Inside a Divided Upper East Side Public School

Whites in the front door, blacks in the back door

Dr. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at NYU's Steinhardt school, and the author of The Trouble With Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education, thinks it's problematic to be segregating kids from such a young age: "When you send young kids to school where the racial lines are so stark, there is the process of saying there is something fundamentally different about us, which is why we can't be together.

"Some towns, because they are homogenous, their inability to create integrated schools is limited, simply by the fact that there is nobody else there," he says. "That's not the case in New York City. What we have here is really Plessy at work: separate, without even being equal—but very much separate."

In other parts of the country, cities and counties and states struggle with the inequalities that arise between schools that benefit or suffer from their geography—public schools in wealthy areas generally provide a better educational experience than public schools in poor areas. School districts have always wrestled with ways to minimize these differences, like how money is spent, how children are routed, and how teachers are allocated.

In New York, these striking differences have nothing to do with geography—not when two public schools can offer such unequal environments within the same building. And yet, the mayor's plan, embodied in the rush to close schools and replace them with even more multiple institutions, only seems to be exacerbating these differences.

Concerned about the lack of access for talented programs in Straus, the Department of Education is addressing the situation. Patrick Sullivan says the DOE will be starting a gifted program within Straus this fall, beginning with a kindergarten class.

Now, the zoned children will have the option of getting into a talented program, instead of competing with children districtwide. A girl like Doreen might have the chance to be in a gifted class, without competing against rich families who can pay for tutors. Teachers might not have to work as hard to accommodate their slowest and fastest students in the same class.

But the decision is not being universally heralded.

"Why on earth would [Straus] need to have a gifted class, if there's a gifted school already in the building?" asked one mother. "They say they're doing it to make the school more 'attractive,' but are they doing it just to keep [Lower Lab] segregated?"

sthrasher@villagevoice.com

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2 comments
PS198Parent
PS198Parent

Wow, I hope people will realize how OUTDATED this article is, and how skewed it was even at the time it was written. I've spoken with many PS 198 parents, and none of them were concerned about which door is used by whom. Some PS 198 students enter through the cafeteria, some through the courtyard. Many of us are glad we are not forced to enter from a crowded sidewalk on a busy avenue, as Lower Lab is forced to do. LL kids have to cut through a chaotic scene to enter, several levels down from their main office and many classrooms, forcing the LL kids to climb many stairs to get to the heart of the school. Logistically, you need several doors to enter the building when there are so many students trying to get in at the same time, and it's very subjective to say which is the better way to enter. This whole point in the article is very silly and is meant to bait people into a pointless discussion.

PS198Parent
PS198Parent

(part 2) In fact, this article is so outdated at this point, it should be revised or removed as it is filled with inaccurate statements. PS 198 DOES have a PTA which is active, supports the teachers, the school and the students. It does hold several fundraising events, including auctions and large public events, and several school-wide events which are in conjunction with Lower Lab. The two schools share a wonderful collaborative relationship, especially as many parents have children in both schools!

There are far too many inaccurate statements in this article to address them all here (race, resources, sentiments, etc.), but suffice it to say that you should not believe the contents of this article.

 
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