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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Great News: City Council is Looking at Legislation That Will Provide City-wide Tutoring For the Specialized High Schools Test (SHSAT)

Richard Parsons

 Great news for New York public school students interested in getting into a Specialized High School -Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and five other excellent educational institutions: a group of City Council members, Justin Brannan, Keith Powers and Oswald Feliz, have submitted legislation that offers educational opportunities such a test prep to more than 90% of NYC middle schools that do not currently have access to publicly funded test prep.

Ronald S. Lauder

We agree with Mr. Lauder and Mr. Parsons that "By making tutoring more widely accessible, this package has the potential to revolutionize the education public students receive."

We also firmly support giving all students access to excellence rather than lowering educational standards to fit everyone. Kids of all ages need challenges and higher-level problems that require creativity and ingenuity. 

Let's hope that the City Council passes this legislation quickly so that all those interested can apply in the fall.

But I think we should all stop worshipping the Specialized High Schools and instead seek to raise the level of ALL schools in NYC. Two of my daughters got into Stuyvesant, and it is a terrific place for many reasons, but certainly not the right place for many students who could not, or didn't want to, handle the intense workload and competition.

One of my other daughters got a spot in La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts. That was the right place for her, an artist and opera singer.

Parents, don't fit your child into a school. Find a school that fits your child's individual skills and needs.

 Betsy Combier

How to build educational equity and excellence

By Ronald S. Lauder and Richard Parsons
New York Daily News

As New York City strives to build a more equitable public education system, beginning at our most vaunted educational institutions, one universal truth that educators, parents and students alike all know is that the key to ensuring that every New York student has access to the city’s specialized high schools is preparation.

Now, to our elation, it appears a group of City Council members understand this truth, too. A legislative package introduced in the Council last month marks a major step forward toward making education more accessible and equitable by improving preparation for and access to the SHSAT — the admissions test for Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and five other less famous but also outstanding public schools — for students across the five boroughs.

Councilmen Justin Brannan, Keith Powers and Oswald Feliz, who introduced the legislation, are working to ensure that every New York student receives a first-rate public education. We congratulate them on this critical step, stand with them in their campaign for improved education equity, and encourage the full Council to pass the package and Mayor Adams to sign it into law.

We have long fought to ensure that all students, especially students of color, have access to opportunities that will help them achieve their full potential.

Recent SHSAT data underscore the need for improved equity. In the past school year, Black and Latino students made up 21% and 26% of students who took the SHSAT, respectively, but received only 3% and 6% of offers to enroll in specialized high schools for this fall. In the same cycle, Asian-American students were 31% of test-takers and 53% of offers, while white students were 17% of test-takers and 28% of offers.

We know that test prep is one of the most effective ways to address the disparity. The Education Equity Campaign, which we co-founded, spent more than $1.2 million on free test prep for underserved communities in the academic year that just ended. Of 204 total students from underserved communities who received free tutoring from EEC in this past year, 54 of them, or 26.5%, were offered admission to one of the specialized high schools.

Since 2019, EEC has funded $4 million for free test preparation for the SHSAT, resulting in tutored students being four times more likely to gain admission than their peers.

This legislative package expands on EEC’s success by providing long-awaited resources for test-takers attending the more than 90% of New York City middle schools that do not currently have access to publicly funded test prep. By making tutoring more widely accessible, this package has the potential to revolutionize the education public-school students receive.

But the proposed legislation doesn’t stop at test prep. It will also broaden the pool of SHSAT takers. Black and Latino students currently make up almost 70% of all New York City public school children but only a third of all specialized high school applicants. By moving the test to a school day, we will have immediate and lasting effects on equity in the city’s schools.

In total, this legislative package is a historic step toward ensuring the historically disparate SHSAT outcomes are improved. Moreover, these bills build on the progress already underway in this new administration led by Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks.

Earlier this year, the pair announced a long-overdue expansion of the gifted and talented programs throughout the city, a move essential to addressing the inequalities afflicting the public schools. The disparities between the privileged districts, mainly in Manhattan, and communities of color in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx are blaring, and this expansion addressed just that. We are incredibly thankful that Adams and now the Council continue to answer our call to take action against this injustice, but we must now turn our focus to the future, and where our most gifted students arrive in secondary education.

While some believe that the SHSAT should be eliminated or that the city should move toward a system that includes other admissions criteria, those critics overlook the true problem of education inequity, doing nothing to improve the education system or help prepare students for secondary education. Through the Council’s education package, students who have been neglected by the public school system because of their background or race will be afforded educational opportunities to achieve their true potential.

We know the future of public education in New York is brighter because of this legislation, and we look forward to its speedy enactment. And we hope this effort will serve as a model for continued partnership between city government and civic organizations in our fight toward advancing equity in education. By working together, we can make the New York public education system accessible, equitable, and the best in the country.

Lauder is a philanthropist, business leader and graduate of Bronx Science. Parsons is the former CEO of Time Warner and a graduate of John Adams High in Queens.

Diane Pagen: All New Yorkers Lose When Teachers Are Fired Because of the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

 When the City issued the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate without any mention of medical or religious exemptions, many lawsuits were filed. Our Constitution protects anyone from discrimination, but our government believes that there is a compelling government interest in trampling individual rights for the greater public good. Balancing those rights against individual liberties is a political act.

On or about mid-February almost 914 NYC Department of Education employees were fired for requesting and being denied religious or medical exemptions or accommodations from getting the vaccine, and the Department also denied unemployment and medical benefits, couching this  in absurd generalities such as an "undue burden.", and put a "problem code" on everyone's personnel file.  (see also Declaration of Betsy Combier and make sure you scroll to Exhibit A, the email sent by Eric Amato). Then the DOE pushed for the public to believe none of their actions were due to misconduct so that no one would get a fair due process hearing.

Their arguments are such baloney.

Almost no one is talking about the harm these terminations did to the kids who are the students in the classrooms where currently there are no teachers or no certified staff to teach them anything.

Additionally, after reducing the budget to accommodate the hundreds who have been fired, the Mayor and Chancellor have excessed teachers from many schools, shuffling many into classes not in their subject area. This makes no sense.

Brilliant writer Diane Pagen is talking about this, and I am posting her timeless and important Opinion piece published in the NY POST in February because she has spoken out about the abundance of seen and unseen harm the actions of a select few have caused.

Here is the video:

Diane asking Bernard Adams to tell his brother she was waiting outside his press conference in July to speak to the Mayor for 5 minutes about her being fired.

Adams would not stop to talk with her when he left his press conference.

Across America, not just in NYC, people are losing confidence in the public school system. 

The NYC Department of Education puts children last. Stay away.

Betsy Combier

I lost my NYC school job to the vaccine mandate — and all New Yorkers are losing too

By Diane Pagen, NY POST, February 16, 2022

I’m one of the city employees who was fired this week when the vaccine mandate former Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted took full effect.

You’ve heard about us for months. While we’ve been on unpaid leave, we’ve been called “selfish” and “unsafe.” De Blasio suggested on TV that a few months without a paycheck would bring us to our senses, as if we had none. Gov. Kathy Hochul took a swipe at us when she told a Brooklyn congregation that vaccinated people are “the smart ones.”

We Department of Education workers have been particularly targeted by politicians and the press, who claim we “don’t care about the kids” — though they’ve been quieter since we unvaccinated educators were forced out of schools and COVID cases still went up 1,000% as Omicron hit.

You’ve been told that the firings — 1,430 this week, with 9,000 more city workers still seeking exemptions — only hurt those being sacked. That’s not true. I ask that rather than forget about us as quickly as politicians would like you to, you take some time to think about what you’re losing.

  • You’ve lost tax revenue, and sooner or later you’ll see that loss in your community. I used to pay about $30,000 a year in taxes. When you see trash in the street, a dirty subway, reduced library hours or reduced summer jobs for our youth, you’ll see the decision to fire us affects others, too.
  • You’re paying for additions to the food-stamp rolls. Now that I have no income, I get $250 a month. When employed and making around $90,000, I would regularly buy groceries for people who ran short. I can no longer dedicate resources to the needy.
  • You’ve lost a public-school social worker. In August 2021, the former chancellor preened in the press when public schools hired 500 new sorely needed social workers to help our kids. Yet last year, schools lost many when the unvaccinated were forced onto unpaid leave. The Brooklyn school where I worked until October has been down one psychologist and one social worker — me — for months. The kids pay. The kids with special needs pay more. 
  • You’ve got more harried staff who remain. The staff shortages are unfair to those still working. My social-media feeds are full of stories from overwhelmed school staff — especially the new and inexperienced, whose schools simply don’t have enough workers with the unvaccinated gone. These are the adults your children are counting on.
  • You’ve lost a productive member of your city whose days used to be spent helping kids. My time looks a lot different since I was forced out of my job. During a typical recent week, I spent time appealing a rejected unemployment claim (three hours), filling out and faxing documents for my food-stamp application (five hours), waiting on hold for the state Department of Labor (one hour, 40 minutes), reading legal documents and making phone calls and writing letters to a host of politicians and “community leaders” who never respond. I am also prone to all the normal reactions to involuntary unemployment that you would expect — sadness, anxiety, frustration, all of which affect my neighbors and my family if they catch me on one of those days. 
  • You’ve lost leverage as a worker, whether public or private. By destroying our economic lives in the public eye, city administrators are making an example of workers who object to an arbitrary demand and sending a message to the rest of the workforce. The city is showing it’s willing to break thousands of labor contracts, too.
  • You’ve lost New Yorkers. Many of us, gobsmacked by the months of defamation of character and the financial coercion, have left or are making plans to leave shortly. I know a dozen dedicated teachers with 20 years of experience who will no longer be around to teach your children, spend their wages in our economy and generally help make New York the amazing place it was.

I was a tenured employee with six years dedicated to city schools. But I couldn’t keep my job simply by doing a good job. Instead, I faced a months-long intimidation campaign. And I finally lost my position because I wouldn’t get a medical treatment I don’t think is right for me. New Yorkers, think about what you’ve lost here, too.

Diane Pagen, LMSW, was a school social worker for the New York City Department of Education.