• Gothamist had an ask a native question about Crown Heights schools.
    image
    This week's question comes from a Crown Heights gentrifier who wonders if it's wrong to ship his kid off to a private school.
  • I pretty much agree with the response, and found this article on how much we are spending in NYC per pupil to be interesting:New York City Public Schools: Have Per Pupil Budgets Changed Since 2010-2011? - New York City by the Numbers
  • not sure what upsets me more: pappy gentrifier with the "i feel i'm too rich and white to send my kids to the public school" or the anecdotal, short-sighted, overly self-righteous response.
  • You feel parents have an obligation to send their children to the local public schools?
  • Honestly, I do. Ask me the 5 things most damning to American students are they would be:1. Charter schools/vouchers2. Private schools3. Standardized testing4. Scripted curriculum5. Lack of community involvement in the school
  • What do you think of this guy's view? He seems to expand on #5
  • Parents and the community need to be involved. And I don't mean teachers calling them to let them know that their child did something wrong and so they need to come up for a meeting - I mean proactive, part of the process, partners in the learning environment.The SLT works in theory - but not in real life in most schools. PAs and PTAs are volunteer-based -- and generally full of those who speak English confidentially, who aren't scared of "the system", who have time to volunteer (aka not working multiple jobs or raising many kids)...etc...therefore many schools have tiny Parent groups or none at all. The Parent Coordinator position is a low-wage job that needs more resources, more money, and longer hours budgeted to it for it to be effective.School buildings should be places with doors wide open. A place where parents don't feel scared to enter, like they're being judged by others, and that they're there for more than the 2 parent teacher conferences each year.Doors open to parents during the school day - both to interact with kids and to do other things (publishing centers for kids' written work, reading with kids, etc ... As well as learning courses for adults (both purely academic like reading and more cultural like art classes or cooking courses). School buildings should be open late into the evenings with extracurriculars for kids, classes for entire families, adult education classes, dinners for families in the community... And open on weekends for events and classes as well.I have a beautiful classroom. And it is unused from 2:50pm until 8:30am M-F September-June, and unused all summer and weekends. That's space for all sorts of things.Once parents (especially in immigrant and lower-income neighborhoods) see schools as places their kids learn and places they can be a part of, everything else will fall more into place.
  • While we are waiting for that to happen, do individual parents have to forego what they perceive to be a better option?

    Why can't they simply enroll their kid in a school that they perceive as has having engaged, literate parents and teachers who are not burnt out?

    Isn't it reasonable for the above guy to realize that, despite his YouTube video, he isn't going to be able make enough of the parents in his kid's school follow his advice?
  • i remember reading this on gothamist, and i put plenty of my two cents over there.
    not sure what upsets me more: pappy gentrifier with the “i feel i’m too rich and white to send my kids to the public school” or the anecdotal, short-sighted, overly self-righteous response.
    i'm with jake dobkin (the columnist) on this one.i don't really have any sympathy for the letter writer. he really should have done his research on the local schools before buying in the area.
  • Ask me the 5 things most damning to American students are they would be: 1. Charter schools/vouchers 2. Private schools 3. Standardized testing 4. Scripted curriculum 5. Lack of community involvement in the school
    I agree with 3,4 and 5 and disagree with 1 and 2. There have been private schools in existance for over a hundred years in NYC. The idea that parents choosing to opt out of public schooling for religious, academic, or other reasons is killing the public schools doesn't comport with the fact that the number of private school seats in the city has not significantly increased in 30-40 years. Charter schools are more of a game changer, but there have always been schools in NYC that "creamed" kids (all of the public schools that required tests, auditions, or selection processes to get in). Those schools and programs don't have special ed representation that matches the remainder of the districts in which they are located or the city as a whole, and yet that's never been a problem.
  • Yes, depending upon who you ask, those programs are certainly versions of elitism/meritocracy/classism/racism/etc.

    I suspect the schools and programs have never been focused on as a problem because most people have accepted that there is a need (or at least a demand by those with power) for them.

    Charter schools, on the other hand, threaten a group with power: The unionized public school establishment. As a result, we hear lots about how they entrench and foster elitism/meritocracy/classism/racism/etc, without even having to ask.
  • "Why can’t they simply enroll their kid in a school that they perceive as has having engaged, literate parents and teachers who are not burnt out?"My son went to PS 9 when it was not considered a "great" school but every single teacher he has come across has given him 110%. I have never met a teacher that did not offer their services outside of school to help a student out. As xlizx can attest to - all it take is the simple phrase to your child's teacher - "please let me know what I can do at home to carry over your lessons" Or I am off on such and such date can I help you with something? While having the majority of a school's parents involved is wonderful, it works when just you as a parent are involved.
  • I am not certain the guy in the above video believes that.I do not think that he believes he can overcome "other people's families".
  • I've always felt that private schools are a problem. Removing your child for reasons of religion or "they're too smart" is not a good reason. Your child needs to work with others who believe different things - and other kids should learn from your child and his/her beliefs. As for the gifted thing, I hate it. Unless your child is a legitimate genius chances are his/her highly qualified and motivated teachers can differentiate to your child's needs. And others can learn from your child as well ... While your child learns topics more indepthly as they help others understand them.All this to say - unless your child requires something the DOE literally cannot offer - even in a district 75 school - you are doing a disservice to our city's greater good and the students (including your child) of our city.
  • I think it is a question of what kinds of diversity your child will likely encounter, and thus need to be prepared to interact with.
  • I speak from a strictly elementary school perspective, but the segregation in NYC schools is terrible. The problem is, I don't know how to fix it. I do know, however, that getting rid of charters/privates/vouchers will help. Think about the Original Article here...if that wasn't a discussion and the person had to send their kid to the local school, that would allow for some diversity. Of course, it's rare to have true diversity in NYC. I'm thinking of a handful of schools in the village (especially east), some Williamsburg schools, and somewhat places like Sunset Park (although those latter two are still majority Hispanic).But how do we help this? How do we get real diversity (race, economics, learning abilities, parental involvement, etc...) in schools in places like East Flatbush or Brownsville? We can get the latter 2 diversities by getting rid of a tiered educational system and then work towards economical and racial diversity through other ways. What those practical ways are, I can't say.Very telling article below. No one wants to be "the drop of cream in the coffee" for whatever reason. But if the tale of two cities lessens and people send their kids to public schools, we may have a swirled drink soon enough. (This metaphor got away from me)http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/05/11/nyregion/segregation-in-new-york-city-public-schools.html?_r=1&
  • I do not think we will be able to maintain a tax base (aka middle and upper class families) if we get rid of our multi-tiered educational system.

    I do not perceive people wanting to join with the poor in order to lift them up, as much as I see them wanting to have no association with the the poor. 

     I see see this as stemming from a fear that their children will adapt the habits of the poor, or that others will lump their children into being only "as good as the poor" because they attended the same schools. These habits are often referred to as the Culture of Poverty, and the fear is that their child will be sucked into this culture if they associate with low income children.


    Similarly, there are parents who do not fear the "Culture of Poverty", but don't send their kids to public schools because they fear others will treat their children as if they have been "infected" by said culture without taking the time to see whether it is true.
  • But how do we help this? How do we get real diversity (race, economics, learning abilities, parental involvement, etc…) in schools in places like East Flatbush or Brownsville?
    I would say busing, but that would prompt those who can afford it to pull even more kids from public school and send them to private school. Screw them.I encountered diversity in my high school. My high school had two special programs which were open to students city-wide in addition to being a zoned school. My elementary school (in District 17) was de facto segregated but that was because of the demographics of the neighborhood. My junior high school was not zoned (it was a gifted and talented school), but it was largely black and Latino because that happened to be the type of student body it attracted. That said, there were handful of white kids and Asian kids in my graduating class.I was supporting Jake Dobkin's answer because I know from personal experience that having your kid start out at the zoned public school in your (so-so) district doesn't have to doom your kid to an underachieving academic career. A number of my elementary school classmates went outside our home district to the above-mentioned gifted and talented school because we and our parents were less than impressed with the local junior high school. (That junior high school by the way, no longer exists.) We were the beneficiaries of parental involvement (the good old PTA!). Our parents found out about alternatives to the zoned junior school, had us pursue them, and had to get the variances to attend a school outside of our district.Of course, once a student gets to the high school level, there are more public school options available city-wide, including the three specialized science high schools. I suspect that the person who wrote the letter to Jake Dobkin at Gothamist would be the type of parent who would take an active role in his child's education and would work the NYC public school system in however way necessary to get the best education for his child...if he were to choose to enroll his kid in a public school. I got the impression that he just didn't want to try.
  • I think there is a lot of truth to the belief that "when other options are limited, the zoned public schools are better because more people participate".

    However, we are now in a situation where there are lots of options. These options have been created because powerful, involved people reached the conclusion that they could not get their desires met in the traditional "one size fits all" public school.
  • I don't think the standard educational teaching methods are in any way wrong, but I also prefer alternate educational philosophies that are not possible with public. Telling people they could no longer choose, say, Montessori or Waldorf, would raise the rates of home-schoolers. If it were possible to find a similarly alternative education route that was public, regardless of what race children attended, I would be on that so fast. For me it's not so much public vs. private but alternative vs. standard. Even in places like Germany, where the public schools have better educational reputations than private they allow for private or semi-private schools of alternative education methods. All that said, I'm curious as well about the public school system but feel intimidated about how to learn more. Public school buildings in general feel very closed off. I really wish there were ways for the general public to interact more with our local public schools. If I didn't have my toddler I would be more able to do things like ask to volunteer, but even if that were the case I'm not sure I would be allowed. I think getting the whole community into public schools is the answer, even regardless of where people send their kids.
  • What I find interesting about these kinds of discussions is that in a community like Crown Heights where a signficiant portion of the white community is educated at local private yeshivas, I never hear gentrifiers of any stripe suggesting that those kids should be forced to attend their local public schools. Yet, there is this underlying theme that part of the problem with local public schools is caused by middle class blacks that have opted out of locals schools for charters, parochial and private schools. There is also this real blindness to privilege that says that the "meritocracy" of G&T somehow negates minority parents concerns about their kid being the only in a classroom, but that its an absolutely acceptable factor in a general classroom when the child is white. These clear contradictions make it hard for me to take any of this seriously. As a parent I would much rather determine what setting would be best for my child (class size, academic rigor, socioeconomic makeup) and pay money to achieve that setting, that send my child to a local public school that may not be a good fit or have the makeup I deisre in an effort to improve society at large.
  • Does anyone here send their kids to P.S. 138 or P.S. 22/705 or any of the charter schools in District 17 (our school district?) I'd love to hear about your experience.
  • The media and academics do seem to spend a lot of time and energy discussing how schools are segregated by race and class.

    As someone who attended a high school that was always reported as being highly integrated, I just smile. You see, even though the school had kids from a variety of backgrounds, the only time we were in the same room was for lunch.

    -The AP kids (wealthier and predominately white) had the classes that prepared them for competitive colleges.

    -The regular Ed kids (the white children of people BAs) had classes that prepared us for average state colleges

    -The Special Ed kids were mostly minorities from poor families, whose classes focused mostly on behavior management.

    -The ESL kids did something in the classrooms over by the auditorium, near where the you could buy weed from the Special Ed kids.

    The Middle class black and Hispanic kids didn't attend my public school. Their parents sent them to the local Catholic school, presumably because they didn't want them to be sucked into the "culture of poverty" that they themselves escaped.
  • I recently went on a tour of PS 705. It seems like the school has a lot of good energy from the parents, particularly the younger grades. Howver, they handed out a pamphlet explaining that they are exploring 'set aside' admission seats for children from low income families and ESL children. But to do this they would have the school 'de-zoned' and open it up to all families from District 17, selected by a lottery from priority groups. Therefore the #1 admissions priority group would change from families within the zone with siblings currently enrolled in school, to families within the district with siblings currently enrolled in the school. Oh, and did I mention that many of the most active parents are outside of the zone but within the district?? Many of them have one child there and one younger child with no guarantee of a spot with the siblings. I believe their thinking is that the school will be desirable and will only be attended by families that can afford the neighborhood. However, this is certainly not the case with any school in District 13 (Fort Green, Brooklyn Heights, etc). D15 is an entirely different story. It's suspicious because this zone has many many lower income families already. It has one of the highest concentration of income restricted tax credit properties in Brooklyn (http://www.novoco.com/low_income_housing/resources/maps_data.php). These properties have hard income restrictions in place for at least 15 years. So even when this neighborhoods gentrifies, there will be many low income families remaining.
  • I think the Yeshivas are truly a problem not just in NYC but throughout the state. (see: Ramapo)I went to a Fundraiser for my school last night. One of the parents who performed was born and raised Crown Heights. He talked about how he moved to District 1 not so that his kid got a better education but so that his kid interacted with kids in school unlike himself. The East Village is actually diverse. I have kids of all races, from celebrity children to EBT and housing projects. District 1 does something no other district does in NYC: you're zoned to district one, but then you pick which school within the district you want to go to. As long as that school has room, they take you. It allows for kids to get a progressive education at my school or a more traditional education down the street - without being a haves/haves nots situation.Get rid of charters and private schools and see how quickly things get fixed. When we are all in the same sinking boat the water is bailed out much more quickly.
  • Xlizellx,Thanks for your comments. I've really enjoyed reading them. What (if any) public elementary schools in Crown Heights would you recommend?Thanks!!
  • If we were to get rid of the charters and the private schools, wouldn't there just be more pressure on the local public schools to create more AP classes and Special Ed ?

    Note: I am assuming people can't move because every surrounding district somehow eliminates them as well, and at the same time.
  • I don't have any first hand knowledge of Crown Heights schools except the now closed PS22.Maybe more AP classes (not a bad thing) probably not more special ed since, a) the kids in private/charters aren't special ed usually, b) IEPs legally shouldn't change based on demographics, c) the new special education reform is closing special ed classes, not opening them.
  • Do you think Advocates For Children could get the special Ed laws you reference enforced in such a situation?

    http://www.advocatesforchildren.org/

    They only have about 10 attorneys for the city, and mostly count on schools not calling their bluff re: legal action.
  • The DOE loves the law...cheaper for them! They need less teachers since kids who had been in 12-1-1 rooms are not integrated into gen ed rooms and special ed teachers now don't have their own rooms but push into multiple rooms to support kids part of the time (under the new law, special ed services 60% of the time equal "full time")
  • ah, but are DOE finances always the driving force?

    I'm thinking of situations in which you have a "diverse" district, but the PTA has been taken over by the parents of children headed to private colleges.

    In that situation, the PTA controls a lot of influence and the the principal is tempted to give them what they want in exchange for their donations and "peace".
  • The give them what they want meaning less special education students?
  • They give them classes that are not officially Special Ed, but serve the same purpose.

    For example, all of the kids who act up have to go to Ms Clara's class for the rest of the year. The parents of the kids in Ms. Clara's class don't effectively complain, because they tend to be single moms, poorer, work long hours, have less knowledge of their rights, etc

    There is no need to create those pesky IEPs, there is no need to pay for more staffing...The PTA is delighted and makes a large donation to the school.
  • Aha, I see what you're saying. Tends to happen often in poorer schools already (Looking at you, District 18!).That's harder to solve with others are less hopeful about the state of education than I am. I guess the hope is that the teachers can sell a co-taught or integrated classroom setting to parents. No teacher wants to be Ms. Clara either.
  • My reply seems to have disappeared.Basically, to re-reply:Already happens in certain areas (here's looking at you, district 18!)But my hope is that teachers stand up against it. Or their union does. No teacher wants to be Ms. Clara either.
  • When/if people complain, I've heard the class (i.e. segregation) justified under diversity grounds.

    As in "Ms. Clara is able to connect with kids who are different learners in a way that the other teachers are not."

    In my experience, Ms. Clara is usually perceived to be of the same race as her students, and is often a new teacher.

    ...yes, Ms. Clara is screwed. She often leaves the field, in part, because she is expected to be able to more effectively work with students than her peers. [Unintended consequence: Attempt to diversify teaching field thwarted]
  • True. We hit 5 years and half of us have quit.But our contract does state that if a case can be made that there is a "hard" class and an "easy" class, it is to alternate every other year.All this said, principals have to be on board too. And with how scared most are of parents, that may be the biggest hurdle of it all.
  • If the class remains intact, yet the teachers change, the goal of segregation remains intact.Yes, the INVOLVED and INTIMIDATING parents are in favor of these special classes. They are the ones the principals will appease.
  • There are a ton of "special ed" kids in private schools. They, however, tend to be undiagnosed or kids who's parents are aware of their disabilitites and then get them onto medication but don't get an official diagnostic done. Certain private schools will push parents to get the analysis done to allow for additional support in the way of extra test taking time, etc. There are tons of private school kids being medicated from middle school through college in NYC and the schools are starting to put in place support mechanisms to deal with these kids. I think Xlizellx does point out one what should be an immediate change for both elementary and middle school selection. Kids should be permitted to attend any school in the zone based on seat availability. This would give parents more options and make it easier to get kids to stay in their home district. I think that the abolishment of private schools isn't going to make things better, simply because private school parents are already paying taxes to support local schools. So if the current pot of money for schools is X and it supports Y number of kids the year that private schools get phased out you'll have X dollars supporting Y+100,000 kids. Bringing those kids in doesn't bring in any private school revenue, nor would it allow the state to capture the endowments or operating funds for those schools. I've seen proposals where private school assets would be taken over but that simply adds additional expense to the Dept of Ed. for buildings and maintenance.
  • How one school in District 13 is trying to preserve integration between low-income and more affluent students: http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2014/02/12/in-brooklyns-district-13-a-task-force-aims-to-engineer-socioeconomic-integration/
  • Meanwhile, The Atlantic ran a piece that advocates grouping students based on ability:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/03/lets-go-back-to-grouping-students-by-ability/274362/

    As it is measured by the school system, "ability" is often positively correlated to income.
  • homeowner said:

    http://nypost.com/2014/02/23/students-defend-murry-bergtraum-hs-in-error-filled-letters/

    This is why parents choose to opt out of the public school system.



    That's one school and that's on the high school level. 

    What are similar problems that a student may encounter in the lower grade levels?
  • Well, there's this...

    http://nypost.com/2014/01/12/no-space-no-books-no-leader-no-clue-at-citys-worst-elementary/

    Please understand that I'm not by any stretch saying that every public school is as bad as these two. But these are the schools that serve those students whose parents aren't actively involved in the system through PTAs, special fundraising, advocating at the Department level, and involving local politicians. In other words this is what the bottom quartile (approx. 425 schools) of all schools in NYC looks like. And these are schools that your kid could end up end because there isn't a seat in your school of choice, a program has been abolished, zones are redrawn, or you happen to live in a place where most of the schools in the district are low performers.
  • Yes, the fear of one's child being placed in such a school is often enough for a parent to pursue an alternative that they perceive as less risky.

    In such situations, parents feel absolutely powerless to change their zoned school, so they may flee.

    ...or, at least make a youtube video like the guy above did.
  • homeowner said:

    And these are schools that your kid could end up end because there isn't a seat in your school of choice, a program has been abolished, zones are redrawn, or you happen to live in a place where most of the schools in the district are low performers.



    Your original example cited an example on the high school level and students have more choices available to them aside from the zoned schools by the time a student gets to that point. 

    Yet, I can see why some would want to abandon what some perceive to be a sinking ship.
  • Yes, there are significantly more choices on the high school level. Yet every year there are thousands of students who get none of their 10 choices and end up in supplementary round. Those kids end up with a lot fewer options to choose from, often in new untested schools or programs or those schools that are the worst performers.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/no-matches-for-some-students-on-high-school-decision-day/
  • homeowner said:

    Well, there's this...

    http://nypost.com/2014/01/12/no-space-no-books-no-leader-no-clue-at-citys-worst-elementary/

    Please understand that I'm not by any stretch saying that every public school is as bad as these two. But these are the schools that serve those students whose parents aren't actively involved in the system through PTAs, special fundraising, advocating at the Department level, and involving local politicians. In other words this is what the bottom quartile (approx. 425 schools) of all schools in NYC looks like. And these are schools that your kid could end up end because there isn't a seat in your school of choice, a program has been abolished, zones are redrawn, or you happen to live in a place where most of the schools in the district are low performers.



    That's my point, though.  You say "my kids deserves better" and you put them into some other school -- even though your kid has capable parents who will be actively involved in the system through all of the means you listed.  Those kids (who didn't get to chose their parents) will never be brought upwards if the kids with involved parents never attend their school.  It just seems selfish to me to only think of your individual kid and not kids at large.  Unless your child is going to be physically harmed at school, there is no way it's so bad you can't be the help those educators and those other kids need while your own child still gets an education.
  • xlizellx-

    In general, parents want their children to have better lives then they themselves had.

    In life, a parent wants their child to be able to compete [for high school admission, for college admission, and eventually for jobs] against kids who went to much better schools and had wealthier, more fortunate parents.

    As a result, parents do not perceive there being time for their kids to help other kids and "the school system" to the extent you describe.

    The job of a parent is to give their kids the best life they can.



  • I help by volunteering my time to mentor kids at two public schools who may be among the group of kids who got crappy parents in the parent lottery. I'm hiring two of those kids this summer to work as (paid) interns at my job which will give them the incentive to continue to do well in school, a place to go every day while they are not in school, and a real job they can put on a resume. I'm working with their schools to help them learn how to interview for a job and what it means to take part in a competitive process where they need to sell themselves. I do this, because I do believe that I have some responsibility to the greater community at large.

    However, I also recognize that my kids will travel through life with the rest of the world having pre-conceived notions about their intelligence, their intent, their backgrounds and upbringing. If recent events in Florida have taught them anything, its that their very lives may be at stake because someone views them as threats. As such it is my responsibility as a parent to arm them with the best tools to defend themselves. Part of that is providing them the best education I can. My belief is that they will be better educated in a system where there is a clear exchange of services for pay, and a clear understanding by the people receiving the pay of the expectiation I have regarding the services I am receiving. I'm not saying that you don't get quality teaching in a "free" system, just that there isn't the same level of accountability to me as a consumer. I am willing to sacrifice, to forgo certain luxuries, to live in a smaller home, not drive a new car so I can provide them with greater opportunities and expose them to many things. They understand that their education is not a right, but comes at some expense and that their responsibility is to not squander it or take it for granted. i'm teaching them the importance of philanthropy and the need to provide financial support to those insitutions they value. At the same time, they still remain grounded to the community that they live in through church, sports, activities and friendships with kids whose parents have opted not to make the same decision.

    I feel very comfortable with the decisions I've made because I know I'm still doing more than most people when it comes to supporting schools.
  • I help by volunteering my time to mentor kids at two public schools who may be among the group of kids who got crappy parents in the parent lottery. I'm hiring two of those kids this summer to work as (paid) interns at my job which will give them the incentive to continue to do well in school, a place to go every day while they are not in school, and a real job they can put on a resume. I'm working with their schools to help them learn how to interview for a job and what it means to take part in a competitive process where they need to sell themselves. I do this, because I do believe that I have some responsibility to the greater community at large. - 

    That's awesome.  I see what you're saying, Whynot, about parents and how they view their roles.  I guess I'm glad that wasn't how my parents saw their roles - and why I didn't go to a great school growing up, but I always had my parents helping out as much as possible, volunteering and pestering other parents to do the same, and then supplying me with extracurriculars and summer activities that expanded my learning in ways that my school could not provide.  My parents both are still incredibly active in the local public schools, especially my mom, even though both of their kids have grown up and left town.  I appreciate that they saw us as citizens before students and while they loved us very very much we weren't more special or important than any other kid.
  • Selfish? Damn straight!

    As a teacher, I agree with xlizellx. I've been a teacher for 12 years, and there was a time during which I truly believed that parents had a social obligation to send their child to their local school, improving from the inside.

    Now, as a parent I simply want my child to have the best education possible, and that will, sadly, not be at my zoned elementary school. I've spent a great deal of time observing students exiting the school building, and the violence, abhorrent language, and total lack of supervision at dismissal tell me a lot about the culture of the school.

    I do want to change education. That is why I have dedicated my career to public education. I will not make a difference at the expense of my child's well-being.
  • xlizellx-
    Your parents seem to have believed that you would be successful DESPITE, not going to the best school they could afford.

    Mine believed this too.

    In my case, they believed that as a result the parenting they provided, my siblings and I could overcome the pressures presented by those who were less fortunate. 

    However, when your family is not as strong, and the less fortunate are "more powerful" than they were in our school district, that equation changes.

    For example, we moved a lot as a result of my dad being in the Marines, and when we lived somewhere where the local schools sucked we were sent to Catholic school. 

     Otherwise, we attended the best public school we could by living in the right district or making quick friends with the person in the neighboring district who, um, verified addresses. 

     Involved NYC families try their best to exercise similar creativity.

    Always helps to know someone at the DOE who can pull a few strings.
  • this is an awesome conversation. i just wanted to say that. carry on yall. 
  • Heightsmom, what is your zoned elementary school? I am curious b/c my kid will be ready for school in a few years and we are zoned for PS 138. In a few years, of course, the conversation could be totally different if enough of the "new" Crown Heights residents start sending their kids to the local zoned school and the schools become more diverse then they are currently.
  • I perceive it as being very likely that that local schools will be radically different 6 years from now than they are currently.

    I look to PS 9 (located in Prospect Heights on Underhill, near Dean) as evidence. At first only a few "new residents" sent their children there. Then, the tipping point was achieved.

  • This video entitled "Teachers' message to parents: We don't suck you suck", clearly belongs on this thread:

    http://www.reshareable.tv/teachers-message-to-parents-we-dont-suck-you-suck.html

  • @xlizellx this video seems to make your points very well:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qaue72D9p_I
  • We'll see how this goes over with some of the natives in D-15. Fingers crossed.
  • Does district 17 ever do events like this?
  • As you are likely aware, most of D-17 is in the position of needing to attract well off kids in order to achieve "diversity".


    This is where one can see what I call "fun with language".

    D-17 tends to have events that are themed:

    "School Open House.   Are you a professional with a BA or better?   Please send your child to our school.   We have a new music and arts program.   We are making progress!"


    Notice the absence of the phrase "Enhancing Diversity".    That phrase seems to be rarely used when the kids sought are better off than those you presently have enrolled.

    So, yes, D-17 has such events, but the flyers look much different than the D-15 flyer above.

    The flyer above, after all, is targeted at parents who have fortunate children.  It is written with the hope that they will LET OTHERS IN, as opposed to enrolling their child.     
  • Whynot, I just had "fun with language" in your post there.  Sometimes I wish you wouldn't make me do brain exercises to get to your point.  I was under the impression that PS9 in Prospect Heights had the problem that too many parents were too professional and the number of students on the lunch program went down to the degree that they lost federal funding.  So doesn't there come a point where schools are looking for involved parents, who bring some "other" race in whichever direction is lacking, who are also poor enough to qualify for lunches?

    However they word it, I wish the schools in District 17 would do more outreach to prospective parents.  There was one school who had a table at the recent Kingston Ave. street fair and I enjoyed talking with a teacher there, but I'm finding it difficult to find out more about others.  As someone who doesn't have first hand experience with public schools and how they work, I'm finding it very frustrating trying to get more information.  Additionally, it's very unclear how or when open houses happen.  

  • You are not alone in your frustration. Read the comments on the Inside Schools D-17 link I posted above.
  • Tateinbk, your frustrations are part of the reason that some opt to go the charter school route or to private schools. Those schools make it very clear in their marketing materials what the school philosophy is, when prospective parents/students can come and see the school, what it takes to get into the school including test dates, lottery dates, auditions, etc. and what kind of school they are running (special programs, extracurriculars, etc.).

    The public schools have crappy websites, and parents have to rely on Inside Schools or Great Schools or the like to try to figure out exactly what a school culture is like. Even those sites sometimes have dated information. This lack of information is used to keep exclusive schools exclusive (enrollment is driven by word of mouth between "people like us") and crappy schools from being identified as crappy until its too late (usually after a kid is sitting in a classroom). Add on top of that the byzantine rules around districting and exemptions and its impossible for families to navigate the system without significant work and resources. Poor, uneducated families end up with poorly educated kids and middle and upper middle class families seem to produce kids that are all "gifted" "talented" or otherwise tracked out of the madness.
  • The blogger behind The Q at Parkside recently posted a rant about his frustration about one particular D-17 school, P.S. 375

    "It has become clear to this blogger that PS375, the Jackie Robinson School, a/k/a the school that most Lefferts and Caledonian families are zoned for, is problematic. Possibly, even corrupt. The principal, assistant principal, and the superintendent of the District are all culpable in keeping the school from changing with the times. And by times, I don't just mean being open to integration, i.e. welcoming newcomers to the school, or heaven forbid, holding an open house or school tour. I mean that one-by-one Brooklyn elementary schools are recognizing that they must create an internet/social media presence and actually market themselves and whatever strengths they have so that choosy parents - the ones most likely to help bring positive change - attend and get involved. (I know I'm stepping into a landmine here, but screw it. This school has sucked for long enough and it's time someone called them out. I look forward to being proven wrong, but I'm not hopeful.)"
  • I think a lot of the "lack of marketing" by D-17 schools stems from administrators not believing that they can make a good enough pitch to get better off parents to enroll their children there.

    The D-17 administrators (after all) are better off than most of the students' parents, and usually send their own children to better schools.

    As a result of occupying the same social class as the administrators, they freely share their reasons with me.
  • It's not even lack of marketing as it is the absolute inability of some of these schools to provide a document listing what the students will be learning over the course of the year--fractions, penmanship, biomes, anything! Maybe these documents exist but they are definitely not offered to prospective parents in advance of registering their kids for classes or during the 'school shopping' period. An open house would be so nice. PS 705 is doing a great job with open houses and marketing, and I wish the other schools (ps 138, I'm looking at you!) did the same. I hear 705 is actually starting a discussion re maintaining a certain percentage of seats for students who qualify for free lunch; gentrification moves so quickly these days.
  • I live in D-17, taught in the Bronx and Manhattan. I never met a teacher who sent their child to a local school. I cannot blame them. Even if the schools do "beef" up there marketing, parents will still look to Insideschools.org, etc. to see test scores and look up school demographics. These factors may be the hinging point on whether or not they send there kids to a local school versus private.

    I know that a lot of families are buying in "cheaper" areas like Crown Heights and PLG so they can send their children to private schools. The schools in Northern Crown Heights might go the route of PS 9, but it's going to take a few years for this happen as many of the children in the area are under the of three. Another option parents are getting into is homeschooling. There is an entire homeschooling community, and it's growing, here in Brooklyn.

    As for Southern Crown Heights, there don't seem to be that many families are moving into the apartment buildings, it's mainly working "kids." Again, if there are, they send the children to private schools. I cannot say I'd send my child to our local school.

  • So, people in the know -- is there any kind of District 17 or CEC 17 listserv or website or Yahoo!Group or anything that one can join in order to be aware of events, meetings, etc? I have tried emailing the CEC, with no response, and was hoping someone else could point me in the right direction. Many thanks to anyone who can help me out.

    WhyNot, looking at that District Map...wow! District 17 is huge.
  • Yes, it is.    

    That's part of why of I posted the map.   

    I'd also like to respond to @tateinbk comments:    The areas covered by D-17 do not yet encounter the "problems" that PS9 struggled with.    PS9 is outside of D-17.
  • If you're looking for information about particular public schools, just stop in or make an appointment with the principal. I did this at 316 and they practically rolled out the red carpet.
  • Great! Did you end up going to 316?
  • I am a parent at PS 9; the process of it becoming more gentrified predates me, but as I understand it, it started when the school's current principal, Sandra D'Avilar, came on, which was a few years before the neighborhood started getting really gentrified. It has changed much slower than it might have otherwise, for a number of reasons: there are plenty of choice schools available to D13 families; many of the families in the neighborhood historically attended the richer, whiter D15 schools a few blocks away and continued to do so, and bring their neighbors along; and PS 9 (unsuccessfully) fought against a charter school co-location in 2010, which took up a lot of the school's energy and resulted in some temporary instability.

    In any event, I was attracted to the school because the principal came across as motivated, strong and fair; she made it clear that she was looking for and ready to accept help from the parents but also that no one group of parents was going to dominate the cultural direction of the school -- efforts needed to enhance the school rather than "change" it, unless pretty much everyone agreed change would be good. The parents I met were smart, informed, diverse and dedicated. Our experience has been good so far - not perfect, and I'm sure that we deal with a bit more "messiness" than more homogenous schools, but to us it has been very worth it and our kids are thriving.

    The school has grown a lot, and the loss of the Title I funds had to do mostly with the increase in affluent families as opposed to a significant decline in actual numbers of low-income families. I think it is an injustice that Title I formulas, which are percentage-based, mean we get no Title I funds -- the school has more low-income families than many smaller schools that do receive the funds, and it would be really great to have more funds to support those families. (Title I funds have very restricted uses, oriented specifically toward the low-income families.) But I don't think anyone at the school feels that the increased diversity (i.e., more professional parents) is a "problem" for the kids -- studies are pretty clear that socio-economic balance benefits all students.
  • To the larger question of diversifying schools - we could have a fun debate, I am sure, about how it should work in a perfect world, but the reality is that if parents feel their local school isn't serving their local community well, there have to be serious efforts made by both parents outside the school and the existing school community.

    I understand the frustration of the quoted Q at Parkside blogger, but I'm not sure it's fair. I don't know anything about the particular school, and agree there's not a good excuse for a local school not trying to reach out to local parents, or to be responsive to them. But when it comes to marketing and social media and building its outreach around professional parents, the fact is that DOE schools simply cannot compete with charters and private schools that have marketing budgets and paid media directors. There's no money in the budget for that and, until this year at least, the DOE has been working directly *against* pre-existing local public schools, and trying to drive families to charters and other new schools.

    As far as I know, the only marketing budget or social media "help" at a district school comes from parents - directly, through fundraising to pay for website hosting and through the skills to design and keep up a website. That's how the website at PS 9 was started - the concept was developed tightly with the administration, but the initial work was almost all parents. Our parent coordinator does some updating, but otherwise it is done by parents.

    PS 705 seems like they have a lot of good things happening, but it's not really fair to compare other Crown Heights schools to it. PS 705 was a brand new school just last year, located in a very gentrified area of northwest Crown Heights, with all the opportunities presented by a new school, including better funding (the DOE funds new schools at a higher level), new leadership that is motivated to fill a school, new teaching staff and (it must be said), no legacy of poor test scores listed on InsideSchools, no children in older grades that tend to scare off affluent/gentrified families. (Not saying it's right, just have had plenty of playground conversations to have a pretty good idea of how the psychology of school choice works.) That is not to take anything away from 705 - it's still a high poverty school and I'm sure it still is taking a lot of hard work on the part of the thoughtful and dedicated parents working to try to make PS 705 a diverse, well-functioning school.

    But it is much different to take a school filled with families, some of whom have been sending kids there for a decade, and convince the leadership there that it needs to spend scarce resources to make the school more attractive (marketing-wise and the actual day-to-day of school operations) to a newly gentrified neighborhood or group of families. That's just hard work and there aren't really any structural incentives or supports in place for a principal to do that, except, perhaps, if the school's enrollment is dropping). It's a catch-22: what can a school do that has no affluent parents and/or no parents with marketing skills to attract these very parents? I get it, nobody wants to be "the first" whatever at a public school, and nobody is saying you have a moral obligation to do that. But in order to have real, structural changes or improvements made, there simply have to be some people with the time, money, and regular commitment willing to roll up their sleeves. If no affluent/skilled parent ever wants to be the first, most won't agree to be the first - why be surprised (or angry?) that your local school isn't already what you wish it were? What you are really doing is blaming other more affluent parents for not doing what you, yourself, are not willing to do.

    That said, it can be done and is being done at many schools in Brooklyn where the leadership is willing to work hard and is receptive, where there are parents ready to put in the time and money, and other conditions are right. Some of these schools were under discussion at the diversity forum whynot posted. Google Park Slope Collegiate and read the new York magazine article about it. It's possible to do - but it does, however, take some families willing to actually do the work ... and send their kids there.
  • It's not even lack of marketing as it is the absolute inability of some of these schools to provide a document listing what the students will be learning over the course of the year--fractions, penmanship, biomes, anything! Maybe these documents exist but they are definitely not offered to prospective parents in advance of registering their kids for classes or during the 'school shopping' period. An open house would be so nice. PS 705 is doing a great job with open houses and marketing, and I wish the other schools (ps 138, I'm looking at you!) did the same. I hear 705 is actually starting a discussion re maintaining a certain percentage of seats for students who qualify for free lunch; gentrification moves so quickly these days.



    ...if it's a public school then here is what they'll be learning:  http://www.corestandards.org/  It tells you exactly what kids are learning in each grade in math and in reading/writing.  

    As for science and social studies, science is here:  http://schools.nyc.gov/documents/stem/science/k8sciencess.pdf

  • xlizellx, if you feel there is a moral obligation to send your children to their local school, don't you then have that same obligation to teach within your district?


  • xlizellx, if you feel there is a moral obligation to send your children to their local school, don't you then have that same obligation to teach within your district?




    I taught in my district for years.  I didn't leave because I didn't like many aspects of it - but because there are no progressive schools in the district.  

    I feel it's wrong to allow whole districts to have only more-of-the-same schools.  There is not a single school that identifies as progressive in districts 17 or 18 -- two districts I taught in for years.

      This will only change, though, with outcry from the community - not self-segregation from the community.  Want a progressive school?  Demand one from your public school.

    My child will attend public schools and I will make all efforts I can to help those other children in that school be at the best school it can be.  However my professional and philosophical beliefs for career can only withstand the top-down wrong headedness of "traditional" schools often found in Brooklyn.  

    I am not a teacher as a charity, but as a career and I am doing more good in a school that allows and encourages me to teach the way I believe benefits children and families while continuing to participate in educational meetings and discussions with my home-local schools and districts.
  • Rather than expect a single family to integrate (by class, race, educational philosophy, etc), I think it is more reasonable that a cadre of parents will form at a local private PreK and then enroll their kids.

    It seems to be a common method throughout the country.

    ...they are then accused of imposing their wishes on others, and using "privilege".
  • whynot, I'm not sure if your comment was in response to mine. I don't "expect" a single family to do anything and wasn't suggesting any one single family "integrate" a school, as that is mathematically impossible (for one thing). my point is that if someone feels that his local school is failing its obligation to serve its local communities, especially when the demographics of that local community is in flux, it really can't be blamed solely on "the system." it turns out that a big part of the system is ... us. the "cadre of parents" has to be made up of at least some individuals willing to be leaders and to do the work, and to try to convince others that this sort of collective action has value.

    you should read the article on park slope collegiate. not everyone is going to be comfortable all the time, and some people (on all ranges of the spectrum) are just unreasonable. that's life. but there are ways to do it that minimize alienation, starting with a strong school leader who is committed to listening.

    exercising school choice of any kind is an expression of privilege, and I think you'd find that most rational people can appreciate when some of that privilege is used in ways that benefit the wider community.
  • That article about Park Slope was amazing. Great read in NYMagazine.

    I know in Ditmas Park some parent-led coop child care centers are opening and my hope is that these parents will help the system change for the better as their kids grow.

    Power in numbers.
  • @maggie - my comment was not addressed to you specifically.

    It is more of me just expressing a belief that the local schools will change when a critical mass of parents who can't/won't pay for private 1st grade is reached.

    My sense is that we are approaching that period in the square formed by Nostrand, EP, Washington and Atlantic, and I will help if I can.
  • Whynot, if you have connections to the administration to the schools in that area, perhaps getting word to them that there are interested and curious parents who need some help or invitations to see the schools.  I know how difficult it can be to have big tours of parents through the buildings with school is in session.  The approaching summer might be a great time to simply lead parents through a tour of the facilities to just start with.  Then no students' classes are disrupted and the door to communication between parents and administration is opened. 

    The school I saw represented at the Kingston ave. street fair was New Bridges Elementary, P.S. 532.  Their website is still rough http://www.ps532newbridges.org/ but it seems like they're working on it.  The fact that they came out to the festival is a great sign to me.  The kids chorus even sang a song on the stage.  Like PS 705, this one is new and is replacing a failing school and seems to emphasize the arts.  
  • whynot, good to hear and i hope you're right (i don't know specifically that CH schools aren't good, but i do know that many of them are still pretty segregated). hard to tell how gentrification will push things, and it can be hyper-local, involving things like the particular status of the zoned housing - single family, public housing, new high rises, etc. the increase in real estate prices has meant that, in some ways, gentrification is skipping over the kind of families who are willing and able to try to do something like this...

    i would like to see the DOE to do more to support schools that show some kind of integration promise, because it feels like an area where a little bit could go a long way. but since it isn't happening under our supposedly progressive new administration, it appears we are left to our own devices.

  • Tateinbk-
    In my view, the local school staff can't and/or won't successfully lead this "change".

    The change will come from a cadre of parents.

    Perhaps said cadre won't stem from ONE pre-school's parents but from many preschools, playgrounds, and places that have a children's menu.

    Perhaps they could meet each other by using a local website.
  • As a parent who is currently going through the insanity of the NYC kindergarten process, I wanted to throw in my two cents.  My daughter currently attends a progressive private preschool (she's been there since she was two - tried to get a public pre-k spot last year but got nothing).  We are zoned for PS138.  

    We can't afford to keep my daughter at her private school for elementary, but very much believe in progressive education.  As xlizellx pointed out, there are no progressive schools in D17, and not many in Brooklyn in general (considering the size of the student population).  D17 narrowly missed getting a progressive charter - Compass, founded by teachers from progressive charter Community Roots in D13.  D13 encompasses FG, CH, western Bed-Stuy, and Prospect Heights. 

    The cynic in me says that locating in D13 might make sense for a progressive charter such as Compass because D13 has overall demographics that make schools there look like they could potentially help historically underserved populations, thus attracting private funding, while the charter schools are in fact mainly attracting the massive number of children of the upper middle class or upper class white families recently moving into D13.

    We wound up getting a spot at an out-of-district progressive public elementary through the DOE lottery, and are really happy with that, but it would have been great to have an option in our neighborhood.  I don't know how to make that happen, though - the principals generally drive the bus, so to speak, on the ed philosophy at their schools, so unless some new principal comes in at an existing school and wants to shake things up, I don't know that there's much more that parents can do.

    If I ruled the world, we would get rid of the district system altogether, and kindergarten selections could be made by DOE without district preferences.
  • Sprucenik, would you mind sharing what school your child got into or what other you looked into? Thanks!
  • Community Roots is the only charter that felt like a great school out of the many I have visited. That said, why can't we get parents and teachers opening public schools? I work in the east village where many of the progressive schools were started by parents. Yes, this was 30ish years ago, but that's where the noise came from.

    District 1 (lower east side, east village, Chinatown, etc) is having a tough time with segregation because the DOE took away our power to integrate our classes and use income or race as a category when accepting students (in district 1 you aren't zoned to a specific school). The system is working against us - but parents of many schools are getting together to try to change this. As Whynot has said, parents are where the power is - but it takes a group, not just 1
  • Bloomberg was not in support of progressive education. I myself am agnostic about it -- Community Roots, for example, still has a very significant achievement gap between its rich and poor students despite that it has very few poor kids. I don't think test scores are the be-all, end-all, but it tells you something. Anyway, very few progressive schools opened up under Bloomberg. He did open some "choice" schools that were not necessarily progressive by design, but because those attract the affluent, they have become more progressive as a result of parental pressure. I suspect a school like the New American Academy could develop like this.

    Parents can also encourage an existing school to start a dual language program. That can be done in a year, for example, by pre-k parents working with the administration. Not progressive, necessarily, but could be. There's also magnet funding, which allows for out of zone admissions specifically to encourage integration, and money for new programs.

    A lot of people don't pay much attention to the situation with public schools until they find themselves on the wrong side of things. That's usually too late in places like D13 and D17 where politics and economics are pretty entrenched against responsiveness to the interests of the more affluent regular people. This is not to say it can't happen, but there needs to be a lot of coalition-building and groundwork laid and a demonstration made as to how the public resources will benefit everyone, not just the rich. Families in Park Slope are more effective in a short period of time, because they ARE the constituency and act that way and in some cases, have been supporting their local politicians for years. But the concrete steps they have taken to get stuff done are not that complicated, and could (and should) be replicated.
  • It seems to me right now there are a bunch of parents who might otherwise be interested in private/charter schools who are now asking questions about the local public ones.  But no one has a clue how to go look at a school or sign their child up, let alone start a revolution.  There is a conversation somewhere else about how to figure it all out.  Would parents approach specific principles?  DOE?  
  • First, I think parents of PreK children should approach parents of other PreK children.

    If I were in the situation, I'd create a Under Age 6 Toy Exchange that would take place at a site located in the area I mentioned above. For example, a playground.

    I'd advertise it via business cards, flyers and word of mouth throughout the area for about a month preceding the event.

    At the event, I would announce the launch a Yahoo Group and/or use a Brooklynian thread to communicate.

    As I felt more comfortable with my fellow parents, I would let them know that "I and other parents are considering enrolling our kids in PSxxx, but we need more parents to make it work".

    Then, I'd get all of those parents together at Covenhoven (which seems to be our most child friendly bar), and make it happen.



  • Whynot's suggestion is exactly what happened around ps 316 a few years ago. When ps 705 opened, they all jumped ship. The principal at 316 accused this group of parents of being racist. Her exact words were "I don't think the face of our student body was changing quickly enough for those parents."
  • That's unfortunate.

    In minds of those parents, it may have had nothing to do with the hue of the student body, but instead may have been akin to choosing to eat at Bar Corvo vs McDonalds.

    ....the quality of the experience and product are completely different.
  • heightsmom, I'm not sure that quote means that the principal accused the parents of being racists.

    tate, what is it you are looking to do? do you have one particular zoned school in mind? or do you have a school in mind that would require people getting in from out of zone or by lottery? or are you looking to create a new program within a school? all different, some requiring more advance work with the school, some less. but either way I would think you would want to meet with the principal. so you can tell people that s/he is on board, and also so it doesn't seem like some "project" that is separate from the school itself and its current community.

    not to get into the whole gentrification discussion, but I think one of the things that makes it hard is when "new people" don't do anything to avoid the impression that they have just parachuted in to build a new world around themselves. i am not saying anyone has a moral obligation to make nice, but I do think that if you want it to work in the long term, it's a good idea to try to get the lay of the land and explain what you are all about. a PTA meeting would be a good place to start. once you've met some people and the admins know you, you could ask to sit in on a school leadership team (SLT) meeting, as an observer. that will give you a good idea of how a school is functioning, what it's considering in terms of curriculum, etc.
  • yikes, whynot. what a horrible analogy.
  • maggie said:

    heightsmom, I'm not sure that quote means that the principal accused the parents of being racists.

    tate, what is it you are looking to do? do you have one particular zoned school in mind? or do you have a school in mind that would require people getting in from out of zone or by lottery? or are you looking to create a new program within a school? all different, some requiring more advance work with the school, some less. but either way I would think you would want to meet with the principal. so you can tell people that s/he is on board, and also so it doesn't seem like some "project" that is separate from the school itself and its current community.

    not to get into the whole gentrification discussion, but I think one of the things that makes it hard is when "new people" don't do anything to avoid the impression that they have just parachuted in to build a new world around themselves. i am not saying anyone has a moral obligation to make nice, but I do think that if you want it to work in the long term, it's a good idea to try to get the lay of the land and explain what you are all about. a PTA meeting would be a good place to start. once you've met some people and the admins know you, you could ask to sit in on a school leadership team (SLT) meeting, as an observer. that will give you a good idea of how a school is functioning, what it's considering in terms of curriculum, etc.



    I too would recommend talking to a current PTA/PA and attending SLT meetings if possible to see how the school you're interested in would receive change