Thursday, December 06, 2012

District 23 Choice Program Is Simply Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic.

The Ocean Hill-Brownsville District, now known as District 23 has decided to allow the students of the District to attend their school of choice within the District.  Yes this is the same District that played racial politics and tried to fire all the white and Jewish teachers that resulted in the  teachers strike back in 1968.  Now the equally misguided District 23 officials believe that allowing the district's students to go to the school of their choice will solve the academic achievement problems.  Fat chance of that happening.

While the idea may seem to be reasonable at the surface, the problems associated with intra district choice are many.  First, it may cause some schools to be overcrowded while others will be underutilized and in danger of either closing or be replaced by a Charter school.  Second, it will increase transportation costs as children will no longer be able to walk to or from their neighborhood school and require transportation services..  Finally,  the student choice option does not address the real cause of poor student academic achievement and that is poverty,

For example, no matter what grades the District 23 schools received by the DOE, all the schools had an under 50% pass rate on the English and Math tests!   Even the lone "A" rated school had a terrible English passing rate of 35.2% and an equally dismal Math passing rate of 40.9%. This shows that it is not the school, Principal, or teachers that are the problem but the community.  In particular, the main cause is poverty. It's poverty and unless the City declares war on poverty by providing the necessary resources, nothing will significantly change the student academic failure rate of District 23.

That brings me to Marc Epstein's article on how the City has tried and failed when it comes to student choice for the high schools and how they ignored the root cause for the poor "college and career readiness rates" and that is poverty and its effects on a student's academic achievement, especially in neighborhoods like Ocean Hill-Brownsville.  While he focuses on the high schools, it is the same problem no matter what grade the student is in.

To do it right, the City must declare war on poverty by keeping families together, encourage major economic job growth, and provide social wraparound services and once that is accomplished then and only then will District 23 see significant academic improvement in student outcomes.  Otherwise, it is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


ed notes online said...

The goal of dezoning is part of the insideous Tweed plan to allow them to close more schools as law prevents them from closing a zoned school if it is the only one left. They lost a case years ago so before Bloomberg leaves they are pushing many districts to allow dezoning, a death trap for most schools.

Also -- on the 68 strike, which I took part in-- it was not all the white Jewish teachers and they were not trying to fire them but transfer them, illegal in violation of seniority rules. The UFT went on 3 strikes to "enforce seniority." So they say. Have you seen any hint of reinforcing seniority over the years? In fact it was a power struggle that the UFT won.

ed notes online said...

Actually it was 19 teachers and I dont know if they were all Jewish. I'd urge anyone wanting to read a pretty fair account of the 68 strike - pre and post -- read Podair - The Strike that Changed New York.
Also note -- the UFT went on a district 23 strike in May 1968.

Anonymous said...

I was in my second year of teaching when the three Ocean Hill Brownsville strikes took place. I recall that they wanted to get rid of all the teachers not just white ones. At the time the union was in the capable hands of Al Shanker. Today the UFT has "muddling Mulgrew." I feel sorry for all the city teachers. If Mulgrew caves on this evaluation nonsense he will have shown just how ineffective he is as a leader.