New York City

Fariña launches plan to desegregate NYC public schools

Affects Brooklyn’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods

June 6, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Tuesday, city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina outlined a plan to increase diversity in schools, including many in Brooklyn.  Photo courtesy of the NYC Department of Education
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New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Tuesday announced a plan to lessen segregation and increase diversity in New York City public schools.

The issue is familiar to parents in Brooklyn’s rapidly gentrifying areas, such as District 15. District 15 includes Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Red Hook and Park Slope. Other Brooklyn neighborhoods with changing demographics include Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Many elementary and middle schools in Brooklyn are virtually segregated. Higher-ranked high schools attract more affluent students because admissions are based on tests, auditions and other criteria disadvantaged students are less able to navigate.

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One goal is to increase the number of students attending what the city calls racially representative schools — where black and Hispanic students make up from 50 to 90 percent of the student population — by 50,000 over the next five years. Black and Hispanic children constitute 70 percent of the citywide student population. Only seven percent of city schools are racially representative today.

The city also wants to boost the number of students attending economically diverse schools, and increase the number of inclusive schools that serve English Language Learners and students with disabilities.

Called Diversity in New York City Public Schools, the plan features some immediate changes affecting high school and middle school admissions. These include eliminating preferences for students (usually more affluent) who show interest in a particular high school by attending an open house or school fair, and increasing access for homeless students. The city will also try to make it easier for disadvantaged students to gain access to the city’s eight specialized high schools.

In middle school admissions, a preference for students who ranked a particular middle school highest on their application will be eliminated. This “revealed middle school ranking” favored students with confidence in their strong credentials. Eliminating it will encourage students who want to apply to a highly competitive program but who are uncertain that they will be admitted.

The city is also looking at creating online applications for middle and high school admissions and exploring other ways to make applying easier.

According to the Department of Education (DOE) release, the city will be opening 15 new schools or programs over the next three years that have specific plans to serve diverse populations. DOE will also provide magnet grants to schools focusing on diversity.

An important part of the program is the creation of a School Diversity Advisory Group, which will make formal policy recommendations to the mayor and chancellor by June 2018. DOE is formalizing a process for engaging community school districts in this process.

The group will be chaired by Joseì Calderoìn, president of the Hispanic Federation; Maya Wiley, chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and professor of Urban Policy and Management at the New School; and Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference.

 “Diversity in New York City Public Schools is the next step in our commitment to serving every child, regardless of their zip code or background,” Fariña said in a statement. She emphasized that the effort would be community-driven through the School Diversity Advisory Group.

Starting this fall, DOE will kick off community stakeholder engagement processes in several districts, including District 15, that have already expressed an interest in increasing school diversity.

More on this can be found at

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