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New York schools chief slammed for saying some kids deserve the best schools more than others

Following his decision to double the number of selective admissions, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks made a blunt argument for this approach: Students who work “really hard” should have priority access over “the child you have to throw away”. water on their face to go to school every day.

Speaking to business, nonprofit and education leaders at a forum hosted by the Association for a Better New York, Banks said: “We made a decision, after heard all the arguments, that merit really should matter.”

“If you have a child who works really hard on the weekends, and puts in his time and energy and he gets a 98 GPA – he should have a better opportunity to get into a high-choice school, then , you know, the child, you have to throw water in his face to make him go to school every day.

Banks added that “all kids are valuable,” but “if you have a kid, that you noticed going that extra mile, they should have that opportunity.”

The remarks immediately drew heavy criticism from some educators, parents and advocates who said they were insensitive and reflect the view that some children vying for middle and high school seats are less worthy than others. quality schools.

“When you talk about college admissions screens, you’re talking about 8- and 9-year-olds,” said Nyah Berg, executive director of New York Appleseed, a group that pushes for inclusive schooling. The comments, she said, “lacked empathy” as some students might find it difficult to attend school for reasons beyond their control.

Compared to other major school districts, New York City allows a greater degree of screening based on academic achievement, which concentrates low-performing students on the same campuses and contributes to the city’s status as a one of the most racially segregated in the country.

The banks’ statements come at a particularly controversial time, as his administration recently announced that colleges will once again be allowed to use metrics, such as grades, to admit students after a pause on competitive admissions during the pandemic. Regional superintendents are currently determining how college screens will operate on individual campuses.

For high schools, students must score in the top 15% in their class or top 15% in the city with an average of at least 90 in their major subjects to gain first access to selective schools under the policy bank admission.

Asked by a reporter what message his comments might send to parents about the identity of the city’s public schools, he replied that “it was not meant to discredit.” The description of a student needing to be doused with water to wake up for school “came from a parent who told me,” Banks said, adding that her four children had varying levels of motivation.

He also referenced the Eagle Academy schools he helped start in 2004, which are for young men of color and do not select students based on academic ability. “My whole career has been spent working with the least of them, believe me,” he said. “But I know we have some kids who are more motivated than others.”

A few observers have defended Banks’ comments, including Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a former teacher at a Bronx public school.

“If you’re outraged ‘because fairness’, chances are you’ve never taught low-income kids of color who work hard and get good grades,” he said. wrote on Twitter. “They are legion. And we teach them they’re stupid when we don’t recognize them and reward them for it.

This isn’t the first time Banks’ comments on academic selection have come under scrutiny. In announcing the new college and high school admissions policy, he made comments that some said were equally insensitive.

“If a youngster works hard every day and gets a 99% average…that should be honoured,” Banks said. “I think it’s really important that if you work hard and are successful, you shouldn’t be thrown into the lottery with everyone else.”

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering New York’s public schools. Contact Alex at [email protected].

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