I truly enjoy acrimony between elite hipster liberals whose true colors come out like Bloods and Crips when they begin discussing school zoning issues. From Park Slope, Brooklyn:
When Park Slope mom Anita Gasser-Bodzin told her friends how much her daughter Emma was thriving in a second-grade class with chess, gardening, music and drama programs, her fellow mothers immediately wanted to know which school the 7-year-old was attending.
When she told them Emma was at P.S. 282, “their eyes almost fell out,” Gasser-Bodzin remembers.
This same group of moms had questioned her decision to send Emma to P.S. 282. “My friends were like, ‘Don’t you know it’s a black school?’ I was like, ‘What did you just say?’” Gasser-Bodzin recalled.
Even in a neighborhood that prides itself on progressive thinking, discomfort around P.S. 282′s racial makeup is a common theme when families chat about local schools, parents say.
First thing’s firth: hyphenated name alert. P.S. 282 is 73% black and 4% white. Many in the district bend the rules to send their kids to P.S. 321 which is 64% white and 15% black:
Meanwhile, P.S. 282 suffers from the perception that it doesn’t measure up academically to its neighborhood peers.
Some say that reputation is undeserved, but it means that few local families are willing to send their kids to P.S. 282. A mere 15 percent of P.S. 282′s pre-K through fifth-grade students actually live in the school’s zone, a desirable section of the North Slope full of multimillion-dollar brownstones.
“There’s a mythology that’s developed in the Slope among more affluent parents, especially those newer to the neighborhood, about P.S. 282 that is wildly different from the on-the-ground reality,” Underwood said.
“P.S. 282 is a great school.”
Gasser-Bodzin said she’s mystified by the school’s bad reputation. Her two daughters love P.S. 282 so much they “skip” to the school every morning, and she’s been “blown away” by their academic progress, she said.
Her older daughter, Emma, started reading chapter books at the end of kindergarten, she said.
I have to laugh at Gasser-Bodzin being “blown away” at the progress of her daughters. “Compared to what?” is the economist’s response to a measure as relative as early age intellectual development. Did Gasser-Bodzin expect her kids to regress at this early stage in life?
I looked at the stats of each school compiled by the New York Times (P.S. 282
and P.S. 321
) to see how similar the two schools were in terms of performance. Intentionally or not, the article makes it seem as if the two schools perform similarly despite their racial differences. That’s mainly because they lead with a parent who clearly is blind to the world.
One pattern that often goes unmentioned is that the performance of students in schools with lots of minorities or poor students tend to perform worse and worse as they get older. The opposite seems true at schools with low proportions of such students. P.S. 321 student improved slightly from the 3rd to the 5th grade. Perhaps we can extrapolate all the way up through high school. Would parents rather send their kids to a school whose students perform better and better each year, or would they rather send their kids to a school that for some reason has students whose trajectory points downward? P.S. 282 students fell off a cliff. Does Gasser-Bodzin think that her daughters won’t be negatively effected by this?
Robert Underwood, a P.S. 282 parent, posts a quote he sent to the article’s author that was left out of the piece:
But in Brooklyn the diversity is real. And Park Slope is in Brooklyn, not Maine. If white parents want exclusively white, affluent schools, they should move to Darien. I just find it kind of amazing how there exist as many white parents in the Slope as there are who can so strongly support a black man for President, but can’t get their heads around their child going to a majority African-American school led by a strong African-American woman.
I agree with Underwood and part of my joy in discussing this topic comes from the hypocrisy of these NIMBY liberal parents who are totally cool with theoretical diversity. But to flip Underwood’s point, these white parents could and seemingly should let their local policy determine their national policy. They should take their local attitude and scale it upwards rather than adopting a utopian ideal which they’ll never live by.