(By Richard Altabe)
New York City has just completed its investigation of yeshivas. While many details are still shrouded in mystery, this much we know for sure: the City gave most yeshivas a failing grade.
If education and educational improvement was the true purpose of the investigation, one would expect that the City would delineate the strengths and weaknesses of the yeshivas it reviewed.
Instead, the City leak to the New York Times places 18 schools in same category: failure. And not just failure. It is as if each school got a zero on the final exam. There is no detail, discussion or differentiation.
If its purpose was to validate existing stereotypes about yeshivas, the City succeeded. The media narrative that it fed was that chassidic yeshivas all fail to adequately educate their students.
Imagine how you would feel if your school that enhanced its curriculum and increased its professional development over the past several years; In spite of those efforts, and the funds expended, your school is listed as failing without any explanation. No distinction is made between your school and one that ignored the City and barred its reviewers from the school.
If any educator would grade his or her entire class as failing without offering an explanation of how the grade was arrived at, they would be laughed or chased out of school. If all students are labeled as failing and equally criticized, there is no incentive for improvement.
A prior report issued by Mayor de Blasio’s administration grouped the schools into several different categories. Many were categorized as “well developed” and approaching equivalency. What happened to those schools? Did they improve? Stagnate? Regress? Did they fall just short of equivalency? Did they fail for some technical reason?
We don’t know, because the City has not told us.
Perhaps the New York Times and anti-yeshiva advocates are happy. After all, for them the entire project was about labeling yeshivas as inadequate.
But from an educational perspective, wasn’t it supposed to be about improvement? But what school will make any effort to change when no matter what steps are taken they will be labeled as poor performing and non equivalent schools?
The City has demonstrated that it simply does not care about improving these schools. But labeling them as bad and scoring points with those who seek to deny parents the right to determine the type of education that best suits their families is an abdication of the City’s role.
As a long time principal, if a teacher who worked for me submitted report card grades without distinguishing the individual strengths and weaknesses of the students, I would put that teacher on notice. The City should be on notice that it and not all yeshivas deserve a failing grade.
The bottom line is that if the City does not care about the strengths, weaknesses and actual performance of these schools why should anyone else
Richard Altabe has served as a renowned educator and community advocate for more than 40 years
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)