E&S is a small, academically selective school in North Philly with a largely black student body, and is one of the school district’s premier magnet programs, along with Central, The Philadelphia High School for Girls and Masterman. When I graduated from E&S, it boasted the highest college acceptance rate in the city — somewhere in the high 90’s.
Yesterday I got a message on Facebook from a fellow graduate, who was forwarding a note from a concerned alumnus about a new plan at our alma mater to admit about 60 marginal students. This concerned alumnus thinks the move will usher in the school’s demise.
It is time for us to band together and unite for the greater good of Engineering & Science high school as we once knew it and as it is now.
We have just recieved word from down town that the superintendent of schools is about to send 60 under achieving 8th Grade students (they are all 15-16 years old with multiple disciplinary problems as well as poor grades) to e&s as students. The way of thinking behind this is to get the kids out of environments they are in and transplant them into environments where the students are learning and doing well in hopes that it will inspire the other kids to do well. Okay, i will admit it may be an interesting way of thinking but not here at E&S. But let me continue. It is to be believed that the kids will have their own special english and math classes then interacti with the other students in the other classes such as engineering, computer science etc.
Why is this not good for E&S?
Some of us may have picked E&S as well as recommended and sent family to the school because of the small nurturing environment, as well as not having to worry about disciplinary issues that prevents children from making progress in their studies. We all made the decision to get the best grades to get to this environment. The students they are sending are not diserving of enrollment in this school, not even borderline. They are Repeaters as it relates to failing in regular comprehensive K-8s and somehow the district thinks that putting them here at e&S where we are an academically rigorous program with influence these kids to learn. It will only further induce frustration and cause many other problems with in the school which in turn will kill our recruiting base and thus lead to the end of Engineering & Science High School. None of these students they are sending has a shot of making enrollment at E&S so why send them here? They are not sending any to Central, masterman, Girls High, They are not even sending any to Capa* which technically would make more sense in the fact that these kids may have talents in the arts and maybe it will inspire them to do well.
Some of you are aware of the situation which occured in chicago over the past weekend and from what i hear this was in relation to what they did in chicago which is exactly what they are trying to do at E&S. its not a healthy solution for either group of Kids. Our students work hard to get here and stay here and diserve not to be disrespected by the district in such a manner.
We are asking for your support in what ever needs to happen. Principal Ahmed and home and school will attempt to hold a meeting Thursday evening october 1st at 6pm at the School. Please forward this to all alumni. If they can not attend you can please Call the school at xxxx to ask what can be done. I can also be reached via this e-mail or cell phone at xxxxx.
Thankyou all in advance for your time and efforts.
I’ll let the irony of the spelling/grammar in this e-mail speak for itself. (And that allusion to the Derrion Albert tragedy is the cheapest kind of fearmongering.)
But what, exactly, would be the downside of giving a grip of underachieving students access to better educational resources/opportunities than they’d otherwise receive?
Our play-cousin Cindy Mosqueda points to an argument by Jeannie Oakes in Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality that said this new arrangement could have significant upside for students of varying aptitude.
Despite the fact that the first assumption — that students learn more or better in homogeneous groups — is almost universally held, it is simply not true. Or, at least, we have virtually mountains of research evidence indicating that homogeneous grouping doesn’t consistently help anyone learn better.
[This finding] leads us to question the assumption that the presence of low and average students in classes has the effect of diminishing the quality of classroom experiences. to the contrary, it appears that the presence of a number of the brightest students in class may raise the quality of both the content presented and the kinds of learning opportunities available to students of all types.”
I’m glad I went to E&S; Ms. Aglira, my English teacher from 9th grade who dressed head-to-toe in the same color like a Power Ranger — earrings matched her pants which matched her shoes which matched her blouse — is easily responsible for half of my vocabulary, and turned me into a word nerd. Ms. McIntosh, my 10th grade English teacher (and an unabashed AKA) was the first person to nudge me in the direction of becoming a writer.** This is sort of a basic organizing principle of my worldview, but getting into/graduating from E&S isn’t a testament to my intellectual ability or discipline, but a testament to my exceeding good fortune. And the idea shouldn’t be to preserve those learning experiences for a select few who meet some arbitrary criteria, but to make them more widely available. We have to wonder about the wisdom of a magnet school system in which a disproportionate amount of educational resources are allocated to students based on their academic performances prior to their 14 birthdays, and leaves those kids deemed unworthy to fend for themselves in overcrowded, neglected and dangerous schools.
*CAPA is the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and gave the world Boyz II Men, The Roots, Bilal and Jazmine Sullivan. (My twin sister, a professional choreographer, went there as well.) This guy’s comments re: CAPA pays that school some kind of backhanded compliment, like a rigorous arts education could help some marginal student find her footing, but a rigorous academic environment could not. That’s type gross.
**When she was handing back a writing assignment on Richard Wright’s “Black Boy,” Ms. Mac singled out my paper and asked me to read my essay aloud to the class. (It was on — surprise! — race and perception.) Mortified, I refused. So she read it aloud herself, while I buried my head in my desk and tried to will myself invisible. When she was done, she rolled up my paper, and clubbed me over the head with it. “This is what I expect from you all the time.” It was a small moment, but it was weighted with that strange power only wielded by teachers and parents, and so I’ve never forgotten it. And, yeah, I went to a high school for math and science to realize that I was supposed to be a writer. Your boy’s none too bright.
From the president of the Alumni Association:
“In a conversation with the school this morning, indications are that the District has changed its mind with respect to E&S. The meeting, however, will still take place and all who are able are asked to still show up at 6:00 on October 1st, just so that we can stay informed. It is important for us to be on the ready in the instance that the District revisits its plan. ”
Many of you have contacted us to find out what you can do to help. You can write letters, and call the school/school district to voice your concerns. In light of the recent news, we will relay more information after tonight’s meeting. Thank you for your concern and willingness to advocate for E&S!
Ugh. I’m at a loss.