As the school year begins, there once again will be NYC students who aren’t taught to read English until the second or third grade, whose lessons are taught primarily in Yiddish, Hebrew or Aramaic, and who are barely learning social studies and science — if at all.
The details regarding the education provided at 30 of the city’s yeshivas, outlined in a letter released last month from NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to the state Education Department, are troubling. Even worse, however, is the discovery that the city Department of Education was unsuccessful over two years in its efforts to visit 15 of those schools. Only on the day Carranza issued his letter did eight schools say they’d accommodate visits.
Advocates say those schools weren’t denying access. But clearly, it wasn’t just a scheduling problem.
At the schools the city visited, NYC officials seem to think there have been some improvements in the last three years, but it’s clear the secular education still isn’t good enough. The DOE visited science classes in only three of the 15 yeshivas, and history classes in only two. Only two schools had student assessments to show. And the schools still haven’t provided the DOE with full curricula, so it’s impossible to know what’s actually being taught. None of that seems like an education that’s “substantially equivalent” to what public school students are getting — the DOE’s standard.
Advocates say they’re open to visits, and they know there’s room for improvement. They must show they’re serious. State education officials say they’re reviewing Carranza’s letter. That has to happen expeditiously, and then state and city officials have to determine next steps. Meanwhile, the 15 yeshivas with closed doors must open them. Many of these schools receive federal or state funding, which should be at stake if they resist.
This investigation has dragged on for three years. The education of these students by government standards must be an urgent priority. If the students’ teachers and school leaders won’t look out for them, the state and the city must.