By Mona Davids | April 8, 2014 |
Thursday will be Mayor de Blasio’s 100th day in office, and he still hasn’t presented his education plan for our children. Where’s the plan, Mr. Bill?
The new Siena poll tells us that improving public education is the most important single issue to New Yorkers, just ahead of keeping the city safe from crime. And 57 percent said they’re generally not satisfied with the quality of the public schools, against 30 percent satisfied.
The mayor’s priority seems to be pre-Kindergarten, but his Department of Education has yet to provide data showing the benefits of pre-K and the mayor hasn’t explained how he’ll ensure high-quality teaching and facilities for all pre-K students.
Last week, in fact, we learned that he is creating a separate and unequal pre-K system — one where students enrolled in community-based organization pre-K programs will receive an education inferior to those taught by certified teachers.
CBOs — whose teachers aren’t members of the United Federation of Teachers and who will enroll the greatest number of pre-K students — will get thousands of dollars less in per-pupil funding than programs taught by UFT members.
Not that using UFT members guarantees results. Consider the pre-K data from state test results for schools that do have UFT teachers:
- Central Harlem’s Community School District 5. At 13 elementary schools offering pre-K, seven of eight third-graders can’t read proficiently.
- Community School District 7 in the South Bronx. At 16 schools where pre-K is available, nearly nine out of 10 third-grade kids don’t make the grade.
- Community School District 16 in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood has 15 schools with pre-K. Unfortunately, 86 percent of these children flunked the third-grade reading exam.
Assuming that the pre-K students continued on to third grade in their schools, these data clearly show there may be little to no long-term gains resulting from New York City’s current pre-K program. Yet we have not been informed as to how the new pre-K program will have different outcomes.
Pre-K may be important, Mayor de Blasio, but then what? Too many elementary and middle schools are performing at a low level. It follows, therefore, that any gains that may result from the pre-K experience are likely to belost by the third grade — and certainly by middle school.
So, the question must be reiterated: Where’s the plan, Mr. Bill?
After all, many city parents are reluctant to send their children to their local public schools because they don’t believe the neighborhood school is a good school.
Parents see charter schools as imperfect symbols of freedom from a segregated, “Zip Code-locked” system where a higher percentage of lesser-quality teachers are in schools dominated by non-white students.
Yes, data also show that higher percentages of teachers receiving an “Unsatisfactory” rating are teaching within Zip Codes that are majority non-white.
Then there are the middle and high schools. Middle-school after-school programs can’t substitute for good subject-matter teachers during a child’s most difficult years. And while some obsess about the admissions test for the city’s specialized high school, the rest of us are wondering why every high school isn’t as good as Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science or Staten Island Tech. So, Mr. Bill, where’s the plan?
Some of us may not like standardized tests or believe their results, but no one denies that our children are not as well-educated in public schools today as we were in our day. Only 23 percent of today’s high-school graduates are deemed “college ready” — and it’s just 13 percent for non-white students.
Tragically, less than half of all students can read and write on their grade level. And after 12 years of mayoral control, only half of our high-school students actually graduate. You wanted to keep mayoral control, Mr. Bill, so where’s the plan?
Focusing on pre-K, middle-school after-school programs or the specialized-high-school tests may be politically helpful, but it begs the question again: Where’s the plan, Mr. Bill?
You are a public-school parent, sir. How are you as our mayor going to move our public-education system to a point where every student receives a high-quality education that will prepare them for a global economy and for their roles as good citizens?
We need to hear the specifics, Mayor de Blasio, not just the well-crafted rhetoric. The campaign is over, and it is time to govern.
Mona Davids is the founder and president of the New York City Parents Union, http://www.nycparentsunion.org.