Screened Schools, School Integration, the Portfolio Model: Will the Mayor Support Policies to Foster School Integration? Neighborhood Schools? We’re Waiting.

Over 200 schools and programs within schools in the New York City school system are screened schools, that means that school leaders pick their students, a few of the schools require auditions, others a score on state tests, or, the proper juice.

Scholar’s Academy in Rockaway is a fully screened grades 6-12 school with 36% Black and Hispanic students, surrounding schools are almost all Black and Hispanic. Scholars has virtually no Special Education students, no English language learners while surrounding schools have 20% Special Education students and 10% English language learners

Scholars is not uncommon. The purpose of the schools/programs are political, usually the result of lobbying by an elected official or an active neighborhood, to create a “special” program, let’s be honest, the purpose is to segregate the school by race and class.

The department calls the constant creation of new schools a portfolio model. Schools “advertise” themselves, parents select schools, and schools that are not selected and/or have poor scores are closed. The Bloomberg administration closed 150 schools.

The new schools are “limited, unscreened,” (schools have a limited choice over applicants) or “screened” (schools require an audition or a scores on state tests); the system is envisioned as continually creating and closing schools.

An unintended consequence is the segregation of schools – the “involved” parents scramble to seek out the “best” schools, parents with “social capital,” the poorest parents, parents living in projects or the poorest neighborhoods send their kids to schools closest to their homes.

The number of screened programs has accelerated during the twelve years of the Bloomberg year; however, the “active” communities have successfully convinced the city leadership, the Board of Education and the Department of Education to create “separate and unequal” schools for decades. Mark Twain Middle School in Coney Island was created forty years ago to provide a “gifted and talented” school in a totally Black community. If your child had the appropriate test scores or the appropriate influence on the community school board your child gained acceptance to the school.

District 3, the Upper West Side, of Manhattan created a number of small, “specialized” schools with impressive names within larger buildings; schools segregated by race and class.

A just-released ACLU Report finds New York the most segregated state in the nation, and, makes a number of recommendations,

On the state level, it proposes that New York develop and maintain interdistrict transfer programs, regional magnets, student assignment or choice policies that include civil right standards, and diverse teaching staff. The Civil Rights Project also proposes breaking down district boundaries in the New York City suburbs and that New York City make racial desegregation a priority.

The testing schools have few Black and Latino students,

Fewer and fewer Black and Latino students are admitted into New York City’s prestigious academic high schools each year. In 2013, only 12% of the 5,229 students accepted into the city’s eight elite test schools were Black or Latino. At three of the schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech, state law mandates that admission be based on the high-stakes tests. But at the other five, the city is free to use other criteria, but it does not.

The Daily Beast reports,

… the report’s authors found that New York State has the nation’s most segregated public schools—dubiously led by the demographic patterns in New York City’s schools. They found that “over 90 percent of black students in the New York metro attended majority-minority schools—those with 50% or greater minority students.” Perhaps even more telling, around three-quarters of these students attended schools with student bodies that were at or above 90 percent minority students.

Parents, all parents, want their kids in the best schools, the safest schools, schools with the best teachers, the best facilities, and are willing to do whatever is necessary to get their kids into the perceived “best” schools

The ACLU Report is potentially political dynamite, the supporters of the ACLU Report tracks closely with the supporters of de Blasio – will he promote the recommendations in the Report?

If you think the pushback from suburban parents over the Common Core tests was extreme; wait until you tell parents the ability to choose their school would be relegated to a school integration initiative.

Beginning in the 70’s the courts ordered forced busing to foster school integration,

... in the Supreme Court’s 1971 decision, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, one of the first attempts to implement a large-scale urban desegregation plan. Swann called for district-wide desegregation and allowed for the use of busing to achieve integration, finding that the times and distances involved in the desegregation plan were no more onerous than those involved in the busing already undertaken by Charlotte for non-desegregation purposes. Court-ordered busing, as it came to be known, was fiercely attacked, not least by the administration of President Richard Nixon. Busing was criticized as undermining the sanctity of neighborhood schools, as social engineering, as impractical and unworkable, and as intrusive and inappropriate judicial meddling.

The Courts became less aggressive and eventually ceased to order forced busing. The ACLU Report is a throwback to a prior era – calling for policies akin to forced busing.

What would make far more sense would be the support of neighborhood schools – schools that could work with the range of assets in the community – social services, police, housing, health, job placement, the services that would enhance schools.

Will de Blasio tackle revising the portfolio model?

As we begin the fourth month of the de Blasio administration we await major announcements impacting schools.


3 responses to “Screened Schools, School Integration, the Portfolio Model: Will the Mayor Support Policies to Foster School Integration? Neighborhood Schools? We’re Waiting.

  1. Foil Jacqueline

    We’ve re-segregated schools? That’s progress?!!! When I was teaching we were bussing in black and hispanic kids into largely white neighborhoods.
    The south was ordered to integrate their schools and now NYC is going backward?? Integration doesn’t make a school great, but shared resources do!! NYC has apparently lost its way.


  2. Eric Nadelstern

    This is an important piece. We need to unzone the entire City, allow any student to apply to any school, and require admission by lottery.

    There is nothing that we can do that would result in a more dramatic increase in student performance.

    Sad truth be told, any mayor or chancellor who would dare attempt to do so, would need to wear a bulletproof vest at all times.


  3. Realityis notsosimple

    This article neglects the facts that many schools created by their communities, such as Mark Twain and Scholars’ Academy, increased diversity and created havens for motivated students whose parents would otherwise have moved from the city or chosen parochial schools. Compare the demographics of these schools with the “average” or typical NYC public school. They are much more diverse. These schools are examples of locally assessed educational needs being democratically answered.

    This article is ignoring the reality that parents who are responsibly involved in their children’s education will always seek out the best options, or move, for their children. Research the history of Coney Island’s Mark Twain or MS180Q (the predecessor to Scholars’ Academy) and you will learn that the predecessor schools were failing, ridden with violence, weapons, sexual misconduct, etc., and not diverse. Parents voted with their feet, leaving public schools or the boroughs entirely.

    The market forces of reality are very difficult to quell. These schools should be increased in number throughout the city and resources to other schools increased so there is adequate social services, lower class size, and parental accountability.

    Charter schools are successful for similar reasons. Let’s face it, if schools across the board consistently met the needs of all children, then the educational market forces would not have spawned charter schools or screened schools.

    The notion of removing all zones with complete parent choice is interesting, but should be piloted first in a district willing to experiment. When HS’s went to a version of this model, there were positives and negatives. Some miss the simplicity of going to a zoned HS.


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