“I’d be really cautious” of screening students, she said, “if integration is one of the potential goals.”
In fact, the 99 total white students enrolled at the two highest-performing schools is more than double the number of white students at the district’s other 10 middle schools combined, according to an analysis of state data by Rob Underwood, a member of the district’s community-education council.
The model for Dock Street is the Salk School of Science, a prestigious school in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood. Salk screens applicants based on their test scores, grades, writing samples, and a science exercise, among other factors.
Cynthia McKnight, an elementary-school parent and member of the redesign team, said her older son attended Salk. While she loved the first-class education he received there, she said it came at the expense of diversity: He was the only black boy in his class.
Last year, 85 percent of Salk students were white or Asian and only 10 percent received subsidized lunch, a measure of poverty. In the district where Salk students must live, 72 percent of students are white or Asian and 42 percent receive free or reduced-priced lunches.
While Dock Street plans to strive for greater diversity, McKnight said, many parents also made clear that they would not consider the school if it continued to admit any student who applied.
“A lot of parents wouldn’t send their children here if they didn’t have a screen,” she said.
Other parents said the desire for a selective school reflects the scarcity of local options for high-performing students. In addition, it could help assuage concerns that Dock Street is just Satellite West rebranded—especially since the redesigned school would keep the same principal and teachers.
Barbara Freeman, the district superintendent, and some members of the redesign team insisted that Dock Street can screen applicants and still enroll a diverse mix of students. And the lessons of the redesign could also benefit the district’s other middle schools, she added, which are struggling to capitalize on the influx of new families.
“As the district continues to go forward with gentrification and the changes, how are we equipped to answer these big questions?” she said.
For now, it appears that some parents are still unaware of Satellite West’s pending transformation into a selective school. Faraji Hannah-Jones, a parent at the school that Satellite West currently shares a building with, said he was surprised to learn about the change, which he called a “recipe for disaster.” He said that in attempting to draw in more middle-class families, the policy risked excluding the neediest ones.
“If you’re going to have something like this that’s supposed to be special,” he said about the revamped school, “it should benefit the kids who need it most.”
This post appears courtesy of ChalkBeat New York.