Monday, May 31, 2004

A certain noblesse oblige? 

...which is often considered condescending, is nevertheless uplifting children in poverty in NYC:
ESMERALDA BETANCES' favorite book is Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham," and she is proud that she can read it. Being able to read "Green Eggs and Ham" might not seem like a big accomplishment for a second grader, but it is if you consider that last fall, Esmeralda could hardly read at all.

She is a second grader at Public School 30 in Mott Haven in the South Bronx, a school that was the subject of Jonathan Kozol's book, "Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope," published four years ago.

She got her copy of "Green Eggs and Ham" from Richard Podolsky, whose twins are first graders at Trevor Day School, a private school whose lower grades are on the Upper East Side, which is a 20-minutes ride on the No. 6 subway line from Esmeralda's school.

"She needs help desperately," said Mr. Podolsky, who began traveling to P.S. 30 last fall to work with Esmeralda and two other second-graders. "It about makes me cry when I leave here and she can't remember the same word that she's seen 12 times in a chapter."
Parents from Trevor Day are volunteering at P.S. 30, where only a quarter of students read at grade level.

Of course, P.S. 30 is a pretty good school as NYC public schools go, albeit quite underfunded relative to Trevor Day. Having parents discover the place from Kozol's book is not a great deal and its success before the private-school parents showed up made it a likely place for success. The question really is whether P.S. 30 is an exception. One wonders, for example, whether the students at Byrd Community Academy in the Cabrini-Green project in Chicago that we wrote about before would be better served by a volunteer effort rather than lobbying for a new school?