How Did Getting into a Specialized High School in NYC Become a Lottery Where Almost Everyone Loses?

I was prompted to write this post in response to news I learned recently from the 14-year-old I mentor. I have mentored through Children of Promise NYC for over two years now. (On a side note please visit their site, it’s a wonderful organization and they are always looking for great people to get involved: http://www.cpnycy.org/ ) This is big year for my mentee, she is graduating from eighth grade and needs to decide which high school to attend. Her first choice was Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the specialized high schools in NYC so she took the SHSAT test in the Fall. There are nine specialized high schools in NYC total: (taken from http://www.wikipedia.org)

Entrance to any of the nine is EXTREMELY competitive, particularly for the top choices: Stuyvestant and Bronx Science. Not to mention that these top schools have become ridiculously crowded to boot! Brooklyn Tech alone has 5,000 students!

She did very well on the SHSAT but it was still not enough for a spot at any of the specialized high schools. Luckily, she was accepted to Cobble Hill High School and the High School at Pace and will be attending one of the two. I know both of these are great schools and she will flourish at either. Her experience is unfortunately by no means unique. Here is a link to a New York Times article about another eighth grade student who had the same experience: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/02/nyregion/eighth-grader-full-of-sports-knowledge-is-left-without-a-high-school.html?ref=education

At the end of the day, the total number of students applying for entry into these nine schools is 29,000!!! They are competing for a mere 6,106 spots!

This strikes me as grossly unfair! Why should so many students be denied entry to schools which continue to win national award after national award? These nine buildings can only hold a certain amount of students and they are all at capacity. What, then is the solution?

It is the solution the NYCDOE has struggled with since their inception, how can we make the level of education received in every high school in the five boroughs the same as in these nine schools? There is no easy answer and the bottom line is that it’s impossible for every single high school to perform at the same level, particularly when many have such a large percentage of special needs students. That being said, the majority can and should be performing at the same high level.

The answer is simple and so important that I will type only in caps: LIMIT CLASS SIZE TO MAX 15 STUDENTS PER A TEACHER!!!

Do this and I promise you test scores will rise, students will graduate actually adequately prepared for college, and teachers can and will be more effective. What is the flaw in this brilliant and seemingly simple solution? MONEY…it will cost the city A LOT of money to hire so many new teachers. This is something the city has not and is still not willing to do, even if it means our low performing schools stay that way.

I leave with you with one final question….Jamaica High School against very loud protests by parents, students, and teachers is closing and several small schools have already been opened in the building. Currently there are roughly 1000 students total in the entire building but there are five people earning principal salaries. Brooklyn Technical High School has 5000 students in the building and one person earning a principal salary. Yet, there has been a hiring freeze for new teachers since 2009….what is wrong with this picture?????

I look forward to your thoughts and thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Bloomberg is closing 25 public schools…what is wrong with this picture?????

Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC DOE in their infinite wisdom have placed 25 public schools on the chopping block! I know this is not supposed to be a political blog but on this issue I can find no middle ground. The bottom line is this: it is 110% wrong! I would also like to give due props to the NY1 news teams for their in-depth coverage on this important story. They have had a feature story each morning on all the schools. It’s a wonderful 180 from their policy of the past, when they dared not say anything negative about the Mayor.

In every single one of these stories, there has been outrage and noise made by students, parents, teachers, and principals, wholeheartedly against these forced closings! To even consider proceeding with these closures is absolute lunacy! If there is so much passion for a school that is more than enough reason to not close its’ doors! If people love a school, then it can be improved, and it should be saved. There should be no debate about this!

Let’s take one example to look at further: Jamaica High School‘s door will be closing soon despite many protests! Parents, students, and teachers tried to have a judge put a stop to the closure, but to no avail! So, what have they done with this beautiful building that is perfect for a school? They have made four of these “small schools.” So you ask what does that mean? It means that for max 1000 kids there are four people earning a full principals salary! Meanwhile, Francis Lewis High School, has 1500 students and only one principal! Please tell me what is wrong with this picture? Supposedly, the education system is broke and yet we have the money to pay for four principals!?!?!? It’s absolutely ludicrous!

You may ask, what kind of schools are being forced to shut their doors? How about a school that caters to pregnant teens or teens with babies? Where else will these children be able to turn for, where they can get an education and have free childcare? Where will these, mostly minority students end up? Several technical schools are also on the chopping block. The bottom line is that college is not for everyone and these technical schools offer a viable alternative.

The bottom line is that for once, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC DOE need to put our children first! I implore you, please do not close even one of these schools!

I am a BROKE College Student….Why do I need to sell a kidney so I can buy my science textbooks?!?!?!?!

So….today I finished the third day of the new Spring 2012 term at Medgar Evers College. I’m psyched, especially since this is my last full term of prereqs, only one class, Developmental Psychology left! On the other hand I am taking Organic Chemistry I, Microbiology 403, and the last section of Anatomy and Physiology, three sciences with labs, and SUPER challenging sciences at that! So basically, I can kiss any semblance of a social life goodbye until May 24 and will be renting a desk in the library for the duration! It’s only the third day and I can barely keep my eyes open to write this post!!!

So…once again I digress…(I think this sentence has shown up in every one of my posts!!!)…on to the main subject of this post. Can anyone give me some semblance of a logical reason for why textbooks for college science courses need you to donate organs to pay for??!!?? Usually, I rely on handy used book search engines and Amazon to score deeply discounted used textbooks. However, much to my chagrin when I looked up the ISBN for my Organic Chemistry text, the absolute cheapest available was $250.00!!!!! What’s wrong with this picture?!?!? It’s very common knowledge that being broke goes hand in hand with being a full-time college student. It’s the exception to come across a college student swimming in dough and almost always it’s their parents dough not theirs! I am going to college, like most others, in hopes to eventually make some money off this enormous investment of my time and money!

So, you ask what happened? Did I have to donate blood to pay for my Organic books??? Well, it turns out the Medgar Evers College bookstore has a special soft cover package of the same text packaged with the lab book as well for a measly $246.00. (Please note I write measly with the greatest degree of sarcasm available!) Pardon my vulgarity, but the bottom line is the publishers have college students by the cajones! What choice do we have? I need to read the book so I can get an A but I also resent having to pay that much to earn an A!

The scariest thing is that I bet the book probably costs McGraw Hill max $15.00 to print! That’s a VERY handsome profit! The publishers lack of pity for the college students’ pocketbook is beyond alarming!

So I am sure I am the millionth student to complain about the unfairness of this situation but have I, or you actually done anything about it besides bellyache? NO..and why pray tell is that??? Because the bottom line is there is not a d*mn thing any of us can do about it!!!

I am more than open to suggestions…does anybody have one?

Why Doesn’t the US Adopt a FREE College System…like the rest of the Western World!?!?!?!

Image

So….I know this is a topic that has been, in many senses beaten to death, but there has been no headway made, so I guess, what could the harm of me putting my two cents into the ring? I have a sort of odd association that first comes to my mind when thinking about this topic. I have a subscription to Time Magazine (mainly because it’s a weekly for only $20 a year and yes, I am one of the few 20 somethings who actually enjoys reading the written word on paper and owns not one product from Apple! But, once again, I digress…) In one of the recent issues of Time, there was a two page picture of a newborn, and the title said, “Hi! My name is Sophia and I was born in January, 2012 and I can already tell you some things about myself.” One balloon that really jumped out at me stated: by the time I am 21, my parents will have spend $150,000 on a private college education, if I was born in Germany it would be free. How can this be? In the greatest free country in the world, the champion of freedom and equality, a college education, and therefore, a pathway to a better life and advancement can cost so much, yet, across the ocean it costs a citizen absolutely NOTHING?!?!?!? What’s wrong with this picture!?!?!? As someone with over $50,000 of student loan debt, I speak from personal experience. At the end of day, unless you are extremely wealthy or extremely poor (qualifying for the ludicrously low standards for grants set by the Feds), in order to attend college you will have to agree to put yourself into a significant amount of debt. I basically just try to never think about it, and optimistically assume that, one day I will be able to make a dent in paying it back.

I think at the heart of this issue is the fact, that student loans were originally set up by the Feds as a way for low and middle income students to afford a higher education. They were NEVER EVER supposed to be a for-profit industry. However, industry giants like Sallie Mae, EdFinancial, and Great Lakes, are literally making millions on interest and repayment at the expense of US college students. Why? Is it because they donate millions to political campaigns and have lobbyists with extremely deep pockets in our capital? I cannot definitively prove it, but I would put good money on it.

So, as a country what are we suppose to do? Obama has attempted to make sweeping legislative change, but as basically with everything he has tried to do since 2008, the GOP has fought him tooth and nail for every inch. So, I guess it’s up to us, ordinary Americans. We simply have to bring this to the attention of our elected representatives. We put them there and they work for us, we must hold them accountable for their votes! This means insisting financial aid for a college education go through some drastic changes! Let’s start with a fixed interest rate throughout the lifetime of the loan, expanding the Federal Work Study Program, Pell Grants, and other grant programs. Additionally, how about making majors where there is an immense demand, such as science and engineering, cheaper for students who agree to work an agreed upon number of years in these fields. Most importantly, a ten year limit, if you have not been able to pay back any of your debt by then, the loans will be forgiven!

If Europe, can make a free higher education system work, it is to the benefit of all Americans if we do so too! Demand reform and accept nothing less!

What do you think would work and should be used to fix this immense problem?

Thanks for your ideas and for reading! Have an awesome weekend!