Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Citizens of the World charter: parent choice or segregation?

Both nationally and locally, charter schools have been found to lead to more segregation in our public schools. The following is by Brooke Parker, one of the founders of Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents for Our Public Schools (WAGPOPS), about a new charter chain that has applied to SUNY start in her district.  Instructions on how to send in your comments to the SUNY Board of Trustees are below; the deadline for public comments is May 21.
On the eve of the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the NY Times article on Explore Charter School's almost exclusively African American student population received over 400 comments.  The issue of segregation in schools is a hot topic right now as more and more reports are coming out revealing charter schools as profoundly segregated.
District 14, encompassing the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, parts of Bed Stuy and Bushwick, is giving this issue a neo-liberal spin.  District 14 was "selected" by Citizens of the World Charter Schools (CWCS), a brand new chain of charter schools coming out of California, to receive two of their charter schools precisely because they "seek to establish schools in districts that have a variety of races, cultures, and incomes."  But CWCS isn't really interested in the variety of races, cultures, and incomes that we have in Williamsburg, unless they are middle to upper class and from a variety of European or Asian backgrounds.  The message that our District 14 Latino community received from CWCS outreach? Puerto Ricans and Dominicans need not apply. 
CWCS met with families in baby boutiques, yoga studios, and luxury condominiums along the waterfront.  The announcements for these meetings were made on a private listserv.  If you weren't part of a particular network of parents, you would never know about them. The 724-page proposal for CWCS quotes parents as saying, “Children need to be in a school where they don’t just sit there; they need continuous engagement.” Another parent commented on his/her own experience in school and stated, “I never learned how to think creatively in school. CWC presents that opportunity.”  This demand for creativity and real engagement is in sharp contrast to the harsh discipline provided in Explore Charter School, or Success Academy, or KIPP (Kids in Prison Program), or Achievement First.  White middle class parents generally want their kids to go to more progressive schools than schools offering a "pedagogy of poverty."
CWCS asked these white middle class families to describe their "dream school," then magically put forth proposals which conveniently matched these parents' fantasies – project-based learning, differentiated instruction, and service learning. What's heartbreaking for those of us who have kids in our neighborhood schools is that we recognize that nearly everything these parents were sold is already available in our schools. No charter school can really be more progressive than a public school in this climate.  And no public school can be as progressive as it wants to be.
It's ironic that CWCS was introduced to District 14 families through Eric Grannis' Tapestry Project whose sole aim is to bring charter schools into North Brooklyn. Grannis is married to Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of the Success Academy charter chain.  Grannis and Moskowitz care so deeply about the kids in our district that they want to make sure that every race and socio-economic category has their own school. Middle class parents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint have absolutely no intention of sending their kids to the new Success Academy, but CWCS might sound interesting. 
CWCS is for white people.  This is implied in their proposal which includes a graphic showing that the neighborhood is 55% white, though the schools are only 8% white, and then adds: "We hope to offer families a public school option in CSD 14 that more closely mirrors their neighborhood composition." (Section 1(b)1))

The 55% white demographic statistic does not reveal that many of the white people in Williamsburg are Hassidic families who refuse to enroll their children in public schools (with the exception of special education programs) and "hipsters," many of whom don't have children at all. The data also doesn't capture that there are whole swaths of Williamsburg, Bed Stuy, and Bushwick that suffer from profound socio-economic and racial isolation.
In the gentrified areas of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, our schools match the diversity of the areas where they are housed, notably in the lower grades, as more and more middle class families are sending their children to our local schools.  Here's a snapshot of our neighborhood schools, which compares the public schools in the gentrified areas with our four unzoned charter schools:
% Hispanics
% African American
% White
% Asian
52% *
37% *
72% *
Ethical Community Charter
Achievement First Charter
Brooklyn Charter
Beginning with Children Charter
Success Academy Charter- Bed Stuy 1
No info
No info
No info
No info

* Includes large population of Polish speakers
The diversity in our public schools housed in the gentrified areas of District 14 sets into relief the egregious segregation in the schools that fall outside of the our gentrified areas; many schools in these other neighborhoods have no white children at all.
To redress segregation in our racially and socio-economically isolated areas, District 14 was awarded nine federal magnet grants.  Eight of these are elementary school magnets. The UCLA Civil Rights Project reports (see here and here)  explain how magnet schools are a sustainable and equitable model for increasing diversity in public schools, in contrast to charter schools that generate further segregation.  
We can't capitulate to the fears of new parents have about urban public schools by offering them "white flight" solutions. We need to build up the well-deserved trust that parents can have in our public schools and turn them all into PS84's and PS31's. We know that integrating schools in areas that suffer from housing segregation is a complicated and difficult endeavor, but there are best practices that we can learn from, including magnet programs, and it is our moral obligation as a community to support them.  Not just because it's a promise that the NYC DOE made to the federal government to integrate these schools, but because we know the benefits of schools that are diverse, in which our children can learn how to learn and work together. 
If SUNY accepts these two proposals for CWCS, this will trigger a new form of state-sponsored "white fight" from perfectly good community schools into charter schools, setting our district back decades, and ensuring that our racially and socio-economically isolated schools remain segregated. Please support our community public schools and say NO to segregation.
And write a letter to SUNY at ; cc:  jason.sarsfield@suny.eduken.o'; bcc:  Deadline is May 21.  
Thanks!  -- Brooke Parker WAGPOPS!


Anonymous said...

nycdoe is a cash cow - money flows through it like an atlantic city casino oversight over the dispersion of money well what is the oversight? however the fact is mayoral control is about the goodies and the millions and millions of dollars that flow through this mess of an agency - the purpose of nycdoe is money not education and politically dismantling the uft and public school education which stand in the way of complete cash and carry. and of course segregation is an issue - the nyc schools are segregated and the basis of school policies here and elsewhere is the continuation of policies of social control in the classroom not education whatever education means in this country other then vocational training.

Anonymous said...

Good points, I do not want to see existing local public schools dilluted anymore than they are but when you are zoned for a school such as PS 31 you might then be interested in more choice. PS 31 has great test scores, homework in Pre-K but it also has a host of turn offs, no recess, limited science, little parent involvement, teaching too much to the test, reputation for yelling, etc. When a charter proposes recess and science every day, smart boards, sports, K-8 program, direct email and phone access to every admin/teacher in the building, etc., how can you not be interested? White, black or blue at that point you really don't care you just want a school that isn't stuck in 1960's military style. PS 84 has a very liberal parent body that may not be academic enough for some families. I want homework for my child every night in Pre-K and K, I want strong proven test scores, ecess and science every day, that is the modern world and these charters are presenting that. Rich kid or not I just want a modern strong academically rigorous environment.

WAGPOPS! said...

Anonymous from 9:34am

Charter schools don't offer PreK, so you won't be able to check that off your list.

If PS31 is too rigorous for you? We have a TON of other schools to choose from in D14. Because our district is under enrolled, and because we have 8 elementary magnet schools, you're not forced to go to your zoned school at all.

Not sure where you're getting your info from re: D14 schools, but PS84 is academic and has homework in K. AND next year they'll have smart boards in the Nest program. And they have sports.

You will never find EVERYTHING that you want in any school. But, with our public schools, you have the opportunity to actually help get what you want in the schools.

Will you please tell me which charter school is offering you EVERYTHING that you want?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 must be a plant a real parent wouldnt have to be nameless and this talk of being rigorous who knows what that means in terms of education in the sense of thinking things through and the capacity to analysis issues not merely know how to take a test-but you both miss the point no matter how nice a school the overarching problem is nycdoe is a cash cow with millions for riends and relatives and an infrastructure of bureaucrats whether networks or iscs that make or break schools. the nyc school system by your own discriptions is a hodge podge more and more fragmented. there is no consistency as both comments make very clear and there was not a military style education in the sixties-to the contrary progressive ed and hands on where theoretically more popular than now- the schools for good or bad where not the hodge podge of today and in fact the new authoritarian approach is against progressive ed and because both minority parents to some extent and the elitist policy makers believe minority children need school as boot camp. liberal parents means mainly white parents on the segregated nyc school system.who is kidding whom

lovepoetry said...

Etoy, I received you call but could not call you back with the phone number that you gave me. Please call the library again.


k8 said...

I know this is an old post, but I'd like to chime in. I take issue with your Dominicans and Puerto Ricans need not apply statement. Charter schools in New York generally have no problem attracting black and brown kids -- that's usually who fills up a charter school first. So if a school is committed to class AND race diversity, the sell that they have to make is to middle class parents, they are the ones who are more mobile, more likely to traipse around out of zone, or fake an address, pulls strings to get in out of zone, etc. So, if you want to get those parents into your school, then you're going to organize meetings in yoga studios, waterfront apartments, etc. I don't agree that these meetings in themselves indicate that Latino kids are unwanted.

When Community Roots (a Charter School located in the projects in North Fort Greene, progressive, project based) became very popular, and the lottery pool got richer and whiter, Community Roots set aside a different lottery for school lunch eligible -- to keep their school diverse. To me, such efforts to keep all our children in the classroom together should be applauded and replicated.

I think one reason I'm coming from a different place than some of the voices on this blog, is that the tragedy you point out in Williamsburg, that your local school already has all those great things. This is not the case for me. I agree a hundred percent that school segregation is an awful thing, and where I live, public schools are very segregated. I support Charters that reach out to the full range of families just as I would support public schools that do that.

But even if the charter school didn't value lower income, black and latino students (which is not evident to me but this article sounds very sure of this), there exists the fact Charters are under legal obligation to be minority and school lunch eligibility enrolled up to a certain percentage. (40% is the number I'm remembering, but I'm not confident) or else they get SHUT DOWN. In that sense, the middle class white/Asian/European enclave you describe is illegal. While there is an argument about which numbers constitute a representative spread, I think it's important to point out that the rules that bind charters have addressed this issue. Have the rules addressed it meaningfully enough? I don't know, but a discussion of this issue seems disingenuous without pointing that out.

Anyway, I think segregation is our society is a real missed opportunity for kids of all backgrounds. I do not want my kid in a white or upper class enclave and this reason is why we are not considering private schools. (The private preschool that my daughter attends has an excellent track record of private school admissions with scholarship money, so I don't think it's crazy of me to assume private schools are an option for us.) And that's why school making race and class diversity a central tenant sounds like a good thing to me. I'm unconvinced that the language is coded as you have interpreted it. I do feel sympathetic to your overall point of view. I don't live in Williamsburg but where i live, the elementary school my (middle class, white) child is zoned for is really not an option. So if I were forced to send my kid to that school, I would move out of the neighborhood. So as a parent who just wants better choices for her child, I have to go out of zone. I personally was hoping Citizens would open closer to us, and I would bet you better than even odds that some of the parents at our local zone school wish that, too.

Thank you for this forum to express some of my thoughts on this very complicated issue that has such broad social consequences and such personal meaning to us parents. I wish the best for all of your children and all of our neighbors' children.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, I heard that this year's K class for Community Roots is almost ALL white. Their Free/Reduced Lunch population is virtually unheard of in the district.

I hear you about segregation, but charters are a BIG motor for segregation - and the charters designed to appeal to affluent white folk are a HUGE problem.

Studies show that white parents choose schools, not necessarily based on what's happening inside the school but on the population of students.

School segregation is a problem that requires community solutions, not capitulation to white fears.

Anonymous said...

Think we were wrong about this? Check THIS out:

"Through targeted outreach and recruitment, our schools are intentionally designed to reflect their surrounding communities and the larger society in terms of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status," the charter network says on its website.
But the New York enrollment memo seems to directly contradict that statement, with the most time and resource-intensive recruitment tools clearly aimed at a small pocket of affluent families, while cheap, low-impact tactics like handing out fliers reserved for Headstarts and churches where recruiters are instructed to "lean towards" black and Hispanic families.
A chart titled CSD 14 Priorities lists the recruiters' top strategy as "engaging core parent group" and describes the target of that strategy as "middle/upper income, predominantly white."
In District 17, the top priority is to "create core foundation of contacts," a strategy again targeted exclusively at "middle/upper income" parents.
Roughly half of the engagement strategies outlined in the memo are specifically intended to attract those same targets.

It's not just the paperwork that's skewed to exclude in Crown Heights — the charter's parent information session was held at the Brooklyn Public Library's Central Branch, more than two miles from P.S. 221 but a stone's throw from the district's wealthiest parents in Prospect Heights.

While Citizens showers its attention on affluent families, parents at P.S. 221 say they've barely heard from the school.

"There’s been no community outreach or interaction," one mother of three who declined to give her name for fear of losing her job told DNAinfo in March.

"We heard them speak for about two minutes — that’s been the breadth of our interaction with the folks at Citizens."

Read more:

Anonymous said...

You need to look at the demographics again for 2015. Best I can tell the cited white and asian families are markedly underrepresented in the current make up compared with district demographics.