John, father of 3, who have attended the following schools: PS 87, PS 75, PS 112 M, PS 206 M, Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem, Booker T. Washington, Computer School, Frank Sinatra, and Stuyvesant.
What does a high quality education look like to you?
A good school offers a well-rounded education, a balance with the arts and a reasonable amount of academic rigor. We chose PS 75 because of its Spanish-English Dual Language program. My wife’s father was a professor of Spanish Literature and I have a working knowledge of Spanish.
Why is striking a balance in education important?
To read and write well and be able to do math is important—but more is not always better. You can learn academics in a reasonable period of time and then it’s important to be stimulated in other ways, through the arts and athletics. The model of the charter schools is wrong. We did three months of charter school. It’s 8:00-4:30 and they work them to death.
How do you feel about the education your children are receiving?
I’m pretty happy with my children’s school situations. If your child does well there are a lot of options in NYC. If your child doesn’t do well the schools don’t present a lot of attractive options. Selectivity in middle school really limits your options, so if your child doesn’t perform that well it’s tough. Fortunately, my kids have done well, they got good grades, and have gotten into good middle and high schools, but I know people who didn’t get any of their choices.
What are your concerns?
Trying to find our middle son a good fit was a struggle. [He is diagnosed with ASD, autism spectrum disorder.] He started at our local community school but didn’t do well there. We moved him to a charter school in Harlem. He hated it. Finally, we moved him to PS 112 (K-2), then PS 206 (3-5), which both have ASD programs, and he started to blossom there. For high school, he’s gotten into Frank Sinatra. He likes theater. I hope he does well in theater and doesn’t forget his academics. Theater is a hard road; most people don’t find success that way.
How does your own education compare with theirs?
In some ways education is better today than when I was in school. I got a good math education, but my children learned to write much earlier than I did. My oldest was a better writer in middle school by the end of 8th grade than I was in high school. To be a scientist or an engineer you’ve got to write well. The Common Core approach to story problems in math is really important. They start it right away in 1st grade, going from numbers to equations to story problems. Math is progressing at the same rate as it did when I was in school, same material, but the approach to teaching it has changed. They teach everything five ways (maybe too many ways sometimes) like division, there are several approaches instead of just the standard method.
Parents of New York is a series sharing the stories, ideas and perspectives of parents or caregivers with children in the New York City public schools. It is inspired by the popular Humans of New York website and book but is not connected to it. If you are interested in being interviewed email us at [email protected] and put "Parents of NY" in the subject line.
(Edited from a longer interview by Lydie Raschka)