Saturday, December 19, 2020

More Brilliance from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,
This has been a year of new challenges and difficult choices, for you at least. I myself have to choose every day whether to sit at the desk in my home office or stay in bed and watch videos. With no guidance whatsoever from me or any of my six-figure flunkies, you’ve had to reinvent the wheel, or more likely, drive a car on which we failed to provide wheels.
Today I am writing with an update on another fundamental pillar of our system: how to make our students believe we’re offering everyone an elite education when we are, in fact, not doing any such thing. This notwithstanding, I certainly hope this takes your mind off the raging pandemic and my pig-headed insistence on opening schools as positivity numbers explode everywhere.
We’ve been clear from the start we would ignore the impact of the pandemic as much as we possibly could. Otherwise, why would we be closing restaurants and opening schools at the same time?, We’ve decided to rationalize doing so by suggesting doing otherwise would negatively impact children during this admissions cycle. Whatever that means.

Anyhoo, we listened to families, school principals and other stakeholders from across the city this summer, at least as far as they supported the agenda upon which we’d already decided. While there was not a consensus, it was clear we needed a distraction from our miserable and half-assed attempt at opening, then closing, then opening, then closing schools. We heard that:
·         Evaluating a student for middle school admissions based on 3rd grade grades and state test scores – the first time students are taking the test – would be unfair. Duh.

·         Rather than work at improving schools that need help, we could simply send all students to those that parents deemed desirable. Perhaps we could shove a million kids into three or four buildings and rent out the others for DOE parties. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

·         At a time when families have more decisions to make and less time, and schools have more to do than ever before, we need to focus on something that requires no money from us. We have yoga gurus to pay, and a lot of relatives on payroll. You think we’re gonna come in and kill the roaches in your classrooms? Get bent.
This feedback, among many other ideas shared, informed our policy changes for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle for fall 2021 admissions:
Middle School:

·         All middle school screens will be paused for this year. This includes academic screens, screen doors, screened phone calls, and those screens you stand behind when you don’t want someone to watch you changing your clothes. Students will be admitted through a lottery based system. You win, you go where you like. You don’t, go suck eggs, as will most applicants. 

·         District and geographic priorities, as well as Diversity in Admissions priorities, will still apply for those middle schools that have them.

·         The middle school application will open the week of January 11.
High Schools:
·         Geographic priority for admissions will be eliminated over a 2-year period, beginning with the immediate elimination of district priority, followed by other geographic priorities in the next admissions cycle. Did you buy a house because it was in that school district? Too bad for you. Send your kids to private school and degrade our system even further.

·         In consultation with their school communities, screened high schools can choose to remove their screens, utilize the Educational Option admissions method, or maintain academic screening. For those that maintain academic screening, we encourage schools to implement a Diversity in Admissions priority.  However if they don’t, they can continue doing anything they golly gosh darn feel like. So much for real change.

·         Schools that choose to maintain academic screening will be able to do whatever they feel like. They can use tests to screen out the riffraff, or just screen out anyone they want to keep out, you know, like charter schools do. However, just like charters, everyone in the city will share the honor of paying for these schools to exist.

·         Arts high schools will move to a common virtual audition system that will allow students to submit their audition materials online. Students will be able to lift videos off of YouTube and say it’s them. Who’s gonna find out?  The high school application will open the week of January 18.

·         Additionally, we are required by State law to administer the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). To ensure health and safety of our staff and students, the exam will be administered in students’ own middle schools to reduce travel and different cohorts of students intermixing. Test registration will open on Monday, December 21, 2020.  Good luck getting into Stuyvesant to everyone who can’t afford ten years of intense private lessons, indeed, the vast majority of our students.
We have all recognized how the crises over the last few months have laid bare the inequities in our school system. We pledge to you we will do everything in our power, except investing money in our school system. This year, we will add five districts to districts already engaging in diversity work through City or State grants: 1, 2, 3, 9, 13, 15, 16, 24, 28, 30 and 31. We know that this won’t help parents with childcare, and it won’t improve conditions in freezing classrooms and trailers, and it won’t ameliorate the rampant overcrowding that makes the mayor’s blather about five-day schooling another absurd pipe dream.
I know these are significant changes for schools, families and communities. I’m hoping, since they may prove noticeable, that you will ignore the crumbling infrastructure all around you and the 1.1 million schoolchildren in whom we decline to invest.
I am grateful for your leadership over these past several months. I see colleagues all over the Tweed building sitting in comfort doing who knows what, while you trudge into our miserable dilapidated buildings day after day trying to fool children into thinking New York City cares about them. I know you will continue to lead in your communities so that my peeps and I can sit around writing you vacuous insincere email.
In unity,

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