Thursday, March 16, 2006

How High the Class Roster?

A mother complains...

My son is currently enrolled in French 1A, along with 13 other students. In early February, course options for next year were sent home; French was not included. When asked, my son said students were told to "switch to Spanish" next year. Of course, this renders their current course obsolete, as two full credits of the same language are required to graduate.

She continues...

Meanwhile, North Chevy Chase Elementary imports a language teacher for a subset of its small sixth-grade population. Further, Tilden Middle in Bethesda has three languages, through Level 3 Honors. Yes, it's a larger school, but it still considers 15 the usual minimum class size, though it has offered smaller classes at times (we have been told 14 students are much too few for a class).

Is it a coincidence, then, that Tilden and North Chevy Chase see a far greater number of their students later accepted, for example, into the highly regarded and language-focused International Baccalaureate program at Richard Montgomery High School than does Lee? Is it a coincidence that these schools each have white/Asian populations of 76 percent, vs. Lee's 33 percent? More relevantly, is it a coincidence that these schools' poverty rates (measured by free and reduced meals via the school system's Web site) are 7 percent and 12 percent, while Lee's is 39 percent? Dropping French, i.e., limiting student options and aspirations, is the type of insidious resource disparity that serves to perpetuate the well-documented achievement gap suffered in high-poverty schools such as Lee.

This is par for the course, as demonstrated by the disparity in education offered in NYC and neighboring suburbs. The CFE suit seeks to remedy this, but remains entangled in legal maneuvering. While I do feel Bloomberg ought to pay a part of this suit (to compensate for Mayor Giuliani's regular cuts to the education budget), if he does finally manage to strong-arm Bruno into paying up, he may accomplish something truly historic for this city's kids.

And if it can happen here...
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