Quality Education is a Civil Right

But Here’s What You Are NOT GOING TO DO This!

Firstly, I work on Long Island, as a school superintendent of the only K-12 charter school in Suffolk County. A quality education is a civil right.

Given the history of our school; the power of the teacher’s union on LI; and a total lack of knowledge and/or understanding of what school choice means, there’s a great deal of animus towards our school and the work that we do. We have accepted and embraced this, and vow to impact as many students and families as we can, as we get them on a path to college and beyond.

For those of you unfamiliar with Long Island, it is the epicenter of the Opt-out movement. The opt-out movement was designed for parents to allow their students to opt out of NY State tests. These tests were once mandatory.

The Evidence:

Moreover, there’s an idea being floated around by state officials, & Governor Cuomo that would tie teacher evaluations to their student’s performance on NY State exams (ingenious if you ask me). Accountability put suburbia in an uproar, thus creating one of the most successful campaigns of educational defiance of the past 10 years.

Exhibit A: A prominent school superintendent on Long Island writes a letter of reassurance to his principal regarding the school’s 2017-18 growth index scores. These scores tell you if a teacher is Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, & Ineffective (HEDI). To have a score of zero (HEDI) score leaves me at a lost for words. To have a superintendent that encourages this is also very telling as well. The level of entitlement that’s exuded in this correspondence is something that won’t be afforded to a leader of color.

Letter of Assurance

More Evidence:

Exhibit B: The following is the level of proficiency of students from Tremont Elementary School in the 16-17 & 17-18 school years on the NY State Math exam. Given the 2017-18 NY State exams have now become the new benchmark, it’s unfair to compare the 2016-17 results to the 2017-18 results. However, based on this data set, twenty-eight students took the exam in 2018. One student out of the twenty-eight students who tested scored proficient. Seventeen students scored at a level one. Even though this is a minor glimpse of the overall performance of the school due to a high percentage of students opting out of the test, I don’t think anyone should be put up on a pedestal based on these results.

2018 NY State Test Scores

Here’s what we know:

We know kindergarten students from middle-class families, and upper middle-class families come to the table with different skill sets than kids that are the same age, but from a lower socioeconomic status (SES).

• We know that standardized tests are written in a manner that highlights the experiences of the middle and upper class, therefore immediately putting students with the lower (SES) in catch up mode, with the constant need for remediation.

• We also know “Children raised in homes with low income or low levels of parental education are at an increased risk of struggling academically in school” (e.g., Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Duncan & Murnane, 2011; Magnuson, 2007).

• We also know regardless of if you are for/against standardized testing, you can find reasons to substantiate your viewpoint.

Education as a Civil Rights Issue:

Quality education is a Civil Right. Some would say it is the single most important issue of our time. Pre & Post Brown v. Board, education for black and brown students was and still is inadequate. Funding formulas, nor allocated resources can make up for a system that was never designed for the disenfranchised to be successful. I don’t want to make this an issue about race, but I don’t know very many superintendents and/or principals of the minority persuasion that would be allowed to continue their employment with these results.

Works Cited:

Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 371–399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev. psych.53.100901.135233.

Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity?: Rising inequality, schools, and

children’s life chances. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Magnuson, K. A. (2007). Maternal education and children’s academic achievement during middle childhood. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1497–1512. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1497.

Author: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

Mr. Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy. If you believe PoC can end generational poverty by exercising educational opportunities, you have an ally in @Mr_Ankrum.