Time to can middle schools – New York Post
Last Updated: 4:05 AM, August 18, 2011
We should simply eliminate the city’s regular public middle schools: They do more harm than good.
Right now, fewer than half of our middle-school students are on track to graduate from a public high school college-ready. And while the gap between black and Hispanic students and their white peers narrowed in the last few years, it persists.
Several studies pinpoint the middle-school years as the source of the racial “achievement gap.” For example, Columbia University researchers tracking children over time found that minority students do comparatively well in elementary school — yet the same group begins to fall behind once it enters middle school.
For various reasons, all students’ achievement decreases in the middle-school years — but that decline seems accelerated among those attending public middle school in New York City.
In the last few years, the Department of Education has closed and reorganized struggling middle schools, including several in Bronx community School Districts 9 and 12. But students in those districts still show little progress. Fewer than 20 percent of eighth graders meet state standards in reading. In the latest citywide tests, little over a third of seventh- and eighth-graders met the standard for reading proficiency.
If this doesn’t improve, the Chinese, who are investing in New York, may have to import Chinese workers to make their investments pay off. It’s time to lose the whole middle school concept.
For decades, parochial schools have successfully educated children in a K-8 setting. Public charter schools are successfully implementing other models. In The Bronx, the Icahn Charter School (which teaches K-8) saw 100 percent of eighth-graders meet the bar in math and 86 percent in reading. The high-achieving Bronx Preparatory Charter School includes grades 5-12, while the innovative Eagle Academy for Young Men public school this fall will add sixth grade (and, over the next two years, seventh and eighth) to its current 9-12.
And black and Hispanic students at the Icahn charters, the Harlem Success Academies and other high-performing public charter schools continue to equal or outperform their white peers across the state. These are students who are ready, eager to learn and excel when placed in a demanding and nurturing school setting.
In announcing his Young Men’s Initiative, Mayor Bloomberg noted that “far too many black and Latino men are graduating high school without the skills to succeed in college or careers.” Which begs the question, why are they graduating at all?
Perhaps, instead of focusing on low achievers and the variables that contribute to their dysfunction, its time for the policy experts to study the success factors for high-achieving black boys.
New York and our nation cannot afford to lose more generations of black boys to scholastic failure, unemployment and crime. We need only look across the sea to London for a glimpse of New York’s future if we don’t change course.