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Tenicka Boyd Testifies before the City Council Committee on Education

"The systematic effort to close the City's giant failing high schools and replace them with new, smaller high schools has arguably done more to improve education outcomes for more kids in New York City over the past decade than any other policy."

Thank you Chairman Jackson. I’m Tenicka Boyd, StudentsFirstNY Organizing Director.

Informed both by my organizing work talking with hundreds of thousands of parents and personal experience as a New York City public school parent, I wanted to share my views on the policies at the heart of our discussion – namely providing parents with high quality charter school options and replacing failing schools with better options.

My concern is that the efforts contemplated by the Committee would undermine the progress our City’s schools have been making over the past decade.

The systematic effort to close the City’s giant failing high schools and replace them with new, smaller high schools has arguably done more to improve education outcomes for more kids in New York City over the past decade than any other policy.

In 2006, all phasing-out high schools had a combined graduation rate of 38%. In 2011, all new high schools had nearly doubled that combined graduation rate to 70%. As the Daily News recently editorialized, “to halt closures is to halt one of the most effective tools of raising student achievement.”

Similarly, charter schools have delivered for our kids. A recent study concluded that, “On average, students in New York City charter schools learned significantly more than their virtual counterparts in reading and mathematics.” Why would you deny parents this powerful choice? Why would you deny black and brown students a chance at this quality education?

I’m the mother of a second grader attending a high-performing city district school. She is fortunate. But what about the students whose parents can’t afford to pay our rent? Are they doomed to the whims of geography? There is something horribly wrong with that.

As we all talk about having our kids career- and college-ready, there are schools in Brownsville, East New York, and Bushwick where only 4% of Black and Latino students are proficient in reading. Tolerating persistently failing schools and denying parents high quality school choice won’t help a single one of these kids read. Instead, it significantly undermines the role of parents and the educational outcomes for black and brown students across this city.

These resolutions play into the divisiveness that is far too prevalent in this debate. Delay is not a solution. Stall tactics are not what our kids desperately need. The Committee could really put students first by adopting resolutions asserting that we will never accept persistently failing schools and demanding that we provide all kids regardless of their race, income or neighborhood access to a quality school.

As parents, we all, regardless of our zip code, skin color, or earning potential, want to choose what is best for our own children. For far too long we have accepted and even sanctioned academic failure and in doing so we have failed those parents. They and their kids deserve better.

Thank you.

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