It’s February of 2018 and public Kindergarten, Middle School and High School placements are due out in about a month (or two). In order to to convince families to stick with the system and ignore all their other options, the following are things the New York City Department of Education (DOE) would like you to know:
- NYC’s High School graduation rate is 71.1 percent, up 1 percent from last year.
- 8.4 percent more students took at least one Advanced Placement Exam in the past year
- 51 percent more high-school Juniors took the SAT, due to it being offered for free across all public schools (although without the essay portion).
- 50 percent more students at underserved middle schools took the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) due to it being offered at their school on a weekday.
- Children attending Universal Pre-K were 4.8 times more likely to take the public school Gifted & Talented exam for Kindergarten entry.
The following are things the New York City Department of Education would not like you to know:
- Despite raising graduation rates, college readiness rates are falling, down to an average of 37 percent. Nearly 80 percent of NYC high-school graduates last year needed to enroll in math, reading and writing remedial courses at a city or state college.
- Kids at even the top public high-schools have difficulty taking AP classes due to a lack of qualified teachers.
- NYC SAT scores are well below the national average.
- Fewer minority students were accepted to a Specialized High School after diversity initiatives were put into effect than before.
- Gifted and Talented admission numbers for underserved students remain flat, although Mayor Bill de Blasio assures that will change once his 3-K For All program is implemented in every borough. (Did someone say Groundhog Day?)
And therein lies the entire problem with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s approach to improving NYC schools.
They consider their programs a success based on the number of children enrolled in them, not on their quantifiable results. When it comes to accountability, their responsibility ends once the name on the roll-sheet is processed.
Just like the extremely offensive suggestion that Black children can only learn if they are sitting next to white ones, and the equally naive assumption that mixing poor children in among middle-class ones will magically increase test scores without any other efforts on the teachers’ part (shockingly, that’s been proven untrue), or even that income and academic achievement are irrevocably linked, the current administration seems to believe that all they need to do is sign students up for a program/get them to take a test, and positive results will simply appear! That quantity will produce quality.
That is, in a word, bullshit.
Woody Allen has been quoted as saying that 80 percent of success in life is just showing up. Woody Allen is a comedian. And he has his own problems these days, including in the academic world.
Woody Allen is not an educator. (Which, considering the nature of his problems, is likely a very good thing.)
And yet, the DOE seems to be spring-boarding off his philosophy. (The fact that attendance is such a huge piece of the admissions rubric for most selective middle and high schools should have been our first clue. Yes, attendance is a strong predictor of student achievement. But any student’s achievement is only as good as the curriculum they’re taught. In NYC, perfect attendance and straight A’s can still lead to grossly lacking college skills.)
As long as they plop the child in the chair for the SHSAT/G&T test, as long as the AP/SAT exam fees are covered, the DOE feels they’ve done their jobs. The press releases can go out, touting higher and higher participation numbers every year.
Everyone gets a trophy!
That would be a participation trophy.
And that’s not good enough.
It’s time NYC parents hold the DOE accountable, not merely for a program’s existence, but for its content and for its results.
We don’t just want our kids escorted to the starting line. We want an iron-clad guarantee that their schools will get them across the finish line, too.