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Thompson: Will a New Consensus Emerge for NYC Schools?

DeblasioNY-1's Lindsey Christ, in Obama: P-TECH Setting the Stage for Student Success, reports that when President Obama praised the gentrification of Brooklyn and its small P-TECH High School, he spoke after Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg said that P-TECH's success went hand in hand with the closing of Paul Robeson High School which co-locates with it. Obama and Arne Duncan supposedly believe his spin. On the other hand,  The President now supports mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and his more humane approach to school improvement.

It is unlikely that the President knows the full story of NYC small schools like P-TECH.  P-TECH's students scored higher than the city's average when they entered the school, while Robeson's incoming students were below the city's average. Neither was he likely to know that Robeson served 2-1/2 times as many English Language Learners, nearly three times as many special education students, and that 1/8th of its students were homeless. 

I wonder if Obama knows that his turnaround policies facilitated Bloomberg's sabotage of poorer schools.  As Clara Hemphill and Kim Nauer explained in Managing by the Numbers, Robeson was undermined by the dumping of hundreds of at-risk students on it. Robeson's fate was sealed when 70 to 80 "Over the Counter" students were added to its incoming freshman class of 140.

The Obama administration should come to grips with the Education Funders Research Initiative's "New York City Schools: Following the Learning Trajectories," by Douglas Ready, Thomas Hatch, Miya Warner, and Elizabeth Chu. It is consistent with de Blasio's early education policies.

Although New York City schools are 75% low-income, the low-income rate of freshmen who are still enrolled in the city's high schools on October 31 is a shockingly low 50%.  The reason for the drop is that so many students are out of school or in the criminal justice system, drug/alcohol rehabilitation centers, teen pregnancy centers, and mental health facilities.

Perhaps foreshadowing a change in NYC's approach to school improvement, Ready et. al found that "only 2.7% of them went on to meet or exceed the ELA benchmark in eighth grade, and only one in three of the students who failed to meet the third-grade ELA standard graduated from high school."

They conclude that interventions such as early education must begin before children have gone too far down the “dead end track.” “It is difficult to conceive of truly substantial improvements in the ‘whole system,’" they conclude, "if children do not enter the system until they are five or six years.”

I still support President Obama, even though I have mostly given up on my hope that his administration will embrace more humane and more evidence-based polices.  But, Obama again said nice words about high-quality preschool, as he endorsed de Blasio.  If the Education Funders shift gears, perhaps the Obama administration will learn from them and the de Blasio administration.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.   


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I agree with much of what you have to say but... I feel compelled to jump in to correct unfounded stereotypes about poor people.

"The reason for the drop is that so many students are out of school or in the criminal justice system, drug/alcohol rehabilitation centers, teen pregnancy centers, and mental health facilities."

It has always been the case that the great majority of poor people do not engage in criminal activity. I might add that in NYC crime has been dropping to the lowest rate since the early 60's.

Poor people are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than wealthy people.

Teen pregnancy is at the lowest rate it has been in the entire history of the United States.


Excellent point. Crime has dropped dramtically, and the other behaviors have dropped as well. That makes those numbers even more astounding. There is a limit to what I can say, based mostly on reading from 1500 miles away from NYC, about how NYC but those numbers are astounding and call for a change.

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