A bastard's take on human behavior, politics, religion, social justice, family, race, pain, free will, and trees
“So while my wife and I are proud District residents, we’ve hesitated over buying property in the city. When we have kids, and when those kids are ready for their first day of kindergarten, we need to be confident that the local public schools will give them their best chance to get “the knowledge to go to college.” We’re hoping for proof that the District’s schools are on a stable upward path.”
Your statement illustrates this seeming disconnect. You mention hesitating over sending your kids to a DC school, worrying whether it would prepare your child for success, that it would be on an upward trajectory. But aren’t you really talking about the student population? Aren’t you more worried about your child (the sire of upwardly mobile, college educated parents) being dragged down by the under-prepared, ignorant lower-class children? Isn’t this exactly what we are talking about when we are talking about school “choice” – the idea that no one should have to send their kids to one of these schools?
Well, aren’t we forgetting something really important about poverty and class in the United States? Property has value and neighborhoods become segregated by means and income. Families with human and social capital pay for property among their own, while families with little capital pay for property among their own. It’s the dirty little secret that educated, privileged white guys like us like to pretend isn’t entirely responsible for why we are where we are.
My school shared a building with other neighborhood schools. Our student population was identical, but our teacher population was not. In my charter school, school culture was built around high expectations for teachers and their at-will contracts. We taught 11 months of the year, and had students in school for 9 hours a day. Classes pushed, and sometimes exceeded the 30 student mark.
Meanwhile, down the hall, policies were approximately the exact opposite: smaller classes, shorter days, shorter school year, teacher tenure, etc. There was no appreciable difference in funding between the schools. Our school, in Crown Heights, became one of the highest-scoring 3rd/4th grade schools in NYC, while the other schools in our building stagnated. The first year I taught, my students made an average of nearly 2.5 years of reading growth. Though only 1/3 of my students came to first grade on grade level, 100% left on or above it. The second year, all of my students were at or above grade level, but we made an average of 1.8 years of reading growth.
“There are plenty who believe that poverty is the best factor to address for improving our schools, and there are plenty of others who believe that teachers and schools are the best factor to address for improving our schools. ”