Georgette Roberts and Selim Algar, NY POST, June 16, 2021
Find a better school for your son.
That’s the advice defeated teachers at beleaguered PS 147 in Cambria Heights, Queens, gave to mom Keisha Ellis when she asked about improving the 11-year-old boy’s performance.
“It’s frightening to hear that from a teacher talking to you about your son,” she told The Post. “They didn’t say they would work with him or try to address it, they just said we should leave.”
Ellis fears her boy will fail at his dream of becoming a lawyer if he stays at the failing school, where 70 percent of students can’t pass the state’s basic English exam despite the DOE spending nearly $25,000 per pupil.
“They told me that he is a good student, a smart student,” she said. “But they said the school is not a competitive place and that he was just going to fall behind with the rest of his class.”
It appears that a lot of the predominantly black parents at the school are getting the message, as enrollment has dropped 17 percent from 2017 to this year.
Many District 29 families have split for private and charter schools — or moved to Long Island. But Ellis says she’s in a bind because she can’t afford a move or a private school.
“A lot of people don’t have the money for private schools,” she said. “I’ve applied to two charter schools. But that’s it. Otherwise I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
The DOE spent roughly $24,000 per student at PS 147 in 2019.
Despite that, 81 percent of students failed their state math exam in 2019, according to DOE records. Seventy percent failed English that year.
“If he’s in a class where there is little or no competition, how do you think he’ll feel?” Ellis added. “He’ll feel complacent. If there is a lot of mediocrity in the class, he is not going to do well. He will feel alright that he is not doing OK. He wants to be a lawyer. I know he can accomplish his dream. But it feels farfetched.”
District mom Judith Nephew said her son showed little progress while at PS 52 in Jamaica.
“He wasn’t getting anywhere” she said. “Every year they would tell us that he was struggling and that he would have to stay back. Then suddenly, they would say he made a big improvement and they would promote him. At the end of the third grade he still couldn’t read.”
Nephew said area friends suggested that she apply to charter school Success Academy two years ago and that she won a spot.
“They did an evaluation and told me that he would have to repeat the third grade in order to catch up,” she said. “They took their time and gradually he improved. He is one of the best readers in his class now.”
Nephew said that she feels lucky to have landed a spot at the school and said District 29 parents are increasingly starved for schooling options.
A total of 73 percent of students at PS 52 flunked their 2019 state math tests and 67 percent failed to pass English, according to DOE records. Roughly $23,000 was spent on each student that year.
Enrollment has dropped from 475 in 2017 to 336 this year, a dip of 29 percent.
“I know how a lot of parents feel who are in these schools now,” Nephew said. “Kids are promoted when they shouldn’t be. Nothing happens with bullying. It’s just very difficult.”
DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas said, “We’re supporting our District 29 families, teachers, and staff and firmly commit to expanding on the improvements we’ve seen so every child and family has a positive, rigorous and high-quality experience.”
Local activists Michael Duncan and Raymond Dugue of the Students Improvement Association rallied frustrated parents at District 29 offices last week.
“People are coming to me and asking me what to do,” Duncan said. “I don’t have an answer for them. There are so many people in these situations who are desperate. The DOE needs to do something now.”
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