Faculty, students and parents are pushing back against a recently published article in Gothamist which recounts a drop in math scores at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Crown Heights.
The article, which also makes note of safety issues and overcrowding concerns, has left the school community confused and upset, claiming it tells an incomplete and inaccurate narrative.
Published earlier this month, the article claims the effects of the pandemic, economic challenges, safety concerns and chronic overcrowding “create a particularly difficult learning environment” at MECPS, a college prep school serving mostly Black students grades six through 12.
The story points to recently published City data, showing a 49.9% drop in math proficiency at the school from 2019 to 2022, in comparison to the city’s overall drop of 7.6%
The data is based on state test scores from students in grades three through six. MECPS Principal, Dr. Michael Wiltshire, said the main point of the article is misleading, because the “sharp drop” only represents one grade at MECPS, and the sixth grade students who took the test attended MECPS for less than 100 days.
“They came in in September and they took the test in April. And it is true that they did not perform very well,” Wiltshire said.
“But that was not such of a great surprise, because they had never taken a state test before.”
Wiltshire explained that it was unfair to highlight the sixth graders’ performance on the test as indicative of the entire school, when those sixth graders had been schooled remotely in third and fourth grade, and the state test was optional when they were in the fifth grade.
Wiltshire first heard about the story on his way to work listening to a radio segment on NPR.
“That really made me so angry, so mad that I started to write a letter to everyone that I could think of, because that was so, so unfair,” Wiltshire said.
He wrote a letter about the article to the district superintendent, who then published his own letter on the matter, denouncing its angle.
“The publication has unfairly characterized the results and, in turn, misrepresented the school’s academic performance," District Superintendent Fred Walsh wrote in a Nov. 10 letter addressed to the school community.
"The reporter chose to frame the hard work of the entire Medgar Evers community based solely on the results in one grade and one subject — sixth grade math -- in the first year back to full-time, in-person learning," the letter continued.
The letter also states that 85% of seventh graders and 100% of eighth graders at the school passed the Algebra I Regents exam, as well as the fact that 55 students from MECPS graduated in 2021 with an associate college degree, and there are another 40 students this year on track to do the same.
BK Reader visited MECPS this week and spoke to students, who had circulated the article amongst themselves and were taken aback by its point of view: “I don't think it represents the school and the way that I see it,” Moriah Cotterel, a 12th grade student at MECPS, said.
“In my eyes, everything good that the school does they kind of turned a blind eye towards it. You don't see them reporting about it. But the moment that something bad happens they use that as a stepping stone to jump on the school,” Cotterel said.
Students also countered that the school is an uncomfortable learning environment.
“The majority of us have been going to this school since sixth grade, so that alone should speak for itself. We've been here from middle school to high school, and we're still here and we're still successful,” Marissa Parris, a 12th grade student at MECPS, said.
The article also mentions an October incident where a gun was found in a student’s backpack at the school. The student claimed he had it “for protection."
No threat was made by or against the student, and no was harmed. The students BK Reader spoke with said the incident does not reflect the school’s environment or the students’ feelings of safety.
“Even though it did happen, a lot of us don't feel unsafe because of it, because we feel like it was uncharacteristic, and it's not something that's bound to happen again,” said John-Michael Mendez, a 12th grade student at MECPS, of the firearm incident.
Overcrowding was another issue addressed in the article. Wiltshire acknowledged that overcrowding is an issue at the school but said a lack of facilities does not hold the school back.
“Our school lacks some of the basic facilities that are found in other schools such as a gym, auditorium, sufficient classrooms and adequate cafeteria space. Despite this, the school continues to excel," Wiltshire said. There are plans for an additional building for the school, but it is not expected to finish construction until 2026.
“I think that the correlation that they were trying to show is a typical stereotype that a school that is located in the inner city that is majority Black, that is poor, there is no way their students can perform at a high level," said Wiltshire, who said the article was “subtly racist."
“It's a family community. I come in early mornings. I leave late evenings, but I'm not unique. I'm not an outlier. So many other people do the very same thing,” said Dr. Paula Walters, a teacher and parent of a student.
“We do have challenges, but we have challenges like every other school."