Monday, December 30, 2019

Why Isn't Every School Like Brooklyn Tech?

Let me say this first--I adore AOC. I think she's wonderful. I would vote for her against just about anyone. I think she's brilliant. She asked a question, though, comparing schools, at a forum in Brooklyn. While I think she's got great intentions, I'm a little surprised. To me at least, the answer is obvious.

Why can't every school be like Brooklyn Tech? I mean, you go there, and everyone says wow, you got into that elite high school. You must've done really well on that test. Probably you studied for it. In fact, I know people with elementary-age children right now, already engaged in studying for Brooklyn Tech, or one of the handful of schools AOC refers to.

Now it would be great if every school in the city carried that level of prestige. Maybe then we wouldn't be targeted by scumbags like Giuliani and Bloomberg (but I'm a dreamer). You'd better believe they send their kids to elite private schools so they don't have to mix with the bootless and unhorsed like you, me and AOC. After all, you don't want Bloomberg's spawn smudging their ascots on the way to the limo.

I've got nothing but respect for kids who get into NYC's magnet schools. However, they do have one thing in common with the ones rich kids go to--they are selective. Why can't every school be like Brooklyn Tech? Because we aren't. We take absolutely everyone, regardless of test scores or ability. I teach newcomers. In fact, my students are all beginners. As far as I know, Brooklyn Tech doesn't accept them at all.

Our school has a program for non-diploma bound students. We send some of them to retail outlets where they learn to do jobs. Last I heard, their failure to graduate was counted against us. All due respect to Brooklyn Tech, I'd argue we deserve credit for helping needy children. There's more to life than passing tests, and there's more to humanity than people who do so. We are here to meet the needs of our students, and despite what you may have read elsewhere, test-taking may not be what everyone needs.

New York City needs to educate every kid, whether or not that kid has the money to pay Dalton tuition, and whether or not that kid can get a super-duper score on the SHSAT. Is Brooklyn Tech better than Francis Lewis High School, where I work? Well, if you base your decision on how many students pass tests, sure it is. I'd argue it's apples and oranges comparing a selective school to one that takes every kid that walks through the door. I will say, though, that we are the most requested high school in NYC. (While I attribute that to the ESL teachers being brilliant and good-looking, there are varying opinions.)

Does that make us better? I'm gonna stick with apples and oranges again. But hey, graduating from Francis Lewis is not precisely a death sentence. At least two of my former beginning ESL students now work as teachers in my building. (Sure, they teach math, but you can't win 'em all.) Of course, we've had some spectacular failures too. Dennis Walcott graduated from Lewis. I'll grant you Walcott was one of the worst NYC School Chancellors ever, carrying water for uppity demagogue Michael Bloomberg. He was however, a wiz with a waffle iron.

However disgraceful Walcott's career may be, there are a whole lot of other people who've graduated from regular NYC schools who've led productive and happy lives. I want every single student who comes to a city high school to have a great education, a fulfilling experience, and a great future. However, it's not remotely reasonable to compare selective with non-selective schools.

There are other issues that could help make schools like mine better. We could reduce class sizes. We could eliminate homelessness. Last I looked, 10% of our city's public school kids are homeless. How many of them go to Brooklyn Tech? How many of them even know it exists?

I love you, AOC, but it's time for you to either get a new question, or break this one into components. The side-by-side comparison just doesn't work.
blog comments powered by Disqus