Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Educating All Kinds of Students in NYC Public Schools

Two articles this week in The New York Times focused on New York City public schools, offering perspectives on how children are being educated in creative ways and how international families, new to New York City, are enrolling their children in the public schools.

At P.S. 142, an elementary school in lower Manhattan where, according to the Times article, almost all of the students qualify for free lunch, teachers are eschewing lessons specifically focused on reading skills and, instead, are exposing their students to life experiences that more affluent students take for granted. Students are building their reading comprehension by reading street signs, going to the market, and visiting a parking garage -- all of which help them broaden their life experiences and the "frame of reference" they bring to reading.

These students practice such traditional skills as making predictions about what they will read when they visit a hospital or learn math by calculating market purchases and how many quarters they will need to put into parking meters. They are encouraged to use play centers in their classroom well beyond kindergarten, and to enrich their lives with experiences that they can use to better understand the world around them, as well as to help them master the language, math, and other skills that students from middle class environments encounter in their daily lives. 

Meanwhile, a separate article looks at the trend for "the foreign-born affluent" -- families with incomes of over $150,000 per year where both parents were born abroad -- to enroll their children in New York City public schools at a rate (almost 68%) that is nearly twice that of American born parents with similar incomes. The figures cited by The Times are even more striking for families with incomes of  $200,000 per year or more, where foreign born parents send their children to public schools 61% of the time, compared to 28% of the time for American born parents at the same income levels. The numbers are similar whether the foreign born parents are in the United States temporarily, for work, or have moved here on a permanent basis and seem to hold true in cities outside New York as well.

The Times piece discusses the comfort level of foreign parents with public education and these parents' desire to have their children educated in a heterogeneous environment. It also notes that parents carefully select neighborhoods with strong public schools.

It is a positive sign for public education in New York City that creative approaches are being implemented to help the most disadvantaged students, while families from across the globe are recognizing that their children can get a quality education in a diverse environment here.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Sharon Terry

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