In New York State, the Department of Education asserts that a school district is making progress if 55% of its students graduate from high school. 55%! This is progress? It is what schools aspire to attain. It is what schools do. Is it a service to our children and our community that so few graduate and graduate on time? Let’s look at some numbers. Our New Rochelle High School has over 3400 students. It’s fair to say that there are 850 kids in each of the four grades there. Yet, only 65% of the Latino and 71% of African-American children graduate on or near 4 years upon entering the 9th grade. Note that Latino and African-American children make up 60% of our school population!
For a community that espouses diversity, glorious diversity and tremendous diversity, it begs the question, what is going on? And what are you doing about it? The school district does not react to mild irritants of the community, but often reacts to stimulants of special interests people etc. They ask us to vote for budgets that are over-inflated, padded, yet when you question, you get no answer. So why vote for a fictitious budget? As a famous judge once said, “if voting would change anything, it would be illegal”. Do something illegal next May! You also have to look at the community who doesn’t get involve. They’re silent. How do you change this human dilemma of maintaining a silence so closely resembling stupidity? We’ve become cynics and fearful; so much so that this has stymied us. And then when you have individuals asking questions, we are branded deviants and are appropriately sanctioned! We couldn’t possibly used the word racism – oh no! Racism has always been institutionalized and those of us who are fighting to eradicate it will be sanctioned!
There are students at NRHS who are systematically and “legally” displaced of their human quality, the one who barely knows how it feels to be human. This leads me to the Indian reservation-style small learning communities in NRHS. There is segregation there and no one wishes to bring up this reality for fear of going into convulsions! Example: There are hundreds of English learners at NRHS who began the English-learning process in kindergarten, yet in eight years of schooling never managed to be moved into mainstream English classes. Significant studies have shown that students who are reclassified even as late as eight grade perform at much the same level on measurable high school outcomes as those who are reclassified earlier. Reclassification at any point during the middle school years will result in the likelihood that a student would stay in the 9th grade, pass state exams and take Advance Placement courses in high school, or better yet, stay in school.
To leave things as they are today is to suggest or admit that English language learners possibly undergo an education inferior to that of English proficient students. Typically, English learners are assigned less-qualified teachers, provided with an inferior curriculum, housed in inferior facilities and segregated from English-speaking peers. In addition, courses designed for English language learners focus on English language acquisition, rather than content, exercising rote skills rather than developing complex reasoning skills. Yes, there are socio-economic issues! We know that; in fact we’ve known this for over a generation, yet it is still presented by the BOE as a novelty issue:
“Dr. Korostoff said he did not suggest there is no achievement gap in the district. He says it is to be expected in a district with high student mobility, poverty, a student’s native language and whether or not a child enters school as a proficient English speaker.”
10/28/09 note from NRTalk
Tell us something new. Be creative! Reclassifying our children earlier is suggested. It will result in improved outcomes for all groups. Are you afraid?
What we have created in New Rochelle is a “within-school segregation”. It’s universally acknowledged that in NRHS we perpetuate racial/ethnic inequality, as virtually all of the AP and Honor classes are composed of white students from the North End of New Rochelle. It’s time to have the courage to think differently. Yes, we are diverse, but is your son in a high-track class or low-track class? Don’t believe me? Walk into any class, look at the students and you will know exactly what kind of class it is based on the race of the students in each!
James Baldwin once said that “there is not a racist alive who is not a liar and a coward, the proof being that they imagine reality to be at the mercy of heir will—or, rather, of their terror.”