Angered by the dismal state test scores of the city’s eighth-graders, a coalition of 100 parents of middle school kids took its demands for action to elite Stuyvesant High School.
The New York City chapter of Coalition for Educational Justice (a coalition that Make the Road by Walking helped found) asked the city Education Department to create a task force and take other measures to address poor performance in middle schools.
"There’s a great disparity between what happens when a child is in fourth grade and the time he enters eighth grade," said Carol Boyd, a mother of two from the Bronx, at the demonstration Thursday.
State reading scores recently released showed that passing rates dropped steadily as students moved from elementary to middle schools.
Although 61.5% of third-graders read at grade level, only 36.6% of eighth-graders met state standards.
The coalition – two community groups from Brooklyn and one from the Bronx – gathered with posters on the bridge near Stuyvesant High to illustrate that not all middle school children are prepared for elite schools.
"Every school should be a school that you want to send your child to," said Zakiyah Ansari, a mother of eight who spoke at the boisterous rally.
Ansari wouldn’t send two of her daughters to a middle school a block away from their Brooklyn home because she thought it wouldn’t prepare them for the rigors of high school.
Instead, they travel to Intermediate School 78, the Roy H. Mann School, in Bergen Beach, which offers both high-level courses and specialty electives like cooking.
"They only have the potential if given the proper tools to be successful," she said.
In response to the rally, the Education Department released a statement noting that a $40 million initiative was created for struggling middle school students last fall.
The initiative expanded a Saturday Preparatory Academy, increased professional development for middle school leaders and formed intervention teams to help at-risk students.
Even as our eighth-graders have made clear improvement on ELA [English Language Assessment] and math tests over the past four years, the [Education Department] continues to work to increase student achievement at the middle school level," the statement said.