Sunday, February 28, 2010

PS 198, Lower Lab School - Inaccuracies in Thrasher Voice Story

If you read Steven Thrasher's Village Voice article
there were some shocking revelations - or allegations to some. Ed Notes fave Patrick Sullivan came off as somewhat hypocritical in Thrasher's view. But knowing Patrick, it seemed there had to be another side to the story.

Leonie Haimson provides some enlightenment, followed by Patrick himself (both on the NYCEducationNews listserve.)

On Feb 25, 2010, Leonie Haimson wrote:

I believe that Tony Alvarado is responsible for the creation of this school and its placement at PS 198.

The uncomfortable but undeniable truth is that many gifted programs through the city are segregated; even G and T programs in regular public schools. The Chancellor’s policies of mandating that admissions be based solely on high stakes test scores has made this even worse; as has his extension of test-based admissions to many more high schools.

The reality is that NYC is a very segregated city and there has been no effort in recent years to integrate classrooms; in fact the reverse has occurred under this administration.

Lisa Donlan can tell you about how they have fought bitterly to try to keep D1 schools integrated; against fierce resistance from the administration.

It’s all very sad.

However, the picture the author gives of huge classes at PS 198 compared to Lower Lab is not true. According to DOE stats anyway, most classes at PS 198 still average about 20, while those at Lower Lab are 28 and up, including in Kindergarten, making teaching assts a very reasonable requirement

For a portrait of PS 198 the first year smaller classes came to NYC schools ten years ago, and the revolutionary changes it brought, you can check out the report I wrote in 2000, Smaller is Better at

Patrick Sullivan adds:
As a PTA co-president at Lab, I imagine I'm on the hook to respond here. There are some very serious inaccuracies in the story. I've asked David Cantor to help set the record straight but as he is probably busy, I will get started myself.

Front door / back door: Everyone used to use the front door but that was kind of crowded so it was decided that Lab, as the smaller school would use the back door. The reporter got this backwards. Parents use whatever door.

Class size: Lab is 28 average, 198 is 23.

Funding: 198 gets about $2,700 more per student. Lab is one of the 10% of schools that is not Title I.

Lab parents have been actively looking to move. This article will only accelerate that. So what should replace it were Lab to go away? This building is at the north end of District 2. The local zone has enough kids to fill maybe a third of the school. Rezone? Charters? Keep in mind that removing G&T doesn't erase the racial differences between the 198 zone and the overcrowded zones around it.


  1. Thanks for posting this, with Haimson, Sullivan's comments. For many the "Gifted and talented" program is a wink-wink path towards a less diverse school environment.

    Folks interested in doing their own longitudinal studies of the worsening racial diversity of NYC schools under Klein can visit schooldigger, as I illustrated on today's post at

  2. Although there is some credence to the original article, conceptually Thrasher is all wrong. The 3rd Avenue entrance , where the Lower Lab kids enter, is not the front door at all. That entrance/exit is only open during drop-off and dismissal. It is bleak, unmarked, does not have a security guard and is considered the less desirable entrance. It is subterranean and leads to the basement level. The 95th street entrance is the main entry point to the building, as soon as you get in you are near the offices, windows, a courtyard, and security and various banners welcoming you to the school(s). Thrasher's metaphor, though dramatic, is simply not based on truth . If Thrasher could not determine this basic piece of information, I question the balance of his research.


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