Parents to Mayor: Where is Urgency to Fix Our Schools?
New York, NY – Public school parents from across New York City gathered outside today's mayoral control hearing to send a clear message: parents are dissatisfied with the quality of NYC public schools and they expect Mayor de Blasio to be held accountable.
The Mayor is currently lobbying Albany for the renewal of mayoral control of the school system, but parents feel that, more than halfway through his term, there is insufficient progress turning around chronically struggling schools.
Today’s hearing is an important accountability milestone in the mayoral control process. In 2009, both houses of the state legislature held a combined 12 hearings on mayoral control renewal, and in 2016, just the Senate is holding two hearings.
"It is the job of the state legislature to look under the hood and ask the de Blasio administration the tough questions on behalf of kids, said Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY. “In these hearings, we're looking for an honest exploration of what it will take to educate our kids. Mayor de Blasio doesn't seem to want to have that discussion and just wants a rubber stamp renewal, but when 8 out of 10 students who walk across a stage and receive a New York City high school diploma need remediation in college, how can we say that this public school system is doing its job?"
“There is an education crisis in low-income communities across New York City, and we are tired of being ignored. We want the Senate to shine a spotlight on these issues, so our problems don’t get swept under the rug,” said Arlene Rosado, parent of a kindergartner at P.S. 126 in the Bronx.
“Mayor de Blasio claims he’s making schools better, but I’m just not seeing that in my neighborhood. I don’t think they’re doing anything to get the best teachers into my kids’ schools and that’s really what we need. We need to get real about this -- what happens in the schools where I live would never fly in Park Slope or on the Upper West Side. We need to ask the Mayor some tough questions or things are never going to change in our schools,” said Camille Artemus, a parent of a child at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg.
“I’m all for holding the Mayor’s feet to the fire because we need better schools for all families. I was blessed and able to get my daughter into a good school, but too many people I know are stuck sending their children to schools that just aren’t good enough. We need to know why Mayor de Blasio is trying to limit and not expand our school choices,” said Niferteriah Jones, a parent of a child at KIPP AMP.
Parents were also angry that the Mayor chose to skip a hearing scheduled around him, across the street from City Hall.
"New York City public school parents are highly dissatisfied with the quality of education their children are receiving," said Tenicka Boyd, StudentsFirstNY Director of Organizing and mother of a public school student in Brooklyn. "There's a profound disconnect between what Mayor de Blasio is saying and what parents feel on the ground. I spend every day talking to parents in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Brownsville and there is no sense that their local public schools are getting any better."
Mayor de Blasio argues that mayoral control is necessary because the alternatives are worse, but so far he has done little to improve schools in the communities that so desperately need it.
Specifically, parents in these communities are most concerned about:
Unclear goals with long time horizons: Parents deserve to know what the Mayor's goals are for school improvement. New programs and new spending will not have the desired impact unless they are accompanied by specific goals and the willingness to do what it takes to meet them, but the target goals for the Mayor’s pet programs are set a decade in the future.
- What improvement are we going to see while you're mayor?
Too many failure factories: Here are just three examples:
- Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx has 1,535 students enrolled and of the 40% of students who graduate in four years, just 11 percent are college or career ready. Furthermore, 52 percent are chronically absent – what does this say about the quality of education this school is providing?
- Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx has 2,109 students enrolled and of the 46% of students who graduate in four years, just 19 percent are college or career ready.
- Martin Van Buren High School in Queens has 1742 students enrolled and of the 55% of students who graduate in four years, just 14 percent are college or career ready.
- How can parents have confidence that these schools will get better?
NYC high school diplomas don't mean students are ready for college: NYC's HS graduation rate is 70 percent, yet 78.3 percent of CUNY community college students who graduated from these high schools enroll in remedial courses and 80 percent never get a degree.
- Mr. Mayor, would you agree that a high school diploma from a NYC school should mean you are ready for college?
- What concrete steps are you willing to commit to in order to make this a reality for NYC high school graduates?
Instructional time has been cut: The 2014 teacher’s contract took away two and a half hours of instructional time per week for struggling students.
- What is the City doing to make up this lost instruction time for our most vulnerable students?
- What is the evidence that the professional development programs that came in its place are making any difference for kids?
The tendency to ignore solutions that work: Mayor de Blasio has stood in the way of education options that have proven successful. He opposes school choice, puts up roadblocks for charter schools, and has not opened new small schools. When parents cannot count on the quality of their neighborhood schools, they need these options.
- Will you commit to putting your own political agenda aside in favor of what works?
The lowest performing schools are not getting better: Mayor de Blasio touts the results of his Renewal School program. However, at the end of the 2014-15 school year, students in Renewal schools had a combined math & ELA failure rate of 93 percent on State tests.
- What concrete steps are you taking this year to put these Renewal Schools on the path to success?
Accountability is non-existent: School Quality Reports had been an essential component to finding a good school. Since 2015, these reports have become meaningless. Of the approximately 200 elementary and middle schools with less than 10 percent of students passing last year’s state tests in ELA or math, the vast majority received ratings of “meeting” or even “exceeding” school targets for that same year.
- What will you do to provide parents with an accurate picture of how the schools in their community are performing?
StudentsFirstNY is a grassroots education advocacy organization dedicated to improving public schools throughout New York State.