Friday, August 12, 2016

Wake Up, Mayor de Blasio

Various media outlets (Politico, Chalkbeat, NY Post, Daily News, The 74) are reporting on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments yesterday on the Brian Lehrer show that charter schools, particularly those run by his arch-nemesis Eva Moskowitz, posted higher student proficiency than traditional schools.

First the Mayor boasted about how his education “reform” plan -- set absurdly low goals for 94 chronically-failing schools that no family of means would ever deign to enter -- was working because N.Y.C. students posted gains of 7.6% on Common Core-aligned tests.  Then he lashed into charter schools, where student outcomes rose 13.7%, insisting that those improvements were the results of excessive test prep.

Yet we’ve heard nothing from the de Blasio administration about the fact that the highest scores came from schools that cream off top-performing kids and limit admissions to students with high test scores. For example, the highest-performing school in the city is Lower Lab, where 98.3% of students passed the state reading test and 96% passed the math test. In order to even get an interview at this K-5 school,, pre-schoolers must test above the 90% percentile on a gifted and talented test. Here there are no English Language Learners, only 5% of student qualify for free or reduced lunch, and the student body is almost entirely white and Asian.  Other N.Y.C. schools with very high student proficiency rates were the city’s magnet schools like Bronx Science (63% Asian, 23% white) and Stuyvesant (72% Asian, 23% white).

Similarly across the Hudson, New Jersey’s highest-performing schools, according to the new Newsweek ratings, are exclusive magnet schools that limit admissions to high-achieving students. For example, the top school in the state is Morris County’s  Academy for Math, Science and Engineering. There, 92%  of students are white and Asian, 5% are Hispanic, and 0.9% are Black. Fewer than 3% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch; 0% are English Language Learners. Admissions criteria include testing in both language arts and math, completion of Algebra 1 in 8th grade, interviews, unspecified G.P.A. cut-off, interviews, and teacher recommendations.

Why is it dandy to celebrate high test scores in public schools that restrict admissions to wealthy non-minority students and disparage high test scores in public schools that appeal to poor minority students?

I call that hypocrisy. I call that bias. I call that unwoke.

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