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NY Post
New York Post
9 Sep 2023


NextImg:NYC school to drop ‘math’ from name as student arithmetic scores tank

This math isn’t adding up. 

Parents in Brooklyn’s ultra-liberal Boerum Hill are pushing to drop the “math and science” portion of MS 447’s name — which in recent years has seen its students’ math proficiency plummet — to boost diversity. 

In late August, the Community Education Council for District 15 voted unanimously to change the name of the district’s once-coveted institution from The Math & Science Exploratory School to The Exploratory School.

MS 477 Principal Arin Rusch read at the meeting the resolution for the school’s name change, describing the current, STEM-focused moniker as “limiting” and “misaligned” with the institution’s academic mission. 

“MS 447 curriculum has evolved and expanded to be multidisciplinary and inquiry-based, focusing on thoughtful exploration across all subjects,” Rusch said. 

“The name Math and Science exploratory school is limiting and misaligned with the school’s values and goals,” she continued.

In 2022, only 69% of seventh-graders at MS447 scored a passing 3 or 4 on the standardized math state tests, down from over 95% in 2018.
AP

The decision to alter MS 447’s name comes as its students’ grasp of mathematics has tanked – a fact left unmentioned at the August meeting.

In 2022, only 69% of seventh-graders at the Brownstone Brooklyn Middle School scored a passing 3 or 4 on the standardized math state tests, compared to over 95% making the same marks in 2018.

“They were decreasing their focus on STEM, and they were like, ‘I guess we might as well change our name now,'” said Linda Quarles, 51, whose daughter attended MS 447 from 2018 to 2020.

“I don’t think they have been trying to maintain that level [of academic performance],” she added. “The combination of the name and how performance is going at the school . . . I’m not sure I would really pursue as ambitiously as I did to get my daughter into that school.”

The decision to alter MS 447’s name comes as its students’ grasp of mathematics has tanked – a fact left unmentioned at the August meeting.

The decision to alter MS 447’s name comes as its students’ grasp of mathematics has tanked – a fact left unmentioned at the August meeting.
Shutterstock

The nosedive in students’ state math scores coincided with the city implementing a public school “diversity plan” in District 15, intended to boost racial and socioeconomic integration.

Instead of selecting students for the middle school seats based on academic records, kids are now picked based on a lottery system, with 52 percent of seats reserved for poor students, English-language learners, and children without stable homes. 

“The city prefers these optical harebrained schemes to create the illusion of equity, rather than dealing with the dysfunction in the system as a whole,” said Paul Rossi, a math teacher at the Bronx charter school Vertex Partnership Academies.

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“If you bring in students that need more support, you also need targeted support for those students,” he added. “You can’t throw them in a classroom with students that are high achieving now and expect them to achieve at the same level.”

Rusch, however, said at the CEC meeting that the school still had concerns over enrollment diversity, and partly moved to rename MS 447 because the school’s math and science branding seemed to lead more boys than girls to apply for its seats.

“For years it has caused us to have more boys than girls applying and enrolling, which is sad and wrong, but nonetheless was a pattern that we, year over year, have had trouble breaking,” Rusch said, without providing any data.

MS 447 students were 44% female and 56% male last school year.

That was not nearly as skewed as MS442, which was 39% female and 60% male, or the New Voices School of Academic & Creative Arts, which was 63% female and 37% male, according to city Department of Education data.

Elsewhere in the city, schools with math and science in the name, like New Explorations into Science, Technology, and Math on the Lower East Side, boasted more female than male enrollment.

Critics ripped MS 447 leadership for thinking that its current name was scaring off girls.

“I don’t know what makes them think that girls are turned off by the name ‘math and science,'” Brooklyn public school parent Yiatin Chu told The Post. “It seems like a sexist stereotype to me.”

MS 477 Principal Arin Rusch from a Zoom call.
MS 477 Principal Arin Rusch said the school’s current name is “limiting” and “misaligned” with its current academic mission.
YouTube

Others said academic standards should still matter.

“There’s no reason parents in the community should not hold that school accountable for raising math performance, regardless of the name of the school,” said Eric Nadelstern, former deputy chancellor for school support and instruction under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  

Rusch declined to comment. DOE did not respond to a request for comment.

The city’s Schools Chancellor David Banks has the final say on whether MS 447 will change its name.