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"The School System as Sorting Mechanism"

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I'm making good on my promise to skim a review copy of Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age and tell you what it says about schooling in New York City. I've featured the study already for how it concludes that children of immigrants in New York City now in their 20s are generally doing very well work-wise and education-wise.

The book has a fascinating chapter reporting on how some immigrant groups tend to figure out how to enroll children in magnet schools and other top-of-the-line public schools in New York City while other immigrant groups do not. The chapter, "The School System as Sorting Mechanism," says, for example, that Chinese immigrant parents are most likely to find the best options within the public school system. One in five Chinese students in the study attended a magnet high school in the city. Eight percent of Russian students attended such schools; 4.4 percent of West Indian students did. Even lower percentages of South American, Dominican, or Puerto Rican students attended such schools.

Even when it came to working-class families, Chinese immigrants "managed a striking degree of access to the better public high schools," the book says. One factor is that the Chinese media informed Chinese parents about magnet schools. One Chinese participant in the study attended a Catholic elementary school when her family first lived in a low-income neighborhood with poor-quality schools. Then the family saved enough money to move to a middle-class neighborhood, where the girl attended a public school, which was of excellent quality. Such moves driven by education goals are typical among Chinese families, according to the book.

But that seems not to be the case with some other immigrant groups, such as Dominicans or Puerto Ricans, who had lower educational attainment by their 20s than other immigrant groups studied. Dominicans tend to buy homes in the Dominican Republic rather than use their resources to buy homes in New York City and thus move to the neighborhoods with better schools in the city. And Puerto Ricans, the book says, tend more than other immigrant groups to live in public housing, and consequently get "trapped" in low-income neighborhoods with low-performing schools.

I'm wondering what educators in New York City can do to combat some of these differences between immigrant groups that lead to very different levels of education attainment. For starters, it seems, the school system should make sure that all parents learn about magnet schools. The long-lasting solution, of course, would be to upgrade all public schools in New York City, so that no kid ends up in a low-performing school.

4 Comments

What a great blog!

This entry illustrates the need to find a way to improve educational opportunities for ELLs at all schools. Mary Ann said it best when she stated, "The long-lasting solution, of course, would be to upgrade all public schools in New York City, so that no kid ends up in a low-performing school."

Several schools in New York City are doing just that with their ELLs. Here is a link to short video clips of New York City Public School Principals and teachers who are using an innovated approach to advancing their ELLs:

www.imaginelearning.com/testimonials

Once at the link just click on the icon labeled New York. It is on the right and has a picture of three ELLs on it.

I believe this is one way, a powerful way, of reaching the needs of all ELLs and it is within the reach of every school to provide it to their students and to make a difference right away.


[EDITOR’S NOTE: In regard to the following comment, Dr. Krashen later contacted Imagine Learning about the use of his name in online promotional materials, and Imagine Learning removed the reference.]

Derrin Hill is associated with Imagine Learning. He is the vice president for sales. His post is an ad for his company.
Also: Imagine Learning's website suggests I have some connection with their product: They say that their product was "informed by experts in the field including .... Stephen Krashen." This is false.

As a special education teacher in NYC for many years, I have seen how different ethnic groups seem to congretate in certain neighborhoods, therefore are destined to be sent to their home-zoned schools. Now, with NCLB, in which parents are able to choose high-performing schools when their child's school is not high-performing, many children are still having difficulty even in their newer schools.
Educators need to realize that if we do not reach out to parents, many of these children will not be successfuln no matter what we do. In certain cultures, education is important, and in other cultures it is not.

New York City is a difficult system and sometimes it seems almost deliberately so. At this point, the so called "magnet" school program has more or less been enlarged to include every school, even those that can only attract students with no place else to go. The problem with this system is that it works only for the lucky students: lucky because of their economic, racial or ethnic background, or perhaps lucky because they have very single-minded parents who have the determination and know how to figure out the system. Some of the immigrant students are in fact lucky. Some of the non-immigrant, African American students in particular, are frequently not so lucky.

Your long-lasting solution is the only one that really holds hope for all. I think it can be done, but I don't know exactly how.

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