Why does NYC Mayor Bill de Biasio want to protect the entrenched interests of an education system in which only 19% of black students in district schools are working on grade level? Nicholas Simmons, a vice president in the Success Charter School network, writes in the WSJ that he worked in the same building as Wadleigh Secondary School, in which not one student in grades six through eight met state standards in math or English.
Last month, instead of acknowledging the astounding lack of learning at schools such as Wadleigh, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a hodgepodge of feel-good programs. He will create new Advanced Placement courses that students from Wadleigh won’t be prepared to take. He will enlist “literacy specialists” to try to counter chaotic classrooms and poor instruction. In short, he will do nothing effective.
Mr. Simmons taught math at Success Academy Harlem West, a public charter school, in which the students eat in the same cafeteria, exercise in the same gym and have recess in the same courtyard as students who attend Wadleigh Secondary School. The difference is that Mr. Simmons’ students were two floors above Wadleigh and were attending Harlem West thanks to winning an admissions lottery.
The poverty rate at Wadleigh is 72%; at Harlem West, it is 60%. At both schools, more than 95% of students are black or Hispanic. About the only difference is that families at Harlem West won an admissions lottery.
My students do not have easy lives. Many are in households in which no English is spoken, or have moved in and out of homeless shelters. Others shoulder the primary responsibility of raising younger siblings. Yet we set high expectations. Our school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and teachers spend evenings and weekends speaking with families about their children’s progress. This blueprint works. Rigorous, well-designed and joyful schools can overcome the challenges of poverty.
Spending over $20,000 per pupil puts New York City No. 2 for amount spent per student among the 100 largest school districts in the U.S. Mr. Simmons argues that “excellent public schools should not be a privilege enjoyed only by those lucky enough to win an admissions lottery; they should be the standard.” Read more here.
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