In New York, the quality of education students receive is dependent on their zip code.
According to the New York Times, “From elementary through high school, New York City children tend to go to school with others similar to themselves, in one of the
country’s most racially segregated systems.” This problem may seem outdated, but it’s actually still prevalent, even in a city as progressive as New York. This may seem strange at first, but the more you think about it, it’s obvious: race is connected to income, income affects where you live, and where you live affects your education… which affects income, and so forth. It makes perfect sense that certain kids are receiving a much better education than others, essentially based on their race.
For many kids who live in lower income neighborhoods, getting a good education is difficult for a variety of reasons. The kids are more likely to have to take care of a sibling or elderly relative. They are also more likely to have to get a part time job to help their family get by, thereby giving them less time to focus on school. And they are more likely to live in a school district with poorer schools, often lowering their quality of education. In his working paper “School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps,” Sean F. Reardon cites poverty as one of the leading mechanisms driving gaps in academic performance. High-poverty schools often struggle with attendance, behavior and academics. Their technology and resources may be outdated, and the state exam results are often far below average. And the students at these high-poverty schools are more likely to be black or Latino.
Unfortunately, many families of these students do not know about or have the resources to apply to a charter school or a public school outside of their district, or know how to prepare for the SHSAT. Some of the kids from my neighborhood don’t even know that you can apply to a school outside of your zone school, much less how to go about doing that.
And in the schools students end up attending, many teachers are more likely to be exasperated by student behavior, making them less enthusiastic about teaching. I once had a teacher who spent our morning ELA classes working on his resume for his next job. We spent rainy days watching movies completely unrelated to anything we were learning, because the number of kids who came in when the weather was bad was minimal, and the teachers and administrators were just looking for a way to keep whoever showed up busy. And this is in a school where most kids lived across the street. Other problems included frequent gang activity and fights, kids who were scared to come to school, and many kids who got held back.
Many underperforming schools have to be “phased out,” a process by which the DOE quite literally shuts down the school after deeming it unsuccessful and unlikely of changing anytime soon. And as far as charter schools being an alternative option, many of them struggle with the same attendance, behavioral, and performance issues. They often run out of funding before changes can be made to turn them around, sometimes leaving kids with no school to attend.
A poor grade school education leads to high school and college dropout, which leads to unemployment, crime, and inevitably perpetuates poverty for lower income families who have likely been in this place for generations. Invariably, these families are black and Latino. When will the DOE start implementing the changes necessary to fix our public education system?