More than 50 members of the District 22 community, including parents and faculty, logged onto Zoom on Tuesday evening, October 11th to participate in the monthly meeting of Community District Education Council 22 (CEC 22), a very interesting one to be sure.
There were a number of pressing matters discussed over the course of the meeting, which ran over two hours, but the hot button issue was, without question, the tremendous controversy surrounding admissions screenings for some middle and high schools, a process the previous administration had ended in favor of a random lottery system, two years ago. The debate has just now returned to the forefront, having resurfaced when NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks announced, late last month, that he rejected a one-size-fits-all approach and would therefore reverse the prior administration’s decision by allowing each district to decide how to handle its own admissions processes.
Although his decision was very diplomatic and seems truly grounded in the best interests of students, Banks has, in a way, passed the buck down to the individual district superintendents who will be tasked with making the difficult final decision, albeit informed by the feedback they collect from their community. In the case of District 22, which encompasses elementary and middle schools only, Superintendent Julia Bove and her staff are working hard to collect that feedback through surveys, requests for public comment and a town hall meeting in order to accurately gauge where families are on this complicated issue.
Bove explained that there are a limited number of options available to her at this point, primarily due to a lack of physical space, but that a screened middle school program could be established at J.H.S. 14 Shell Bank, located at 2424 Batchelder Street, which would serve students whose 4th grade composite scores (report card grades, not standardized test scores) rank them in the top 10th percentile, if families in her district decide they want it. There was a very mixed response from those in attendance, with some questioning the equity of the method of screening as well as the location itself, while others said they would be more than willing to commute if it meant giving their child the opportunity to engage in accelerating learning.
There was also discussion of “schoolwide enrichment,” a concept that proponents in the group presented as an alternative to programs given what is perhaps a misnomer: “gifted and talented” – a term that irks those who argue every student is talented in their own way. They said that the concept is such that struggling students aren’t left behind and that excelling students aren’t held back. The superintendent agreed with members who expressed their support for schoolwide enrichment and cited a number of successful models already in place in District 22. She said that allowing kids to study yoga, robotics, hydroponics and nutrition during those pivotal pre-teen years helps them to identify their talents and interests and that it is something she would like to explore and discuss further.
The next meeting of CEC 22 will be held on Tuesday, November 8th at 6:30 p.m.