Education Department Misled Parents About McCourt School

by - April 29, 2010 at 10:06 pm -

brandeisThe new Frank McCourt High School, scheduled to open in the old Brandeis High School building on 84th Street this September, is supposed to be open to all sorts of kids from throughout the city. But a booklet prepared by the Department of Education about the school said that only students who scored at grade level or above on tests would be accepted, the Daily News reported.

The department did that so that it wouldn’t scare away “the typical UWS parent” who wouldn’t want to send his or her kids to a school that accepted underperforming kids, the News says, based on an email the newspaper obtained. The McCourt school is a specialized high school focused on writing and community service that is open to students who apply from all over all New York City, not just the Upper West Side. (That said, students tend to want to go their local high school if it’s any good)

We asked the Education Department about the News article and spokesman Danny Kanner sent us this statement: “To be clear, the Department of Education is committed to making the new Frank McCourt HS reflect the diverse communities the school will serve. The school will consider students who score at Levels 2, 3, or 4 on state exams, and applicants will be evaluated based on several criteria, including test scores, student interviews, attendance, and writing samples. We have communicated this policy extensively through school fairs, open houses, and parent list servs, and it will be clarified in future high school directories.”

Asked if parents were deliberately misled to make the school seem more appealing, Kanner did not respond.

I attended an open house for the school a couple of weeks ago and Principal Danielle Salzberg was clear during her presentation to parents that test scores would only be one factor the school would consider, and that an interview would count heavily toward whether a student is admitted. She said the school is looking for students who are open to working with people from different backgrounds and with different mindsets.

The McCourt High School grew out of a community effort to replace the Louis Brandeis School on West 84th Street, which is closing because of performance problems. It is one of four specialized schools that will share the building (the other 3 are already up and running). Parents and other supporters of the school initially wanted it to be open only to Upper West Siders, but the city eventually decided it should be open to anyone from the five boroughs. Students from outside of Manhattan have already been admitted for next year’s class, Salzberg told us.

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