It’s natural, when writing about the New York City educational system, to focus on ways it can be improved. However, heading into a new year, I’ve decided to take five stories I’ve done this fall, and emphasize the bright side of each. We could all use a little holiday cheer this week!
Main point: Unzoned schools share a great deal in common with charter schools, including drawing their students through lottery. Both attract parents looking for something different than their local schools, whether that’s a more progressive environment or a more academically-rigorous one. In both case, parents must be informed and proactive enough to know how to go about getting it. So why aren’t unzoned school judged for it too?
Silver lining: It may have sounded like I was against unzoned schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re lucky to have them. Unzoned schools, charter schools, private schools, religious schools, and gifted schools – NYC is an embarrassment of riches which it comes to choice!
Main point: In 2016, 4,539 NYC kindergarteners qualified for G&T programs. Yet only 2,507 got offers. Some of the “leftover” children opted for private, religious or charter schools. But the majority stayed in the system, which means they still took up seats in public schools. It’s not like they disappeared. So why not turn those seats into G&T seats? It wouldn’t cost the public schools anything extra.
Silver lining: The children in NYC G&T programs are not geniuses. They are simply bright children of college educated parents who have been read to and talked to frequently. The G&T programs themselves are what in Europe and Asia would be called “perfectly average,” with concepts introduced three years earlier than in American schools. As this curriculum already exists, wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were made available to all children? If all NYC kids were taught as if they were “Gifted & Talented?” It would raise educational levels across the board!
Main point: Last minute test prep only works if the kids already know the material, and are simply taught how to ace the SHSAT’s ridiculously Byzantine format. It does no good if the student isn’t familiar with the material.
Silver lining: Specialized high schools are a chance for a disproportionate number of low-income students to receive the best education NYC has to offer. They are also the last truly academic meritocracy available to NYC students oldest son is currently in the process of applying to college. As he wonders whether he got into a given school based on his race or other “holistic” factors, I remind him that the only achievement he will ever be certain of having earned, due solely to his academic merits, is his admission to a Specialized NYC High-School.
Main point: By letting parents choose which days to take off, schools will send the message that they value all cultures equally.
Silver lining: Isn’t it wonderful that we have all these different cultures in NYC to make the topic worth discussing?
Main Point: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Maybe charter schools are Trump’s hour.
Silver lining: A national discussion about charter schools will force voters to see that it is not a binary issue and that there are nuances to charter schools in particular and education policy in general that cross party lines and ultimately allow for parents to make their own choices for their children.
Happy New Year!