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Is a Fair and Equitable Education Possible in New York City?

It is clear that students throughout the city are getting varying degrees of quality education, with children of color getting the shorter end of the stick. At times, students may even get varying degrees of quality education within the same building (i.e., tracking or school practices that put less experienced teachers with more difficult kids). So it made me think, what constitutes a fair and equitable education and in a system this large and is that even possible?

Let’s first tackle the term “equity.”  What does equity mean in terms of education?  Is it access? Is it the same resources?  An equitable education means every student receives an education that appropriately prepares him or her for the path of their choosing.  Students enter school with many educational variants.  Some may have had access to Pre-K and others may not. Some may be new to the country with varying grasps of the English Language, others have different familial structures, including foster care, multi-generational housing situations, and now there are a significant amount of homeless students in the city’s public school system.  By law, all of these students have the right to a fair and comprehensive education.  But, what should that look like?

First, that looks like teachers and administrators making every provision to meet students where they are.  For example, it would be great if every kid was able to read and write at or above their current grade level.  But, chances are that will not be the case.   According to the Department of Education, based on the 2016 NYS ELA results, more than 50% of NYC students are reading and writing at a level 2 or below in every grade.  All of these students are performing below proficiency. Once the data is further disaggregated, it is a much bleaker picture for students of color.  We must provide the students the supports and scaffolds necessary to improve these skills.  Every SINGLE teacher should be equipped with the necessary skills to make their students better readers and writers. Period.

There are some schools with a high population of students with emotional disabilities, yet have psychiatrists or social workers who work on a part-time basis.  Guidance counselors have large numbers of students on their caseloads, provide mandated counseling services, and are usually the liaison between the school and Administration for Children’s Services.  In order to do this effectively, a lot of time is required.  One person cannot effectively counsel hundreds of students.  I have personally witnessed administrators, teachers and other support staff having to forego the work of running a school in order to tend to students in crisis.  If schools were truly equitable, each school would get the resources it needs.

Schools shouldn’t have to decide between librarians, classroom teachers, and guidance counselors, reading or afterschool programs, textbooks or professional development.  The quality of a child’s education should not be predetermined by his/her zip code.  This is UNFAIR AND INEQUITABLE.  Schools should be funded and supported according to their needs. Our highest-needs schools deserve a substantial increase in state and federal funding if they are going to make significant gains for their students; the best coaches, math and literacy specialist, etc. should also be working in and with schools with the greatest needs.

When thinking about what is necessary for students to succeed, there is only one logical conclusion; every school must be able to respond to the needs of its community and each must be adequately supported in order to offer equitable educational services.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Is a Fair and Equitable Education Possible in New York City?

  1. So very true, key points of equity and equality were hit! I also believe that the zip code shouldn’t matter, that’s were the “in”is placed in “equality” our kids are treated unfairly and aren’t getting the education they should be getting because they are strategically placed in order for that school to get a “good reputation”! I also agree that the less experienced educators are put with the harder kids which also effects the path of those particular students, as if they are being set up for failure! Then again that’s, also where reputation plays a role. The seasoned educator gets the more functional group in order to maintain a reputation!

  2. “Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy.”
    – The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

    With Donald Trump about to assume the role of Commander and Chief, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Black Americans were denied the right to participant in the election due to incarceration. How many of the incarcerated had to result in a life of crime to provide basic necessities (shelter, food, etc.) for their families, because there is a lack of social / economic opportunities in the community? This social and systemic problem must have a root cause – the failed and unequal education system within Black communities.

    Michael Moore’s, Where to Invade Next, provides visibility of what equality in an education system can mean to the economy, crime rates as well as social division and relations. This blog digs at the roots of #BlackLivesMatter / New Jim Crow – systemic equality in education which leads to a lack of opportunity, which leads finding a means by any means, and eventually social distrust and fractured race relations.

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