The following is an open letter from the organization Parenting While Black in response to Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to desegregate specialized high schools.
Dear Mayor de Blasio:
I am a member and/or supporter of Parenting While Black: an independent, nonpartisan, grassroots community of parents, based in central Brooklyn. Our mission is to help our families find academically rigorous schools that center on the needs of Black children within the New York City public-school system.
We stand in solidarity with Latinx parents who are deeply dissatisfied with the announced overhaul to the admissions policies of the Specialized High Schools. This is not a letter about whether the test should stay or go — that is a separate issue that should be discussed at another time.
Our concern is the framing of the proposal, which unnecessarily stokes animosity between communities of color, while at the same time failing to address the heart of the issues underlying our concerns with the city’s approach to education policy for Black children. We want your office to take a community-based, anti-racist approach to education reform within the Black community.
We believe the central issue is the following: the dramatic drop in Black and Latinx enrollment in the city’s Specialized High Schools is directly related to the systematic barriers to equitable education that permeate the New York City Department of Education. Those barriers begin to derail educational opportunities for Black children as soon as they enter NYC public schools.
The new Specialized High Schools’ test policy is focused on the wrong end of the problem. It tinkers with increasing test scores so that a small number of students of color will score high enough to enroll in the Specialized High Schools. Instead of working to increase test scores for this small group of students, we want an education policy that focuses on addressing the barriers to equitable education that create racially disparate outcomes on that test, and in every other academic metric, from 3K-12.
We want to meet with your office to discuss the following proposals to increase equity across the entire 3K-12 system:
1. Working with Black communities to find out how gentrification, school choice and shifts in employment are impacting Black student enrollment in traditional public schools.
Before we can solve the problem, we need to understand the root causes.
2. Providing a minimum of 100 percent funding to every school in the city.
Schools should have the resources to provide a quality education to students at all levels, regardless of whether or not their students take the Specialized High School test. We also want you to work with school administrators to ensure they have the necessary support to align their budgets with improving school outcomes in a way that acknowledges and is responsive to the cultural academic needs of Black children.
Every student in New York City should be able to attend a good school within walking distance.
3. Ensuring every Black student has access to a culturally responsive curriculum from 3K-12.
As Black parents who successfully navigated our nation’s education systems, we reject an education philosophy that is not centered on empowering Black students to use their education to improve the quality of life for our communities.
Study after study shows that when Black students receive an academically rigorous, culturally responsive education, they perform better academically and socially, are more likely to attend college and demonstrate healthier civic engagement in their communities. This type of relevant and rigorous education will better prepare Black NYC students for exams like the Specialized High Schools test. But more important, it will empower them to use their education to address and create solutions for many of the social ills that continue to plague our communities.
4. Increasing community dialogue and partnership regarding education policy for Black children.
Far too often, when it comes to education policy that will impact Black children, active Black parents who sit outside of the PTA or CEC structure because of their own educational trauma are not consulted or included in the process, yet we are organizing at the grassroots level. That must change. We look forward to increasing our engagement with your office to create an education policy that will center on the needs of our children.
This letter has been endorsed by our friends at Community Education Council 16. We are looking forward to meeting you.
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