New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks Credit: SCHOOLS.NYC.GOV photo

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks wants to clear a few things up for students and parents.

“I’ve heard from families across the city over the past two months, and the consensus is clear: we must reform our enrollment and admissions policies and expand access to quality schools,” said the chancellor. “The decades-long status quo of dread and stress around this process ends under this administration.

“As we look ahead to next year and beyond, we will continue to collaborate with our families on strategies to streamline our policies and expand high-quality learning opportunities for every child.”
Some of the changes Banks wants for the 2022-’23 school year include: simplifying and streamlining all enrollment and admissions processes, from 3-K to Gifted and Talented and to high school; increasing opportunities for students in all zip codes to eliminate roadblocks to success; adjusting the learning process recognizing that one-size-doesn’t-fit-all for students and building trust with the community.

This, said Banks, should take the burden off families who are confused about the application process. It’s part of his four-pillar system, which he unveiled earlier this month, that would establish a ‘new normal’ in the public school system.

During a news conference with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the mayor recited something that he hears Banks say regularly.

“It’s not about dismantling something because you did not create it,” Adams said during the announcement for the Summer Rising program for K-8 (designed to provide internships and jobs for city kids whether it’s through Community Based Organizations or the Summer Youth Employment Program). “It’s about taking what’s worked and building on it.”

Some parent organizations believe that Banks’ goals have aligned with the city and Albany and it seems to be working for now. On Monday, Jasmine Gripper, the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, approved of the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly’s 2022-’23 budget proposals including the potential expansion of eligibility for free and affordable childcare. Something that could get Banks’ plan rolling from jump.

“Both the Senate and Assembly proposals also show their strong commitment to New York’s public schools and students,” said Gripper in a statement. “In addition to committing to the second year of the phase-in of the Foundation Aid formula, expansions to pre-K, community schools, and student mental health supports, among other investments, would help alleviate some of the most pressing needs and inequities facing our public schools.”

This year is the same as last with the Bill de Blasio carryover that allows all kids with an average of 85 or higher to be considered for a spot in one of the city’s more competitive schools.
It’s an issue that’s stuck in the craw of the previous administration along with former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. The decade-long fight for admissions into specialized high schools has pitted the city’s Asian-American community against the Black and Brown community with the former stating that “lowering standards” and not counting the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) would leave many of their students out in the cold.

Black and Brown students make up more than 65% of public-school students, but 20% of specialized high school students. According to InsideSchools.org, 71% of Stuyvesant High School students are Asian. Five percent of the school’s students are Black and Brown.

Banks’ process sounds like the results of the 2019 School Advisory Group put together by the previous mayor. The group that included mayor-appointed parents, students, academics and advocates, recommended eliminating gifted and talented programs and replacing them with non-selective magnet schools.

Banks’ summed it up when he commented on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ desire to keep schools under mayoral control. When commenting on the fear of mayoral accountability being left out of the budget, the schools chancellor said, “The amount of inter-agency coordination to make this happen is only made possible because of mayoral accountability, which has been the case for our pandemic response as well.

Mayoral accountability is the foundation of our school system and I’m disappointed that politics are disrupting the security, certainty, and responsible inter-agency planning that our families deserve now more than ever.”

Adams added, “The bottom line is that we should be proactively supporting our children by giving them the certainty they need as soon as possible—particularly after the trauma they’ve experienced over the past two years.”

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