Monday, January 12, 2009

The Impact of Gentrification on One School in Williamsburg

Gentrification and apartheid (see James Eterno's letter to NY State Ed Commissioner on the ICE blog) as a dual school system is created.

From 1997-2003, I worked at the District 14 multi-media center based at PS 84 on Berry Street in Williamsburg, a few short blocks from the Bedford Ave "L" train stop, which was the epicenter of the gentrification of the neighborhood. Naturally, there would be an impact on the local schools (PS 17 and PS 84) which were mostly Hispanic and very poor performing schools on standardized tests. Think having loads of ELA's (and about 15 special ed classes at PS 84) had an impact.

Ed Notes reported on PS 84 last January with these 2 posts:

January 28, 2008
PTA of PS 84K Protest on Wed at noon- I spent 5 years at this school and this is beyond outrage

January 29, 2008
Victory at PS 84K: Tweed Backs Down

A year later, the story has come back. I am still in touch with some teachers over at 84 and will get more info. Many people have left due to the usual suspect- a young principal with an agenda. Many who remain are disgusted or afraid. What lovely conditions for learning.

From Jaime Estades,
President of the Parents Association at PS 84 in Williamsburg, District 14, Brooklyn

Since last year, the DOE has tried to suppress parent participation at P.S. 84, in the midst of such issues as unfair grading of children and the probability of a co-located Separate but Equal school planned for this September.

Last year, P.S. 84 in Brooklyn was the only school to successfully fight the DOE's plans to place a separate, co-located within its building. In February 2008, the DOE withdrew its plans to locate a "Separate but Equal" elementary school specifically designed for Williamsburg's newer residents, with a promise not to place a second school within the building during the 2008-09 school year and to consult with parents about any future plans.

Once again, P.S. 84 is confronted the same and new issues. This year, while anticipating DOE plans for a new school at PS 84 for September 2009, the PTA of P.S. 84 is confronting the issue of grading of our children.

As described in detail in the complaint (see below), the DOE has developed a policy at P.S. 84 in which teachers are discouraged from giving and required to provide justification to the Principal for "3" and "4"s (at/above grade level) while "2" and "1"s (approaching/well below grade level) are accepted without review. As a result, children typically bring home report cards with grades which reflect a lower level of achievement than the work that they bring home to their parents throughout the semester. This policy has a serious detrimental effect on self esteem and confidence and frequently leads to parents applying additional unnecessary pressure on children who may be doing better than reflected in their report card. In a school where more than 90 percent of the children are Latino and African American, this policy raises concerns of racial stereotyping and discrimination which is all the more troubling when viewed within a political, cultural, and historical context.

The PTA voted to request an investigation of this policy by the New York State Education Department and also approved a press conference on this issue, to be announced soon.

John White, of the DOE's Office of Portfolio Management, has stated consistently that the location of an additional school similar to the one originally planned at P.S. 84 remains a possibility. This year, he rejected the parents' and school's request to extend P.S. 84 grades through eighth grade.

Information from confidential reliable sources within the DOE reveals that a separate school inside PS 84 offering the same grades currently provided and requested by the school community is planned for P.S. 84. We are also informed that the DOE has explicitly acknowledged in their discussions that class sizes (which are currently ideal with an average of 21 children per class) will increase by roughly 50 percent!

If the sources are correct, we will find ourselves in the same position as last year, fighting a Separate but Equal policy and fighting for our children's right to a quality education. We are asking John White and Chancellor Klein to confirm or deny this information, and, if true, whether they have communicated their intention to any elected official in the area, particularly Councilmember Diana Reyna. We will keep people posted.

Again, regarding the grading policy, please see below*.

Very truly yours,
Jaime Estades
PTA of PS 84 Brooklyn
Cellular: 347-446-5786

*Full Complaint posted at Norms Notes

I asked Jaime Estades where teachers stand and he replied:

Teachers are very supportive considering the context of intimidation in which they operate. The principal has no support. We believe that this problem exists in many schools around the city. A parent from Nest told us exactly the same story as in 84. This is obviously a policy to show improvements during the year in the school. If you could spread the word in your blog, I am almost sure that more parents from other schools will react. Our experience is that most parents do not ask questions but put more pressure on the children. However once they hear what is happening, they understand that their suspicion was correct.


  1. My Principal orders the same thing. Only 2's on the first report card. 3's are allowed on the second report card, and 4's on the final. There can be some exceptions, but she fights you on it if you try to give a 3 on the first report card or a 4 on the second. Her line of reasoning is all students are only approaching the standard at the time of the first report card. This of course presumes that the report card is based upon measuring the student to where they should be in June. I on the other hand think the report card grade should reflect where the child is relative to where they are in the school year. I'm surprised my nose doesn't poke out the eyes of my student’s parents when I have to regurgitate this verbal diarrhea. It's almost impossible to look my parents in the eyes, when I have to explain this to a parent of a student whom received all 4's on their previous years report card, and got 4's on there Math and Reading tests. It's really ridiculous.


  2. The Gotcha leadership ! BOO !

  3. You these things, I have read twice, for me, this is a relatively rare phenomenon!
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