Brooklyn Boro

755 city schools are more segregated than their neighborhoods: report

January 17, 2020 Victoria Merlino and Meaghan McGoldrick
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New York City schools remain deeply segregated, according to a new report that found that a pair of Brooklyn school districts had among the highest rates of segregation in the city.

The study, conducted by the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, found that 41 percent of all New York City schools — 755 in total — did not reflect their districts’ demographics.

“New York City schools are still deeply segregated and lack diversity,” said Daryl Hornick-Becker, a policy and advocacy associate at CCC. “This is shown through experiences, personal testimony, and it’s shown through academic study.”

The organization compared the overall racial and ethnic demographics of students in the district to the demographics in each individual school located within the district to determine the rate of representation.

Diversity in the classroom has been proven not only to foster a student’s cognitive learning, it can also allow for real-life experience in an increasingly diverse society, according to a report released by the Century Foundation.

“When we allow for diversity in schools, everyone has a richer experience,” said Paula White, executive director of the New York City chapter of Educators for Excellence, a group that recently ramped up its calls for more teachers of color. That call, she said, goes hand-in-hand with the one for desegregated student bodies.

“Students of color have a richer experience, and white students have a richer experience when we have a broad swath of students in the classroom,” she told the Eagle. “And that is more acutely relevant for our students of color. When students of color are in an integrated setting — and that includes teacher diversity — then they’re more likely to have the resources they need in order to be able to succeed.”

CCC considered an individual school to be representative of its district if the school’s enrollment by race or ethnicity was within 10 percentage points of the district’s overall enrollment numbers by race or ethnicity.

Meanwhile, CCC considered schools to be unrepresentative of their districts if those two numbers (school and district enrollment by race or ethnicity) differed by 20 percentage points or more.

Roughly 72 percent of schools in District 13, which encompasses Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, and 69 percent of schools in District 15, comprised of Park Slope and Sunset Park, were not representative, according to the report.

District 27 in Queens, which encompasses parts of Jamaica, Howard Beach and the Rockaways, and Districts 13 and 15 in Brooklyn, had some of the highest racial disparities citywide. Roughly 73 percent of schools in District 27 did not reflect the overall demographics in the district.

CCC said that utilizing this more localized data can be an easier and more effective way of looking at school diversity.

Some New York City school districts are taking steps to ramp up their integration efforts to close that gap between school demographics and district demographics.

Brooklyn’s District 15 currently has a diversity plan in place, but even so, the district has just one school that accurately reflects the district demographics, the data shows. The district — which includes affluent brownstone neighborhoods, such as Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, as well lower-income areas, such as Red Hook and Sunset Park — recently nixed competitive screens and moved to a lottery-based admission system, which has started to show results.

The city’s Department of Education has also proposed either the redrawing or removal of district lines to relieve overcrowding and encourage integration. A number of parents in District 15 have also raised concerns about the diversity plan.  Community leaders who have poured their energy into the district’s Red Hook Neighborhood School, for example, have said that the plans don’t adequately address the needs of their school, one of the city’s lowest performing.

District 28 in Queens, which encompasses Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Jamaica and Rego Park, is attempting to implement an integration and diversity plan designed to make the schools more representative. The district currently has no schools that accurately reflect the district demographics, according to CCC’s data.

The plan, however, has faced intense opposition from swaths of parents within the district. At a December meeting, parents expressed fears about uprooting children and questioned why the city doesn’t invest more into schools that are considered lower performing — schools typically comprised of majority students of color.

“If we’re going to be honest here, most families in Rego Park, in Forest Hills, are not going to put their kids on extensively long commutes for the pleasure of attending a subpar school. It just doesn’t make any sense,” one parent said at the meeting, as reported by THE CITY.

CCC hopes their study can be of use to schools across the city as they implement diversity plans of their own.

“What we hope with this is that districts can, instead of looking at a standard definition of diversity, and say, “How do we get to that?” they can look at a more local definition like representation and say, “Where are the problem areas in our district, and what’s causing them, and how can we fix it?” Hornick-Becker said.

White, of Educators for Excellence, called the CCC’s data “critical” for pushing the conversation about education equity forward.

“So often, we think that education policy is something that’s decided at Tweed [Courthouse] or in Albany, but a lot of these decisions about segregation are made at the neighborhood level,” she said. “And this data really reflects how this plays out on the ground.”

“New York City is one of the world’s most diverse cities and we strive to make our classrooms reflect that,” Katie O’Hanlon, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education told the Eagle. “We are proud of the work this administration has done to help move our classrooms towards becoming more inclusive, rigorous, and equitable for all, and while we know there is a lot more work to do, we are excited to see promising signs as a result of our Equity and Excellence agenda across the city.”

Update (Tuesday, 11:15 a.m.): This article has been updated to include a statement from the city’s Department of Education.

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