Promoting diversity by increasing language classes, providing more awareness among students and parents about college attendance and preparation, and boosting student attendance by having parents more involved are among the goals of the city’s Department of Education (DOE) for the new school year, beginning in September.
These were among the subjects discussed on Wednesday, July 13 by Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack and the Executive Superintendent of the Division of Family and Community Engagement Yolanda Torres at a roundtable discussion with members of the press held at DOE headquarters.
With the city being so diverse, the DOE has been trying to make it a priority to promote language education in elementary, middle and high schools, according to Farina.
“We believe that diverse, integrative schools are important because they help students succeed and it has been a core strategy since the chancellor took office,” said Wallack. “There’s been even more attention to it in recent months and we’re adopting system approaches that are going out to all schools.”
According to Farina, Wallack and Torres, the decision was made to wait for elementary schools to come forward with their own proposals, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all plan on city schools, to encourage a more diverse learning environment within the schools.
The DOE is also focusing on promoting more dual language programs by adding them to elementary and middle schools. The programs will also have an increase of language options with the additions of Japanese, Polish, Arabic and Bengali, catering to more languages and cultures.
Considering the increasing necessity of college degrees, Farina is also making a goal of encouraging college attendance for all students. According to the DOE, the low percentage of minority students taking the SAT can be attributed to lack of accessibility.
“This coming year, we will administer SATs during the school day for easier accessibility,” said Farina. “Every single 11th grade student will be taking it in their own school during the school day, free of charge.”
In addition, to tackle the lack of knowledge about the college process on the part of both students and parents, the DOE is trying to get all students and parents talking about college with “College Awareness Day,” a day when everyone talks about college in the classrooms.
Kids as young as middle school age are now so aware of college, they actually have been visiting campuses, according to the DOE leadership, who said that classes will also be provided for parents to learn about the college application and financial aid processes.
The DOE has become more tech savvy, too. As a way to involve parents and manage student attendance, the DOE has created an app for parents/guardians to download, so that, if the student doesn’t attend school that day, the parents get a notification.
“A lot of stuff we’re doing this summer is concerning students being ready for school, preventing them from regressing, and having parents be engaged,” said Farina. “If parents aren’t happy with their children’s education, then we haven’t done our job.”