Here in central Brooklyn, some parents and retired educators say they disagree with Mayor de Blasio's plan to diversify the city's most selective public high schools. Very few kids from this largely black district get into those elite schools.
But the parents and the retired educators say scrapping the admissions test as the mayor proposes would wrongly lower the bar. They want to prove there's another way.
"We're concerned educators,” said Lynnette Brinson, a retired assistant principal of PS 91 in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. “We know the potential is here, we see it. We've helped to cultivate it. We need to help to harness the talents of these youngsters and to help their parents with the resources to get them into these specialized schools.”
They want to launch an intensive afterschool and weekend program with 30 high-achieving black and Hispanic third graders. The students would receive tutoring and enrichment until they take the specialized high school exam in 8th grade. The experience, they say, would mirror some of the preparation and focus that benefit white and Asian students elsewhere.
"We want to prove a point that you don't need to lower the bar for children of color,” said Nancie Katz, an investigative journalist and co-founder of of a non-profit called Seeds in the Middle. “They are just as capable as anyone else of getting into those schools. We want to give them the same prep and the same learning that other children get."
The group needs $90,000, or $3,000 per student, to launch the program. They're seeking sponsors, applying for grants, and have launched a GoFundMe page.
Other small non-profits offer free tutoring for low income students to prepare them for the specialized high school exam, and the city has a free prep program called Dream as well, but they don’t start with students this young.
"It's too late by middle school,” said Solomon Long, a retired principal from PS 91. “Most of the competition starts in grade school, second grade, third grade. We want to do it in third grade. For a child to have a chance, they have to have five years of intensive study."
Solomon Long and Lynnette Brinson say many of the gifted and talented classes and academic after-school programs for smart black and Hispanic students here are gone. By bringing one back, they hope to give bright kids from Crown Heights, Flatbush and Brownsville a path to schools like Stuyvesant.