Thursday, September 4, 2014

Open Letter to the NYCDOE

Today is the day many kids wait for with eagerness and a little anxiety. Today, and the days leading up to it have been filled with tension and pockets of hope for our family as we navigated the New York City High School process.

My eldest son didn’t have to go through this. He stayed in the high school that was a part of his middle school. A new school with knocks and pangs, but the issues smoothed out, and he did wonderfully there.

The high school process begins at the beginning of the 8th grade, with tours, auditions, essays, and dreams. And slowly erodes into the maybe, the okay, and this could ruin my future.

Our son, bright, kind, contentious, had an 86 average, throughout his school career. Always scored 3-4 on NYS tests --until the pivotal year of 7th grade. He scored lower. It looked like another kid’s.  But the SYSTEM only accounts for the 7th grade. Not the whole child, not how he’s preformed over the years, or whom he is, only judging from one test.

We were assured that our choice schools wouldn’t look to higher scoring kids, but when faced with the choice, they threw out their words and picked the kids with the highest scores and grades. Who could blame them? However, we lost spots, made ill-informed decisions with placing hard to get spots first on our list. Our middle school guidance told us “it happens”  --if your score is close enough, go ahead and try, since they take 85 and above. Boom–boom--our top two spots shut down. Spots three and four wouldn’t take us, because we didn’t put them first on “the list”.

This is NYC there is always a list to get in.

So today I sent my son to a school we’ve never toured, know little to nothing about. In a huge over-crowded building that took forty-five minutes to get past the metal detector. This was another case of an ill-informed decision when our middle-school guidance said to put more than one school choice on the second round—or we wouldn't get an appeal. Our appeal is valid. But it didn’t pass the guardian’s at the gate of the DOE.

Today I wait in trepidation for my fourteen-year-old to return home. Last night he was ready to end his school career. He comes from top performing schools and is now in a struggling school.  Thanks DOE, you didn’t just leave this child behind, you may of ruined his continued success.

As sychronicity runs strong through my life, last weekend I hear about Nikkole Salter's play of what many working/stuggling families are going through:

Nikkole Salter's Play:  LINES IN THE DUST

When Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk well worth taking but may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than she ever could have imagined. It's been exactly 60 years since Brown Versus The Board of Education. Lines In The Dust questions how far we've come and more importantly, where we go from here.

Where do we go from here? How can we make the changes our kids need?