Monday, November 26, 2012

NYC Elite Middle Schools Lack Diversity

Last week, we learned that our city's elite public schools lack Black and Latino students.

Revisiting The Racially Exclusive Elite Public School Problem

We focused in October of this year on the tragedy of NYC elite public high schools. Because admission to our city's most elite public high schools is based entirely on one long test, the process is easily attacked. It does not account for intellect, grades, character, or any other assets that students might bring to a school.

As we stated in October:
the single-test approach leads to a virtual exclusion of Black and Latino students from these schools. At the best-known school, Stuyvesant, only 19 of the nearly 1,000 students admitted recently were Black, and only 32 were Latino. These 2% and 3% population levels are unacceptable in a school system in which a majority of the students are Black or Latino.

In fact, nearly 31% of white students who take the test are accepted while only 7% of Latinos and 5% of Blacks are accepted.

Unfortunately, this battle in crossing several generations. As the Huffington Post has taught us:
The controversy over admission to New York City's elite high schools is not new. In May 1971, New York Times education columnist Fred Hechinger reported that efforts were being made to eliminate a "discovery" program that allowed for greater black and Hispanic enrollment and school Chancellor Scribner had ordered a study to investigate charges that the entire admission process was discriminatory. To prevent changes, the state legislature passed a law in 1972 to effectively prevent efforts to racially diversify the city's select high schools with the single high-stakes test as the only way to gain admission.

Elite Middle Schools Lacking Black and Latino Students

The top high schools have low single-digit percentages of Black and Latino students, and the elite middle schools have higher numbers, approximately 25% Black and Latino. But, Black and Latino students represent approximately 70% of all students in NYC public schools. The higher percentages appear to come from admissions criteria that go beyond a single test, but the higher percentages are still far too low.

As stated in the NY Daily News, the Anderson School in Manhattan, a top middle school in our city, only 17% of the 569 students are black or Latino, and at Mark Twain in Brooklyn, which has its own admissions exam, again 17% of 1,281 students are black or Latino.

The middle schools show us that we need to move away from the single high-stakes test approach and they show us that simply avoiding the single test is not enough. We need a focused and determined effort to provide Black and Latino students access to the best middle schools and high schools in our city.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Obama Leads on Sandy Where Bloomberg Failed

Last week, President Obama surveyed the damage caused by Sandy in New York. He made a big impression, and the experience made a big impression on him.

Leading Where Bloomberg Failed

President Obama came to New York City last week and filled a leadership game created by Mayor Bloomberg's failures.As the Daily News stated:

The people of the storm needed a leader.

These rudderless victims say their borough president has completely failed them. Mayor Marathon Mike insulted them when he suggested running a race as requiem Mass bells pealed for their Sandy dead.
And so as the holidays approached like grim milestones, these good and weary people needed someone to cheer as a way of celebrating themselves.
The survivors drifted from their damp, moldy, powerless and damaged and destroyed homes on muddy, narrow side streets with names like Neptune, Seafoam, Wavecrest to wait for President Obama, the most powerful man in all the world, to descend in Marine One into the battered New Dorp section of the forgotten borough.
Bloomberg Sandy Blunder
Mayor Bloomberg failed the leadership test presented by Sandy when he pushed for the NYC Marathon to be run in the midst of the beginning of the cleanup and mourning of the loss of life that Sandy brought to our city. The borough most affected by the storm was Staten Island, the traditional starting place for the NYC Marathon. In fact, Staten Island suffered  more than half of the deaths endured by our city as a result of Sandy.
Admittedly, cancelling the marathon threatened losses for the city in terms of reduced tourism dollars, reduced spending from the 1 million would-be spectators, and withdrawn sponsorship funds. But, the Mayor's statements in support of having the marathon move forward as if there was nothing unusual about the circumstances were both insensitive and unrealistic. Our city was somewhat in shock and is still rationing gas and assessing damage weeks later. Fatalities were still being discovered, and resources were desperately needed in the hardest hit areas in order to start the cleanup and begin the healing.
Bloomberg, who as late as Friday morning insisted that the world's largest marathon should go on as scheduled Sunday, changed course hours later after intensifying opposition from the city comptroller, the Manhattan borough president and sanitation workers unhappy that they had volunteered to help storm victims but were assigned to the race instead. The mayor said he would not want "a cloud to hang over the race or its participants."
The  Mayor asked the President to visit New Jersey instead of NYC in the immediate aftermath of the storm as he declared that the marathon would be unaffected. The President was finally welcomed to our city by our Mayor, and the President helped remind us what real leadership is.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NYS - An "Educated' State Supports Obama

New York State led the way as an "educated" state supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama last week.

New York Votes Overwhelmingly to Re-elect President Obama

Only Washington, DC and Vermont voted to re-elect President Obama with larger margins than New York State. An impressive 63% of New York State residents voted for the President, more than the margins in Massachusetts, Maryland, California, and other reliably Democratic states.

While the United States Constitution and New York State law conspire to make the margin of victory irrelevant, our state should be proud of the margin and of its leading role in the President's re-election. All but two states (Nebraska and Maine, which both award electoral votes by Congressional District and then give the two additional electoral votes to the winner of the state-wide vote) award all of their electoral votes to the candidate that wins the most votes for President in their respective states. Therefore, New York provided more electoral votes than any state other than California or Florida (New York and Florida provided equal numbers of electoral votes at 29) for the re-election victory. But, while the 29 electoral votes from New York would have gone to President Obama whether he won by one vote or won one hundred percent of the vote, New York's strong support for the President helped his campaign focus on states that provided more of a challenge. The successful campaigns in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado can be traced to the reliability and the promise of a wide margin provided by our great state.

Obama Sweeps Top 10 Most Educated States

President Obama won each of the 10 most educated states, and the President lost all but one of the least educated states.

New York is the largest state in the group of most educated states.

Here are the 10 most educated states, with those Obama won underlined. The percentage of residents over 25 with a college degree is in parentheses:
Most educated statesLeast educated states
Massachusetts (39.1%)West Virginia (18.5%)
Maryland (36.9%)Mississippi (19.8%)
Colorado (36.7%)Arkansas (20.3%)
Connecticut (36.2%)Kentucky (21.1%)
Vermont (35.4%)Louisiana (21.1%)
New Jersey (35.3%)Alabama (22.3%)
Virginia (35.1%)Nevada (22.5%)
New Hampshire (33.4%)Indiana (23.0%)
New York (32.9%)Tennessee (23.6%)
Minnesota (32.4%)Oklahoma (23.8%)

The President also swept the 10 states that pay the most to teachers. New York State is second only to California in size amongst states with the highest teacher salaries.

Here are the best and worst states for teacher salaries, with states Obama carried underlined and average salary in parentheses:
States with highest average teacher salariesStates with lowest average teacher salaries
California ($63,640)South Dakota ($35,378)
Connecticut ($60,822)North Dakota ($38,822)
New Jersey ($59,584)Mississippi ($40,182)
New York ($59,559)West Virginia ($40,531)
Massachusetts ($58,257)Utah ($41,156)
Illinois ($58,246)Montana ($41,225)
Maryland ($56,927)Missouri ($41,751)
Rhode Island ($55,956)Nebraska ($42,044)
Michigan ($55,526)Maine ($42,103)
Pennsylvania ($54,970)Oklahoma ($42,379)
New York was an important part of an important victory for our country. We are a large states with a highly educated workforce and a reliable set of electoral votes for the Democratic candidate for President in a general election.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy's wrath knocked out power and took lives, pushing all other concerns to the background. Though it was a category 1 hurricane, it caused levels of damage and flooding never seen before.

Harlem Gas Shortages

While Upper Manhattan was largely left intact by Hurricane Sandy, Harlem faced gas shortages in the aftermath of the storm. The loss of power in much of Manhattan and in large sections of New Jersey made Harlem a go-to destination for those seeking gas for cars and for generators. Gas stations in areas with power outages could not pump gas without electricity.

Vehicles endured seemingly endless lines as Harlem gas stations ran out of gas. Some unlucky drivers ran out of gas waiting in line at gas stations that did not have any gas remaining.

We need to find a better system for delivering gasoline when roads are open but electricity is unavailable. Gas generators go into action in such circumstances and add to traditional gas demand levels. Users of gas may panic and become violent. Gas unavailability should not destroy communities that mother nature spared.

Esplanade Gardens Cars totaled

In Harlem's Esplanade Gardens housing complex, 125 cars were totaled by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, Esplanade Gardens did not face deaths; property can be replaced. But, the loss of this large number of vehicles helps underscore the power of a category 1 hurricane to inflict costs on a community that was fortunate to escape the worst of the damage experienced elsewhere.

Rockaways Anger

In the Rockaways, residents greeted the visit of Mayor Bloomberg with anger. As temperatures have dropped, and as bodies have been discovered amongst debris and garbage, there has not yet been help provided to the residents of the Rockaways who soldier on without power.

As the New York Post reported:

The Rockaways’ situation is among the most dire of any of the city’s seaside neighborhoods.

Hundreds of residents continued yesterday to dig out of the wreckage of their wiped-out homes — if they still had homes; 80 in the Breezy Point area were destroyed by fire.

Garbage and debris were everywhere, and the smithereens of the boardwalk were washed far inland.

Cops yesterday uncovered the body of 90-year-old George Stathis, who was found dead in his home on Beach 121st Street.

There was mud on streets where lights weren’t working, sand dunes in front of homes and piles of rubble all over.

“I knew it was going to be real bad, but I never expected this devastation,” said resident Ned Morgan, whose basement flooded up to 6 feet, destroying furniture, family pictures and electronics. “They’re looting cars all over the place,” Morgan said. “This is New York City. They have to help us.”

Staten Island has faced tragedies and destruction that rival the unimaginable turmoil of the Rockaways.

Our city will need a plan to prevent these areas from becoming regular victims of rising tides and storms as climate change begins to have the impact we've been warned about so often.

Proposals for Adjusting to Climate Change

The New York Times recently discussed approaches to dealing with New York City's challenges in an era of rising water levels. Building marshes, reefs, and other protections for our city of islands seems less expensive, more actionable in the near term, and more likely to succeed than building massive flood walls or removing all of the infrastructure, businesses, and dwellings from low lying areas.

Agreeing on solutions to the flood-power-outage challenge we face now after Sandy should be a top priority.