“What are the consequences of not measuring up?”

This question was posed in this week’s Chalkbeat article, “New York is about to release a new list of struggling schools. Here’s what you should know.”

But before we go any further, let’s really consider every angle of the question. Because the consequences of “not measuring up,” are as impactful for an individual child’s performance evaluation and future opportunities as a school’s. Each has consequences; yet what are the measurements in place - and how do they account for the vast discrepancy of available resources between schools in low-income neighborhoods, and those in more affluent areas? Importantly: is the measuring pole itself biased?

Many of the schools identified as struggling and in need of state intervention have principals in place who are visionary leaders that have been laying necessary groundwork for improvement against all odds - most dramatically, lack of adequate funding. Yet a host of other factors limit their access to the resources necessary to affect their students’ performance in terms of measurable growth, which is defined largely by standardized testing and attendance rates.

“Schools in these bottom two tiers will be required to submit self-assessments that explain the ways their schools are falling short and craft a plan, including “evidence-based” approaches,” the article tells us. thus placing the additional burden on the educators already pushing the outcomes improvement boulder up a grossly inequitable hill. On top of that, “Schools in the bottom-most tier must also set aside at least $2,000, a fund that students and families can vote on how to use in a process known as “participatory budgeting.” Where is the research that supports either tactic as a best practice in creating lasting improvement for the schools overall, and better outcomes for the individual students?

Full disclosure: two of CFK’s schools are on the list. Yet the fact that these schools need help is exactly why we partner with them. Principals who are already stretched impossibly thin need a thought partner while crafting solutions, a benefit unique to the CFK model. We agree that community input is a necessary element of any solution; yet low-income and under-resourced communities are stretched to their breaking points in just finding adequate affordable housing and jobs to support their families.

Inadequate and inequitable school funding continues to unfairly tilt the playing field. Low-income scholars and those from less educated families are at a significant disadvantage for so many reasons. They need safe, welcoming, and nurturing school environments. School is often the most stable part of their day. Addressing equity issues within New York City public schools is a decades-long problem.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in 1967 in his last book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.”

Until poverty is abolished, until bias is eliminated, under-resourced schools will struggle. They need our help to change the odds, and we’re committed to making lasting change for New York City’s schoolchildren.

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