The state’s rules and guidance for private schools now are very, very clear.
If nonpublic schools aren’t providing adequate instruction in math, English, science and social studies, there will be consequences. State education officials said last week that funding could be cut and schools could be shuttered if these curriculum requirements are not met.
And city officials have the power and responsibility to go into every nonpublic school, including yeshivas, and evaluate whether they’re meeting state standards.
The state’s guidance comes in the wake of city findings that showed that 30 yeshivas across NYC weren’t teaching secular subjects at appropriate levels. Some were teaching only in Yiddish, Hebrew or Aramaic. Others weren’t teaching social studies and science enough, if at all.
Evaluating these schools and others should be a priority for Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. Carranza has three years to visit each of the city’s 800 nonpublic schools; after that, visits to each will occur every five years. But there is a particular urgency to check Jewish private schools that have come under fire for offering subpar secular education. Some of those schools previously refused to admit city education officials into their buildings. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said last week that every school must open its doors. And NYC Department of Education officials said they plan to start their evaluations with those schools.
The state standards are specific about time to be spent on math, English language arts, including reading and writing, and other secular subjects. Some of that time, lessons must be conducted in English. Yeshivas can’t dodge this anymore by refusing to let inspectors in or disputing the definition of what is “substantially equivalent” to a public school education. All programs, co-educational or single-sex, have the same standards.
It’s a tragedy that many yeshiva students have been poorly educated for so long. NYC should make public the evaluations’ progress and findings. Only then will we know whether all schools are making the grade.