Sunday, May 31, 2009

GEM Tackles the Segregation Issue

The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) has been developing a broad program of where they stand on a number of issues. Racism and segregation has been put on the table for exploration. We've had some preliminary discussions about school segregation and whether integration could be a solution to the unequal schooling in this city for Blacks and Latinos.

One member suggested reading Jonathan Kozol's Jan. '06 Gotham Gazette article about current segregation on the NYC schools: Segregated Schools: Shame of The City

A few intriguing excerpts from the Kozol article:

"New York State is the most segregated state for black and Latino children in America: seven out of eight black and Latino kids here go to segregated schools."

"in New York City small schools are being used, intentionally or not, in ways that widen the racial divide....I predict that within ten years the entire small schools movement will collapse and be declared a failure."

"we have wasted too much time in the last 20 years fiddling around with governance arrangements. The fact is that whether the school systems I visit are governed directly by the mayor independently, or through an appointed school board or an elected one, virtually all cities face the same calamity: a devastating gulf in the quality of education offered to minority kids as opposed to white kids."

"The chancellor and the mayor ought to be advocating for cross-district integration with the 40 or 50 affluent suburban districts that immediately surround New York City. Admittedly, this step would take extraordinary political audacity."

"it is to their [BloomKlein] credit that they have used this power to get rid of the rote and drill, stimulus-response curriculum that was being used in failing schools across the city."

One GEM member, a 10-year teacher in Harlem, commented:

Nice observations. However there is little faith in Harlem that Bloomberg and Klein have any intention of strengthening anything that is public.

Their actions have undermined relationships within and between communities in Harlem where I have worked in the same public school for 10 years. Their expertise is not community building or education for that matter. They are experts in privatization.

Our public schools in Harlem are seeing their communities being siphoned off by the flood of charter schools that are openning right next door and more recently right inside public school buildings. Bloomberg and Klein have stated that their jobs are about providing parents with choice. If that was what education was about, we'd have great schools, but it's not and we don't have great schools under their leadership. They are however, becoming more segregated based upon need.

There is a developing prejudice against high needs students. It is observable in the charter vs. public school population, where public schools shoulder a much higher percentage of English language learners, special education students and title one eligible families. This is happening while the charters receive public money in addition to the millions in private money that many charters pull in.

This is a prejudice that Klein puts on public display when he removes the ELL population from his powerpoint presentation on test scores to show that the ELL students are dragging down the scores. Be does this to show that he thinks the DOE is doing a good job, that it's the ELL population that isn't.

Bloomberg and Klein are now attempting to give public school space to charters at no cost even though they have the money to pay their executives salaries that are upwards from $300,000. I thought the Mayor was given control of the public schools in order to run them, not unbalance and threaten them by introducing well financed competition right inside their buildings. Martin Luther King would be crushed by what is transpiring in Harlem.

Charter schools can be places of innovation and experimentation without undermining our public system, but not the way Bloomberg and Klein are running things. Many parents, educators and politicians are waking up to the fiasco of lies and the manipulation of numbers that has been Mayoral Control. I just hope it's not too late.

Another writes:

Very intriguing article. So I guess cross district (busing) programs to integrate schools has worked in Boston and St. Louis and Milwaukee. The only thing I disagree with is when Jonathan Kozol writes:

The Bloomberg administration's educational reforms have been centered on mayoral control of the schools. This probably gives the mayor and the chancellor better tools to approach the problems in the schools, and it is to their credit that they have used this power to get rid of the rote and drill, stimulus-response curriculum that was being used in failing schools across the city.

Other than that I agree.

Next GEM organizing meeting: Tuesday, June 2, 5 PM.

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