At The 74, Jenny Sedlis takes a cogent look at the current battle over mayoral control of New York City’s public schools as Mayor Bill de Blasio vies for a longer commitment from the State Legislature to his school improvement strategies.
De Blasio may want more time but parents are tired of waiting. Heck: my parents gave up waiting forty years ago.
This is personal. Sedlis, in describing the “slow rate of progress” for some of NYC's chronically-failing schools, uses three high schools as examples of places where “many New York City public school parents are highly dissatisfied with the quality of education their children are receiving and they now expect Mayor de Blasio to be held accountable for the slow pace of progress. There’s a profound disconnect between the rhetoric coming out of City Hall and what parents see in their children’s schools.”
The three high schools she cites are Herbert Lehman and Dewitt Clinton in the Bronx and Martin Van Buren in Queens. Forty years ago I was supposed to attend Martin Van Buren.
I’d been at P.S. 172 (grades 7-9 in my day), which was nothing to write home about. My parents were very well-informed about local school quality because both worked for the NYC Board of Education in Queens, my dad as a high school studies teacher and my mom as a high school social worker. Us kids already had heard about how girls at Martin Van Buren weren’t supposed to travel stairwells unaccompanied because of the risk of sexual assault. And my parents knew that academics there were, at best, desultory.
And now? Sedlis writes,
Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx has 1,535 students enrolled and of the 40 percent of students who graduate in four years, just 11 percent are college or career ready. Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx has 2,109 students enrolled and of the 46 percent of students who graduate in four years, just 19 percent are college or career ready. Martin Van Buren High School in Queens has 1,742 students enrolled and of the 55 percent of students who graduate in four years, just 14 percent are college or career ready.
I was lucky. My parents, exercising the most common form of school choice, had the financial wherewithal to move us to a high-performing school district on Long Island. Based on current demographics, most of the families in my old neighborhood don’t have that luxury.
Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, with his respect for school choice and his emphasis on accountability, offered hope. But now parents in Van Buren's catchment zone wait on Mayor de Blasio and his scorn for charter schools (choice for parents who can't afford to move to Long Island), wait on Chancellor Carmen Farina and her laughably low expectations for school improvement,, wait on Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and her disdain for standards and assessments.
My parents didn’t have to wait. Neither did I. Not everyone is so lucky.