Thursday, November 21, 2019

Aiming for diversity in Brooklyn schools

The Washington Post  has the story:

What happened when Brooklyn tried to integrate its middle schools  By Laura Meckler

"New York City, with more than 1 million students, is far and away the nation’s largest school district — and one of its most segregated. Resistance to integration dates to the 1950s, when mothers in Queens staged an early demonstration against busing.

"Now, in fits and starts, the city is becoming a laboratory of experimentation, examining whether it’s possible to tackle the stratification that courses through urban districts.

"First, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) tried — and has so far failed — to overhaul the admissions process for eight elite specialized high schools, which admit few black or Hispanic students. He is now considering a recommendation for a citywide plan to eliminate most gifted and talented programs, which attract a disproportionate number of white and Asian students.
"Under the old system, criteria set by each school played a big role in deciding who went where. Certain middle schools required high test scores and excellent behavior ratings from elementary school, and affluent families gravitated to them. Over time, various schools won reputations for excellence, and with each passing year, their incoming classes grew whiter and wealthier.
"Under the new plan, family preference still matters, but 52 percent of sixth-grade seats at each school are reserved for children from poor families or for those learning English, reflecting the demographics of the district as a whole. The city’s goal is for each school to include 40 percent to 75 percent priority-group students by the program’s fourth year.
"This sort of plan is possible only because a significant number of middle-class and wealthy families live in the area covered by the integration plan, Kahlenberg said. If there are too many poor kids, he said, meaningful integration is not possible. By Kahlenberg’s calculations, integration is possible in nine of the city’s 32 school districts.

Others caution that it won’t work anywhere if affluent parents leave the public schools. When Mike Bloomberg was mayor, he worked to attract and keep these families by giving them considerable control over school placement. If you take that power away, these parents may choose private schools or to move, said Joel Klein, schools chancellor under Bloomberg.

“If you look at many urban school districts, you will find they are overwhelmingly minority because the middle class has already moved out,” Klein said."

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