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Queens Chronicle

Chaos at school diversity meeting

Parents barred from room, no info on panel that decides crucial plan

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2019 10:30 am

The city’s strategy to allow local communities to write their own “diversity and integration” plans got off to a rocky start in Queens last week.

In District 28 — which covers neighborhoods from Forest Hills and Rego Park south to Jamaica — parents, students and teachers are to map out a plan to bring greater racial balance to its middle schools.

The district is to serve as the test for the rest of the borough and a meeting last Thursday was billed as the first informational session of the deliberations.

But when scores of angry parents were locked out of the event because the meeting room — legal capacity, 112 people — was not big enough, tempers frayed.

“They were mad,” said Elizabeth Crowley, the former councilwoman and candidate for borough president who found herself among those locked out.

“How many times did we hear this meeting was about inclusion and community and democracy. And they locked people out?”

Meanwhile, inside the meeting room at a Department of Education building in Downtown Jamaica, parents made it clear they did not want to see their children forced to go to schools in other neighborhoods for the sake of what some called a “social experiment.”

“You’re pitting families in Queens against each other because there are not enough good schools,” said one parent, John Schaefer.

Emblematic of the mistrust between parents and the DOE was the announcement at the meeting that a community “working group” with the critical power of approval over the final proposal had been selected and held its first meeting the night before.

But the names of the members would not be made public because of “privacy issues,” said Akina Younge, a consultant with WXY Studios, which was hired by the DOE to coordinate the creation of the plan.

The DOE did not respond to emails asking for further information on the working group this week.

The initiative to bring more diversity to the city schools system has been a priority of Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Both men have pushed for an end to the specialized test used to determine admissions to the city’s “elite eight” high schools which has resulted in student enrollments that are overwhelmingly white and Asian.

But state law and stiff parent resistance have thwarted those plans.

Now, their attention has turned to reforming admissions standards for middle schools, which feed high school enrollment, and eliminating gift-and-talented programs, which also require a test for admission.

Both changes are within the city administration’s power to do unilaterally.

District 28 has jurisdiction over 13 middle schools with success rates that range widely in terms of test score results. Five schools are rated as above the state average, according to the website greatschools.org. All are in Forest Hills, Rego Park or Kew Gardens.

Four are rated the same as the state average and four others are below.

About half the district is black or Hispanic. Just under one-third of students are classified as Asian and 16 percent as white.

Earlier this year, in District 15 in Brooklyn, which covers Park Slope, the DOE tried out a plan that eliminated academics and neighborhood zones as standards for admission.

Despite assurances from DOE officials at last week’s meeting, parents voiced deep concern that District 28 would end up with a similar plan — and that the process of sampling ideas from outside the school establishment was, as one parent put it, a “manipulation.”

“If we are going to say to the families in South Queens that the only way to get a good education is to send your kids to north Queens, that is an embarrassment,” said Schaeffer, who lives in Forest Hills.

“If we’re going to be honest here, most families in Rego Park, in Forest Hills, are not going to put their kids on extensively long commutes for the pleasure of attending a subpar school. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Parents from the southern parts of the district appeared just as reluctant.

“Why aren’t we — instead of spreading out all the inequalities — focusing on the schools in the south, build the schools up in the south with the basic, necessary tools students need,” said Lorraine Reid, mother of a student at Redwood Middle School in South Jamaica.

“You cannot use a blanket diversity plan to educate all students. Our students are not cookie-cutter products.

“We’re from different cultures. My child does not learn like someone else’s child,” Reid said.

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5 comments:

  • stan chaz posted at 2:07 am on Tue, Dec 17, 2019.

    stan chaz Posts: 33

    The article (and one of the commentators) mentions the fact that both the Mayor and Schools Chancellor also want to lower specialized school standards to bolster their idea of a fake diversity. As a specialized school graduate (a specialized school that was filled with the children of struggling, hard-working immigrants - and far from “elite”) , here’s my long-winded two cents on the issue, for what it’s worth.

    Just as moving kids around will not make the schools themselves better, neither will lowering entrance standard for these specialized schools. For it’s not the kids that make the schools - it’s the schools that make & mold the kids. Fix the schools instead of abusing & misusing the kids.

    There is no Southern racist Bull Connor from the nineteen-sixties standing in the doorway and deliberate discriminating against ANY group that’s trying to enter these specialized schools. Instead, only the hurdles of mathematics, of vocabulary, of logic, and reading & writing skills are “standing in the doorways” of these specialized schools. Only a color-blind SCHAT entrance test is the hurdle, a hurdle that says to ALL: “come, compete and try your best to make the cut”. What’s more American than that? What’s more fair than that? What’s LESS discriminatory than that?

    This reality is in contrast to the false scenario of deliberate discrimination spread by some opponents of the specialized school entrance exams. Their mistaken call for a fake “diversity” is a misleading siren song that both divides us and distracts us from tackling the real problems of our public school system. Open & color-blind testing, competition and selection is not discrimination - neither racial or otherwise. Instead, it is the essence & foundation of genuine equal opportunity for all.


    Unwise plans to dilute or do away with the SCHAT specialized school entrance exams will not improve educational opportunities. Instead, these schemes will serve to undermine & destroy some of the finest free public schools in the State, and perhaps the nation, all in the name of a false & divisive “diversity”. Should we likewise “diversify” the NBA with white players in proportion to their segment of the population? And while we’re at it, shall we also do away with testing these potential NBA players for their qualifications, and give everyone the “equal opportunity” to play?

    The SHSAT entrance exam has for many decades proven to be an efficient, effective & highly accurate method of selecting those applicants who can best survive and benefit the most from the rigorous learning environment, the strict discipline, and the unique & limited resources of these acclaimed specialized schools. It’s a very difficult environment where constant testing, the very same testing that Carranza abhors, is at the very core of a highly successful curriculum. In other words, if you can’t survive the entrance test, you won’t be able to survive four grueling years in these schools. Period. Sadly, Chancellor Carranza and others seek to sacrifice the standards of these schools by abandoning or diluting the proven entrance exams that reliably predict the ability to survive in the demanding environment of specialized schools.

    
Asians are the majority in these schools, many of them coming from poor struggling immigrant families. They are shining examples of the immigrant experience, of the American Dream come to fruition -- where if you work hard, you’ll have the chance to advance in society. Should we punish these successful Asian applicants for trying so hard to better themselves? Caucasians are a distinct minority in these specialized schools. Should they also demand lowered entrance standards to ensure their greater numbers in these schools - or should everyone just try harder to pass the test?

    
In the short term we need to increase the number of specialized schools, for all students who can make the grade, as several of our legislators have suggested; as well as providing free assistance & preparation to all who wish to compete for the limited spaces available. Instead of falsely scapegoating the entrance test we need to create quality public schools throughout the city, throughout the middle and lower grades , through increased funding, infrastructure, resources and quality teachers.

    Divisive words are easy. Destroying testing is easy. Lowering standards is easy. Cheap & divisive rhetoric is easy. But achieving actual progress and improvements in our public schools is hard. It’s time for the Chancellor and politicians in the City & State to start doing exactly that and truly earn their salaries. Instead of lowering the admission standards of these top-ranking high schools we need to raise the capabilities of the test-takers. Our goal should be to lift everyone up, instead of watering down standards to the lowest common denominator. If we do that we will never prepare our students for the real world, for work, for life - and will ultimately fail them. In other words: raise the students instead of lowering the standards! Schools should mold the students - not the other way around.

    Competition is the American way, the fair & just way. No guarantees, just a path where if you work hard, you’ll have the opportunity to advance and fully achieve your potential. It’s often a tough road, but it’s a a road where anyone can take the SHSAT test, and it doesn’t matter how you look, where you live, or how you sound in an interview; Of course everyone can’t make the grade. If everyone were given a free pass to do so, it would be a meaningless, cruel and worthless scam. It would just be another fake Carranza University. Just step right up, step right up, and get yer diplomas! Diplomas that are not worth the paper they’re printed on.

    
Of course EVERY parent wants the best for their children. But parents should realize that their children will be subjected to all sorts of legitimate testing and selection throughout their lives, and not just in school. This is not discrimination, it is reality. Parents need to prepare their children for the real world, for the harsh world, if they want them to compete and succeed in life. Therefore all parents & students should support these specialized schools, their high standards, and their rigorous admissions & testing. The alternative is to water down the standards of some of the best public high schools, in the name of an ultimately destructive cry for a false “diversity”.'

    
I’m not claiming that black children do not continue to suffer genuine racial discrimination in society. I’m not saying that there is not gross & increasing inequality & powerlessness for all too many- in a rigged system that perpetuates itself. I’m not saying that the shameful legacy of state-sanctioned slavery - the stolen wealth, the shattered families - does not hurt & hinder many black families to this very day. However, what I am saying is that you don’t make that better by tearing down non-discriminatory standards and tests to create a false “diversity”. Instead you need to force the targeting of Federal, State and City resources to help these communities and schools, so that their children can better compete on a more level playing field. To do otherwise is shortsighted, cruel and foolish. DeBlasio’s universal pre-K is a praiseworthy effort towards towards this end, but far far from enough.

    
The Chancellor should unite this diverse city instead of further dividing us. Heal this city Chancellor Carranza , and help bring us together, instead of dividing us by shamefully pitting one group against another. This is not an “us versus them” narrative. For everyone wins, all New Yorkers win, and all students win, when we preserve some of the best and most successful schools in our public educational system for all to apply & compete - instead of undermining their admission standards, their reputation & their value.


     
  • 204th Street Jack posted at 6:46 pm on Mon, Dec 16, 2019.

    204th Street Jack Posts: 23

    "Both men have pushed for an end to the specialized test used to determine admissions to the city’s “elite eight” high schools which has resulted in student enrollments that are overwhelmingly white and Asian.''

    So the plan is to get rid of the test that qualifies one to attend the ''Elite'' Schools and just send anyone there? Doesn't that negate the ''Elite'' status if no prerequisite is needed to make the cut? No standard to be in the school?? Then just run it like the rest of them, right into the ground...

     
  • Buster57 posted at 9:23 pm on Sat, Dec 14, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 79

    Beautifully said Stan. Hope the powers that be listen to you!!

     
  • stan chaz posted at 6:58 pm on Thu, Dec 12, 2019.

    stan chaz Posts: 33

    In this majority-minority city, expecially when wealthier parents often send their children to private schools, the remaining number of non-minority students can’t be manipulated & used as pawns, to be moved around at the Chancellor’s whim.

    These are children who need to use their limited time studying, playing and being with their parents, instead of being held hostage on buses.

    If there is not enough diversity in schools serving certain neighborhoods, then don’t falsely use kids to try to solve problems of neighborhood segregation, whatever the social cause of that segregation may be.

    The bottom line is that if certain schools are not performing up to statewide standards then they should be provided with the resources to make them bettter. Is that so difficult to grasp?

    Sure, the Chancellors would prefer to take the easy way out and say he accomplished something by using kids at pawns - instead of takng the difficult & necessary steps to truly make all our schools perform up to speed.

    Moving kids around will not make schools better, For it’s not the kids that make the schools - it’s the schools that make & mold the kids. Fix the schools instead of abusing the kids.

     
  • Buster57 posted at 4:17 pm on Thu, Dec 12, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 79

    I think the DOE needs another plan. This is only going to make things worse. Put better teachers and better administration into the struggling schools, don't punish the students. As the ADULT in the room, it is the ADULT's responsibility to help the child. This is NOT going to help anyone if you take away/lower standards. It is the dumbing down of America.