New York City Board of Education

Public Agenda Meeting

Wednesday, November 28, 2001


Testimony of Elizabeth Carson

Parent, Community School District Two




Re: Item # 12 Request for a lease of the premises located at 411 East 76th Street, New York, New York, for use as a high school for Community School District 2.


Chancellor Levy, President Segarra and Members of the Board:


I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to the resolution before you, the approval of a lease of the Southeby’s warehouse; with premises intended to house a new high school, to be governed by Community School District 2 or “for whatever purposes the Board of Education deems appropriate.”


I support Board approval of the lease of the building. However, I have grave reservations with the proposal to grant Community School District 2 the responsibility to govern the new high school, planned. I encourage you to consider, as per the Board resolution  provisions, an alternative to District 2 governance:  Let the Board assume administration, and extend a zoning system and suitably rigorous program offerings, that would lead to the establishment of a  neighborhood college preparatory high school on the Upper East Side.


I make this recommendation with a sense of sadness and a sense of lost opportunity.  I am a District 2 parent and hold District 2 administrators and teachers in very high regard. There are many among them of exceptional caliber. The districts’ exemplary leadership and professional development models are recognized nationwide. However, the districts’ decisions regarding  the high school, that were recently approved by the local school board, on zoning and replication of the curricular policies already in effect for the other district high schools, together, hold a very remote potential to provide for either a  neighborhood high school, or one with a  rigorous college preparatory program.



The zoning for the high school, under District 2, will be district-wide. Given the  overall geography and the many neighborhoods within the district, this broad zoning will not necessarily, and in fact, will unlikely lead to a school with a student population primarily from the Upper East Side..A true neighborhood high school, would require tighter zoning regulations than District 2 is willing to provide. A neighborhood high school could complete a neighborhood K-12 school continuum This construct offers the potential for better accountability within and among the three levels  of schools in the community. It provides for a sustained, more effective parental involvement; in the forms of financial and technical support, participation in school decisions and policy, and community building.  The desire for good neighborhood schools at all levels, has been popular with parents for a long time, the requisite commuting inherent in a citywide school choice system, never desirable,has grown more worrisome, since the tragedy of 9/11. A commitment to a K-12 continuum in neighborhoods across NYC is one parents would like to make, if only given the opportunity.



College preparatory math and science

The academic program policies under District 2, would severely inhibit the potential for  rigorous college preparatory math and science programs. Currently, the district mandates use of one high school math program, ARISE, which must be taught in the first three years in all district high schools, grades 9-11. Though current district policy would allow for provision of  AP calculus, chemistry and physics, in the new school it is extremely unlikely these AP math and science programs could maintain their integrity in the next several years, because ARISE does not provide adequate mathematical preparation for these advanced courses. ARISE is not itself, a college preparatory math program These are the conclusions reflected in the combined evaluations and opinions of  NYU and CUNY mathematicians, District 2 teachers, Stuyvesant math instructors and members of last year’s Math Commission. Their views have been provided in public documents, discussions with parents, testimony before the District 2 school board, and presentations at the citywide math forum held at NYU, last June.


I quote from the draft report of the Math Commission:

Under Recommendation 2: Establish New Options for grades 9-11 emphasizing formal and abstract mathematical competency for all students who desire them


In referring to aspects of programs, of which ARISE is one, the report states:


“The net effect of these applications is that less emphasis is placed on arithmetical or mathematical ideas, and the formal abstract contextual settings sought particularly by students who will go on to become scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicians, and educators of mathematics.”


And connecting the needs of those aspiring to careers in technical fields, with  references to the NCTM standards, (which the ARISE program is based on) the report  states: 


“Despite their many strengths, the NCTM standards do not contain the rigor, algorithmic approach, formal methods and logical reasoning which are required of this small but critically important  population.”


A suitable college preparatory program must include preparations for math and science college coursework, which  District 2’s  math programs simply do not provide.


I have appended the excerpt of the Math Commission draft report, quoted, and one relevant news article.


Parent led campaign

I applaud the efforts and commitment of everyone involved in the five-year effort to establish a high quality neighborhood high school.


Among those most committed, and for the longest time, now, very differing views on the best next steps are held. I hope the Board will be able to facilitate an end result that satisfies, to an acceptable degree, the original goals, for all those who have become so invested in this cause.


I would like to see similar campaigns launched in neighborhoods across NYC. For, I believe the parents’ goals, and devotion  to those goals, represent two important keys to the salvation of urban public education.



Thank you.






Excerpt from Draft Report, Commission on Mathematics Education, NYC, 2001, pp 9-10

“Schools’ New Math..,” Carl Campanile, NY Post, April 17, 2001