The Biggest Learning Pond
August 18th, 2006

Today’s New York Times has one of those in-depth articles that show up periodically here in our city investigating why minority kids do not get admitted into our three super public high schools: Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. It turns out that in spite of new efforts to prepare black and Hispanic applicants, their admission numbers have gone down. The city’s top officials–who took over New York’s public schools under Mayor Bloomberg–say the numbers are ‘surprising,’ the article reports. They have no explanation.

A major clue, I think, comes from the mouth of young Yusrullah in the excerpt from today’s Times article below. The fact is that within the New York City public schools, access to and use of the Internet for learning is not uniform and when it is used it is filtered. Yet for Yusrullah’s generation there is a very big open literary and learning pond online that they could use. If Public School 108’s vocabulary whiz had been poking around in and other online reading resources in middle school, I doubt that he would have been humbled at the institute where he sweated to prepare for the super school admissions test. He describes how his school background let him down:

For Yusrullah Abdul-MalikDunn, 12, who got an ‘overall excellence’ medal at his sixth-grade graduation, the experience has been humbling.

Yusrullah’s teacher at Public School 108 had called him a ‘walking dictionary,’ but in the first seven pages of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ a book he read for the institute, he found 71 new vocabulary words.

‘My science teacher told me we are all big fishes in our own pond, but now we’re inside a bigger pond,’ he said.

An important way make super school access fair for all kids is to equalize their access to the big knowledge pond online.

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