NYC should pass all students amid coronavirus shutdown, advocates demand

All high school seniors should graduate, all middle school students should receive full credit, elementary schoolers should get no grades and everyone should be promoted, demand 37 education advocates led by City Councilman Mark Treyger.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the ugliest inequities in our society into the glaring light for all to see. We must not continue the same system that resulted in these inequities, but must instead fundamentally change the way we think about our education, our society, and the world,” reads a letter sent Friday to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

“In addition to the enormous number of lives lost and many more having fallen ill, New York City’s most vulnerable families and communities are suffering the ripple effect of harm caused by decades of segregation and systemic disinvestment in historically marginalized communities,” it continues.

Treyger, chairman of the City Council’s education committee, is the letter’s lead signer, followed by nonprofit groups including Advocates for Children, Class Size Matters, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, along with several Community Education Council members.

While the nation’s largest school system, with 1.1 million students, has launched an at-home instruction program, it has gotten off to a rocky start, with thousands of kids still without laptops or iPads, or Internet service.

The letter says “remaining technical disparities alone warrant complete restructuring of the way students are evaluated towards a more humane grading system.”

The city Department of Education should ease the emphasis on academics, it says, recommending that all elementary school students receive only “narrative reports” for the current marking period — no grades.

“Instruction during the school shutdown should be built around social cohesion, critical consciousness, social-emotional support, belonging, inclusion and wellness.”

Under the proposal for high school seniors, schools would provide “post-graduation and college transition support and planning,” the letter urges.

Students who need to complete work from prior terms would get summer instruction so they can graduate in August.

And 21 year-olds — normally the age when students must leave the public-school system — could return to high school for the 2020-21 academic year.

For lower grades, the curriculum should provide “space for students to reflect on their current reality,” the letter says.

Teachers should work with families to develop “individualized learning plans.”

Middle and high school students could get “intensive support over the summer and next school year to progress academically.”

The letter concludes: “This pandemic is an opportunity to dismantle systems of oppression and build a society that honors our collective humanity.”

The letter was also sent to Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and DOE Chief Academic Officer Linda Chin.

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