Hispanic, and that our neighborhoods and boroughs are themselves heavily segregated.

But we have no legal segregation. We do have some integrated neighborhoods; we have some integrated schools. My feeling (don’t have numbers) is that Ed Op in some of the boroughs produced racially balanced schools. But mixed schools are less common than segregated schools in NYC.

When New York City began closing big high schools that were under registration review, and replacing them with smaller schools: Andrew Jackson, Monroe, George Washington, Eastern District, Morris, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, all of these large schools were primarily Black and Hispanic. Made sense, since the worst schools were in the poorest neighborhoods (mostly). But now the educational landscape was different. We had large high schools in most neighborhoods (but missing from some of the poorest). We had alternative schools scattered throughout the City. We had boutique-y small schools in some Manhattan neighborhoods (mostly District 2 creations). And we had break-up schools in the poorest, minority neighborhoods.

(I wrote about this process a few months ago, here)

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I don’t know that there ever was any measure of how much “better” the break up schools were than the original. In the Bronx, my impression is that of Taft, Monroe, South Bronx, Morris, and Roosevelt, only one is better, two are roughly the same, and two are worse than what preceded them. But as we destroy we try not to look back, right? And then comes Gates.

When Gates and New Visions arrived, bankrolling the creation of dozens of small schools, there was a racial aspect to what they were doing. They went to work (and we helped put them to work) breaking up large high schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Especially the Bronx.  Four large schools were broken up. The District Office signed on, and pushed displaced kids (since the break out schools were capped for a couple of years, to give the appearance of improvement where there was none) – and pushed displaced kids, the weakest, neediest, most violent, into targeted schools, which had trouble coping with their existing academically weak, overly mobile populations. The extra kids, dropped into overcrowded schools, traveling across the borough, tipped attendance to lower levels, dropped scores, strained AIS services, and stretched the disciplinary system to the breaking point. The targeted schools were failing. It was manufactured failure, but it was failure. And we, meaning the Board of Ed and the UFT, handed them over to Gates. Evander, Walton, Stevenson are being shut down. Columbus and Kennedy are being downsized. Lehman and Truman house a couple of small schools. Only the vocational schools and Clinton have escaped. (alumni associations played a role in resisting Gates, and Clinton’s is especially strong).

So we have now in the Bronx (and to a lesser extent in Brooklyn) a new system of mini-schools. There is but one large high school in the Bronx that retains its own, unshared building. The children in our poorest borough are being educated in a different way than children elsewhere. Is it working? I don’t think so. And I don’t think anyone who really makes decisions cares. There was a lousy, semi-faked report a few months ago. But now we have maybe a hundred mini-schools in the Bronx? Maybe 50? Most of them mediocre, a fair number genuinely horrible. There is insufficient oversight. The worst are empowerment (don’t look, don’t tell). Staff are abused; grades are tampered with; disciplinary problems go unreported.

And the rest of the City? There are plenty of mini-schools. But in ‘nicer’ parts of Manhattan, they are boutique-y, nice places. And in the whiter parts of the city? No mini-schools at all. Large schools in Staten Island. Large schools in the white-ethnic third or so of Brooklyn. Large schools in the white middle class and upper middle class neighborhoods of Queens. We shouldn’t be surprised. New York City has its own form of separate and unequal.

The United Federation of Teachers issued a report saying that we support a mix of large and small schools. But there is no mix. Some groups of neighborhoods have large schools. Some have good mini-schools. And some have ‘redesign’ and Gates mini-schools. Which groups of neighborhoods have a mix? The UFT’s resolution has never been acted on. We have never challenged in a serious way the Department of Ed’s willy-nilly opening of lousy mini-schools, or their disruption of larger schools.

And today? Today the UFT is partnering with Green Dot to bring a small charter high school to…. the Bronx. We already set one up in Brooklyn. And Green Dot doesn’t have a pretend report about supporting a mix of types of schools. Their intent in LA? Read it here, yourself. They plan on converting all of LA to mini-schools.

So, the title of this post is the conclusion. Do we really want Black and White kids to be educated not only separately, but differently?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank LoCicero permalink
    July 9, 2007 pm31 6:11 pm 6:11 pm

    I take issue with an aspect of one your underlying assumptions.

    Let’s agree that too many black and Latino kids are behind educationally. But not just black and latino kids are behind. Let’s just label all the kids who are doing poorly as being “at risk” as their poor levels of knowledge and poorer skills put their personal and economic futures at great risk.

    Since these “at risk” students are in fact t a much lower level in too many ways functioning a by high school, it was and still necessary to create an appropriate support system for them.

    Do you agree?

    If your answer yes, then you see that we really do want our city’s “at risk” kids educated differently from kids who aren’t at risk. This can happen in a single unified system that responds appropriately to the needs of the students.

    The question is “What are the details of systems that can be develop to do educate our city’s students fairly and appropriately?” The way things are going I don’t think that the Bloom/Klein DOE v1.4 is any better than versions 1.0, 1.2, and 1.3. In fact I think that in many ways the last version of the BOE functioned better.

    In principle, small schools are, in some ways, better. The intent is to provide a more intimate environment and to customized services to these students. Will the students attending small schools ever be able to compete with students coming from “better” cultures, and “better” families. Not unless those kids are reached, motivated, provided resources, and in all other ways nurtured. Do you really think that this was happening with great frequency in the large highs schools they would have attended in the past? Not have taught in those schools, I cannot answer knowledgeably and honestly; however, I suspect not.

    But you are right to ask “Is it happening now?

    But you are right to question a myriad of details about they way these mini schools are being run.

    But you are right to ask are these small schools being set up properly to ever reach their goal.

    But you are right to expect that our fellow teachers at the new schools are being treated fairly.

    And you are right to question the UFT’s involvement and support of charter schools. Especially insofar as many observers of the UFT suspect that it will use charters to continue to barter away the rights and benefits of the membership at large.

    My response to this is that I want you and all other interested parties to think about removing control from the mayor’s office completely. I want you to think about bring back a Board that has members selected as democratically as possible who fairly and honestly represent the interests of students, parents, and teachers and run as apolitically as possible.


  2. July 11, 2007 am31 4:12 am 4:12 am

    You make some good points. But in the Bronx we have only one large academic comprehensive high school left. Do you really want to say that the whole Bronx needs to be educated differently than the rest of the City?

    Your arguments seem to point towards different types of supports for different kids, and the mix would be different place to place. But so extreme as to leave no large schools in one borough, and almost only large schools in another?

  3. kpsmove permalink
    August 9, 2009 pm31 1:25 pm 1:25 pm

    If you did a check of the incarceration rate and over layed it with where they are building new schools I am pretty sure you would see some pattern not neccesarily cause and effect but a pattern. The schools are failing the children because the school can not control access to family support services, housing and family centered recreation activities that are safe and nurturing. If you take a look at the areas with larger schools these areas have a myriad of public and private resources for familys to make use of that is why there schools can support full scale community instruction.

    • August 12, 2009 am31 12:21 am 12:21 am

      I think you would be right… but that data? Doesn’t sound easy to get.

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