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Know Your Rights
Source: NY1
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Community Group: City Middle Schools Failing Children

Representatives of the Coalition for Educational Justice (Make the Road by Walking is a member) are calling for a complete overhaul of the city schools’ sixth through eighth grade curriculum. NY1’s Education reporter Michael Meenan filed the following report.

Parents, education advocates, and elected officials took to the steps outside Department of Education headquarters Tuesday to call attention to what they call a crisis in the city’s middle schools.

“Our middle grade schools are separate and unequal,” said Lenore Brown of the Coalition for Educational Justice.

A report prepared by the Coalition for Educational Justice found that a majority of public school eighth graders fail to read at state standards, including 3/4 of Latino and African American students.

The report also found that for eighth graders in high-poverty schools, the literacy rate, according to state standards, is at 22 percent.

Overall, the report says, almost half of the city’s middle schools do not meet federal educational requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind act.

City eighth graders did do better than their peers in the rest of the state’s big cities on reading and math tests last year, but scores were way too low for one middle school mother who wants better teachers and principals, a deputy chancellor dedicated to the task, and 20 kids to a class.

“A well rounded and rigorous curriculum that puts the students on the road to college,” said Cynthia Williams of what she thinks could improve the situation.

And that’s just what another mother wants as well.

“We had been into the school year about four months and they hadn’t brought home anything new,” added Teresa Anderson of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. “Everything was taking practice test.”

Nationwide, math and reading scores generally plummet when students reach eighth grade. The DOE says it’s digging deep for solutions, and that it spent $40 million in middle schools last year to “improve instruction, close failing schools, widely reconfigure grade structures to support instructional and social cohesiveness, and create small learning communities in large middle schools.”

“You’re looking at $40 million, as compared to probably half a billion at the high school level,” explained Norm Fruchter of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Reforming the city’s public schools is one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s signature issues. It remains to be seen how specific he gets with middle schools in his State of the City address.