Last June the paper of record highlighted the City’s plans to address the long-standing, yawning, gap between the number of students of color in public schools (68%) and the number attending Specialized High schools (10%).
In 2015 the Mayor suggested making the test easier; the angry cries of Specialized High School alums quickly (and rightly) punctured that trial balloon. So they went with free test prep.
Like far too many of of the City’s efforts this was doomed from the start. Trying to fix, in the summer of 7th or 8th grade, the deficits of background knowledge and writing skill that have accumulated over eight years of educational neglect is a fool’s errand.
I know: I spent thousands on my kid, to have him earn the same score on the practice SHSAT as he did on the real one. He did well enough to get an offer, but it wasn’t because of the test prep. He was lucky enough to live in the right zip code.
Today’s paper has a story that one might call chronicle of a failure foretold. But unlike in a Marquez novel, there is no chance of a magical ending. Once again the students offered seats at our most prestigious schools don’t reflect the population we serve. 154 black middle schoolers got offers. 660 Hispanic students. Out of 55,000 students.
Once again we hear the administration has a plan. Once again we are told this is important. Once again we will wait to fix the issue.
Changing our long-standing misbeliefs about what little kids can learn and do is hard; our municipal leadership struggles to face that fact. As ICS parents know, a coherent, content rich curriculum that builds children’s background knowledge and cultural literacy is available. Children who are educated in this way can grapple with big ideas, and succeed on difficult exams. It takes committed educators, it takes hard work. But it is not magic.
Ellen remarked to me this morning as we ran to get breakfast for the kids: “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”