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Hawkins and Lee Call for School Desegregation and Scrapping Standardized Tests

Hawkins and Lee Call for School Desegregation and Scrapping Standardized Tests

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2018

Green Party Candidates Call to Desegregate NY Schools - Oppose De Blasio’s Plan

Scrap Standardized Tests and Screening - Make All Schools Diverse with Gifted-Quality Curriculum for All

(Manhattan) Howie Hawkins and Jia Lee, the Green Party’s gubernatorial ticket, called today to desegregate all New York schools. The Greens said that the use of standardized tests for entrance to gifted high schools should be scrapped, and instead there should be a gifted-quality curriculum in all high schools.

They called for a “controlled choice” system of desegregation where families rank their preferred schools and students are assigned to schools using a formula to account for preferences while achieving socioeconomically integrated schools.

Earlier this week Hawkins called for statewide action to resolve the problem of high lead blood levels in children, which has been a major problem in New York City as well as his home city of Syracuse.

Lee, a NYC public school teacher and recent candidate for president of UFT, said the “best way to improve education is end the racial, class, and academic segregation in public schools. Integration has been the most powerful progressive education reform since Brown v. Board of Education by far.”

New York City has the most segregated schools in the country. Schools in upstate cities are also among the most segregated in the nation by race and class. The Green Party candidates advocate the scrapping of standardized tests to screen students into selective schools because, they say, such tests serve to reproduce segregation.

“The experience from integrated schools is that it all students do better in terms of intellectual self-confidence, creativity, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, and tolerance,” Lee said.

She also noted the beneficial peer effect in integrated schools. “With diverse student bodies, every school will have a critical mass of highly engaged students who set the academic culture for the whole school,” said Lee.

Mayor De Blasio proposes to change the admissions criteria for the eight most selective high schools from a single standardized test to enrolling the top 7% from every middle school. The Green candidates said De Blasio’s proposal won’t end race, class, or academic segregation because it still limits access to quality education. The competition for limited seats will continue, with the wealthy and privileged having a head start. They said the solution is to improve the quality of all schools, including access to enriched programs. 39% of NYC high schools have no college-prep math and science curriculum.

Under the present system, some parents are paying thousands to test-prep 3- and 4-year-olds for standardized tests to qualify for gifted and talented placement in kindergarten. Many middle schools are selective. One-third of NYC high schools screen for admission.

“We are asking the wrong question,” Lee said. “It is not a questions of making competition for a limited number of seats for a quality education more fair. The question is: Why is a quality education limited resource?”

"Standardized tests were designed in the first place in New York City to keep the upper-class white students segregated from the other classes and ethnic groups. It is still used today to segregate and divide us from each other," Lee said.

Hawkins added, “Why are we segregating little children and tracking those from disadvantaged backgrounds away from a good education? What about the kid who is homeless like 10% of New York City -- and Syracuse -- schoolchildren are on any given day? Why is there no second chance for late bloomers? The whole system of screening and segregating needs to be scrapped. Every child should have access to a gifted-quality education.”

Since 2004, NYC has had so-called public school choice. 40% of kindergartners go to schools outside their neighborhood zone. But with testing and screening, this has only increased segregation by race, class, and access to academic programs.

The Green candidates called for desegregation through a system of “Controlled Choice” where families rank their choices of schools from across the district. Students are then assigned to schools based on their preferences and a formula that ensures a relatively even distribution of students by socioeconomic status across all schools.

Controlled choice has been a successful system of integration in cities like Raleigh NC, Cambridge MA, Fayette County TN, and Champaign IL.

“While New York City has the ethnic and economic diversity within its school district, successful controlled choice in upstate cities will require redrawing district lines that now divide communities by race and class,” Hawkins said. He said the next governor should offer incentives for school district consolidations to achieve integration and help “sell the desegregation program by being the number one advocate for a reform that will improve the education of poor, working class, and middle class students alike.”

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