(This is a guest post by Allie Ryan, a former elected SLT Parent Member of her children’s Title 1 elementary school, where she has been a Co-Class Parent for several years. Her children have attended two district-wide G&T programs. Allie is also a founding member of PLACE, Parent Leaders for Acceleration Curriculum and Education, and a member of FACE, Friends of Acceleration Curriculum and Education. )
Last month, my daughters transferred from a NYC public elementary school district-wide G&T program to an independent school. It was a decision that hangs as heavy on my heart as it does on my finances. Despite being a private person, I feel it necessary to share publicly that Mayor DeBlasio & Chancellor Carranza are quietly dismantling G&T programs and abandoning fast-paced learners’ needs.
The School Diversity Advisory Group’s (SDAG) proposed “integration plan” is dependent on “differentiation” which is dependent on teachers. Differentiation can be interpreted as the teacher teaching the same material in different ways, but what is most prevalent is separating students according to academic ability/knowledge. It is common to have children at different grade/academic levels in the same grade/classroom based on birthday. (Reading level is the easiest example.)
What my family has learned this school year is that newly graduated, inexperienced teachers are not trained in differentiation, so fast-paced learners’ academic needs are not met. No matter what your opinion on testing young children, the situation on the ground is that our most curious and passionate learners are flat out bored. Their intellectual needs are not being met. I predict that this increasing situation of no differentiation will devastate underperforming/Title 1 schools, due to their higher concentration of newly graduated, inexperienced teachers.
I have observed that teachers rely heavily on “software evaluation services” to micro-assess and track students. This results in students never being able to learn new material beyond what’s taught at the moment. These limited evaluations are subsequently used to justify keeping students at grade level. This is the new way of allegedly tailoring education to each child.
When elementary school G&T students leave the NYC Public School system, it will be due to a lack of quality of academic instruction that rises to the needs of fast-paced learners, and not due to location, cultural factors, or worse, race, which appears to be the go-to blame by those making these decisions and the media who repeat their claims verbatim as accepted fact.
To both my husband’s and my astonishment, we have witnessed through all meetings this school year, that the DOE has no interest in accommodating fast-paced learners at the elementary school level.
At my daughters’ school, we are far from alone in transferring our daughters out mid-year. It feels as if every student craving challenges and encouragement is jumping ship. The majority of the school’s G&T student population in our school live out of district, out of borough, traveling from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Harlem at least an hour or more. These children do not remotely resemble the picture painted in the media of who G&T students are. These parents are occasionally lower middle class, most often low-income immigrants from around the world (Peru, Zambia, Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Bangladesh to name a few.) Parents, who share one major trait, a willingness to sacrifice to surround their child with comparably curious and capable students, but as one mom said, “The two-hour commute per day isn’t worth it anymore.”
Even as a lower middle class/single income family, I understand that most other parents do not have the means that my family possesses to have their children’s academic needs met, which is why I want to speak out today.
I am bitter and angry that my daughter’s academic needs were not met despite my daughter, my husband & I asking for harder work on her behalf.
I am bitter and angry that we had to switch to an independent school, disrupting our life and finances.
I am angry for my daughters’ G&T classmates who we leave behind.
Teachers and staff have to follow the DOE rules in order to keep their jobs, so I do not fault them for I believe they are carrying out orders from above.
As an experienced G&T parent, I share my daughters’ experience because I want you to know that what you read in the media is not representative of any common truth. I am aware of other elementary school, district-wide G&T programs that have been affected by Chancellor Carranza and Mayor DeBlasio’s education policy to dismantle G&T.
Most elected officials, SDAG members and journalists do not have children enrolled in district-wide G&T programs. They have no first hand experience of what is happening. They are more concerned with paying lip service to equity than to how these life altering educational changes affect children. I can assure you that my daughters are not alone, so when you see enrollment numbers drop, know that it’s due to academics. I can guarantee you that as complicated as the answers are, they will not be what the DOE wants you to think.
Leaving the NYC Public School system breaks both my heart and my financial future. I am fortunate to flee Chancellor Carranza and Mayor DeBlasio’s divisive race-based vision and poor treatment of parents and students. When I started my NYC education activism journey several years ago, I steadfastly believed academics were the key to organic integration. I would like to say I made a difference. I can guarantee that I was just getting started and my absence eliminates any chance of me making a future difference.
A note for those who have no option but to stay, on my journey, I have learned that the big business of curriculum providers ultimately hurt our children because these curriculums vary widely. (This is why so many parents need to supplement with activity books at home and this also contributes to the achievement gap.) I think letting individual schools select curriculum and enrichment offerings actually hurts our schools and children.
Two recent articles published in the Washington Post and Democrat and Chronicle inspire me and give me hope for NYC public school elementary school G&T students, struggling students, and underperforming schools. As you will read, there is no mention of race, only community in these articles. The education crisis of students not being educated is real. The statistics are disturbing and, in themselves, a call to action. I hope the DOE, elected officials, and parent leaders will put aside ideology, party lines, and focus on improving education for all types of learners.