Many New York City parents feel that area public schools are failing black students.
When Keisha Ellis, concerned for the growing and obvious decline in her son’s academic performance, approached his teachers. she was reportedly told to find the 11-year-old a different school.
“They told me that he is a good student, a smart student,” Ellis told the New York Post. “But they said the school is not a competitive place and that he was just going to fall behind with the rest of his class.”
Ellis expressed how she wants to see her son thrive to the best of his ability and is concerned about him not being challenged or inspired, especially around his peers.
“If he’s in a class where there is little or no competition, how do you think he’ll feel?” the mother asked. “He’ll feel complacent. If there is a lot of mediocrity in the class, he is not going to do well. He will feel all right that he is not doing OK.”
Ellis said she can’t afford to send her child to private school. “A lot of people don’t have the money for private schools,” she told the Post. “I’ve applied to two charter schools. But that’s it. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
“He wants to be a lawyer,” she added. But the young mother expressed fear as she realized the school officials were resigned to a failing educational system.
“They didn’t say they would work with him or try to address it, they just said we should leave,” she recounted.
Tragically, it appears that many parents in the predominantly black school district are in the same boat.
Located in Cambria Heights, Queens, enrollment at Primary School 147 has dropped 17 percent since 2017, according to the New York Post.
Despite the nearly $25,000 spent per student annually by the Department of Education at the failing PS 147, 70 percent of the students cannot pass the state’s basic English exam. In 2019, according to DOE records, 81 percent of students at PS 147 failed their state math exam, the Post reported.
New York City School District 29 is a primarily black area that includes Hollis, Rosedale and Cambria Heights neighborhoods in the New York City borough of Queens.
Another mother frustrated with NYC schools, Judith Nephew, said her son showed little progress while at PS 52 in Jamaica – another District 29 school. “After third grade, he still could not read,” Nephew said.
In 2019, District 29 school PS 134 in Hollis reportedly recorded a 94 percent fail rate of 5th graders on the state math proficiency test and 83 percent failing the English test. These abysmal results belied the $27,000 per student spending by the DOE.
“We’re supporting our District 29 families, teachers, and staff and firmly commit to expanding on the improvements we’ve seen so every child and family has a positive, rigorous and high-quality experience,” DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas assured District 29 families, according to the Post.
Unconvinced, many District 29 families have chosen to pay the added expense of private schools rather than risk their children’s future.
“A National School Choice Poll shows that families want educational opportunity and freedom when it comes to their child’s education,” said John Schilling, president of the American Federation for Children. “While 61 percent of whites support school choice as well as 66 percent of prospective black and 72 percent of expected Latino voters. Fifty-four, 62, and 75 percent of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support school choice, respectively.”
The good news is the New York neighborhood is fighting back. Michael Duncan and Raymond Dugue of the Students Improvement Association who are themselves parents and area residents rallied frustrated parents at District 29.
“There are so many people in these situations who are desperate,” they described the situation. “The Department of Education needs to do something now.”
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