A month after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted charter schools for focusing too heavily on test prep and excluding high-need students, he dropped by KIPP Infinity Middle School for a photo-op with students and the co-founder of one of the country’s largest charter networks.
The mayor did not directly address his earlier comments during the visit, but watched and praised a 17-minute math lesson taught by Jeff Li Thursday afternoon.
“I think it’s really exciting the way you’re leading this classroom,” de Blasio told Li in front of 29 eighth-graders and a handful of KIPP officials, including co-founder David Levin.
The photo-op, orchestrated on the first day of class at the city’s traditional district schools, contrasted sharply with de Blasio’s comments last month criticizing charter schools for emphasizing test prep.
“If that’s where they put a lot of their time and energy, of course it could yield better test scores. But we don’t think that’s good educational policy,” he said in August. “We do not believe in a test-prep heavy model, we do not believe in excluding students with special needs and who are English Language Learners.”
Predictably, those comments infuriated the charter school community, which argued de Blasio was trying to have it both ways: Celebrating the city’s test scores, while claiming charter school increases were due to an unhealthy obsession with standardized tests.
That backdrop went unaddressed at today’s charter school visit, though at a morning press conference, he lauded the city’s partnership with the charter network, noting the visit is “just an indication of the fact that there’s plenty of ways that we can work together.”
During de Blasio’s appearance at the school, KIPP officials didn’t miss the opportunity to tout their test scores to the small group of reporters who tagged along. On the most recent state tests, 74 percent of KIPP Infinity Middle School students were proficient in math, and 54 percent were proficient in reading, they said, significantly higher than citywide averages.
School leaders also pointed out that the Manhattan school has a greater proportion of students with disabilities — 25 percent, compared to the nearly 19 percent average in schools citywide.
Asked about de Blasio’s comments last month in the context of this afternoon’s visit, Glenn Davis, assistant principal of Infinity Middle School, said, “Excellent teaching gets excellent results no matter what stats you’re talking about.”
As for test prep? “It’s not the main focus at KIPP.”