Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1874 Sun, 29 Nov 2020 10:41:06 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) When the School Segregationist Dog Whistle Becomes a Bullhorn https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9673-school-segregationist-dog-whistle-becomes-bullhorn-new-york-city https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9673-school-segregationist-dog-whistle-becomes-bullhorn-new-york-city chancellor rich mayor

Students at school (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Dog-whistle politics refers to the use of racially-coded language as a strategy to rally perceived allies while providing plausible deniability against charges of racism. Donald Trump and the Republican Party regularly use racist dog whistles in the context of immigration, policing, public benefits, and school integration by rallying around the idea of an external racial threat of people of color to ‘white America.’ However, there is no one political party or region of the United States with a monopoly on dog-whistle politics. Even in “liberal” New York City, the debate around school integration continues to escalate and bubble over as the racist dog whistle becomes a booming bullhorn.

New York City remains one of the most segregated school districts in the country. For the past few years, educational equity advocates have proposed a number of educational reforms to address this problem. The most controversial reforms involve school integration, which have engendered controversy and backlash from conservatives and self-described liberals alike. 

In 2018, Upper West Side parents vehemently opposed integration plans that would set aside a percentage of middle-school seats in their district for students with lower exam scores. As one white parent said at a meeting: “You’re telling them that 'You’re not going to go to a school that’s going to educate them the same way you’ve been educated.' Life sucks! Is that what the DOE [Department of Education] wants to say?” Many white liberals and moderates deploy dog whistles to defend their position that racial integration will destroy the “good” schools, or take opportunities away from allegedly more deserving, gifted, and hardworking white and Asian-American students

These school integration debates have raged on, perhaps most fervently, concerning efforts to reform admissions standards at New York City’s specialized high schools. Currently, admissions to these elite schools is based on a single, high-stakes, standardized test called the SHSAT. Black and Latino students in New York’s eight so-called specialized high schools stand at an abysmal rate of around 11 percent, despite constituting 70 percent of New York City’s public school system.

Reporting by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist and director of the 1619 Project, brought national attention to the school integration debate in New York City. Her interview with Maud Maron, who currently serves as president of the Community Education Council for District 2 in Manhattan, drew outrage precisely for Maron’s use of dog whistles to oppose school integration.

As a follow-up to Maron’s remarks opposing the Department of Education’s school integration proposals, Hannah-Jones asked: “What desegregation efforts then would you support?” Maron replied that it depends: “you have to have community buy-in,” and continued, "when people say I'm nervous that this is going to result in my kid getting a less good education, you have to take that concern as a valid concern—even if you think it's racist, and it may be."

We must heed Martin Luther King Jr.’s criticism of the white moderate, "who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom." Maron is a textbook example of the white moderate of whom King warned, telling Hannah-Jones that Black people must wait for a more convenient time for people like her and the many privileged parent leaders to become comfortable with integration.

Like many opponents to school integration, Maron’s comments trivialize and dismiss the benefits of school integration when rivaled with her concern that white children would have to share the same educational space and opportunities with Black and Latino children. In addition to opposing school integration, Maron and her ilk unsurprisingly oppose culturally responsive education and implicit bias training for educators. 

These anti-integration advocates hold an outsized influence over education policy, occupying critical seats on their local community education councils. And they seek to grow their influence and power, including through upcoming city elections. Maron is now taking her education platform and running on it, as a Democrat, for New York City Council in the 2021 election.

Despite Maron’s attempts to portray herself as a “liberal,” time and again she has fought against organizations like Teens Take Charge, a youth-led group that fights for educational equity, and more recently targeted a youth activist of color for raising allegations of racism with her political campaign. In response to her critics, Maron published an op-ed identifying herself as a public defender as a liberal bona fide. She goes on to say that anti-racism is what invites discrimination, and then characterizes education equity advocates as race-obsessed. In response, the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid and The Legal Aid Society, Maron’s employer, both issued statements condemning Maron’s brand of liberal racism.

Maron is no longer only speaking to Tribeca moms who secretly oppose integration in hushed voices. She is publicly dabbling in the rhetoric popularized by Donald Trump and his right wing supporters who attack and deride antiracism as political correctness and cancel culture. She has even galvanized an online army of vile racism denialists who harass and dox anyone who criticizes Maron or her segregation activism. 

One of Maron’s most ardent supporters include Thomas Wrocklage, a fellow CEC member, lawyer, and co-founder of the anti-integration nonprofit called PLACE NYC. Wrocklage comfortably engages in a range of aggressive antics to harass Maron’s critics, going as far as to dox multiple of Maron’s Black and women colleagues and fellow CEC members, and indefensibly harassing teenagers from Teens Take Charge. Maron has not denounced the offensive tactics or racist views espoused by her supporters on her behalf.  

Ultimately, the segregationist views of Maud Maron and Thomas Wrocklage are not new or unique. Attacking school integration is as American as apple pie. It is the story of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine Black students who integrated Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957—only two years after Brown v Board of Education held that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. The Little Rock Nine faced white mobs and riots, and the Arkansas National Guard was sent in to stop these nine Black children from entering their school.

This legacy of anti-Black racism and logic lives on. White mothers fought to uphold Jim Crow—they saw their moral authority derive from protecting their white children from the racial threat of integration. While people like Maud Maron seemingly couch their arguments against school integration in a thin veil of parental concern, they remain on the wrong side of history.

It is our duty to go beyond denouncing brazen, bullhorn racism. For far too long and often, more subtle, covert forms of racism go unchecked. To be clear, this is not simply a matter of political correctness or word choices. The issue before us is that the promise of Brown, 66 years later, has not been realized. We must expose and challenge the systemic racism that underpins dog whistles, and bullhorns alike, if we are to have a chance at real integration.

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Rigodis Appling, Diana Nevins, Olayemi Olurin, and Jason Wu are public defenders in New York City. On Twitter @rigodis, @artemis_nieves, @msolurin, @criticalrace.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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When the School Segregationist Dog Whistle Becomes a Bullhorn Thu, 13 Aug 2020 04:00:00 +0000
The Covid Crisis Has Made It Additionally Clear: It’s Time to End School Admissions Screens in New York City https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9582-covid-crisis-clear-time-to-end-school-admissions-screens-new-york-city-desegregation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9582-covid-crisis-clear-time-to-end-school-admissions-screens-new-york-city-desegregation brandon may 17 2019

Brandon St. Luce, the author (photo: Dulce Michelle)


Sunday, May 17 of this year, marked 66 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate is inherently unequal.” Yet today, many of our nation’s public school systems remain both separate and unequal. Nowhere is this clearer than in New York City, where I attend high school. 

For five years, Mayor Bill de Blasio has touted an “Equity and Excellence” agenda while maintaining discriminatory admissions requirements at hundreds of middle and high schools that exacerbate segregation and inequity.

While these admissions requirements, known as “screens,” are not new, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed their unfairness, with nearly a third of public school students not having access to a laptop or reliable internet access, both essential during remote learning and for any student who wants to do the out of school preparation necessary for getting into the most competitive screened programs in the city. It has also given us a chance to hit the reset button. Many of the metrics that selective schools have traditionally used to sort applicants will not exist for the cohort of students applying to middle and high schools in December.

Screens vary from school to school, but screened schools have a long menu of options to choose from. They can restrict admission based on a host of factors, including, but not limited to: grades, attendance, punctuality, state test scores, zip codes, portfolio assessments, interviews, auditions, and school-administered specialty exams.

No, I’m not just referring to the city’s eight specialized high schools, for which the state legislature controls admission to the largest three. I’m talking about hundreds of screened schools squarely under the jurisdiction of Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education.

Admissions screens, which use flawed measures of “merit” to sort students, wind up segregating us by race and class. System-wide, two-thirds of students are Black or Latino and about 75% are poor. But at 30 of the most intensely screened public high schools, only one-third of students are Black or Latino and just 40% are poor. The effect is undeniable.

For more than two years, my peers and I at Teens Take Charge have been calling for integration through the removal of these admissions screens. We have proposed alternative policies in meetings with city DOE leaders, including Chancellor Richard Carranza and his cabinet of deputies. 

Throughout the last two years, we have run two campaigns, both centered around the idea of abolishing admissions screens. Starting with the Enrollment Equity Plan, we proposed creating thresholds in all schools to make sure that at least 25% and no more than 75% of each high school's incoming freshman class has passed middle school state tests. This year we began to advocate for an “educational option” (ed-opt) model of admitting students in every school. This is not a new model, and it has been proven to help schools accept a diverse pool of applicants, including in my school, Edward R. Murrow High School, which is the most diverse school in the city. We have research that shows how much this would help with the demographic disparities in schools, backed up by the DOE’s own data. 

We have led rallies, sit-ins, and, most recently, weekly “strikes for integration” at school campuses across the city. These strikes got major news coverage and turned out nearly 2,000 students from more than a dozen schools, including Beacon, NYC Lab School, and Millennium Brooklyn, three of the most heavily screened high schools in the city.

Every city and school official we have spoken to has acknowledged that screens contribute to segregation in our schools. They thank us for our advocacy. They tell us they are working on a solution. But nothing changes. The only high-ranking official who has not met with us or responded to our proposals directly is Mayor de Blasio, who we believe has been the primary obstacle to removing screens.

He didn’t even respond to his own School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendations last year to end all middle school screens, some high school screens, and the ridiculous Gifted-and-Talented exam for four-year-olds. In September, he claimed that he would spend this school year doing public engagement on the recommendations, but there has yet to be a single public engagement opportunity.

This school year has come to an end, with the latter part being spent online with varying degrees of success, and it is irrational and illogical why screens should exist for students applying to schools next year. The only reasonable solution for next year is to forgo screens altogether and allow student choice to be the number one factor that guides where students are matched.

When demand for a school is greater than the number of seats, applicants could be matched using an equitable method called educational option (“ed-opt”) that is already in use at hundreds of city high schools. This system admits a proportional number of students who are below, at, and above grade level, producing academic diversity — which often translates to racial and socioeconomic diversity as well.   

Proponents of screens and competition, namely, the Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education (PLACE), argue that screens are fair, bias-free assessments of hard work. As a student who recently took the Advanced Placement exam for U.S. History, I see a correlation in the way PLACE leaders talk about admissions screens and the way white folks in the Jim Crow South talked about literacy tests and poll taxes.

Low-income students and other vulnerable student populations are inherently punished by screens. Up until the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of New York City students did not have laptops or home WiFi, yet the high school admissions process has shifted entirely online and many screened schools require students to submit information or assignments online.  

Then there are students like Jude, a 13-year-old at “one of the most competitive middle schools in the city” who recently started a petition to preserve the use of screens. Featured in a New York Post article, he is described as a “longtime Kweller Prep student.” Kweller Prep is a private tutoring company that charges thousands of dollars for its services, which include helping middle schoolers get into screened and specialized high schools. I’m sure Jude is a hard worker, but so are the thousands of other students across the city who cannot afford private tutoring.

To be sure, students like Jude and the parent leaders of PLACE are not our opponents. They are simply playing by the rules that Mayor de Blasio sets. And for far too long, those rules have allowed privileged students to cluster in a relatively small number of schools, bringing their social capital, PTA donations, and political savvy with them.

At a recent briefing, Chancellor Carranza gave us reason for optimism when he stated, in response to a question about next year’s admissions, that he and the mayor “will not penalize students in any way, shape, or form because of circumstances out of their control.” That’s exactly what screens do: penalize students for things outside of their control.

On April 16 of this year, Caranza also stated he would not allow “anyone to say ‘when we go back to the normal,' because the normal was never good enough for our kids. The normal meant some were privileged some were not.” The problems with screens have been identified by those who can create monumental change, yet their policies continue to benefit the most privileged in the city. 

In the wake of this pandemic, Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza, and the Department of Education have an opportunity to shed New York City’s distinction as one of the nation’s most segregated school systems. This is the moment to start building the fair, integrated school system that was promised to us 66 years ago -- a system that gives every student the opportunity to thrive.

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Brandon St. Luce is a junior at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn and co-leader of the policy team at Teens Take Charge, a student-led organization that advocates for educational equity in New York City schools. On Twitter @TeensTakeCharge.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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The Covid Crisis Has Made It Additionally Clear: It’s Time to End School Admissions Screens in New York City Mon, 13 Jul 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Reimagine Education in New York – Without Segregation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9530-reimagine-education-in-new-york-without-segregation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9530-reimagine-education-in-new-york-without-segregation erase ela

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo has called rightly on New Yorkers, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, to reimagine education. We should reimagine it without racial segregation. 

The novel coronavirus’ path of destruction has starkly illuminated the structural racism that underpins so much inequality in America. That inequality includes educational segregation in New York. 

Structural racism, which is the historical and ongoing racial discrimination and segregation of Black people in particular, is typically instigated or sanctioned by government. It has created the unequal foundation for so many aspects of life, including widely documented, underlying health disparities for Black and Latino individuals. It has played a fundamental role in where we live (through federal redlining and other discriminatory practices) and, therefore, where our children attend school.

As a result of structural racism, New York is the most segregated state for African-American students, with 65 percent of African-American students in intensely segregated schools. That designation is heavily influenced by the New York City public school system, but the segregation is statewide. That segregation is often formally structured through the fragmentation of school districts.

Long Island’s two counties, for instance, have 125 school districts. Not surprisingly, Long Island is one of the 10 most segregated metro regions in the nation, and segregation is on the rise. According to ERASE Racism, in 2017, dramatically more Black and Latino students on Long Island attended segregated schools than 12 years earlier. New York City is also among the 10 most segregated metro regions, and its public schools are similarly highly segregated.

Yet distance learning, now a sudden reality, may have a valuable role to play in undermining segregation. It offers a vehicle for creating digital course offerings and other convenings that could free students from the entrenched landscape of racial isolation and inequity. 

Through distance learning, students from multiple school districts could come together to learn and share experiences without being constrained by the geographic limitations imposed on them by previous generations and their prejudices. They might come together, for instance, for Advanced Placement courses or International Baccalaureate classes and broaden their understandings by sharing insights with students from other backgrounds.

They might also convene digitally for extracurricular activities. A model for that already exists with ERASE Racism’s Student Task Force, which consists of 23 high school students from 17 schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. While the Task Force previously met in person for most of its activities, we began meeting exclusively remotely in response to the pandemic. The Task Force and its thoughtful discussions, plans, and programs demonstrate the extraordinary benefits of students convening across school districts and even counties to learn together and from each other. 

Implementing distance learning across school districts at a significant scale would require a more aggressive role by the State Education Department. The implementation of initial distance-learning initiatives amid the pandemic – with each school district acting in isolation, regardless of existing resources and capacity – merely reinforced the educational disparities already in place, as wealthier, whiter school districts were inevitably better able to implement those initiatives than poorer districts with more Black and Latino students. 

Regardless of whether the decision to leave districts on their own was made deliberately or by default in the face of the looming pandemic, now is the time to prepare for enhanced educational outcomes in the new school year. Now is the time to think more creatively about options. That is where the opportunity for innovation emerges – both in how education can be advanced through distance learning, which is presumably here to stay to a degree still to be determined, and in diversifying educational instruction and environments in the process.

Three steps are key: First, the state should provide the needed funding to ensure that poor school districts can take advantage of online instruction, with enhanced tools and training to enable all teachers to deliver optimum instruction on distance-learning platforms. Second, the state should work with Internet providers to ensure that students in poor communities have Internet access affordably – even free. Third, the Board of Regents should ensure that every child has access to the equipment, connectivity, and instruction needed for effective utilization of distance learning. 

In that context, New York should ensure that curricula are culturally responsive, reflecting the diversity of race, ethnicities, and cultures represented in our country and in New York state, even though they are not represented in all districts. Fortunately, the State Education Department has already developed a “Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework,” on which ERASE Racism provided feedback as it evolved. 

The Framework helps educators create student-centered learning environments that affirm diverse identities, while preparing students for rigor and independent learning and elevating historically marginalized voices, among other goals. It addresses the reality that, in order to tackle racial disparities across the nation, it is necessary to have conversations in classrooms about the truth of structural racism throughout history and in the present day.

In reimagining education in New York, those same historically marginalized voices are stakeholders that need to be engaged: students, educators, parents, and community members. Those whose work and passion have focused on identifying and addressing the structural racism that has kept segregation in place must be fully involved, as their insights are vital to dismantling that persistent scourge. ERASE Racism stands ready to help in that endeavor.

Governor Cuomo has called on New Yorkers to reimagine education in the face of COVID-19. Now is the time to convert this public health and economic tragedy into a catalyst to destroy the perpetual plague of racial segregation and inequity.

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Elaine Gross is president of the regional civil rights organization ERASE Racism. On Twitter @EraseRacism.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Reimagine Education in New York – Without Segregation Wed, 24 Jun 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Pandemic Reinforces De Blasio's Inaction on School Desegregation Recommendations https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9409-pandemic-reinforces-de-blasio-inaction-school-desegregation-recommendations https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9409-pandemic-reinforces-de-blasio-inaction-school-desegregation-recommendations deblasio chance carmen

Mayor de Blasio during a school visit (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor's Office)


As the coronavirus pandemic further exposes deep fissures in the city's education landscape for low-income students and students of color, it has also further stalled Mayor Bill de Blasio's already-halting efforts to integrate New York City's deeply segregated schools.

In the nine months since a de Blasio-appointed advisory group released its final recommendations on ways to desegregate and in other ways improve city schools, virtually nothing has been said on the subject out of City Hall or the Department of Education beyond a commitment to review them. The mayor said in early September that he would take “the whole school year for deep stakeholder engagement” on the recommendations, but took no public steps in the subsequent six months. Then the pandemic came to New York. The mayor's office is now acknowledging any review effort continues to be on hold as the government's focus and resources are diverted by the pandemic.

The school year and the first chapter of pandemic-induced remote learning is nearing an end, with major admissions policy decisions imminent. Whatever changes de Blasio may advance, he has left many advocates for school desegregation, including even members of his own advisory group, confused and frustrated by the lack of action before the outbreak hit.

"We have not heard back from the Department of Education about whether or not they are going to move forward on any of our recommendations," said Maya Wiley, co-chair of SDAG and former counsel to de Blasio in the mayor’s office, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. "Our position as a group was that we obviously wanted to hear back and hoped for some response on some of the recommendations. We didn't necessarily believe they all would require a full year."

"Yes, it would be better if we had made more progress on the SDAG recs before the pandemic," said City Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat who has pushed for integration-focused admissions reforms in schools within his district and across the city. "That said, the crisis presents a challenge, which we need to rise to and which creates an opportunity to be more thoughtful about school admissions."

With learning, assessment methods, and application processes all disrupted, de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have indicated the city will soon offer changes to school admissions processes, raising hopes and fears of the potential opportunity to expedite reform, though it is unclear how ambitious they may be.

"Many things are going to be reevaluated as a result of this crisis,” the mayor said at a press briefing on May 7 when asked about possible changes to school admissions processes, which must move ahead in some form soon. “The whole concept I've been putting forward, that we are not just going to bring New York City back with the status quo that was there before, but we're going to try and make a series of changes that favor equity and fairness. We were already in the process of doing that when it came to school admissions. So, certainly, the screened schools are being reevaluated and we’ll have more to say on that in the future.”

De Blasio did not mention the recommendations put forth in August of last year by his School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), a controversial and sweeping set of proposals that he has largely avoided since their release.

"When this pandemic started, we shifted our focus to the success of remote learning and the wellbeing of students and staff,” wrote mayoral spokesperson Jane Meyer by email, in response to questions about the status of the administration's review of the School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendations. “Our priority right now is the health of New Yorkers and academic success of our students in these extraordinary times, and we’ll continue to adjust policies to meet those goals for the duration of this crisis."

When the group published its final report in August, de Blasio said he would assess the recommendations over the next year. “Now we’re going to really dig deep into what makes sense and by the end of the school year we’ll know where we’re going,” he told reporters a few days after the recommendations were released and as the new school year was starting, citing plans to undertake more community engagement. At the time, de Blasio was in the midst of his four-month campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.

"We are taking a very, very deep dive into what the recommendations have been from the School Diversity Advisory committee," Carranza said at the time.

But the mayor has discussed little publicly since then and the recommendations -- or anything related to school desegregation -- were conspicuously absent from his State of the City address in February, when he outlined his priorities for the year, his next-to-last as mayor, under the theme of “Save Our City.”

De Blasio’s further delay in addressing school segregation in New York City, to the extent that it may be attributed to the pandemic fallout, is another example where the coronavirus crisis not only exacerbates racial inequalities by hitting communities of color harder but also by diminishing the government's overall capacity. But the situation also speaks to the slow pace at which the de Blasio administration has approached a particularly thorny issue that goes to the heart of the mayor's promises to end “the tale of two cities” and create "the fairest big city in America."

New York has among the most segregated schools of any state in the country, with a heavy concentration in New York City. A groundbreaking UCLA study in 2014 found that 19 out of New York City's 32 school districts had 10 percent or less white students, including all of the Bronx and two-thirds of Brooklyn. It showed a correlation between racial segregation in schools and concentrations of poverty.

In 2017, after years of pressure from advocates and elected officials, the mayor announced the "Equity and Excellence for All" plan to improve all schools, especially those predominantly serving students of color and historically lacking investment. Soon after, he empaneled the School Diversity Advisory Group to explore ways to increase “diversity” in city schools, while he studiously avoided the words “segregation” and “integration.”

"We have to improve the quality levels of our public schools and we have to do it in a way that promotes equity – that’s the mission, now – that’s the central mission," he told reporters on June 9, 2017, a few days after the announcing the plan. When pressed on the specific issue of segregation he said: "The quality of education for students is paramount in this discussion. So, when we talk about it, we have to understand, we need any plan to start with the quality of education for all students, including those who have not gotten a fair shake previously."

The group, made up of students, parents, and experts, released two sets of recommendations, one in February 2019, which was largely adopted by the mayor and chancellor, and a second in August, which contained significantly more controversial changes to admissions, districting, and tracking policies.

"Our hope was that it would spur a lot more innovation and creativity, not just out of the Department of Education at the administrative level, but also within school districts and across school districts," Wiley said in the interview.

The recommendations are based on the concept that "more educational opportunity was not a one size fits all," she said, and "a clear roadmap around the kinds of admissions policies that were clearly creating more problems than solutions.”

The final recommendations included a range of small and large proposed solutions to the problems of school segregation and its many negative consequences, the most controversial among them being to limit middle school admissions screening and phasing out "gifted and talented" programs, both shown to favor white and Asian students, and the group recommends replacing G&T tracts with more inclusive schoolwide enrichment models. Another controversial point, redrawing school district lines, gets at the geographic element involved in school segregation, especially for elementary schools.

The proposal received fierce opposition from some parents who have had the means to prioritize stronger school districts when deciding where to live and for years have found a sympathetic ear in the mayor, as well as a number of local elected officials.

Wiley said the big ticket items have come to overshadow simpler, perhaps less-controversial ones.

"Some of these are really obvious and easy to fix," she said. "For example, if you use attendance as an admissions factor, you are going to essentially make it more difficult for low-income students of color to be competitive."

Another issue is disciplinary history. "A student who may have had a disciplinary issue because they spit gum on the floor. Does that mean they don't deserve real consideration and opportunity to get into a good program in middle school or in high school?" she asked. "We conflate a lot of different kinds of disciplinary issues and also the ways it sometimes works against low-income students of color in particular."

According to SDAG's first report in February, 87 percent of New York City public school suspensions are of black and Latino students, despite making up 66 percent of the student population.

Fed up with the administration's silence on desegregation, student-led groups IntegrateNYC and Teens Take Charge, which had been prominent advocates in the lead-up to the mayor announcing the SDAG, organized a school boycott to push de Blasio and Carranza to integrate city schools, including by eliminating admissions screens. The boycott was planned for May 18 to coincide with the 66th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision but was called off because of the pandemic. The groups and their allies have continued to use social media and other avenues to keep the conversation alive.

As the end of the school year approaches and students and parents look ahead to the fall, some advocates and local elected officials have called on the city to embrace innovative redistricting and admissions models that have been piloted in certain districts. The most prominent one is in Brooklyn’s Community School District 15, where in 2018 middle schools eliminated screening and moved to a ranked-choice lottery system with a 52 percent of seats reserved for low-income students, students in temporary housing, and English-language learners. Enrollment data released last November after the first year showed promising results for integration.

"Next fall, as today’s fourth graders and seventh graders start the process of applying to middle and high schools, the Department of Education will need to make significant changes, since so many of these decisions have relied on grades, attendance, and test scores," wrote Lander, who represents parts of Community School District 15 and championed the new system, in a new letter to Carranza. "The admissions changes we made together for middle schools in District 15 last year can serve as a model for how to address middle school admissions for the 2021-22 school year.​"

But Lander argues an emergency pandemic response should not be an invitation to replace thoughtful policymaking. "I don't think this moment is a good moment to make permanent long-term decisions. There is just too much uncertainty, too little opportunity to do good, inclusive public process," he told Gotham Gazette in an interview.

"In terms of where the city is in regards to integration, not enough system-wide action has been taken,” wrote Matt Gonzales, director of the Integration and Innovation Initiative at NYU and at one point a member of the SDAG, by email. “The lack of action on the SDAG recommendations is definitely an indication of this."

"However, if you look at the history of integration efforts in NYC, it is also true that no administration has moved the needle more than the current one. The number of districts and individual schools who've implemented plans has increased," he said.

"We very much applauded the fact that the Department of Education, along with the state, were funding districts to look at how they might integrate their schools," said Wiley. "We thought there should be more of that, so that there was actually support for that kind of innovation."

"The good news is the Department of Education was doing some of that already. We hoped they would do more. Obviously it's a challenging time now," she said.

Gonzales said the pandemic has slowed community planning efforts underway in Community School Districts 13, 16, 28, and 9, "but I am hopeful those resume when society resumes."

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Pandemic Reinforces De Blasio's Inaction on School Desegregation Recommendations Thu, 21 May 2020 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [DATA] Point? 16,000 - The Future of Gifted & Talented Schooling in New York City https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8776-what-s-the-data-point-16-000-gifted-talented-education-schools https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8776-what-s-the-data-point-16-000-gifted-talented-education-schools whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 79 -- 16,000, with David Tipson of Appleseed & City Council Member Robert Cornegy [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

cornergy tippson wtdpMayor de Blasio's School Diversity Advisory Group recently released its second and final set of recommendations to integrate the city's schools and improve the overall education system for 1.1 million studens. One particular recommendation -- to replace current gifted and talented programming -- caught a lot of attention, including from City Council Member Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn, who has worked to expand G&T in his district and across the city. Cornegy and David Tipson of Appleseed, a nonprofit dedicated to school integration and improvement, joined the podcast to discuss the work of the SDAG, the future of gifted and talented programming in the city, and how G&T fits into the larger school system.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [DATA] Point? 16,000 - The Future of Gifted & Talented Schooling in New York City Thu, 05 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8772-max-murphy-podcast-recommendations-de-blasio-school-diversity-task-force-gifted-talented https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8772-max-murphy-podcast-recommendations-de-blasio-school-diversity-task-force-gifted-talented may bdb ps 600 wbai 
(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)


Setember 4, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next

gonzales treyger wbaiMayor de Blasio's School Diversity Advisory Group recently released its second and final set of recommendations for how to desegregate and improve the city's schools. The panel made major waves by recommending to eliminate and replace the current gifted and talented programs in city schools, as well as removing other admissions screens and redrawing all school district lines, among many other ideas and goals. DSAG member Matt Gonzales and City Council Member Mark Treyger, who chairs the Council education committee and is a former teacher, both joined the show to discuss the recommendations and what comes next.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next Wed, 04 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Why It’s Time to Re-think Bloomberg Era Gifted & Talented Programming in New York City https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8770-time-to-rethink-gifted-talented-programs-in-new-york-city-education https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8770-time-to-rethink-gifted-talented-programs-in-new-york-city-education maybdb dance movement

(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)


Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), on which we served, released its second report calling for all students to have access to enrichment opportunities as a forward-looking replacement for the city’s antiquated system of “gifted and talented” education programs. This provoked a significant volume of responses from a variety of stakeholders who have come to see G&T programs as legitimate and needed. But it is essential that anyone considering what the SDAG is recommending have the full picture -- of both the group’s recommendations and the research they are based upon -- before judging the conclusion.

As SDAG and other critics have noted, the separate and unequal G&T programs are problematic on several levels, in large part because most of them admit students based on an arbitrary cut-off score on one standardized test. In addition, they are disproportionately located in affluent areas of the city and relatedly, serve a disproportionate number of white and Asian students.

This racially and ethnically segregated G&T system reflects the biases that work against the broader understandings of intelligence, ability, and giftedness that sustain our culturally diverse city and our creative and entrepreneurial economy. Research on child development, learning, and culture tell us this is the wrong way to organize schools and label children.

As members of SDAG, New York City public school parents, a researcher (Amy), and a Community Education Council President for District 16 (NeQuan), we argue that New York should lead the national movement to shun so-called gifted education programs in favor of universal enrichment programs that allow all our children to reach their highest potential.

It is important to note that SDAG’s recommendation is holistic -- not simply to throw away G&T and leave everything else as-is -- and grounded in a vast body of evidence about the appropriate uses of standardized tests and programs that separate those labeled “gifted” based on test scores alone.

For instance, the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education released a joint statement on the uses of standardized testing in education, proclaiming that, “Decisions that affect individual students' life chances or educational opportunities should not be made on the basis of test scores alone.”

This joint statement issued by three of the most prominent research associations in the field of education sums up the research evidence on standardized tests and their appropriate uses. It echoes the frustration of millions of parents in New York City and elsewhere who know that their children’s intelligence and ability, their gifts and their promises, cannot be measured by one test taken at the age of four.

The inaccuracy of one standardized test to measure individual “giftedness“ is reflected in the stark racial disparities in enrollment in New York City’s G&T programs, which are less than 25 percent black and Latinx in a school system that is 75 percent black and Latinx. These demographics are testimony to not only the racial disparities in income, parental education levels, and access to educational resources. They also reflect the cultural biases inherent in standardized tests that only accept one right answer to questions that could be open to different interpretations when examined through different cultural lenses.

We know, for instance, that the research on how people learn concludes that intelligence is shaped by culture and experience, and that the best test-takers have had life experiences most culturally aligned with the test-makers. A cultural lens through which tests are written and perceived suggests that rather than measure a pure or objective form of “intelligence,” they measure a culturally-shaped understanding of who has knowledge that is aligned with those who wrote the exams.

A 2018 report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded that the cultural contexts in which students grow up affect their ability to answer test questions.  When these tests have dire consequences for students’ access to educational programs, they can also have a deep and negative psychological impact on students’ sense of themselves.

Even researchers and educators who once advocated for separate G&T programs for those students with good test scores have changed their minds, calling on more parents to “rethink” gifted education and consider whether these narrowly defined programs even make sense. In research that The Public Good Project has conducted in New York City on racially diverse schools, we have studied schools that have eliminated their G&T programs, and they are thrilled.

As one teacher noted, echoing all of her colleagues: since the school eliminated the G&T program, there is much more diversity at the classroom level and the parents who choose the school now really value that diversity over a label. She said that when the school had the G&T program, the students were more segregated and isolated. Now, she said, “I have a few students who I think would probably test into talented and gifted but their families don’t even bother, and I think it’s because they know that’s it’s great instruction and it’s a nurturing environment…and it’s a truly diverse school and I know that’s rare in the city.”

But why is it so rare in a city like New York, when these research findings are but one reason why a growing number of educators and parents are rejecting the “gifted” labels for programs and students? Through experiences as parents in New York City public schools we know that G&T programs within a racially and ethnically diverse district like District 3 in Manhattan lead to unacceptable levels of racial and ethnic segregation between and within schools. They also lead to skewed understandings of which schools are “good” even when schools that enroll students with lower test scores have stronger curricula and better teachers.

In the predominantly black and Latinx District 16 in Brooklyn, parents fought to bring G&T programs into their schools. Nevertheless, when a new program was added, it was underfunded and low quality in part because the teachers were not well prepared. Thus, the addition of this G&T program led to more divisiveness within the district as only a small number of students gained the “gifted and talented” label.

This divisiveness occurred even when the program used broader criteria and admitted students for third grade instead of kindergarten, making it less problematic than the majority of G&T programs in the city. While the D16 parents thought they were achieving more equity by gaining a G&T program, they soon realized that adding G&T created a bigger set of equity issues, making many of the district’s constituents eager to pilot the new, SDAG-recommended Enrichment for All program.

For the sake of our children, our city and our racially and culturally diverse nation, we hope that District 16 can provide the model we need for an enrichment program that will lead the way to a more humane system that identifies the multiple gifts and talents of 1.1 million students. It’s time to let go of our 20th century model of educating a small number of students with poorly-defined academic "gifts" and adopt a 21st century model of appreciating the many different gifts within students and the family and community cultures that foster them. 

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Amy Stuart Wells is a Professor of Sociology and Education and the Director of Reimagining Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. NeQuan C. McLean is the President of the District 16 Community Education Council in Brooklyn. They are both members of the Mayor’s School Diversity Advisory Group.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Why It’s Time to Re-think Bloomberg Era Gifted & Talented Programming in New York City Tue, 03 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
New York City is Waist-Deep in a School Desegregation Conversation - How Did We Get Here? https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8769-new-york-city-waist-deep-school-desegregation-conversation-how-did-we-get-here-de-blasio https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8769-new-york-city-waist-deep-school-desegregation-conversation-how-did-we-get-here-de-blasio maydbd district15

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Earlier this week, the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG) released its second and final set of recommendations to integrate city schools, a significant development in the current chapter of the city’s response to deep racial and economic segregation in its school system, which is the largest in the country and home to 1.1 million students.

This chapter began in 2014, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education and Bill de Blasio’s first year as Mayor, when a report published by the UCLA Civil Rights Project showed that New York’s was one of the least integrated school systems in the country -- the worst state in terms of white-black segregation and among the bottom three for Latino-white segregation. Much of that segregation was due to the facts on the ground in the country’s largest city.

De Blasio and his administration have been forced to acknowledge that dismal reality in the years since, at first looking to largely sidestep the issue, then beginning with modest proposals to improve diversity in schools and ultimately creating the SDAG at the end of 2017. The administration’s focus on school segregation did not happen immediately following the March 2014 UCLA report, released just three months into de Blasio’s tenure as mayor, and not without pressure from grassroots advocates, students, families, and local elected officials at various stages during the last five years.

The SDAG’s two sets of recommendations, some of which are especially controversial, on top of de Blasio’s previous proposal to take aggressive measures to integrate the city’s eight prestigious specialized high schools, have set off something of a firestorm. They set the stage for challenging decisions that de Blasio will soon make about which recommendations to pursue, including, perhaps, a sweeping overhaul of the city’s “gifted and talented” programs and selective admissions to middle schools. Following will likely be years more of debate about how to desegregate city schools while also improving the quality of education hundreds of thousands of students receive.

Before the next chapter begins, how did we get here?

2012-2013
Some would say the recent history of New York City’s school desegregation debate begins, before the 2014 UCLA report, with a districting proposal that illustrated the complex factors the city would later need to address.

In the fall of 2012, the District 15 Community Education Council approved a school district rezoning proposed by the Department of Education (DOE) under Mayor Michael Bloomberg that would shrink the geographic districts of two popular but overcrowded schools in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and open a new school to serve some of the students who would be cut out. At the same time, the DOE was rebuilding a predominantly African-American 300-seat school in neighboring Community School District 13. For a period of time, both the District 13 and District 15 schools were housed in the same building.

“That sounded sensible, except what they were really saying was, ‘We’re gonna build a building with two doors; into one door will go 300 black kids, and to the other door will go 600 mostly white kids,” said Brad Lander, a City Council member representing parts of both school districts, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

“That was enough for people to wake up in this district and say, ‘That is insane. We will not allow that level of school segregation,’” recalled Lander, who succeeded then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in the City Council.

After a prolonged battle with the Bloomberg administration, local elected officials, parents, and advocates, the DOE agreed to create a single 900-seat school -- P.S. 133 -- open to students from both districts with a model for inclusive admissions, becoming the first school with enrollment set-asides to increase diversity, according to Lander.

2014-2015
In 2014, six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, the UCLA Civil Rights Project published its report, with research led by Dr. John Kucsera and Dr. Gary Orfield, which stated New York State had “the most segregated schools in the country,” largely due to inequality in the city’s school system.

The report found roughly 66 percent of black students and 57 percent of Latino students attended schools where less than 10 percent of students were white. Some of the worst segregation was in the Bronx, where not a single school’s student body was more than 10 percent white.

“For New York to have a favorable multiracial future both socially and economically, it is absolutely urgent that its leaders and citizens understand both the values of diversity and the harms of inequality,” the report reads.

When asked about the report and the city’s segregated schools, de Blasio initially and for years mostly had a three-pronged answer: one, that school segregation is the result of hundreds of years of history and broader “structural racism” in society; two, that his education programming was focused on improving all schools and thus helping foster integration and reduce the need for desegregation; and three, that if local communities wanted to pursue solutions to desegregate nearby schools, they had his blessing.

He also noted on multiple occasions that families make major decisions and investments based on schools, and indicated he needed to be cautious about more drastic measures that might alter school zoning, enrollment or admissions policies. And, the mayor repeatedly mentioned that in part because of housing segregation, there are many geographic areas of the city home to residents of limited diversity, making local school integration especially challenging without a choice he was not willing to pursue: the New York City equivalent of busing students to achieve integrated schools.  

“The reason we have segregation in our society is about structural racism, is about 400 years of American history and a lot of things that should have been done differently in American history,” de Blasio said later, in 2018. “It’s about economics first and foremost and the fact that economic opportunity is still not open and consistent across different racial groups and ethnic groups and that’s the first problem. That leads to housing segregation and that in turn leads to a situation where our classrooms are not diverse.”

In November 2014, prompted by the UCLA report and the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown decision, the City Council held its first public hearing on school segregation in decades, and led to the passage in 2015 of three pieces of legislation sponsored by Council Members Inez Barron, Brad Lander, and Ritchie Torres, known as the School Diversity Accountability Act.

The UCLA report and the anniversary year “presented an occasion to renew our city and our country’s commitment to desegregation,” Torres, who represents parts of the Bronx, said in an interview. “The fact is that we have the most segregated school system in the country. We have a school system more segregated than the vestiges of Jim Crow in the South.”

The package required the DOE to report annually on demographic data that could be used to evaluate segregation and diversity, and report on what steps the DOE is taking to address those issues. The City Council cannot mandate the DOE adopt specific policies, so Torres sponsored a resolution in the package calling on DOE to develop a plan to combat school segregation. 

“In some ways that call is what SDAG is now, many years later, answering,” said Lander.

“This is a step further in our efforts to ensure that our schools are as diverse as our city and people of all communities live, learn, work together,” de Blasio said in June 2015 when signing the legislative package.

In 2014 and 2015, grassroots advocates, parents, and educators in Community School Districts 1, 3, 13, and 15 became more active organizing around school-by-school, as well as district-level, integration plans. Some of the most vocal desegregation activists, like those in IntegrateNYC, a student-led advocacy group, formed during this period.

They “saw a historic opportunity to renew the campaign to desegregate our school system. It was driven not primarily by elected officials but by grassroots activists, especially students,” Torres recalled.

Activism, panel discussions, and other conversation around school desegregation continued.

In 2015, the DOE took its first steps toward establishing the Diversity in Admissions pilot program, a school-by-school approach modeled on the types of inclusive admissions policies P.S. 133 was employing. The city designated seven schools to participate in the program that year, according to Lander, “and since we have 1,700, that was pretty modest...It was the first official step of them doing anything [but] it was not yet a serious effort to confront segregation across the school system.”

“We were able to create admissions policies that promote diversity and respect the needs of the community. I’m hopeful that these changes will help serve as a model for schools across the City,” said then-Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in a press release, without explicitly mentioning the issue of segregation.

When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor in November 2015 why he wasn’t taking more aggressive measures to integrate city schools, de Blasio’s response made waves. “You have to also respect families who have made a decision to live in a certain area oftentimes because of a specific school,” de Blasio said.

By this point, the advocacy around the issue was well underway and gaining steam, and the DOE was submitting its first reports required under the School Diversity Accountability Act.

2016
In 2016, much of the public attention and advocacy was focused on district-level plans, where changes could be made on a small scale and tested, especially in areas that resemble a microcosm of the city’s school demographics.

Questions still hovered around whether de Blasio, who ran for mayor on a progressive platform focused on equity -- including bridging racial, educational, and socioeconomic gaps -- would make the issue a priority. (School segregation was not a high-profile issue during the 2013 election, and his campaign did not address it other than de Blasio calling for greater diversity at the city’s eight specialized high schools.)

A “controlled choice” admissions policy -- in which parent/student school choices are balanced with goals of socioeconomic integration -- was proposed in District 1 in the Lower East Side. (In October 2017, District 1 became the first district to push for and win a district-wide model for school integration.)

Asked about pursuing greater desegregation measures and specifically a broader controlled-choice admissions policy during a June 2016 appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio demurred.

“We believe there is a lot more to be done in terms of fully integrating our schools, but I do want to say, right now we are seeing some real success with models that are being used right now in our school system that are starting to be very, very effective in terms of bringing in a better mix of kids into some of our schools. I think the pre-K program has also been an example of an initiative that has had a really good impact in terms of diversity. So, we’re looking at a lot of options. I’m committed to it.”

Pushed a bit further, de Blasio said, “There’s different models that we have some real hope in. But let’s be clear...this is also the result of decades, in fact hundreds of years, of segregation in our nation. And a lot of that goes back to economics and housing. Our affordable housing plan, also, we believe, creates more diversity in neighborhoods, and that’s really, obviously, the root of the situation. If we can create more diversity through housing and development, that is another way to get at the schools issue.”

In September 2016, de Blasio was asked by a reporter about pushing more desegregation measures, and said, in part: “[W]e’ve already foreshadowed we’re going to have a bigger vision that we’ll put forward about how we can do diversification work for our schools – something we believe in. But we also want to be clear about the limits of it, and I’m going to be very explicit about this as we present that vision. The problem is not an education problem, the problem is an American history problem. It’s the problem of structural racism. It’s a problem of housing segregation.”

He continued: “Let’s not ask the schools to address all those problems simultaneously – that’s not viable. But there’s ways that we can do better through our schools. And, I certainly think if you talk to parents about pre-K and what it’s done for their kids, it’s been a success. So, we have to – the first mission is always to make the education system work for the kids to achieve onto itself equity and excellence. And it’s crucial distinction – if we want a more just city and a more just nation, then let’s get our school system to live up to a notion of equity and excellence. Separately, we have to do a lot in our society writ large to create more diversity and more opportunity across the board.”

2017-2018
One indication from de Blasio that he would pursue a broader integration plan came with the launch of Equity and Excellence for All in June 2017, which led to the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG) that would explore solutions for city-wide desegregation, according to Council Member Lander.

The vision’s main focus, however, was expanding course options and resources in underserved (and heavily segregated) schools and districts. The program included initiatives like “Algebra for All” and “AP for All” and other planks of a platform de Blasio said would help improve learning opportunities for students wherever they may attend a city school.

The framework also provided for the DOE to support school districts in developing diversity plans to achieve greater integration, without ever making explicit mention of segregation, according to Lander. 

All the while, de Blasio maintained that through his universal pre-Kindergarten initiative, Renewal School turnaround program, and Equity and Excellence initiatives, he was ensuring there would be “no bad schools,” which would make racial segregation less of a concern and improve the chances of integrated schools.

During a June 2017 appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio defended himself against the notion that he was not being bold enough on school desegregation. He said, in part, “Here’s what troubles me when people put the question of diversification ahead of the question of immediate efforts, toward better schools and more equal schools. We’ve got kids right now -- a generation of children right now who need our help. By doing things like Pre-K for All, Advanced Placement courses in all high schools, including ones that never had any – getting kids on grade-level reading by third grade. These are things that got ignored for many, many years...And so, bluntly, inequality grew and grew and grew. I have the tools right now to start addressing this, with the geographical realities and demographic realities we face. That is how we address equity right now while building towards a more diverse and integrated society. But, we’ve got to help kids now.”

In Fall 2018, District 15 in Park Slope, where Lander, Council Member Carlos Menchaca, and Parents for Middle School Equity had been working to change screening policy in middle school admissions, became one of the first districts to be approved and receive funding for integration planning.

“We eliminated screening in the District 15 middle schools. In some ways that is the proposal SDAG is making, to take that to a broader level,” Lander told Gotham Gazette, referring to the recommendations released this week that call for sweeping changes to admissions processes and investments in new enrichment programming.

The SDAG, a group of civil rights activists, students, parents, educators, and other experts appointed by the mayor as he sought reelection, held its first meeting on December 11, 2017. The same month, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced she was stepping down from the post.

At the December 22, 2017 press conference announcing Fariña’s retirement, Gotham Gazette asked her if she regretted not taking on school desegregation more aggressively.

“No,” she said, “I think we’ve done some really good work. There’s always more than can be done on any initiative, but I’m going back to what I said before – you could mandate some things, but having a lot more conversations with people, which is what we’ve been doing...And I think convincing people to come to the table to want to do the right thing for the right reasons is a lot more important, and I think that’s what we’ve been doing.”

She continued; “I certainly feel that our new diversity committee that we just put in place – they just met, I think, last week – has gotten some great suggestions because this is not just us coming with ideas, but what does the community think?”

After a few other thoughts, she concluded: “So you can always do things better. I agree with the Mayor that in our Equity and Excellence the next chancellor should be thinking about going deeper and deeper, but I think we’re on the right path.”

2018
In March 2018, Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho very publicly announced he would not become the new Schools Chancellor a day after accepting the job. That week Mayor de Blasio hired Richard Carranza, a superintendent in Houston and San Francisco schools, to be the next schools chancellor.

“The equity agenda championed by our mayor is my equity agenda,” Carranza said at the City Hall press conference announcing he would be taking the position. Within a month, Carranza was discussing school desegregation explicitly, breaking from de Blasio’s and Fariña’s practice of avoiding the term in favor of the far less defined and loaded concept of “diversity.”

“Without that [shift] we would not be anywhere close to where we are. He has been much more enthusiastic about this issue than the mayor,” Lander said, responding to a recent New York Times article that describes Carranza in his second year as trying to “reset expectations” about the prospect of integration.

In June 2018, two months after Carranza started, he and the mayor announced a proposal to improve diversity at the city’s selective specialized high schools, where enrollment of black and Hispanic students has declined precipitously in the last four decades. The plan included scrapping over three years the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), which is seen as a critical factor in the predominant enrollment of white and Asian students.

The fate of the SHSAT for the three most prestigious of the eight specialized schools is controlled by the state, not the city, and many saw it as a way for de Blasio to take up the issue of school segregation without implicating his administration’s own responsibility in addressing it. That plan faced severe backlash from many parents and students who were eager to keep the rules the same, and was criticized for not having enough community input. It did not advance in Albany in 2018.

2019
A year later, the SHSAT is still the single admissions test for enrollment in eight of the city’s nine specialized high schools (the ninth is a performing arts school). In March, it was reported that only 7 out of 895 seats in Stuyvesant High School’s next freshman class would go to black students. Later that month, as he was considering a presidential run on a progressive platform, de Blasio used the word “segregation” to describe New York’s school system for the first time, according to Chalkbeat.

Discussing specialized high schools during an appearance on WNYC radio, de Blasio told host Brian Lehrer, “We’re saying we’re not going to live by this old system that has perpetuated massive segregation, not just segregation – massive segregation.”

Meanwhile, in February, the School Diversity Advisory Group released its first of two sets of recommendations for the city to improve school integration. The recommendations include adding metrics on diversity and integration to mandated reporting, creating a “General Assembly” of high school reps to assist in crafting a citywide agenda, and monitoring discrepancies in school discipline. Other suggestions dealt with improving culturally-relevant education and engaging communities through local partnerships.

“Although we applaud SDAG’s reference to more ambitious short, medium and long term integration goals by requiring district, borough and then city-wide integration plans, these will only be effective if the City develops powerful metrics for defining integration,” wrote the Alliance for School Integration and Desegregation, a coalition of recently-formed and longstanding civil rights groups, in a statement following the report.

Asked about taking on segregated schools during a February 26 press conference on the “record high” number of city students taking Advanced Placement course, de Blasio said, “[T]here is a much bigger discussion that we will have in this city and we’ve put forward some pieces of it, and there is a lot more to come, on how to make sure our children learn with each other and how to have the most diverse classrooms that we can have. But that should not be mistaken for the primary way or the only way to ensure that kids get a great education. We have kids in every kind of community who are ready to achieve their potential. They need investment. They need high quality teachers. They need the best possible principals. This is the path forward, first and foremost, that’s what Equity and Excellences is all about.”

In June, de Blasio announced the city would be adopting 62 of the initial 67 recommendations. At the time, the report was criticized for not dealing with gifted and talented programs for elementary school children and selective admissions screenings for higher grades, which are seen as among the greatest barriers to integration.

“I wish the focus could largely be kept on reforming admissions. For me enrollment policy is, beyond housing, the root cause of a heavily segregated school system,” Council Member Torres told Gotham Gazette, saying the administration’s preoccupation with specialized high schools diverts attention and political capital from more fundamental issues. 

On Tuesday, SDAG released its second and final report, which among other things recommended the city eliminate its gifted and talented elementary school programs and admissions screenings for middle schools, while adding new enrichment programs to all schools that need them to serve all learners. The new recommendations fell short of proposing admissions policy for high schools be changed, even as they called for other selective admissions practices to be reformed, instead suggesting study down the line after other changes are adopted.

Now it is up to Carranza, and ultimately the mayor, to act on the group’s recommendations. At a press conference Tuesday, Carranza indicated he was eager to review the report, and de Blasio also said he would review it but made no commitment to acting on the recommendations. 

SDAG has left the ball in the mayor’s court.

“We have decided not to be very prescriptive in terms of the recommendations, in part in recognition that New York City is so large, districts differ greatly in terms of their demographics and their needs,” said Amy Hsin, a sociologist at Queens College and a member of the SDAG executive committee, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. 

“So we feel that the DOE needs to work with communities to co-develop an integration plan where communities are stakeholders,” she added. “That’s what we are trying to push the city to do in our reports.”

How de Blasio responds will pose a major test in the final years of his mayoralty, and may significantly shape public discourse during the upcoming race to replace him.

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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New York City is Waist-Deep in a School Desegregation Conversation - How Did We Get Here? Mon, 02 Sep 2019 04:00:00 +0000
School Diversity Group’s Second Set of Recommendations Expected Soon; Will Take on Admissions Policies https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8726-diversity-group-s-second-set-of-recommendations-expected-soon-will-take-on-school-admissions https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8726-diversity-group-s-second-set-of-recommendations-expected-soon-will-take-on-school-admissions district 15 div plan announce

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


Following the city’s adoption of 62 recommendations targeting diversity and desegregation in public schools, a new report expected this month from the same advisory group will aim to tackle the tough topics of screened admissions and gifted and talented programs.

The two reports come from the Department of Education’s School Diversity Advisory Group, which Mayor Bill de Blasio formed in 2017 amid increasing demands that he take significant steps toward desegregating the city’s highly racially-segregated schools. The group released its first report with 67 recommendations in February, and the city accepted 62 of them in June, including adding diversity targets in middle school admissions, encouraging more districts to come up with diversity plans, and adding diversity metrics to an annual report, among other potential changes. The first set of recommendations largely dealt with elementary and middle schools at the district-level, with more specific admissions proposals coming in the second wave.

Members of the advisory group said in June that the second report was expected in just a few weeks, but have since said the report should be public by the end of August.

While some said the adopted recommendations are a positive step after years of the mayor and the DOE balking at the issue of school segregation, critics noted that as it stands the plan lacks timelines for implementation and more aggressive citywide solutions, including taking on high school admissions. The city did not accept recommendations to create a Chief Integration Officer or to consider moving the supervision of School Resource Officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education.

The first recommendations focused on pushing individual school districts to develop their own diversity plans -- de Blasio has expressed support for the few districts that have taken this on in the past and said he believes integration should be pursued by local communities not pushed by the administration. The city also adopted a framework created by the student-led advocacy group Integrate NYC called the five R’s (race and enrollment, resource equity, relationships across group identities, representation of staff, and restorative justice), which will be a foundation for creating school integration policy.

“Our schools are stronger when they reflect the diversity of our city, and we’ve taken real steps to integrate our schools, including adopting the student-developed ‘5 R’s’ framework for real integration,” DOE spokesperson Will Mantell said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “We thank the students, educators, and families who have made their voices heard, and we’ll continue to act.”

Matt Gonzales, a member of the School Diversity Advisory Group and school diversity director at the nonprofit New York Appleseed, said the second report will lay out ways the city can change admissions policies as well as more detail on goals and timelines for implementation. He said the group wants to see some of their recommendations in the second report start to be put into effect in the fall.

Gonzales said he could not detail the specifics of the report, but that the group focused on areas where enrollment policies create “concentrations of privilege and vulnerability.” He added that the SDAG found that gifted and talented and screened admissions are tools that enable segregation.

The group’s intention, Gonzales said, was to originally write only one report, but the members later decided that the first report would lay out the framework for the conversation around desegregation. The next report will be more specific.

“The second report is really about following through on trying to address some of the primary mechanisms that facilitate segregation,” Gonzales said. “We could write a hundred reports, probably, on what needs to be done. There will be more to say and do after this report comes out.”

The SDAG overall aims to reshape citywide policies to desegregate public schools, which a UCLA report in 2014 said are the most segregated in the nation. Though some progress has begun, the gifted programs are a stark example of the segregated school system and remain a point of tension as the city wrestles with when and how to pursue racial and economic integration.

The city’s school system is nearly 70 percent black and Hispanic with white and Asian students making up around 15 percent each. But black and Hispanic students make up only around 27 percent of students in gifted and talented programs, according to Chalkbeat.

Students in kindergarten through third grade can take an exam to get into the gifted programs at the five gifted and talented schools that take students citywide or individual district programs.

David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center, said he expects the second report to be stronger than the first, but added that the real question is whether it will have any impact or if it is part of de Blasio’s strategy to appear concerned about segregation “without really doing anything.”

“Simply calling for the change does little to meet the change,” Bloomfield said. “This go-slow approach seems to be ineffective in making the school system more equitable.”

Bloomfield said the new report could go deeper into the “hundreds” of schools that use academic screens — test scores, grades, interviews, admissions visits, or geographic location — to admit students. About 25 percent of middle schools and 33 percent of high schools use screened admission processes, and the eight specialized high schools only admit students based on their SHSAT scores.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has been critical of the use of academic screens, and the mayor this year unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate the SHSAT via state legislation. Though, Bloomfield said de Blasio could do more by focusing on the ways he could make the system more equitable without having to change state law: eliminating academic screens or changing the selection mechanism. Some have also called on de Blasio to create new specialized high schools, which the city has the power to do, while it could also change the admissions criteria at five of the existing eight schools (the other three are indeed governed by state law).

On the Max & Murphy podcast, City Council Member Brad Lander -- a Brooklyn Democrat who has been one of the leaders in pushing school desegregation efforts in the city, including in his own district, which has its own school desegregation plan already showing progress -- said the city has not made “any meaningful progress” for integration at the high school level yet.

Lander said the city could move to a process that requires integration in high schools where students travel to schools across the city, relieving the burden of residential segregation.

“High schools are a big opportunity,” Lander said. “Most of the focus has been on the specialized high schools, but we have about 400 high schools. And other than those eight, the city sets admission guidelines.”

Lander said that the first set of recommendations were a good development and he is optimistic for more progress, but that integration efforts are just getting started.

“We’ve got a long, long, long way to go,” Lander said. “We’re finally starting.”

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by Samantha Handler, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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School Diversity Group’s Second Set of Recommendations Expected Soon; Will Take on Admissions Policies Wed, 07 Aug 2019 04:00:00 +0000
'We're Moving Now': City Pursues School Desegregation Measures, with Major Looming Test https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8644-we-re-moving-now-city-pursues-school-desegregation-measures-with-major-looming-test https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8644-we-re-moving-now-city-pursues-school-desegregation-measures-with-major-looming-test Carranza De Blasio education

Chancellor Carranza & Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced on June 10 that the city will adopt 62 recommendations focused on diversity and integration in public schools, focusing on middle and elementary schools, from the Department of Education’s School Diversity Advisory Group, a new step toward school desegregation as many students, families, educators, and others have waited years for the city to make progress.

A 2014 UCLA report said New York public schools were the most segregated in the country, but stressed that they didn’t have to be. The report said a combination of demographic transformations and a lack of diversity-focused policies led to “problematic segregation patterns.” 

Adding metrics to an annual report to track numbers related to diversity and integration, defining a city goal to aim to have “all schools to look like the city,” and investing in programs to provide more opportunities in high poverty schools are some of the recommendations that some say are the most significant. Also part of the picture is city grants to school districts that want to design their own integration plans, as a few districts have already done.

The adoption of the recommendations come after “a long period of frustration,” according to City Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been one of the leaders in pushing school desegregation efforts in the city. Lander added that Carranza’s leadership has been significant in moving the advisory group and broader conversation along. The city accepted all but five of the group’s 67 recommendations, with two rejected and three are still under review.

While many say the initial slate of recommendations is a positive step, some have criticized the plan for lack of timelines for implementation and not being aggressive enough to make fast progress on school integration. Members of the group have said this report is just a start, and a second set of recommendations in July will address some of those concerns, including taking on the tough subject of high school admissions. 

Some have also said the two recommendations the de Blasio administration did not select — the creation of a Chief Integration Officer position and analyzing the possibility of moving the supervision of School Safety Agents from the NYPD to the Department of Education — could have spurred more progress. 

The three of the 67 from the first report that are still under review would make resources available to any district making diversity plans if the DOE receives more applications than the $2 million it already set aside can support and establish a separate set of funds for districts that have not started integration discussions yet. The third suggests developing and investing in enrichment programs in elementary schools.

Since Carranza took over as chancellor in April 2018, he has taken a much more aggressive approach to school desegregation than his predecessors, the apparent result of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new willingness to address an area of significant criticism during his first five years in office, though the mayor is still facing heat for his tepid approach to what is a civil rights and education issue with major socioeconomic and racial implications.

Carranza has implemented mandatory implicit bias trainings for all teachers, lobbied state lawmakers to drop the single entrance exam for the city’s specialized high schools where few black and Hispanic students are enrolled, and eliminated the use of “limited unscreened” enrollment policies in high schools, which gave priority to applicants who attended admissions fairs to show interest and were thought to favor students with more engaged and wealthier parents. 

Mayor de Blasio in 2017 had created a modest diversity plan and established the School Diversity Advisory Group, which came up with the recently-released recommendations. But, de Blasio’s agenda had lacked plans on school integration until recent years. Council members as well as student and teacher advocates increasingly pressured the mayor in the years after the UCLA report. Then he appointed Carranza, who has been outspoken, at times ruffling feathers de Blasio had been loathe to disrupt, to push conversation and action around school integration.

“The chancellor’s coming and embracing that advocacy and working together to build it...has been essential,” said Lander, who co-sponsored a package of legislation passed in 2015 that intended to bring attention to segregation in public schools, “because we had all that organizing going on, but we did not yet have much progress.” 

Preliminary Movement: 62 Recommendations
The 2014 UCLA report found that of the city’s 32 school districts, 19 included 10 percent or fewer white students. Additionally, it said the combination of “double segregation” by both race and socioeconomic status created more inequalities. 

An updated 2019 report found that while some progress had been made, the city’s schools remained largely segregated. From 2001 to 2015, the number of “intensely segregated” elementary schools in gentrifying areas declined by about 10 percent (from 91 percent in 2001 to 83 percent in 2015), those in non-gentrifying areas increased by 15 percent. Intensely segregated schools are defined as 90 to 100 percent non-white. 

Maya Wiley, former counsel to Mayor de Blasio and now senior vice president for social justice at the New School and a co-chair of the School Diversity Advisory Group, said in an interview on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC that school integration benefits all students. She said dropout rates go down while graduate rates go up, and students do better in college.

Wiley said that the recommendation adding diversity metrics is a “game changer.” She said having numbers on diversity and providing the public with the reports will help keep the city accountable. 

She added that one of the recommendations, creating diversity targets in middle school admissions, is an expansion on the mayor’s 2017 Diversity in Admissions program that planned for 50,000 more students to attend racially representative schools. Because some researchers noted that the goal could be met by demographic shifts alone, Wiley said the SDAG wanted to be more aggressive. 

“In the short term we said schools, meaning zero to three years, schools should look like their districts. Then over five years they should look like the borough. In 10 years they should look like the city,” Wiley said on WNYC. “The link to the metrics is how do you know if you’re getting that done if you’re not reporting?”

Two-thirds of the students in the city’s school system are black and Hispanic, 15 percent are white, and 16 percent are Asian, according to DOE data. In the city overall, 33 percent are white, 26 percent are black, 24 percent are Hispanic, and 13 percent are Asian.

Clara Hemphill, the director of education policy and editor at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs’ project InsideSchools, said the recommendations serve as a guide for how the city can move forward with integration on the district level.

The recommendations encourage districts to develop their own diversity plans similar to the one in Brooklyn’s District 15, part of Lander’s Council district, which eliminated the use of screens in middle school admissions and committed 52 percent of seats to students who are low-income, learning English as a new language, or are homeless.

The city announced that five districts will receive $200,000 in grants to increase their schools’ diversity, and one recommendation from the advisory group encourages nine more districts to develop integration plans. Another recommendation outlines that the DOE will “support and encourage” districts to examine new middle school admissions policies, while another urges districts to be transparent about their integration processes to ensure progress.

However, Hemphill said for a borough like the Bronx, whose population is largely black and Latino, there is not going to be integration of different races and income levels at most schools in those districts. She added, though, that the recommendations do layout an answer to help those schools: providing more and encouraging the recruitment of diverse faculty create ways to improve the schools’ quality.

“At neighborhoods where you can’t have racial integration of students, you can still make schools that have plenty of resources and represent the kids,” Hemphill said.

The mayor’s approach to school desegregation so far has been to encourage districts to pursue their own integration plans with assistance from the DOE, which has happened with success through parent-led efforts in Districts 15 and 3. De Blasio regularly says he believes it must be a bottom-up, not top-down effort to integrate city schools.

City Council Member Daneek Miller said at a June 19 press conference that there is a consensus from the members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus as well as the Progressive Caucus that the recommendations are necessary to address school segregation problems. He added, though, that “these 62 points don’t necessarily address everything.”

Perceived Shortcomings
Critics have said the recommendations lack specific timelines for implementation and fail to address greater issues of enrollment screens and district segregation.

David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center, said because the recommendations focus on district plans rather than a city-wide plan, not much progress can be made on desegregating schools. The district lines are ethnically and racially drawn, so desegregation efforts need to happen across districts rather than within districts, he said.

Bloomfield added that one of the rejected recommendations, the creation of a Chief Integration Officer, was a “major mistake” because someone in that position could have focused on the city as a whole rather than the individual districts.

“[A city-wide plan] does require imagination and professional staff,” Bloomfield said. “That seems to be lacking in how the mayor sees desegregation efforts. In some ways it’s a plan for a plan, and it’s too late to be going so slow.”

Carranza has said that in his role as chancellor, he is the Chief Integration Officer.

Of the other of two recommendations the city did not adopt, that of moving the supervision of the School Safety Agents to the DOE from the NYPD, would have been beneficial in decreasing police presence in schools and students getting caught up in the criminal justice system as opposed to having more issues handled at their schools. Not long after the de Blasio administration announced it was accepting the 62 of 67 recommendations from the advisory group, it announced a new school discipline code and new agreement between the NYPD and DOE to lighten how students are policed in schools — the first update to that memorandum of understanding in about 20 years.

Given the lack of timelines for implementation, the advisory group recommendations form a “roadmap” for what the city wants to do rather than a plan with deadlines, Hemphill said. 

The recommendations also did not take on high schools and screened admissions policies.

Lander said while some of the recommendations are significant and are an overall positive step, they tackle the “lower hanging fruit.” He said there is room for the city to make changes in the admissions processes of high schools that use academic screens, which does not require changes in state law and is a “more thoughtful” approach to integration. 

The student advocacy group Teens Take Charge, which held a rally at the steps of the Tweed Courthouse, home to the DOE, calling for a high school integration plan four days before de Blasio announced the adoption of the recommendations, echoed Lander’s sentiment.

Soknadiarra Ndiaye, the chief operations officer of Teens Take Charge, said the group hopes the next set of recommendations due next month will deal with enrollment processes and high schools. The group set a June 26 deadline, the last day of school, for de Blasio to announce a comprehensive high school integration plan, and held a sit-in at City Hall when no such plan was announced. 

The Teens Take Charge campaign calls for the city to promote academic, racial, and socioeconomic integration at high schools by setting diversity thresholds in the admissions process that all high schools would have to meet. 

“When it comes to high school, one of the reasons why our high school system is so segregated is because of enrollment,” Ndiaye said. “So we’re hoping that [the city] will either adopt our policy or something similar to it.” 

City Council Member Mark Treyger, the chair of the Council’s education committee, said making changes to admissions processes is one way for the Department of Education to take steps forward on school integration without needing state lawmakers to change state law, which is necessary for tackling issues related to the three (of the eight) marquee specialized high schools and the SHSAT used for admissions (the state legislative session just ended with no movement on reforming the specialized schools’ admissions).

De Blasio has said he does not think it is wise to change the process at the five specialized high schools the city controls, pushing for state law changes to scrap the test in favor of multiple measures and criteria that would diversify the schools, home to high percentages of white and Asian students.

Treyger said he is “pleased” that the recommendations signal the city is moving forward on the issue, but added that “time is of the essence.”

“Every school year delayed is justice delayed and these are precious years that our students can never get back,” Treyger said. “There needs to be a real effort underway, not just to simply form another working group or have another study, but to really find ways to implement strategies right now that we know work.” 

Matt Gonzales, school diversity director at the nonprofit New York Appleseed and also a member of the city’s SDAG, said SDAG is writing the second report, which he said will take on high school policy and enrollment issues. He added that the group did not design the first set of recommendations to be the only plan they propose.

“I guess there’s a distrust that the advisory group isn’t going to follow through,” Gonzales said. “There was never an intention just to lay out this first report and wipe our hands.” 

The City’s Slow Progression
School integration was not on de Blasio’s platform when he ran for mayor in 2013, nor was it included in his “Equity and Excellence” education speech in 2015, though he discussed a number of education initiatives. Those programs, like Algebra for All and Computer Science for All and AP for All, are virtually all aimed at enhancing schools as they are currently constituted, while ignoring racial segregation, an approach some have called de Blasio’s version of ‘separate but equal.’

Pushed on not moving to desegregate city schools, de Blasio repeatedly said he had put a great deal in motion to improve schools. He also pointed to the historical constructs and sources of segregated schools and neighborhoods, and to the fact that many New Yorkers had made major life decisions, like buying homes, with the current school districts in mind. Those comments received significant criticism. 

Bloomfield said de Blaiso started to tackle the issue after years of increasing pressure from the public, advocates, and other city leaders. He added that the timing of the city moving forward also coincides with the arrival of Carranza, who prioritized the issue, as well as de Blasio’s reelection.

“He felt that he could risk some political capital on this initiative,” Bloomfield said of the Democratic mayor, now in his second and final term (and running for president).

The City Council, however, began to address school segregation issues in 2014, just after the UCLA report. In October of that year, Council Members Lander, Ritchie Torres, and Inez Barron introduced a package of legislation to draw attention to the lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity in schools. The Council has no power to change admissions processes or school district lines, policies that are set by the mayoral-controlled Department of Education, technically a state entity, local parent education councils, and the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which is mostly run by mayoral appointees.

Lander’s portion of the legislation included requiring the Department of Education to publicly report diversity metrics. Torres and Barron both introduced nonbinding resolutions that sought to officially declare diversity one of the Department of Education’s goals and to rewrite the law requiring the city’s specialized high schools to admit students based on an entrance exam. 

The Council passed the legislation, and in 2015 passed the School Diversity Accountability Act, which requires the Department of Education to annually report on steps they are taking to address school segregation. The Council has also held several hearings on the issue, including one in May. 

“We have been pushing for integration efforts for quite some time,” Treyger said. “And the City Council is limited in terms of its legislative authority in terms of DOE policies, but we do have oversight power. We’ve used it and we’ll use it again to hold the DOE accountable.”

Districts themselves have also implemented their own integration plans, with District 15 in Brooklyn and District 3 in Manhattan both enacting more inclusive admissions practices in their middle schools. 

No action was taken to further school integration by either the Department of Education or the mayor’s office until 2017, when de Blasio established the SDAG and set goals for more diverse schools. 

The 2017 diversity plan outlined diversity as a priority for the Department of Education and included short-term goals such as decreasing the number of economically stratified schools by 10 percent and increasing the number of schools that serve English Language Learners and students with disabilities. 

“It was very weak tea,” Lander said. “I mean, it was better than nothing, but the goals were very modest. And there was no reason to believe that the School Diversity Advisory Group would be real, would be meaningful would be independent with recommendations.” 

Lander said Carranza was key in giving the SDAG confidence to be bolder and move forward with proposing the recommendations in February 2019. 

Treyger said after some months had passed, he wanted to hold a hearing to find out where the administration stood on the recommendations. He said he, Speaker Corey Johnson, and other Council members were “frustrated” that the city was not ready to publicly weigh in yet. 

At the hearing held in May, Carranza testified that he needed to further discuss the recommendations with the SDAG before making a public announcement on which ones the DOE would adopt. A month later, the city announced the adoption of most of the recommendations.

Lander emphasized that this action comes after years of waiting, but the recommendations signal an intention that there will be more progress on the issue. 

“I’m glad we’re moving now,” Lander said. “I wish we started earlier.” 

Bloomfield said after the second report comes out in July, there could be months of waiting for the mayor to decide which portions of the proposal he wants to adopt. Though he said the progress that has been made now will make it more difficult for the city to stop the movement. 

“The significance is that it’s now squarely part of the city’s agenda,” Bloomfield said. “A new mayor will have a harder time putting the genie back in the bottle.”

‘A Witch Hunt’
Carranza has come under fire from some parents and City Council members following a lawsuit filed by three white veteran Department of Education administrators who claimed they were demoted because of their race, as well as anti-bias trainings that have become the subject of ire from some officials, the New York Post, and others.

A Post columnist, Bob McManus, wrote that Carranza’s agenda is all about “racial division” and that the anti-bias trainings are “white-bashing” sessions that have inflamed rather than eased race relations.” The Post editorial board has written several pieces critical of Carranza in recent months.

In a letter dated June 15, seven City Council members and two state Assembly members sent a letter to de Blasio saying if Carranza continues to “divide the city” then the mayor should replace him. Eight of the nine signers were white, and Council Member Robert Holden of Queens spearheaded the action. The other signator, Council Member Peter Koo, is Asian, and representative of a community that has taken issue with Carranza and de Blasio seeking to overhaul admissions to the specialized high schools, where Asian students are far overrepresented compared to their population in the city or larger school system.

For Council Member Daniel Dromm, a former teacher and former chair of the Council’s education committee, the situation was “almost predictable.”

“As soon as you start to talk about implicit bias or culturally responsive education, you could’ve put money on it that you’re going to get this kind of backlash,” Dromm said during a June 19 press conference held by both the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and its Progressive Caucus. “Which is why no other chancellor would go near the issue to begin with.” 

In response to the letter, the Mayor de Blasio has said the chancellor is not going anywhere. He said on NY1’s Inside City Hall that the Council members “should have known better.” 

“[Carranza] is doing a great job,” de Blasio said. “I think a lot of people in this city really look up to him and are depending on him.” 

Several other Council members also released statements of support for Carranza. Lander said the New York Post is leading a “witch hunt” against the chancellor. 

Others have echoed Dromm’s sentiment that much of the backlash Carranza has received is a nature of his progressive agenda. Gonzales said the New York Post is trying to “discredit” the chancellor as he pushes a progressive agenda.

“Everything that’s been happening in response, I don’t think now that any of this was a response to any particular one thing,” Gonzales said. ‘It’s just a response to who he is, and how bold he has been about identity, how that informs the work he does, and the prioritization of a racial justice agenda.” 

Carranza, who is of Mexican descent, said on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on June 11 that the letter is “just a distraction.” He said he will continue to work on making sure all students have access to the same opportunities, a goal outlined in the 62 recommendations the city accepted.

“It’s always often kind of rich when there are inequities happening in a system and the minute you start pointing out those inequities and actually working to change those inequities it becomes divisive,” Carranza said on the show. “I’ve never seen how you can improve a system without identifying what the issues are in the system, and you can’t fix the inequities without talking about them.”

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by Samantha Handler, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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'We're Moving Now': City Pursues School Desegregation Measures, with Major Looming Test Thu, 27 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000