New York City’s public school system unraveled last year in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. Today, foundational concepts—such as the importance of compulsory school attendance and the collection and dissemination of basic measures of average daily attendance, class grades, and test scores—have been abandoned. Before the pandemic, criticisms of public schools typically centered on performance measures: Were enough students meeting state benchmarks? Was success evident across all racial, socioeconomic, and ability groupings? Those were simpler times.
While Covid-19 was a novel event, the seeds of the school system’s unraveling were planted in the earlier years of the current mayor’s term. After the creation in real, tangible educational opportunity for lower-income students through the aggressive creation of charter schools and new district schools in the previous 12 years, the system pivoted to an unworkable and divisive attempt to redistribute access to seats in high-performing schools. The result has been the alienation of parents in communities across the city. New York needs to retain its working families if it is to rebound from the current downturn. That will not be possible unless parents in all communities believe that the city is once again a place where they can raise their children safely and have them educated in high-quality schools. While continuing to strive for equity and increased opportunity in the school system, the city must find a way to work with and respect parents, not lecture them on their educational choices.
Join senior fellow Andy Smarick, Wai Wah Chin, Kathleen Porter-Magee, and Ian Rowe for a discussion on how the next mayor and chancellor can fix New York’s broken schools.