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Comments of the week: Diverse views on diversity and far more

The city might have been empty and slow during this summer holiday week, but GothamSchools commenters stayed busy. Our comments section buzzed with talk of turnaround, teachers’ benefits, school gentrification, and more.

So as we do each week, we’re highlighting a sampling of thoughtful, substantive, and informed comments that help us meet our goal of elevating public dialogue about education.

Our post on former Department of Education official Eric Nadelstern’s paper about the network support structure he created focused on the portion criticizing the department’s current direction. But one reader, “east sider,” thought the more interesting material came earlier:

Forget about the Nadelstern comments – read the introduction to the article and the description of portfolio districts. Increasingly districts around the country are moving toward this model … and the word “union” is absent from the discussion.

It is attractive because it allows mayors to claim credit for successes and avoid blame for failures – the portfolio manager, be it a for profit or not for [profit], takes the hit.

Nadelstern and Bloomberg are the past – the future is more troubling.

Some readers took issue with researcher Jennifer Stillman’s argument in the Community section that achieving diverse schools in gentrifying neighborhoods is best accomplished by creating new schools. “Public school parent” wrote,

Public schools need to find a middle ground, and the “gentry” need to become willing to make some compromises rather than running off and starting their own schools, all the while congratulating themselves on being pioneers. But that won’t happen, because deep down, the gentry doesn’t truly believe their children will benefit from spending time with poor children of color. Or at least not a lot of them. Maybe one or two are okay.

I am a white parent who sends my child to our zoned school, which is plenty progressive. But I’ve watched in horror as most of my peers have fled to “more progressive” pastures … and there is no doubt in my mind that racism is at the root of their dissatisfaction with the zoned school.

Another reader, posting as “District 13 mom” took aim at one of Stillman’s examples:

Brooklyn Arbor, which is the magnet school you seem to be referencing, is being held up as a model of integration? … I am hard pressed to see how a school with a 70% white kindergarten is to be congratulated as diverse, when it will probably be one of the whitest schools in “gentrifying” brooklyn in 3 years’ time.

Some readers picked up on a story linked to in Thursday’s Rise & Shine roundup about a Bronx school that’s sending its arts teachers to the Absent Teacher Reserve because three former teachers surprised the principal by returning from long leaves. “Tim” wrote:

While I am sympathetic to the plight of all ATRs and agree that it was designed as a way to harm tenure, it needs to be mentioned that these particular teachers are headed to the ATR only because other teachers are invoking what I would charitably describe as an obscenely generous benefit*.

*If anyone wants to quibble, fine. But a three- or four-year leave in the private sector? It’s a unicorn.

“NYChistoryteach” begged to differ:

If you are concerned about the fairness of teachers receiving benefits that aren’t available to the private sector there is a slippery slope problem. Shouldn’t we be pointing at anyone who isn’t working in fast food and asking why they receive such a high salary or generous benefits?

I think the real question is how do we guarantee all workers in both the public and private sector with the same maternity leave available to most workers in industrialized nations?

On a story about the ongoing saga of the city’s (formerly-known-as?) turnaround schools, “an anonymous teacher” shared his experience in the classroom. Here’s part of his comment:

Teaching is complex. I know most people out there who are not in the classroom don’t believe it. They remember their school experience in which someone stood in front of a classroom and fed them information. These people probably were good students, on grade level who could read and write. The gap between my students thinking skills and their literacy skills is huge. They are good thinkers, they have great ideas they have terrible literacy skills. It takes years to close that gap.

About teachers — Celia Oyler had this to say about our story looking at a handful of the 193 recent graduates honored by the Department of Education:

All the students’ stories feature educators making a huge difference with the “added value” [sic] that matters!

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