Finding the Right School

How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth It Is To Have Ungrateful NYC Families!

On Monday, March 3, 2019, the Board of Trustees for the State University of New York approved 13 new charter school applications. However, only 7 of those will be allowed to open, due to the charter cap.

Among them is a new middle school for Manhattan’s District 3 (Upper West Side and parts of Harlem) from the KIPP network.

The approval came despite multiple emails from Community Education Council (CEC), urging parents to sign a petition against it. CEC was shooting for 1,000 signatures. On Sunday the 2nd, President Kim Watkins sent out a final email, cheering that 400 had already signed, and begging for at least 500 before she personally went up to Albany to lobby against KIPP.

Below is the text of CEC’s petition – and everything wrong (and hypocritical) about it:

  • UNDER-ENROLLMENT – District 3’s current middle school landscape of 17 public schools and 5 charter schools that enroll children in middle school grades cannot sustain the addition of a 23rd middle school without negatively impacting schools that are already competing for a limited pool of students.

The use of the word “competing” suggests CEC condones their middle schools contending for students. Unfortunately, as of right now, less than a third of available middle schools are considered acceptable by many parents. If another option is presented, families just might opt for it. And CEC prefers a competition where they’re in charge of assigning results.

  • STABILITY OF ENROLLMENT – The population of children across grades in elementary and middle school has remained virtually unchanged over the last five years. CEC 3’s decision to implement an ambitious plan in these circumstances was contingent on a commitment to insulate District 3 families and their students from any other policy changes, including the closing, truncation, or opening of new schools.

It definitely was contingent on families, including those already in failing schools and those who will be sent to them in 2019, having no other options.

  • EQUITABLE APPLICATION PROCESS – The majority of middle schools in District 3 begin enrollment in the 6th grade.  KIPP’s proposal includes enrollment of 95 students starting in the 5th grade, circumventing the application process, denying families the opportunity to fully evaluate their options, and further exacerbating the existing inequity in the district.

You know what other (citywide) school in District 3 also accepts starting in the 5th grade, circumventing the application process, denying families the opportunity to fully evaluate their options, and further exacerbating the existing inequity in the district? The Center School. The one where gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon sent her own children. The one that was mysteriously exempt from the Diversity Plan until I – and others – called them out on it.

  • CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION – For many elementary schools, the withdrawal of 95 students would have a significant impact on their curriculum, instruction, and resource allocation.  This is equal to 2x or even 3x their 5th grade class size. The long-term consequences would need a deeper assessment to fully comprehend the effects, and would include an exacerbation of the existing inequity in the district.

If all 5th grades in all NYC schools are equally good, as the Chancellor keeps insisting, why in the world would parents choose to leave to go to an unproven middle school? Parents would only leave if A) they were unhappy with the school they were in, and B) if they feared waiting until 6th grade would risk their child landing in a worse middle school. But, since they’re all equally good, that could never happen, right? (Besides, charter schools traditionally get many, many more applications than they can accommodate. Don’t worry, plenty of kids who’d like to leave will still remain stuck where they are.)

  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT – District 3’s Middle School Diversity Plan was implemented in the current cycle for admissions in 2019. Through a community engagement process that lasted more than three years, protocols were put in place to offer a quarter of all seats to students with academic and socio-economic need. In comparison, KIPP’s community engagement and outreach was limited in scope and perfunctory.

If KIPP is wrong about the need for their school, they won’t get students. No students means no funding, and no funding means closure, since charter schools are required to be evaluated and renewed much more frequently than traditional public schools. Furthermore, since all parents are on board with the Middle School Diversity plan (who are you going to believe, CEC’s press releases, or your own eyes?), they will happily accept their traditional public school placements. No students will be lost! Democracy in action!

  • DEMOGRAPHIC PROJECTIONS – One of the goals of the District 3’s Middle School Diversity Plan includes addressing the lack of diversity across the district. KIPP’s proposal includes a description of an intentionally integrated, high-achieving student population. They will accomplish this because their model allows them to select students a year ahead of the majority of schools in the district, and they will achieve diversity at the expense of every other student, family, and school in the district.

An “intentionally integrated” school will hurt diversity? Say what now? And what’s this about KIPP “choosing” high-achieving students? KIPP students are admitted by lottery. Or do you mean high-achieving (minority) students will choose KIPP, instead of a lower performing traditional public school? Is that what CEC is truly afraid of? You know who actually chooses their students, via grades, test scores, sometimes even interviews and portfolio reviews? The Center School. And Booker T. Washington. And the Computer School. And Mott Hall II. And West End Secondary. All District 3 traditional public middle schools.

  • RESOLVING DISPARITIES IN ACHIEVEMENT – District 3’s Middle School Diversity Plan results will not even be available for the first year of this effort until the next school year. Every single school in the district, as part of our global effort for integration, has created an Equity Team that is committed to addressing and improving on disparities in achievement.  Significant time, resources, and dedication went into preparing for 2019-2020’s first Middle School Diversity Class; again, opening a middle school would undermine the plan before it even had its first year of results.

While every single school in the district has created an Equity Team committed to addressing and improving on disparities in achievement, KIPP has been tackling the issue for years. CEC should be thrilled to have a model they can emulate right in their own district. It’ll make implementing their up-to-this-point vague “effort” easier!


It’s true that, for three years, CEC labored over a plan to integrate District 3’s middle schools. Not make all schools better, mind you, just integrate the population, something NYC believes should be a more important metric of school quality than students actually learning anything.

Despite reports demonstrating that white students benefit more from integration than minority ones, CEC stressed how the new plan would benefit the currently (and historically) underserved through the magic of proximity. (And if you didn’t agree, then obviously you’re racist.)

But what if the poor unfortunates dare opt out of what the city is so magnanimously giving them, and make their own decisions about which schools might serve their children best?

The arrogance! The ingratitude! The lack of understanding about what we risked so much to do for you! Council Member Helen Rosenthal went against her beliefs – her children attend private school – to support this. Just like Chancellor Carranza does every time he expresses surprise at why any parent would want an immoral screened school, despite his daughter having attended one, or Mayor de Blasio rails against the unfairness of Specialized High Schools after his son graduated from Brooklyn Tech. Can you not recognize what they’re sacrificing? For you?

If you’re not adequately grateful for what we’re offering, we’ll force you to take it by removing all other options.

Then you’ll see. Then you’ll all see!


What do you think?

More Comments