To the Editor:
Having lived in the Newark, N.J., area during the period of 1950 to 1970, I can attest to the accuracy of the story Joy Dryfoos tells of a declining city and school district (“A Tale of One City,” Commentary, March 30, 2005). I, too, believe that the riots of 1967 were but one factor in this decline; the lack of good educational planning was probably more significant.
The key question is whether the lessons of why these schools failed will provide guidance, 40 years later, to other schools, as their communities experience similarly changing student demographics, which many are.
I’ve written on these changes, using the descriptor “the urbanization of suburban schools.” There are many suburban districts, such as Valley Stream, N.Y., where I work, that are among the first ring of suburbs to New York City, or Philadelphia, or Washington, and have seen their percentage of minority students increase three- or four-fold over the past decade. For these districts to continue to achieve on behalf of their students, they must be proactive, through curriculum, parent outreach, and staff development.
Yes, many of our incoming students may not have the same level of preparation as their predecessors did, or may have parents who are not college graduates. But they will be this country’s future workforce, the ones who will support our (remaining) Social Security fund.
Marc F. Bernstein
Superintendent of Schools
Valley Stream Central High School District
Valley Stream, N.Y.