When Chancellor Banks announced last month that the DOE was reinstating academic screens for middle schools, it gave hope to many families in Community School District 2 which I represent on the Community Education Council. Since Covid started, and subsequently all special admission processes were canceled, there have been many examples of how advanced learners have been ignored and held back.
In the past two years, there were students who were given a math text book and told to ‘teach themselves’ while their peers continued with a normal curriculum. Other students told their parents “I feel like I’m ready to run a marathon, but my teachers will only let me walk.” Our families made it clear in a number of meetings that we owe it to our children to strive for more. A large part of our community wants schools that push our children and offer a truly accelerated education. And we should have objective measures that allow all children to meet their potential.
Our superintendent decided to ignore all this feedback and came up with a plan that does not meet the needs of advanced students in core subjects; or even in the arts and other areas where they may pursue a more specialized education. While we have a variety of middle schools in District 2, we will have only one single admissions process: lottery. The only exception will continue to be Ballet Tech, which has auditions to evaluate prospective students “aptitude for classical dance.”
So if your child is performing at a very high level at math, writing, science, or any other subject, District 2 has made it clear your needs won’t be met. The new plan will add four honors math courses in schools — but we all know that this is not even close to meeting all District 2 students exactly where they are and keep them progressing.
What our families want is the same opportunity offered to families in District 30 and District 20: true school choice. If you want a school with lottery admissions, you get it. If you want a school with objective selection criteria, you get it. Our families don’t want to force their ideal of education on others, but we also don’t want others to force their ideas on our kids. Some families see their kids thriving while being challenged and preparing for academic tests. Other children have a different experience. This diversity of students’ experiences with academic assessments should be respected.
District 2 families have been fighting since covid started to ensure that advanced students are served in our public schools. The message from our superintendent this week has been loud and clear: there is no space for advanced students in District 2. The latest plan is telling advanced students to slow down and go at the same pace as the average student in the district. Which is a self-defeating plan that no other country is imposing on their highest achieving students.
It’s time for us to realize that District 2 has no intention of serving advanced students. Families who want a really accelerated education should either move to a suburb town (like many did), where you don’t need to fight for these options, or enroll at a private school. Since this is not an option that the majority of District 2 families can afford, we need to advocate for a plan similar to Arizona where all families now have access to a public school tax credit and can choose the best school for their kids, either a public, private, or homeschooling option.
Families are the experts on their kids’ needs and should be in the driver’s seat of their children’s education. It is way overdue that New York passes an education tax credit plan so we don’t have to fight with bureaucrats who think they know best what our children need.
Danyela is a mother of public school students, member of Community Education Council District 2, and co-founder of www.FamiliesForNYC.com