College Readiness in the South Bronx

Eric Stevenson

What is happening in the zip codes of the South Bronx?  Knowing Your Community Matters.

Right now, according to a document that I recently read on the Department of Education website, about fifty percent of students do not pass their college placement tests.  When I read the percentages during the Bloomberg Era, the percentage was 80 and then it dropped one year to 75 percent as it appeared that students who were eligible for out of state schools had chosen to remain in the city system instead.  That change was caused by the economic recession that affected our entire nation.

I started to speak out about college placement tests in the 1990s in G.E.D. programs and students wisely listened to the advice.  Then I started to learn just how big the problem was and spoke out first a U.F.T. Conference in Queens, explaining that parents have to work with their children a couple of years before to make sure that their children progress and that the schools could be much more effective in helping.

So what is going on in the zip codes of the South Bronx?  Let’s take a quick look at G.E.D. results in 2013.  This is just before Bill de Blasio took office as mayor and as the public advocate de Blasio channeled monies toward G.E.D. which he abandoned as mayor.  You are about to learn the kinds of things that I learned in 2008 as the American Council on Education published test results for ethnic groups.  The public did not know what was going on before, even when things were disastrous for certain ethnic groups. 

New York State

Whites 79.4 African Americans 49.3 Hispanic 55.7 Asian 67.5 American Indian 61.4 Pacific Islander 49.5

A large percentage of people have to take the test over and that is what happens on the college placement exams.  But we do not know what percentage of these groups failed the college placement exams and we should know and find out why.

Take this an example of the kind of help that can be offered to a student.  The NY State GAP program in Jamaica, Queens offered a practice test program to students who needed a G.E.D. and a practice test was administered as part of the professional course of action.  I gave the Official Practice Test to the students that I taught, but I finally realized that there were certain problems to address.  One was that the OPT should be given immediately and not a month later as it was done in the last program that I worked in.  And the GAP program could have done this.  It could have given out information before the practice test to candidates that explained what a satisfactory composition consisted of so that when the candidate took the very important composition part, the candidate could pass it instead of fail it.  The marking of the test was not pass-fail on the composition.  Large numbers of points were in the balance, small numbers of points for the lowest passing composition scores.  Building up that composition could easily be the difference between passing and failing and it didn’t have to take weeks or months to learn that.

The overall passing rate in the nation was 75.7, but in New York State all ethnic groups lagged well behind the national passing rate for ethnic groups.  Alabama had a passing rate of 47.6 for African Americans, but it did not have a free testing system as New York has had for decades.  People can take the test almost anywhere without even studying and not paying makes that easier.  If New York and Alabama had questionnaires to explain if people studied or not, a more accurate picture could be painted about the role of the no fee testing in New York, but the low passing percentages speak for themselves.

And things can get better with Eric Stevenson in office helping the community.  With a twenty-five percent gap between Whites and African Americans each year, nobody was determined to reduce that gap in New York and areas of the South Bronx where the gap may have been much greater.  It’s about knowledge and making the right decisions.  Eric Stevenson tells me that there are more than ten housing projects in the South Bronx and this is the time to empower adults throughout the South Bronx to make a huge difference across the board in education.  Reaching out together will finally turn things around.

Let me take you back to 2009 where I talked about the violence in Brentwood which I have explained over and over to my readers is MS-13 country.  The problem started years before that and nobody cared enough to reinstate G.E.D. testing in that community (now there is a TASC testing program next door to where I was teaching in the Consulate of El Salvador.  It took about a decade for change.  In this video you will see the brother of Jam Master Jay, Marvin Thompson (who recently passed away) and immigrants from many countries helping my rally at City Hall.  You will see Robert Jackson come out of City Hall to support the people.  Listen carefully, but remember that there was no real change at that time and things have gotten worse.  Eric Stevenson was there that day and he not only recognized me from an event that I brought Sean Bell’s father to, but he asked me when I was coming back to his community because the people wanted me back.  The video!  Watch it!  Spread the word in your community.  It should also be mentioned that Adolfo Carrión gave me the Bronx Supreme Court’s Rotunda for my G.E.D. event there a few years before the rally at City Hall took place.  And guess what!  I spoke to the borough president for two minutes, after introducing myself to him, and he acted immediately to help the people.  Let me share one other fact with you.  A week before my rally, there was a much larger rally outside the City Hall property in the park and that rally was dedicated to more G.E.D. programs.  Nobody from that rally came to my rally.  And the problem was that the testing system was going to implode or collapse.  Those people were doing the wrong thing at that moment.  Let’s do the right thing together!

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