Dear DOE: Here are my comments on screened admissions.

The DOE held Listening Events across the five boroughs. In the scheduled 2 hours for each, only a small fraction of those who signed up to speak got their chance. We wanted to create this space for them to share with the public.

Please post your Comments below. We will review and publish those fitting for our website.

We urge you to also send your comments to the DOE: EnrollmentFeedback@schools.nyc.gov

12 thoughts on “Dear DOE: Here are my comments on screened admissions.”

  1. The goal of the DOE is, or should be, to give the best learning opportunities to the most students. Taking away screens from schools designed to serve advanced learners doesn’t achieve that.

    Take Beacon High School, which has been a focus of much of the anti-screen movement. It has some 5800 applicants for 360 seats. Taking away screens might increase its diversity or it might not. But it will still leave 5400 (or more) kids who don’t get in. RIght now, where do those kids go?

    The problem is not the presence or lack of screened schools; the problem is that there is only one Beacon and its located in midtown Manhattan. Most SHSAT schools and screened schools are in Manhattan, inner Brooklyn and inner Queens.

    We need more Beacons, iSchools, Millenniums, consortium schools and we need them throughout the outer boroughs to make them more easily accessible to more diverse neighborhoods.

    York college HS is a SHSAT school in Jamaica and 51% of its students are black. HSMSE, a SHSAT school in Washington Heights, has no more than 30% of any ethnic group and is more diverse than most of the the other SHSAT schools. So what are these schools doing that other SHSAT schools aren’t? Maybe there’s something to learn from them. Location probably has something to do with it.

    NYC has far more satisfactory schools than it had when I was a teenager in Queens. And it has far more excellent schools for advanced learners and schools for students with exceptional artistic and theatrical talents. But it still has underperforming schools. Someone’s kid has to go to those schools and no one’s kid should have to. Removing opportunities for academically advanced kids to excel isn’t going to change that.

    Taking away screens is a patch that’s easy to execute and easy to sell politically. The mayor and DOE chancellor seem to think the best way, or at least easiest way, to even the playing field is to take away good opportunities for students, when instead, they should be creating more.

    Find ways to implement curriculums from Beacon, Millennium, ischool, the consortium schools in more schools in every part of the city; maybe for an entire school or maybe as a selective track within a achool. This creates more good schools and improves opportunities for more students.

    Instead of taking away G&T classes, put one in every single elementary school and use them to create a pipeline to direct a more diverse group of advanced learners from more parts of the city to academically rigorous middle and high schools . And have more of those schools at the ready.

    Yes, it is absurd for kids to take a G&T exam when they’re 4. G&T programs used to start later. You can start G&T programs in 3rd grade, when gaps in students abilities start to widen and it becomes harder for teachers to adequately challenge advanced learners while helping slower learners to keep pace.

    At that age, you can administer a G&T test in schools so parents don’t have to get their kids to a testing site. They just have to sign a permission slip (giving the test to every kid who gets a 2.5 or more on their second grade state tests would alleviate that step, so would simply assigning the top 25-35 kids in every school to the G&T class).

    In my 3rd grade class the six kids who were advanced learners spent more than an hour of every day doing independent reading while the teacher worked with the students who needed more time to get the math or reading lesson of the day. Those students needed the extra learning time and deserved to have it. But in the mean time, I worked my way through most of the Nancy Drew series that year, which was not the best use of my school day. I was underchallenged.

    When I was put in a G&T class in 4th grade, we all learned at the same pace and we all spent the whole day learning. We were engaged, challenged, given the opportunity to grow more than we could in a mixed class. Every advanced learner in the city should have that opportunity.

    Equal opportunity does not mean every kid gets an identical education. It means every kid gets the education he or she needs. New York in its great diversity of talent and resources has a unique ability to deliver that.

    Screens help schools with a particular curriculum find kids who will be a fit for that school and succeed there. A kid with no performing talents won’t excel at Laquardia. A kid that hates writing won’t excel at ICE. And a kid who isn’t exceptionally good at math and science won’t excel at Bronx Science.

    Every kid should be able to find the the best school for him or her. We don’t need fewer screens, we need more “best” schools, more schools for different kinds of learners and more G&T classes to for all our advanced learners.

  2. Parent of 4th and 7th Grader

    I am the parent of a 4th grader and a 7th grader. I urge the DOE to keep academic-based screens for next year admissions, with some slight modifications to account for the current situation (1st and 2nd term grades, 3rd and 6th test scores, school-based assessments).

    I attended two virtual engagement events, as well as CEC meetings. It is obvious that many parents, such as myself, are seeking schools that are academically rigorous for their children. Removing screens will remove that possibility as research has shown that high-achievers are being penalized by the lack of accelerated offerings (despite what the unscreen activists are saying).

    The current health crisis has shown the importance of science education. We need the NYC school system to rise to the challenge and educate the future medical researchers, environmental scientists, tech engineers,… That means giving our children opportunities for advanced learning. Because STEM fields build on previous knowledge, academic screens (or tracking) are necessary to identify students who are ready for more in-depth teachings.

    I am aware of the disproportionate impact of screens, and it shows the failure of the system to educate our most vulnerable children. Screens can, and should, be improved to account for differences in background. However, dismantling screens may hide these failures, but it won’t solve the problem, and will remove opportunities for many students.

    As an immigrant and an academic, I have seen first-hand the devastating impacts of such well-meaning policies on the most vulnerable populations both in my country, and at the college level. Removing grades and achievement-based requirements does not help students, it may look like the most compassionate approach in the short term but it ends up transferring the burden of the cost of education from the state to families, which only advantages those who are privileged (and politicians who can claim improvement on some graduation or diversity metrics).

    A public school system has to prepare our children to be tomorrow’s leaders, scientists, philosophers, physicians, artists,…. For this students need to be challenged at the best of their abilities. We need to do better for all our children and focus on education excellence.

  3. NYC Retired Educator

    The NYC DOE plans to make some drastic changes. Change means different than now: change might be good for some people and terrible for others in the near term. Or it may be bad for ALL people in the long run. The Chancellor might be gone in a few months but the students, parents and the school system are here to stay. Therefore, let’s look at these changes from a few different angles.

    We do not send our children to school to barely meet the low standards of the State of New York. For example, to score a 65 on some high school Regents examinations, a student needs to only get one-third correct answers on that exam. We want our children to far exceed the standards. The current grading system is similar to that of most other school systems in the nation. There is no need to make it even less precise. Some Principals have already told their teachers not to give a grade lower than 50 even though on the back of the NYC report card, it clearly states grades of 0-60 are failing grades.

    The education system should be preparing future leaders and responsible citizens. The COVID report card policy stipulates that final grade must be binary: Meets Standards / Needs Improvement. “Meets Standards” suggests barely passing. How does a grade of 65 compare to a grade of 95, you ask under the new policy? There is none. A grade is a performance indicator. 50, 55, 65, ,,. 95, 100 all means something different. It informs the parents and students HOW they are meeting standards. It also tells the students and teachers their goals. “Meets Standards” suggests mediocrity and it provides no other information.

    How then will colleges make their selections from future NYC graduates? CUNY and SUNY honors are great free college programs. Will they stop accepting students from NYC all together because they could not tell who the true honor students are? How then do we select our teachers, doctors, lawyers and engineers, etc

    We live in a competitive society. We not only have to compete with each other, we have to compete with the rest of the world. We should teach our children how to deal with failure. They are far better off learning it while in school than later on in life when they lose their jobs.

    Attendance is one of the most important aspects of a student’s learning. Students who attend school every day learn the most important life lesson: there is not a single job where one will not be fired if he or she does not go to work on time, all the time. (Not too long ago, the Chancellor verbally reprimanded a City Council member, who had to take care of his ailing mother, for being late to the PEP meeting). Provided, no matter how great a teacher is, she or he cannot teach to the empty chair. The teacher has to teach the child, daily.

    If you ask any teacher, they will tell you that their students will always meet them halfway at least. By raising our expectations and standards, more students will likely do better. Every student wants to get a 100 in any class they take. Most of them can’t. But it is a great goal for every student. “Meets Standards” is hardly a goal. It means a student is mediocre.

    In conclusion, NYC still has a few of the best high schools in the nation. We need to raise our expectations and standards to build more great schools instead of lowering our expectations and standards to destroy them all. The DOE’s suggested change is to lower expectations and standards. Politicians, such as the Mayor, should not be making educational decisions for the school system. In education, politically sound solutions are usually educationally deadly. Let’s hold the students, their parents and teachers accountable. Only then, will we see real change. It can be done because there are schools that are successful, not because they have better students.

  4. The following is a letter that parent members of the SLT at Russel Sage JHS wrote to their Councilmember:

    May 29, 2020

    Dear Councilwoman Koslowtiz,

    Last evening, Thursday May 28, 2020 there was a Parent Empowerment Listening Town Hall for Queens families regarding Admissions Policies for both Middle and High Schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The Department of Education did a very poor job of planning this event. That insufficient planning made the event entirely inaccessible for families. First, families were given very short notice for the event. For example, Russell Sage Junior High School communicated the event one day prior on the 27th of May. Second the event was scheduled on the last evening for religious services and study for any family that observes Shavout. Third, the audience for the event was so large that each speaker was only give 90 seconds to speak. Lastly, our CEC, CEC28, had their regular business meeting scheduled for the following week. This put the CEC in a terrible position of not having had enough time to solicit parental feedback so that they can represent the parents at this meeting.

    Just one month ago the Department of Education faced severe backlash for the lack of parent engagement as they attempted to shape and craft a grading policy in the midst of this unprecedented circumstance. It is the position of many parents that this process was rather disjointed and should be done in complete consideration of its direct impact on the admissions process for both Middle and Senior High Schools. So now in an attempt to right the ship – parents are being placated with what is to appear as parent engagement but is really just lip service. Furthermore, as disclosed by emails from Miriam Nunberg, co-chair of the New York City Alliance for School Integration and Desegregation, DOE have reached out to hand-picked advocacy groups to encourage them to “make some noise.” At a minimum, this suggests that DOE is only interested in hearing from one side.

    The DOE’s own presentation highlights that “Students perform worse in marking periods
    compared to final grades, especially high-needs students and “Many students perform worse on 3rd and 6th grade test scores than on 4th and 7th grade test scores.” These are not objective statements, but DOE-selected data points to counter ideas for which they are not supportive. By pushing the dialog in only one direction, this is illustrative of the DOE’s unwillingness to truly participate in parental engagement.

    The recent scheduling of this event in direct conflict with Shavout is an affront to our Jewish families. These are the same families that at CEC meeting after CEC meeting have been begging for a seat at the table for the Working Group for the District 28. Accommodations were made for a variety of other audiences. Yet, time and again they have been denied. Every parent regardless of their religion or ethnicity is a stakeholder in these decisions and they should not be insensitively locked out of the process.

    Our borough consists of Queens North and Queens South. The event should have been divided between those districts. As it were, the event was too large and parents were given very limited time. Imagine how large the event would have been if all parents had been provided with appropriate notice. Robust discussions with parents cannot be had when one is only allocated 90 seconds.

    For quite some time, it has been clear that the DOE are not masters of communication. Parents in District 28 were still learning about the Diversity Plan for the first time as late as January 2020. Yet many parents in other parts of the district spent the summer of 2019 planning in anticipation of the processes launch come the start of the school year. Blame routinely gets passed down to the local schools. Once the DOE disseminates the information to those local schools they wash their hands of any responsibility to ensure it reaches their intended audience. There needs to be communication plans with deadlines sent to every school with every communication. Then they need to quality control schools by following up to ensure it has happened. In our portion of D-28 alone you can have one JHS send out a communication and the other send it out some two or three days later.

    The decisions being made for admissions criteria, High School most importantly, are very consequential. Seventh grade families are making decisions that they believe deep inside will affect their child’s future prospects whether it be collegial or trade. Many believe this is their final chance to give their child the tools they need for their first step into a brave new world. And those families must be heard.

    Families have been told that they can attend the events held for other boroughs. However, speaking priority is given to those families from the host borough. When the event’s key function is to listen and parents are unable to attend their home event and aren’t prioritized at any other event what is the point? What families need at this point is another event that will allow them equal access to speak.

    We are asking for you to compel the DOE to do right by the families in Queens and to schedule another event addressing their ideas and concerns about the admissions process for both Middle and High Schools. And in scheduling the event, provide families with a well publicized 7 days notice and only after the affected CECs have had adequate time to gather input. The DOE should also look to online formats for collecting feedback and publicly share the results of these surveys. Lastly, be cognizant of other religious holidays when doing so. We recognize that your dedication to schools and education has been tireless. And it is our hope that this is merely an extension of that.

    Sincerely,

    Heather E. Beers-Dimitriadis, SLT Parent Member – JHS 190, Russell Sage
    Stella Xu, SLT Parent Member – JHS 190, Russell Sage
    Debbie Ling Huei Chiu – SLT Parent Member -JHS 190, Russell Sage
    Jennifer Ling, SLT Parent Member – JHS 190, Russell Sage

    CC: Councilman Treyger

  5. The idea of removing academic screens for middle and high schools that attract advanced learners is not how you cultivate more diversity among that group. That starts in early elementary, by providing appropriate tracks for all kinds of learners, in every local school. I grew up in District 30 Queens, attended my local elementary and junior high schools, where they were able to recognize and tailor classes to fit the array of learners within the entire student population, including advanced learners. In the mid-80s, when I was taking the SHSAT, the kids getting placement to specialized schools looked more like the general student body than it does today. Pulling advanced learners out of elementary schools, and out of their local communities, has led to the segregation we’re seeing by the time these kids are applying to high school.

    Also, there are parents, myself included, who, because of how this city has isolated G&T programs and not making them available in every community, have orchestrated the long game of teeing up our kids to be prepared for specialized high schools, from the time they took that G&T test in Pre-K. To tell us that all the planning and strategic “choices” we made, to follow this rigged system of outsourcing G&T opportunities outside our neighborhoods, will be for naught is not only a punch in the gut, but unethical. Any changes in middle and high schools need to happen further enough down the road so parents of 4 and 5-year-olds know how to best plan for their children’s education.

    And I hope that the change will start in elementary schools, and making ALL local schools equal in quality education, services, accessibility, and safety. Start there, and the playing field will be leveled enough so by the time kids are applying to screened high schools, a system of meritocracy will actually reflect the entire public school population. Stop saying it’s a meritocracy that certain groups are able to better game for success, when you’re disadvantaging entire communities at the beginning of their educational careers.

  6. I have three children who are currently enrolled in New York City public schools.
    I was disappointed when the Grades 1 – 8 final grades policy was changed to MT (meets standards) and NI (needs improvement). I understand that this is a difficult time for all but to adopt a grading system that doesn’t incorporate the first two semesters of a student’s hard work is illogical, dismissive of students’ effort, and sends the wrong message to students. Also, with schools closed, the New York State Tests cannot be conducted this year. As a consequence, middle and high schools in the school admissions process are going to lack two measures for identifying excellence, forcing them to revert to older, more inequitable measures such as interviews or school-specific tests – or to simply conduct a lottery to determine where our kids spend their middle and high school years, a period that is critical to their academic and social development.

    This school year has been like no other. For this reason, I think drastically changing the admissions policy does not serve the community at large. The NYC Public School System is not perfect but using the current pandemic as means to change a system to conform to a political agenda is unfair and above all causes further anxiety and pressure for students and their families.

    These are my proposals:
    • Change K – 8 grading to a “No Harm” metric.
    • Administer 4th grade State tests two to three months after schools reopen.
    • Allow middle schools to develop rubrics that represent the ethos of the school.

    Key points:
    1. Make Grades 1 – 8 “No Harm” grading policy, this would acknowledge student effort during remote learning but also protect students facing hardship from any grading downside during the remote learning period and allow students to drop their lowest grade in the calculation of the final year-end grade.

    2. Administer 4th grade State Test two to three months after our schools reopen and use these results in the middle school admissions process.

    3. Do not use 3rd-grade tests as a proxy.
    • Using 3rd grade test score disadvantages families with children taking the test for the first time and English Language Learners.
    • Families have frequently been told by their teachers and principals that “the third grade score don’t count” and that “it’s a no-pressure way to introduce the child to formal tests.” To change this understanding – after the fact – is deeply unfair.

  7. Many parents said all kids should have the opportunities to get good Education. I totally agree. But the reality is DOE failed to educate our kids and improve schools. The change should start from kindergarten, not 4th or 7th grade.
    Educators should not lie. On May.27. In city council meeting about education, Mrs Austin said when DOE working on grading policy, all CEC and parent leaders were engaged. We all know it’s not true. I want to know how can parents trust Doe now? How can we believe our comments will be considered?
    I suggest to use state test results of 3rd and 6th grades and school grades, attendance from sep.2019 to march 2020. Because all these results are come out before this pandemic. These results have nothing to do with remote learning.
    Then I want to ask DOE to focus on supporting all IEP students and students who have difficulties during this time. Don’t use this pandemic as an opportunity to reach chancellor Carranza ‘a political agenda.

  8. I am a parent of two public school kids, PTA co-President, member of PLACE and graduate of Brooklyn Tech. My comments are my own.

    Deputy Chancellor Wallack, I want to report racism and discrimination in our schools and DOE.

    It is resulting in only 30% of black and Hispanic students at grade level proficiency. They are then denied academic support & other services to improve learning outcomes. These students who are below grade level proficiency still get promoted and graduate high school illiterate and innumerate condemning them to bleak life outcomes. When students flee low performing schools, instead of investing in students, DOE closes the schools due to low enrollment like PS 25 in Bed Stuy.

    Policies are set assuming high performing low income black and Hispanic students don’t exist. They assume black and Hispanic students can’t succeed unless they are sitting next to white or Asian students.

    They destroyed pipeline of black and Hispanic students that went to SHS by thousands annually for 20 years when they closed, denied and limited access to G&T and academically matched programs in all schools. There are 10 districts with 1 or zero G&T programs and many districts without a single academically matched program. This forces disadvantaged minority students to commute out of district and borough to get the appropriate education. and divides our entire community to fight for scraps.

    The mayor and chancellor attack Asian students w racist dog whistles that there are “too many Asians” in G&T & “don’t own” SHS. They attack objective standardized color blind and income blind tests that low income immigrant Asians have sacrificed to prepare for and doesn’t discriminate against them.

    Vice Chancellor, please address the racism & discrimination In schools and at DOE. But its not found in the academically matched screened programs. Don’t take away academically rigorous programs that give low income minority and immigrant students a chance at a brighter future.

  9. I am writing to express my deep concerns over proposals to eliminate screened schools in 2021. The curricula at these schools are superb and illustrate the best of what New York public education can offer when parents, teachers, administrators and the community work together. I am a parent with two children at a G&T school. I believe its curriculum is the gold standard towards which other schools should strive. The program should be greatly expanded and made more widely accessible across the city, not squelched. I’m also baffled by the number and scope of inaccuracies about G&T that are being disseminated by the chancellor and in the press. My children’s school does a great deal to make the G&T curriculum available to a wide range of families who differ ethnically, geographically, and socio-economically.

    The mayor should be well aware of the excellent nature of these schools, as his son is a graduate of one of the screened high schools in New York City.

  10. Keep Screens!!!!

    The only way for society to progress is by educating its youngsters
    This education has to stand to the test of comparison with competitors from other countries and states
    Life after HS, college and ultimately work environment, is competitive and based on merit of one’s performance
    NYC schools have been shortchanging our kids quality education by lowering academic standards and not preparing them to compete
    Removal of testing, grading and screening is yet another example of such failure

    It is my strong opinion, as a parent of middle schoolers, that it’s imperative to keep competitive programs such as screener and or testing schools, that offer admissions based purely on a merit of skills. NYC has thousands of students with multitude of talents, ranging from athletic abilities, music, drama, math, analytical skills, etc. We need programs that will support and nurture these strengths. Outside of screener programs, we need to ensure that regular schools are held accountable by DOE for offering quality educational experience. Unfortunately, at this point, many HS’s do not offer up to par education opportunities and their low graduation and attendance rates and poorly structured programs, deter students from wanting to apply there. So, in every district, we have schools where many students will apply, and those, where most will try to avoid. There are not enough spots in desirable schools. Does the solution lay in allowing a lottery to determine the lucky winners of desirable spots? Or should doe strive to improve high schools that are lacking and until then keep the entry rubrics which are based on grades, attendance, and test scores? With the goal that all the schools will sooner than later do better to attract students? Any other approach will lead to the disintegration of the quality of the NYC education.

  11. As a public school parent, I demand the DOE not make any changes to the procedures and protocols of school admissions across all grades while normal school instruction is disrupted by a health crisis. With the uncertainty of school buildings opening in September, why not keep the status quo on admissions, giving stressed students and parents one less worry while they deal with remote learning, which has been a tough adjustment for some. A lot of students and parents are distracted with remote learning during this pandemic, so trying to change admissions turning this time is highly questionable. Screened schools work, they reward academically advanced students, and let’s not forget that not all students learn the same way and display the same ability, and that is not a demoralization of students who learn at a slower pace. As for those students and families that face severe hardships because of the pandemic, examine those situations on a case-by-case basis. This compromise is the best and most equitable solution, it rewards everyone and penalizes no one. It’s disheartening the DOE didn’t come up with such a flexible plan to begin with rather than try to make a rigid change across the board, which is the opposite of flexible and in contrast with the message DOE reps have been touting from the start. Lastly, if screened schools are good enough for the children of Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza and Deputy Chancellors Wallack and Watson-Harris, they should be good enough for the children of New York City.

  12. Queens is my home town. I attended PS32 and JHS194 in D25 and my entire family is still in Queens.
    I am appalled that the DOE is signaling to remove screened admissions to middle schools and high schools. Queens has always been a borough of immigrants, families looking for the American dream which starts with seeking the best public education for our children. Immigrants like my family depend on public education – we have no choice. It is unconscionable that the city has NOT kept pace with the growth of our borough for decades. Our Queens schools are overcrowded and there aren’t enough HS seats for all our students. Now, in addition to overcrowded classrooms, the DOE wants to remove academic criteria to our high-performing schools that develop and challenge our high achievers. Students, DESPITE their immigrant home lives of poverty and language challenges, have worked hard for years to learn English and earn top grades. Academic-matched schools give students the opportunity to learn with kids that are prepared to and want to do more accelerated academics. We as a society should nurture that interest, fortitude and potential of these children to have the next generation of vaccine researchers, physicians, and elected officials. The question we should ask is what will our classroom, schools and city be without these opportunities. What students will Townsend Harris be admitting in the fall of 2021 and will they be successful?

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