A new report by the Department of Education working group focused on improving student diversity is calling for new measures to address school segregation in New York City’s public school system. Among the recommendations: a new schools integration chief, requirements for tracking student demographics to ensure that schools “look more like the city,” and more equity in school resources in high- and low-income neighborhoods.
New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, but its public school system is among the most segregated. The de Blasio administration has long said it's committed to increasing diversity, but critics called its first diversity report thin, noting it didn't even include the words "integration" or "segregation."
The new report, which was released Tuesday morning, goes farther.
"Decades of research has taught us that diverse, integrated schools offer academic and social benefits for all students," observes the report, noting that researchers have found students in integrated schools have higher academic outcomes, stronger critical thinking skills, and increased creativity.
In addition to the appointment of a new Chief Integration Officer and demographic measures, the working group is recommending that the city’s nine most racially diverse school districts—Districts 1, 2, and 3 in Manhattan, 13, 15, and 22 in Brooklyn, 27 and 28 in Queens, and 31 in Staten Island—develop “diversity and integration plans” that would consider ways to change admissions policies to decrease segregation. Districts 1, 3, and 15 have already taken steps to do so, but this would expand those efforts to six additional districts.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza thanked the working group and said he and his team would take a "very hard look" at their recommendations. "There’s been an acknowledgement of systemic policies that have tended to keep some kids privileged and other kids not," he said. " We will advance equity. Not maybe, not maybe in the future. We will advance equity now."
Other recommendations include:
- Ensuring schools in high-poverty and affluent areas have the same curricular and extra-curricular offerings;
- Adopting a common definition of a "culturally relevant" education that can inform pedagogy across the system;
- More training for school staff on welcoming and accommodating students with disabilities;
- Convening a task force to recommend more equal PTA funding;
- Giving all schools the resources for a student council;
- Conducting an analysis of the impact of moving school safety agents out of NYPD's purview and under the DOE.
The School Diversity Advisory Group is made up of 40 members, including students, parents, teachers, administrators, bureaucrats, and non-profit leaders. Matt Gonzales, director of the School Diversity Project at New York Appleseed and an advisory group member, says the goal is to broaden the discussion of school desegregation beyond just enrollment.
“That limits the conversation to rapidly gentrifying areas,” Gonzales said. “In parts of the South Bronx we may not be talking about enrollment, but about changing disciplinary policies and more culturally responsive curriculum. Every community has a role to play.”
He also acknowledged that the report may fall short of some advocates’ hopes. For example, his group Appleseed has called for an end to middle school admissions screens, a measure that is not included in the report.
The group is pledging to release a subsequent report with recommendations on more controversial issues including school screens, gifted and talented programs, and schools resources by the end of the school year.
Students from the group IntegrateNYC said they appreciated that students were a part of the process, and the report's framework reflected their "5Rs" demands.
Julissa Perez, 20, said she it's a good start but "we would like to see a little more concrete examples of how exactly things will play out."
For more on the report, listen to reporter Jessica Gould's segment on WNYC: