New York City public schools suffer from a variety of ills:
- Over 50 percent of high school students graduate non-college ready and unable to pass CUNY’s placement test, requiring remediation before they can begin earning credit.
- Over 80% of African-American 7th graders cannot do math at grade level.
- Even at the “best” General Ed schools, 10 to 15 percent of students aren’t at grade level.
- Two-thirds of children who qualify for Gifted & Talented programs are denied a seat.
- It takes an average of four years for a student to go from English Language Learner (ELL) to standard classroom.
- Failed communication leads to families left waiting in the cold.
- A birthday cut-off sends some children to school prior to age 5.
- There’s a staggering variation in Universal Pre-K quality.
- The multi-million dollar, online parent portal has (many, many) technical issues.
- An assortment of other failures affect parents.
New York State’s apparent solution is a bill… putting private schools under Department of Education (DOE) oversight.
The bill’s (unspoken) primary targets are Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish yeshivas which, a group of former students charges, failed to provide them with “a basic education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.” (Read a letter directly from one of claimants, here.)
But why sweep up some of the highest-performing schools not just in NYC but in the country, into the same dragnet?
A cross-section of NYC independent and religious school heads shared their opinions regarding what such legislation would mean to their communities:
The Studio School, Janet Rotter:
Placing independent schools under the oversight of the public school system threatens to undermine the very essence of what makes non-public schools so valuable to parents who make this choice: the creation and delivery of a quality curriculum true to their mission and best suited for the students who attend their school.
Accredited schools such as ours most often exceed standards and already undergo a rigorous periodic review of all areas of their operations by the New York State Association of Independent School (NYSAIS), including governance, teacher qualifications, and professional development.
Further issues that concern our community are the confidentiality of student and family information, the added cost to taxpayers, and the administrative burden of reporting to the local school system.
Lastly, if enacted, this legislation will restrict the free progress of educational thought and the models that respond to the needs of all children and our society.
As for the proposed changes to NYSED’s oversight of independent schools, I certainly join my colleagues in objecting and have expressed my concerns to the Board of Regents.
As a former public school principal and elected school board member, I care deeply about the relationship between community and independent schools and have respect for my public school counterparts.
I do, however, have grave concerns about this legislation, and see ways in which it would undermine our own governance structures, create addition financial burden by necessitating the hiring of additional staff to manage the new expectations, and essentially the duplication of quality control which is already overseen through accreditation.
Perhaps the most worrisome component is the fact that the creation of curriculum which supports an independent school’s unique mission could be limited.
I hope this can become productive dialogue rather than combative exchanges between organizations both committed to educating children.
Rodeph Sholom School, Danny Karpf:
Rodeph Sholom School along with NYSAIS and 196 other accredited independent NYC schools strongly oppose the proposed regulations as they threaten the model of independent schools. The idea that NYSED and local public school officials should oversee NYSAIS accredited schools when they already go through a lengthy and detailed review process is a waste of New York’s time and money.
We are not in favor of the NYSED substantial equivalency guidelines as proposed. It is unnecessary to spend the significant amount of time and money required to properly assess NYSAIS schools that already undergo a proven review process every few years, in which many NYC independent school exceed regulated expectations.
NYSED and local public school officials should direct their funds, time and energy to strengthening local public schools, not waste resources on duplicate reviews.
Geneva School, Rim Hinckley:
Like most New York City private schools, Geneva School is accredited by NYS Board of Regents and is accountable to a discerning, tuition-paying parent body. Moreover, annual CTP 5 testing ensures we are achieving the highest levels of student proficiency.
It is our opinion that State resources would be more wisely allocated to strengthening our local public schools.
As principal after principal made clear, NYC private schools are already evaluated by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), a not-for-profit chartered by the NY state Board of Regents to provide accreditation.
NYSAIS Executive Director Mark Lauria said in a statement, “In delegating oversight authority to local boards of education and superintendents, the NYSED and Commissioner have developed a process that leaves independent and religious schools susceptible to bias, conflicts of interest, and local politicking.”
And here’s something else it leaves them susceptible to: Private schools being required to provide “a basic education substantially equivalent to that of public schools.”
Please go back and reread the list that opened this post.
And ask if we need more schools with substantially equivalent issues.
To be fair, this post only offered private school administrators’ opinions on the bill. What do the parents of students in those same schools think about it?
Gina Malin of The Parents League, a 100+ year old coalition of parents and schools which provides a broad range of educational and parenting resources, summarizes, “(We) support all our independent school members in opposing the bill. NYSAIS accredited schools already regularly undergo thorough review by NYSAIS, which includes an evaluation of the curricula to establish that students receive instruction that meets the state’s requirements for substantial equivalency. Our schools exceed the requirements.”
Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
(And if you would like to read the full text of the bill and send a comment to the Senate, click here.)