Schools, race and inclusion


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Educators at a District 3 meeting discuss the challenges that minority students face in NYC


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  • At the meeting (left to right): CEC 3 Member Sharmilee L. Ramudit; P.S. 452 Principal Scott Parker; Chancellor Richard Carranza; Christopher Emdin of Teachers College; Chala Holland, America to Me participant; P.S. 452 parent Zakiya Raines Heyden. Photo: Jason Cohen



“Even if have to wait for the curriculum to change, good teachers with a bad curriculum can teach kids.”

Christopher Emdin, Teacher’s College



Educators discussed race and education last week and agreed that schools focus too much on testing, curriculums need to change and teachers need to make more of an effort to get to know their students.

On April 16, District 3 hosted a panel at the Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts on West 114th Street. The speakers included Chancellor Richard Carranza; Christopher Emdin, a noted Teachers College scholar; Chala Holland, America to Me series participant and 2018 recipient of the Courageous Conversation Principal Leadership Award; P.S. 452 Principal Scott Parker, a former WESTY Award honoree; P.S. 452 parent Zakiya Raines Heyden; and CEC 3 member Sharmilee Ramudit, moderator of the discussion.

The consensus among the educators is that even in 2019, minorities in New York City public schools are still not receiving the best education. Throughout the evening, Emdin stressed that if teachers had the freedom and knowledge to teach students in the way they want and not according to an outdated curriculum and standardized tests, things might be different.

“I think often times we push for integration for the sake of ... forcing folks to be as invested in other people’s children as they would be in theirs,” Emdin told the audience.

Since Carranza began as chancellor about a year ago, he said he has seen one glaring issue with the system. That is when the budget is done people look at the numbers, he said, not the students as individuals.

If this continues, how can students grow and education improve? he asked.

Carranza said that adults always feel uneasy about talking about integration.

“How about kids in school environments — how uncomfortable are they,” he said. “The current system is to designed to privilege certain kids and not privilege other kids.”

Raines Heyden, who grew up going to private schools, said there is a stark difference in the education she received than what her kids get today. In private schools, teachers have more freedom to teach, while in public schools, children don’t learn the true history of African and Native Americans.

“I don’t feel the curriculum in the schools are diverse at all,” she commented. “I feel that the curriculum is where changes need to be made.”

Getting to Know the Students

Emdin expanded on her point, but also somewhat disagreed. He acknowledged the curriculum is outdated, but said that if teachers spent time getting to know their students then the curriculum might be less of an issue.

“There’s still this onus on the students to work harder while there’s none on the educator to push further out of their comfort zone,” he said. “Even if they have to wait for the curriculum to change, good teachers with a bad curriculum can teach kids.”

Emdin continued and expressed his discontent with how schools focus too much on assessments preparing for standardized tests and not the students.

“I don’t have an issue with the assessment,” he explained. “I have an issue with instruction that is so tethered to the assessment that there’s no space for anything other than that.”

The chancellor strongly echoed their sentiments about how schools are failing the students. Schools need to be a place where kids are valued as much as their test scores, he argued.

“The system, the way it’s structured forces us to look at students like commodities,” Carranza said.

Among the residents in the packed auditorium at the event was Maryum Opa, whose children go to P.S. 180 on West 120th Street. She feels the economic disparity in District 3 plays a major role in education.

Opa contended that schools south of 110th Street are better because parents who are more affluent can contribute more to the schools. The city should make sure that every school is good, not just in certain areas, she said.

Like the panelists, she agreed that teachers need to care more about the students and not just test scores.

“I’m very concerned about diversity inclusion in our schools,” Opa said. “If tax-paying is what makes schools robust, why aren’t we seeing the changes?”






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