On Monday, September 23, the Community Education Council of Brooklyn’s School District #16 (Bedford-Stuyvesant) voted to ask New York City to get rid of all Gifted & Talented programs as advised by the Student Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG).
There was the by now familiar rhetoric of how District #16’s schools are not racially or socio-economically diverse, unsurprising in a neighborhood where 93% of students are Black or Hispanic and 82% qualify for Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRL). According to a Forbes study released the same week, “gaps in student test scores are driven by poverty, not race—but… the solution must nevertheless be racial integration.”
So, in a nutshell, low-achieving black and brown children cannot learn unless they are surrounded by a majority of high-achieving white children. In a neighborhood like Bed-Stuy or even a city like New York that would be mathematically impossible (the public school system is 70% Black and Hispanic), so poor, minority children are simply doomed.
For those wondering how that accounts for high-achieving Afrocentric schools like Medger Evers College Prep, the 76% Hispanic/87% FRL, high-scoring Beacon School Of Excellence (PS 172), or the Success Academies, which even The New York Times grudgingly agrees do the best job of reducing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps…. they… uhm… they must be doing something wrong.
There was also the familiar rhetoric about how, if you disagree with the official stance, you are obviously racist.
But, then, a few paragraphs from the bottom of Chalkbeat New York’s always excellent coverage, we got to the real issue:
Most city programs admit students based on a single test that students take before entering school, and classes begin in kindergarten. In District 16 and a handful of other historically underserved neighborhoods, gifted programs don’t start until third grade and admission is based on multiple criteria, including report card grades and teacher interviews. (Note: This system, according to Chancellor Richard Carranza, is the superior method. Despite studies indicating that Black, Hispanic, and poor kids are *less* likely to be identified as gifted when subjective criteria like teacher evaluations are included.) When students do opt for that gifted program, their original school loses enrollment — and therefore, funding. (Emphasis mine.)
Ah. Here we go.
When students leave one school for another, their original school loses funding. This is the primary charge leveled against families who opt for charter schools. It’s why the Community Education Council of Manhattan’s District #3 (Upper West Side) urged parents to oppose the possibility of a KIPP Middle School, writing:
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 limited pool of students… and the funding that comes with them.
Because of the above, CEC #3 and the principals of various elementary schools KIPP representatives met with, opposed KIPP’s middle school beginning in 5th grade. KIPP has since amended their plans and acquiesced to community wishes. They will be starting in 6th grade.
As I noted here, those opposed to KIPP’s plans seemingly have no problem with The Center School, also located in District #3, starting in 5th grade.
Those who rail against charters stealing funding that rightfully belongs to their local zoned schools are strangely mute on unzoned and citywide schools like Center. Those range from The Special Music School to Brooklyn New School (you read about it in George Packer’s Atlantic piece, though he coyly never mentioned it by name – just offered enough clues to make it obvious) to Deborah Meir’s Central Park East 1 and 2 which do exactly the same thing. (Let’s not even talk about Hunter College Elementary and High-School, which even vociferously pro-public school parents will graciously make an exception for.)
Now Gifted & Talented programs have been tainted with the same money-grubbing brush. You’re taking away what’s rightfully ours, the self-proclaimed public school advocates cry!
Your child receiving an appropriate education is irrelevant. What really matters is how much they are literally worth to the school they *should* be going to, rather than the one you believe is best for them.
NAACP member Joette Spencer Campbell said it better than I ever could when she wrote a post entitled: Don’t Make Black Kids the New ‘Cotton’ That Funds Failing Public Schools.
Yet that seems to be exactly what NeQuan McLean, president of the District #16 education council (and SDAG member, though you wouldn’t know that from reading coverage of his comments), seems to be suggesting as he laments about the money zoned schools lose when a child leaves for a G&T program.
McLean’s Education Council Vice-President, Victor Iroh, told Chalkbeat that, although his daughter qualified for a District #16 G&T seat, he visited, wasn’t impressed with the curriculum, and chose to keep her where she already was.
McLean, Iroh, and their colleagues propose that, instead of G&T:
(T)he city should support models that provide advanced instruction to everyone.
“If we’re offering enriched learning at every one of our schools, the families don’t have to pick and choose…. The schools are not competing against each other, but everyone is learning this accelerated and rigorous curriculum.”
OK, let’s break that down:
First of all, as I wrote here, the only G&T programs that are accelerated are the Citywide ones. The district curriculum is not accelerated, but “enriched” – an undefined term that currently means every teacher is making it up as they go along.
Second of all, Iroh visited an “enriched,” district program, wasn’t impressed with it enough to uproot his daughter… and now believes all schools should adopt that unimpressive model?
But let’s talk about the biggest elephant in the room.
CEC #16 doesn’t want families to “pick and choose” the school that’s best for them. And they don’t want the schools “competing against each other” the same way CEC #3 doesn’t want schools “competing for a limited pool of students.”
Kind of like when a teacher at my son’s public high school (the one all the fuss is about) told him, “Don’t think, just tell me what’s in the book.” (With stellar teaching like that, you can see why the Mayor and Chancellor are fighting for more — well, technically, different — students to have access to it!)
The Mayor, the Chancellor, and the Community Education Councils would really prefer it if families put up, shut up, and did what they’re told.
Why don’t they want us making decisions about what’s best for our children, then demanding that the taxes we pay be used to provide the schools that we want?
Psst…. Follow the money and see where it goes….