A better school for my kid (not yours)

Lucinda Rosenfeld’s Class, a novel about a Brooklyn parents scheming to get their daughter in an out-of-neighborhood school, is a “guilty pleasure” read, writes Alexander Russo.

College-educated white liberals, Karen Kipple and her husband condo move into a gentrifying neighborhood where the local school is not as highly rated as the the school a few blocks away that’s already fully gentrified.

Karen can brag that her third-grader attends a racially mixed school. But the test scores are mediocre. Will her child succeed with a good-enough education?

“This is not a deep policy book, or even always entirely serious in terms of how it addresses education issues,” writes Russo. “But the issues it raises are serious underneath the satire, and the dynamics among parents, teachers, and children seem fairly realistic.”

Comedian Wyatt Cenac, who’s got a Netflix series called Brooklyn, talks about gentrification in Grist.

“If wealthier people move into a neighborhood and then use their clout to effect change,” the local school may improve, he says. But sometimes, the wealthy “don’t care about the school across street, because they’re going to put their kids in private school, miles away.” Without a sense of community, gentrification pushes out the people who were there before.

Chalkbeat reports on diversity success stories in New York City.

College students don’t think they’re smart enough


Once chancellor of New York City schools, Rudy Crew now runs Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Rudy Crew, New York City schools chancellor in the late 1990s, now runs Medgar Evers College, a four-year City University of New York campus where fewer than one in five students graduates in six years. Crew talks about college readiness with Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall.

Students come to institutions with a question in their mind. The question is, Do I deserve to be here? Am I prepared to be here? And if I’m not, Who will find me out and when? There is a certain sort of lost confidence that manifests itself in their questions about their own efficacy. They’re quiet about it.

They don’t think they’re smart enough, capable enough.

Students have taken low-level classes, says Crew.

They don’t read well. They don’t read very much. They are conflicted about math. They don’t think of themselves as good analytical minds.

More and more, the real question is not if they can learn it; the question is, can we teach it? They have not been exposed [to learning] at a higher-order level.

Crew started the “Pipeline” program in 2014 to reach students before they enroll, writes Wall. “Partnered with 80 public schools in central Brooklyn, the college offers enrichment classes for elementary and middle school students, early-college courses for high school students, training for teachers, a lecture series for principals, and workshops for parents.”

The percentage of Medgar Evers freshmen who need remediation is down from 85 percent to 68 percent.

To lure gentrifiers, NY school picks students


Parents and community members learned about plans for The Dock Street School last month. Photo: Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat

A low-performing, low-enrollment Brooklyn middle school will get a new building, a new name, a science-and-arts focus — and a student body selected for good grades, test scores and attendance. Middle-class parents said they won’t consider an open-enrollment school, reports Chalkbeat.

Brooklyn neighborhoods are gentrifying rapidly. Several elementary schools now draw white and middle-class students, but those students vanish in middle school. Most go to out-of-district public schools or to private schools.

Selectivity is the “secret sauce” of high-performing schools, charges NYC Educator.  “It’s, ‘We’ll take these kids, the ones who get high scores and everyone else can just go to hell’.”

Schools create haven for troubled kids

In the impoverished South Bronx, an elementary charter school designed for children in foster care is thriving, writes Richard Whitmire on The 74.

At Mott Haven Academy, which opened in 2008, a third of students live in foster homes, another third receive “protective services” and another third live in the gritty neighborhood. About a fifth stay in homeless shelters.

Credit: Richard Whitmire

Credit: Richard Whitmire

Despite family instability, Haven students outperform students at the traditional school across the street, writes Whitmire. Ninety-five percent of students come back for a second year.

Class size is limited to 25 with two teachers in every class. The school also has two behavior interventionists, two social workers, a counselor and a special education specialist.

Principal Jessica Nauiokas hires experienced teachers.

“We need our teachers to empathize or they are not going to be able to educate this population,” said (New York Foundling CEO Bill) Baccaglini. “But the minute they become the social worker we lose the class. They are there to be teachers. So they have to empathize, not sympathize, or we’ll never move these young scholars down the road.”

Whitmire wonders why the school has so few visitors eager to learn from its success.

In Brooklyn, P.S. 446 Principal Meghan Dunn structured the school to handle her students’ “myriad physical and emotional needs,” Meredith Kolodner writes in Schoolbook.

More students are reading at grade level and fewer are getting into trouble.

At the heart of many success stories is an “uncommon principal,” writes Larry Cuban.

Principal Jack Spatola has led P.S. 172 in Brooklyn for 31 years, building a “strong, stable staff” and a “culture that prizes both student and adult learning.” His students — most are Latino and poor — are high achievers, reports the New York Times.

“But it may not be scaleable,” warns Cuban.

Creating a school

Matthew Levey worked for three years to create “an economically diverse, academically rigorous charter school in Brooklyn,” reports the New York TimesInternational Charter School opened this fall.

‘I learn America’

In I Learn America, five immigrant students at International High School in Brooklyn try to learn English and build a future.

Parents want just a little diversity

As urban neighborhoods gentrify, “emotionally charged, racially tinged fights over neighborhood school boundaries” are increasing, writes Mike Petrilli. Middle-class parents want a little diversity — preferably racial/ethnic but not socioeconomic — at their child’s school, but not too much.

In Brooklyn, a popular elementary school in gentrifying Park Slope, P.S. 321, is overcrowded.  Officials plan to shrink its attendance zone, redistricting some children into a new school that will have more low-income students.

Park Slopers claim to want diversity, writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in the New York Post.  That’s why they didn’t move to the suburbs when their kids neared school age. But people in the 10 blocks that will be assigned to the new school are furious.

Too much “socioeconomic diversity will start to affect the quality of their children’s education,” Petrilli writes. Low-income children start school far behind middle-class children.

A similar dynamic is playing out in the nation’s capital. Wilson High and Alice Deal Middle School, located in D.C.’s tony (and baby-booming) Ward 3, enjoyed massive physical-plant updates recently, with their buildings fully refurbished, expanded, and improved. Now affluent parents west of Rock Creek Park are sending their children to those schools in greater numbers than in decades.

. . .  The schools are getting crowded, and district officials are looking at shrinking their boundaries to address the problem. (Sound familiar?) The outcome is easy to predict: Students who live further away—who tend to be poorer and of minority races—will be rezoned to other campuses, and the Ward 3 schools will become dramatically less diverse.

Petrilli hopes for way to “create (and maintain) racially and socioeconomically diverse schools” in cities.

Richard Kahlenberg writes about “new hopes for school integration” in American Educator.  Economic — not racial — integration matters most, he writes.

The struggle for P.S. 84

The struggle for P.S. 84 will determine whether Latino immigrant parents can share a Brooklyn school with middle-class whites who are gentrifying the Williamsburg neighborhood.

The first round of integration went badly, reports Capital New York. In fall of 2006, P.S. 84 was “83 percent Latino, but the 8 percent of white students comprised nearly half of the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes.” The “newcomer” parents were eager to volunteer in classrooms, contribute their fund-raising skills and lead the PTA.

. . . during elections for the School Leadership Team, a council that comprises parents and staff. (Brooke) Parker, the Pre-K parent, stood up to give her stump speech. Depending on whom you ask, the speech was either a galvanizing call to improve the school or an affront to its teachers and pre-existing parents. Also depending on whom you ask, Parker was rudely heckled or duly called out for her own rudeness.

“I was heckled by the faculty, in front of my kids,” Parker complains. “The faculty was like, ‘Who are you to come in here?’ The insinuation was that I couldn’t be accountable to anyone except my constituency, which was perceived to be middle-class.”

Jaime Estades, who later became PTA president, put it another way: “A parent stood up and talked about how bad the teaching in the school was and that changes had to be made. You can’t just say that to a bunch of teachers.”

Newcomer parents objected to the school’s annual Three Kings Day parade, a cultural tradition for Latino parents. Newcomers objected to selling ice cream in Pre-K classes to help fund the PTA.  Newcomers, many of them involved in the arts, wanted progressive education, while immigrant parents favored traditional methods.

The reception they received shocked the newcomer parents. As they saw it, they were working hard to turn a bad school into a good one only to run into opponents who kept making it about race.

Few white students went on to first grade at P.S. 84, which went through several principals before hiring a Latina raised in Williamsburg.

Sereida Rodriguez-Guerra is trying to lure new students. She’s introduced progressive educational programs, such as “the Renzulli method, which matches curriculum to students’ learning styles and interests, as well as the Visual Thinking Strategies program, which aims to improve critical thinking and descriptive language skills through discussion of visual images.”

Test scores remain low — the school has an “F” rating — which advocates blame on previous administrations. The principal says the school doesn’t “teach to the test.”

The atmosphere is calmer, though tensions remain between parent groups. “Last year, a group of mostly newcomer parents volunteered their time, money and artisanal skills to renovate the long-defunct library.” Other newcomers are redesigning the school’s web site.

White enrollment is back up to 7.6 percent, mostly in pre-K and kindergarten. But middle-class white families won’t stick with P.S. 84 without signs of academic progress.

If the school remains half-empty, the unused space is likely to be given to a charter school. P.S. 84 loyalists say that will destroy their school.

Meanwhile, Williamsburg continues to gentrify.

Via HechingerEd.