What Happened? Why Are the New York City Specialized High Schools (and Schools in General) So Segregated? Some History and Suggestions

It was February, 1964, my first high school teaching job at Wingate High School; I was hired as a substitute to fill a full term assignment and showed up nervous, only to see police barricades and a crowd waving signs, it was the first day of the Galamison integration boycott.  The sixties: anti-war demonstrations, a new militant teacher union, civil rights marches into the South, and, a school integration movement in New York City. Reverend Milton Galamison, the pastor at the Siloam Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant and allies led an attempt to integrate NYC schools. Clarence Taylor, “Knocking at Our Door: Milton Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools” (1997, 2001) recounts in detail the political struggles and infighting of the 60’s  that has reemerged more than a half century later and David Rogers, “110 Livingston Street: A Study of Politics and Integration in NYC Schools,” (1968) unearthed the conflicts within and outside of the Board of Education.

I have described the former Board of Education as a lump of silly putty, easy to impact and difficult to change permanently; characteristic of large bureaucracies.

A close friend and mentor, Chet Fulmer, in a reverse busing plan sent his children to an all-black school near the Brooklyn Navy Yard while across the city in Queens a community organization, Parents and Taxpayers (PAT) fought against busing black children into white schools.

I really liked Wingate, a great staff, it was an exciting place, and on the last day of school I received my appointment, not to Wingate, to James Madison High School; the school at which Chet was the union leader.

The Board’s ambitious elementary school busing plan faded away under unrelenting pressures; the Board did implement a high school plan, an all-black neighborhood was zoned into Madison; while the kids were welcomed by the staff the neighborhood surrounding Madison was not happy. Madison was probably chosen because Chet was the union leader and a staunch advocate and defender of integrated schools.

Almost a decade later, in December, 1973 a race-based riot erupted in and around Madison, Fran Schumer wrote a perceptive article (“Prisoners of Class”) a few weeks later in The Harvard Crimson and I blogged about the complexities of school integration a few months ago.

A half century later school integration is once again at the top of the political agenda.

Only seven Afro-American students received offers at Stuyvesant out of the 895 student offers, meaning, passed the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admittance Test).

The school integration efforts of the 60’s were not a failure. The City Colleges moved to open admissions, yes, highly controversial, a few school districts implemented integration plans.

Susan Edelman, in the NY Post, unearths surprising numbers, the currently segregated specialized high schools were not as segregated before mayoral control.

In 1984 [Brooklyn Tech] had 4,531 students — including 2,239 black and 814 white. Black and Hispanic kids made up 63.5 percent of the student body.

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, black and Hispanic kids made up close to half or more of the Brooklyn Tech student body. Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, the other original specialized schools, had many more black and brown kids than today, though not a majority.

Twenty-five years later New York schools are described as “extreme segregation.”

How did New York City move from continuing incremental steps towards integrated schools to the damning report of the UCLA Civil Rights Project, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future,”

New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.

 The Civil Rights Project breaks out the numbers in detail – see charts/graphs here.

What happened?

 Changing Demographics:

The white school population continued to decrease, the school white population is currently 14.7%. The Black population has decreased slightly, the Hispanic population has increased and the Asian population has increased exponentially.  Chinese are the largest immigrant group entering New York City each year.

On the bright side, a just-released report  from the UCLA Civil Rights Project finds that public schools in gentrifying neighborhoods are becoming less segregated.

Multiple School Options:

There are a number of high achieving predominantly Black schools and a few well-integrated screened schools. Bedford Academy, and Medgar Evers,  are high achieving Black schools, Columbia Secondary High School is a high achieving integrated school. Go to “School Performance Dashboards” and check on any school.

 The Elimination of IGC and SP Classes

Under the old Board of Education there were citywide standards for Intellectually Gifted Classes (IGC) in grades 4-6 and Special Progress (SP) classes in grades 7-9 based on English and Math scores on city-wide tests; yes, there were state tests and city tests and district tests, without the complaints we hear today. A few districts had “gifted” elementary schools (District 7 – South Bronx and District 16 – Bedford Stuyvesant), The Bloomberg administration supported the  creation of centrally controlled Gifted and Talent classes, in predominantly white and/middle class districts and ended the major route to the specialized high schools for students of color.

Explosion of Test Preparation

The SHSAT is not aligned with the state ELA and Math tests; test preparation geared to the SHSAT is vital for students, and, expensive. Before mayoral control districts provided Saturday and after school tutoring programs, washed away under mayoral control.

Politics and Mayoral Control

The downside of mayoral control is using education policies for political advantage. The creation of numerous screened schools and programs in predominantly white/middle class schools appears to be a policy to attract white/middle class voters, conversely, not creating gifted and talented programs in schools in areas that oppose Bloomberg is an example of the downside of putting mayors in charge of education policy. deBlasio, who paints himself as the “progressive mayor” raced up to Albany in the closing days of the legislative session with a bill to replace the SHSAT with a percentage of highest achievers in each middle school; a policy supported by the progressives, the de Blasio constituency.

Either through the passage of a change in the law or the de Blasio tweaks to the Discovery Program it appears that the percentages of student of color in the elite high schools will begin to change; however, changing numbers does not change school and community cultures.

By 2020, each of the specialized schools that determine admission based solely on a single exam will be required to reserve 20 percent of their seats for students in the Discovery program. (Stuyvesant High School, which is participating in the program for the first time this year, admitted 23 students through Discovery. Under the mayor’s plan, the school will have to increase that number sevenfold.)

The NYC Human Right Commission Report that followed the racial conflict at Madison exposed the underlying problem; simply adding students of color without supports is a formula for failure. Read the NY Times article after the release of the NYC Human Rights Report.

The race for Gracie Mansion is in full swing, 2021 may be down the road, the candidates are defining themselves, aiming at possible constituencies. Corey Johnson, the leader of the City Council released his plan , a disastrous plan for the city. Johnson suggests more elite screened high schools and more gifted and talent schools/programs, effectively widening the “tale of two cities.” Johnson would create two school systems, one made of up higher achieving students segregated into high achieving schools leaving the remainder of the schools with struggling lower achieving students.

Jumaane Williams, the newly elected public advocate and a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, one of the legacy SHSAT schools, recommends, in an NY Daily News op ed a more measured approach, more gifted and talent programs and more opportunities for test prep in local schools, and, a great deal of community engagement.

Cristina Veiga at Chalkbeat tweeted a number of core questions that Johnson and Williams failed to address.

I’m concerned that many of the “solutions” will exacerbate a “tale of two cities” in schools; segregating kids by academic abilities. Once upon a time the system created comprehensive high schools, schools with a wide range of kids by ability and interests. Schools with advanced classes and shops, classrooms made up of kids with a range of academic abilities; yes, teaching was more challenging, what we call heterogeneous grouping in high schools requires different skill sets.

Career and Technical Education (CTE), formerly known as vocational education does not always require separate schools; these programs can be embedded in the larger high schools or embedded in schools on multiple school campuses.

We cannot create a “solution” to the elite high school enrollment problem that negatively impacts other schools.

The Discovery Program and test prep programs over time, will increase the enrollment at the specialized high schools. The specialized high school test can be more closely aligned with the state tests and curriculum.

Too often the “cure” only exacerbates the problem. There are no easy fixes, Corey Johnson’s response is an example; magic wands only work in fairy tales. Community engagement, by community I mean parents and teachers and advocacy organizations, difficult meetings, internal disagreements, over time leading to mutually acceptable accommodations; perhaps “creating a process where tolerable compromises can be found.”

Rule # 1 of personal and organization change: participation reduces resistance, coupled with Rule # 2, change is perceived as punishment.

This education stuff is hard, complicated and never-ending, as is life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7igP3tY75U

Feds Cite New York State for Decades of Depriving Special Education Students of Services: Will/Can the State Comply?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975) for the first time recognized that disabled children required a special educational setting.  The law required that each state establish mechanisms for the identification and placement of children with disabilities in “appropriate” educational settings, the creation of an Individual Education Plan (IEP), with educational goals, and by appropriate the law means appropriate to their disability. The law also requires that parents are involved in every step of the process and have the right to appeal decisions of the school district.

In New York State parents or teachers can refer children for testing, to the Committee on Special Education (CSE), and, within strict time frames evaluate and place the student in the setting appropriate to their disability. The settings range from integrated settings, classes made up of general education and children with IEP’s, with two teachers, a content area teacher and a certified special education teacher to self-contained classrooms with lower class size and a paraprofessional to separate schools with a wide range of services. The IEP is reviewed annually and the CSE, with the involvement of the parent, can alter the placement of the student.

In New York City before mayoral control every district had a District Administrator Special Education, the “DASE,” who acted essentially as the deputy to the superintendent for special education. As the district union rep I worked closely with the DASE. Any questions or complaints from staff were resolved expeditiously. The Department of Education provided each district with dollars for professional development for special education staff, called QUIPP, with a central director of the program. We constructed an “interest inventory,” (better name than “needs assessment”) asking staff to identify topics for workshops as well as topics they would like to teach and provided a modest stipend.

Scores of special education staff signed up; additionally, we combined with another district and held a weekend conference with speakers and workshops.  One of our speakers was Robert Sternberg, a leading scholar on Intelligence and Creativity, who changed the way many teachers approached teaching children diagnosed with disabilities.

Unfortunately under the Bloomberg/Klein regency there were major changes in management structures and special education slid down the ladder. Evaluation and placement ignored rigid time frames, schools created “waiting lists” for placements, principals changed IEPs without any teacher or parent involvement and complaints were ignored. The State Education Department was aloof.

The feds finally began to hassle the state and Commissioner King appeared to be responding, the state created a “specific plan’ and agreed to resolve compliance issues within three years.

By letter dated March 28, 2014 the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) informed the New York State Education Department (NYSED) that it is not in compliance with … the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act …  These provisions relate to the requirement that NYSED’s Office of State Review, which is the second-tier in New York’s two-tier special education due process system, render decisions within 30 days.  The March 28, 2014 letter suggested that NYSED may be able to enter into a compliance agreement with OSEP which, subject to public hearing, would allow continued IDEA Part B funding to New York based on a specific plan to come into compliance with these regulatory requirements as soon as feasible, but no later than three years. 

Five years later and the situation has gotten worse, much worse.

At the March Board of Regents Meeting the Department, complying with orders from the feds issued a scathing report, as well as releasing an equally chilling report  on the death of a special education student in Rochester due to flagrant violations of special education regulations

State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the findings of a civil investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Trevyan Rowe, a 14-year-old student in the Rochester City School District (RCSD) who went missing on March 8, 2018. The investigation found that systemic failures in school policy and procedures existed at James P.B. Duffy School No. 12, the school Trevyan attended at the time of his death.

Five years after the feds cited the state the situation has deteriorated, the board members were aghast, they asked, “Why weren’t we aware of the situation?”

Of the seventeen areas that the feds monitor the state was out of compliance in fifteen of the areas!!  The chart in the report had fifteen bold red “X”s and a paltry two green checks. The SED PowerPoint, highlighted major compliance issues,

  • Longstanding Non-Compliance
  • Timely Initial Individual Evaluations
  • Timeliness of Due Process Hearing
  • Graduation Rates
  • Dropout Rate
  • Participation in State Assessments

Forty-four school districts in the state were out of compliance including all of the Big Five (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City).

In New York City parents, advocates and the UFT, the teacher union, has been complaining for years and years. Thousands of complaints have been shipped to the state without any responses. A month ago the UFT testified before the City Council and made its annual plea for upgrading and complying with special education regulations

The NYC Chancellor was “shocked, shocked”that the city was out of compliance.

Sadly, the deprivation of services to thousands upon thousands of disabled students only warranted a few lines in the press and the Specialized High Schools Admittance Test untold thousands of lines and almost daily coverage.

Chancellor Carranza has said the right things; however. when a similar situation was unearthed in Houston, his former employment, he was equally aghast, and little changed in his year and a half at the helm,

But multiple observers also said that while Carranza said many of the right things, it’s less clear to what extent his efforts changed the reality in schools. A recent audit shows that the district still kept students from being evaluated for special education services after Carranza initiated reforms.

 Carranza took “good first steps,” [an advocate] added. “Do I think special education has largely changed during his first year and a half in the district? No.”

 At the March 19th UFT Delegate Assembly, over 1,000 elected teacher delegates, union president Mulgrew, in frustration, described the Department of Education as a number of castles, I would add, with moats, defending their fiefdoms.

Whether the chancellor can impose his suzerainty will determine his success, or lack thereof.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjbPi00k_ME

 

Should Mayoral Control in New York City Be Extended, and, If So, Should the Law Be Amended?

The NYC Mayoral Control law sunsets on 6/30/19 and will revert to the previous governance structure unless the legislature and governor extend the law: under Republican control the state senate held the extension hostage to exchange for some other chip, i. e., increasing the charter school cap, etc. With Democrats in charge of state government mayoral control will be extended, probably for three years.

Senator John Liu chairs the NYC Education Committee (newly elected to the Senate he served for two terms as Comptroller of the City of New York); he is well-liked and highly regarded.

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TESTIMONY OF PETER GOODMAN (Ed in the Apple) ON THE REAUTHORIZATION OF MAYOR CONTROL OF SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK CITY

March 15, 2019

TO: State Senator John Liu and members of the committee

FROM: Peter Goodman, Ed in the Apple: Blogging on the Intersection of Education and Politics

RE: Mayoral Control Extension

Both Houses of the Legislature and the Governor have included a three-year extension of Mayoral Control in their proposed budgets; the question is should the law simply be extended or should the law be amended:

Should the Mayor continue to appoint a majority of the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP)?

 Mayoral control means the Mayor appoints a majority of the PEP; to reduce the Mayor’s appointees to less than a majority would be chaotic. The various factions would disempower the Mayor and result in the absence of leadership – a disastrous outcome.

I do recommend that the one member of the PEP be appointed by the City Council, the Mayor would continue to have a majority; the Council would have a voice at the policy table in addition to their charter oversight responsibility.

 Should PEP members serve at the discretion of the appointing authority or fixed terms?

 They should serve fixed terms, rather than act as a rubber stamp.

 Should the powers of the Community Education Councils (CEC) be expanded?

 A vigorous “yes,” the CEC’s are currently virtually powerless, at the CEC meetings the people on the stage commonly outnumber the people in the audience. The CEC should have roles in principal and superintendent selection, charter school approval and siting and curriculum. The folks closest to the classrooms have the greatest impact on student outcomes; under the current management system all decisions are made at Tweed, they rarely impact classrooms.

You can follow my blog at: https://mets2006.wordpress.com/

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As I emphasized in my presentation you need a decision-maker at the top who can be held responsible by public opinion and at the polls. A number of speakers called for a one-year extension and an annual public assessment of performance: the result would be no decisions. You cannot be halfway off the diving board, you must be all in!!  For example you can debate school integration, someone has to approve and implement a specific plan and be accountable.

Not to say. As I indicated above, the current law cannot be amended. For example, the local school board, in NYC called the Community Education Council (CEC), made up of elected parent leaders, should have the power to accept or reject charter schools in their community. The purpose of charter schools is to create choices within a community; if parent leaders are satisfied with schools they should be able to reject the approval of a charter school.

The legislature will be in session until mid June, I would expect passage of an extension much earlier; hopefully including my suggestions.

The (Maryland) Kirwan Commission: Is It Time for New York State to Investigate Changing School Funding Formulas As Well As Educational Governance and Priorities?

A month to go until the New York State budget will be approved and a core part of the budget is school aid.

New York State leads the nation, by far, in per capita funding, is at the top of the list for most disparate funding within the state, and NAEP scores  are flat and “perform significantly lower than national scores.”

The governor has noted the disparities time and time again; however, the school funding system in New York State remains unchanged. About 2/3 of funding comes from local property taxes and 1/3 from state funding, primarily through the Foundation Aid Formula.  The Foundation Aid Formula dispenses state budget dollars in order to ease the disparity between high wealth/high tax and low wealth/low tax districts.

Over the last month the legislature has held hearing on the state budget, the state commissioner, the unions, school districts, schools boards and advocates all advocating for more dollars. The Board of Regents and the legislature budget priorities and the governor’s proposals are far apart.

The former leader of the Citizen’s Budget Commission is sharply critical of the school aid funding process,

 Every district and its legislators will fervently argue that more school aid is needed, that its schools are underfunded, and that its students will suffer serious harm if more money isn’t devoted to them as soon as possible. But in fact, the vast majority of New York’s schools are generously funded, while our results in terms of achievement are only mediocre. Instead of targeting additional aid to the few truly needy districts, all are given more.

 Aside from the funding formula another question is how school districts distribute the funds to schools within the districts,

… the Rockefeller Institute of Government found that the poorest schools in New York City get 12 percent less per student than the wealthiest schools. In Buffalo, the poorest schools received 26 percent less per student than the richest schools. Cuomo called the current school funding formula a “scam”…  “You gave money to the poorer district, but they didn’t give it to the poorer schools,” he sai

Additionaaly, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decsion has not been fully implemented and the governor casts aside the billions “owed” to state schools.

In spite of the threats and chest pounding in both houses of the legislature sometime late on March 31st and into the early morning of April 1st the legislature will pass a budget.

Does the New York State need a major reform of the education funding process along with the management structure and educational priorities?

The Kirwan Commission has spent the last two years crafting a proposal to restructure the education system in the state of Maryland.

The 243-page interim report of the Commission calls for,

INCREASED BASE AND WEIGHTS The Commission must increase its base amount of funding per pupil and the weights for special populations must remain high enough to address the additional resources and services needed to educate students in Maryland schools.

 UNIVERSAL PRE-K There must be funding to provide access to high quality, childhood programing/prekindergarten for 4 year olds and (low income) 3 year olds.

 POVERTY PROXY The Commission must adopt an efficient and effective way to count low-income students, such as direct certification with a multiplier, in order to properly direct funding and resources to the schools with greater need. Any additional form is burdensome and counter-productive.

 MULTIPLICATIVE WEALTH CALCULATION The multiplicative wealth measure will provide a more accurate reflection of a jurisdictions ability to pay, it results in state and local contribution targets that ensure all students receive the same funding across the state.

 ADDRESS CONCENTRATED POVERTY The Commission recommendations must include resources to combat the negative impacts of poverty on school communities, which could be in the form of an additional weight or an escalator that provides additional funding for schools at a certain threshold of poverty

 There are many other recommendations, and, the full implementation would greatly increase the cost of education in Maryland, the report does not address how the state would raise the needed dollars. Additionally a third of the commission members appended “individual statements,” sometimes called, “Yes, But …” or “reservations.

The members of the commission include many of the power brokers in the state from across the political spectrum.

I have no idea whether the Maryland governor and legislature will implement the recommendations.

In New York State, in spite of the “strurm und drang” the education budget passes each year without significant changes – the “rich get richer” and the “poor get poorer.” To maintain their new majority in the Senate the newly elected Democrats are likely to advocate just as hard as their Republican predecessors to maintain the current inequitable funding formula.

In addition, are the 700 school districts with elected school boards and 700 collective bargaining agreements the most efficient and effective way to manage the 4400 schools in the state?  Very few school districts have ever merged. Maybe the very local decision-making process best serves the needs of schools; on the other hand, perhaps, the system is an ineffective anachronism.

Is the current Board of Regents, selected by joint meeting of the legislature the most effective governance structure? Or, should education policy makers be apart from governatorial politics?

I don’t know any of the answers: is it time for a commission, selected by the governor and the legislature, with a staff, with totally transparent meetings and full public input?

The Kirwan Commission conducted fifteen full day meetings over two years, and, the interim report is far from implementation.

New York State will continue to spend significant dollars, and spend the dollars inequitably, and, there are no guarantees that the dollars are well-spent.

Perhaps its time to find a path to a better education system.

Does the Specialized High School Admitance Test (SHSAT) Discriminate Against Black Students? or, Does the Discovery Program Discriminate Against Asian Students?

The Manhattan Institute hosted a panel, “Diversity by Decree: Is NYC’s New Policy for Elite High Schools Constitutional? The panel moderated by Troy Senik the Vice President for Policy and Programs at MI, John Yoo, Pacific Legal Foundation and the John Heller Professor of Law at U. C. Berkeley School of Law, Wai Wah Chin, President, Chinese American Citizen’s Alliance of Greater New York and Ray Dominico, Director of Education Policy at MI.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is challenging the de Blasio-Carranza use of the Discovery Program section of the Hecht-Calandra Law (1971) that embedded the Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT) in statute.

The Discovery Program section of the law establishes a “second chance,” to gain acceptance for “disadvantaged students” to the Specialized High Schools,

(d) The special schools shall be permitted to maintain a Discovery Program to give disadvantaged students of demonstrated high potential an opportunity to try the special high school program without in any manner interfering with the academic level of those schools. A student may be considered for the Discovery Program provided the student: (1) be one of those who takes the regular entrance examination but scores below the cut-of score (2) is certified by his local school as disadvantaged (3) is recommended by his local school as having high potential for the special high school program and (4) attends and then passes a summer preparatory program administered by the special high school…..  A candidate reached for consideration on the basis of this examination score will be accepted for admission to the Discovery Program only if his previous school record is satisfactory. Any discovery program admissions to a special high school shall not exceed fourteen (14) per cent of the number of students scoring above the cut-off score and admitted under the regular examination procedure of (b) and (c) above.

 The Discovery Program faded as the Specialized High Schools failed to support the program; additionally the “disadvantaged students” who were accepted into the program were primarily white and Asian.

It is the changes in the Discovery Program that is the basis of the legal challenge.

New York City is expanding this alternative admissions process — known as the Discovery program — as a way to increase the diversity of the specialized high schools, where black and Hispanic students are underrepresented. Though the effort has received less attention than the mayor’s ambitious proposal to get rid of the test entirely, it has an advantage because — unlike eliminating the test — it does not require the approval of the State Legislature.

By 2020, 20 percent of the ninth-grade seats in every specialized high school will be set aside for Discovery students, according to city education officials. Currently, only 5 percent of the 4,000 ninth-grade seats are filled through Discovery.

And who makes it into the program will also change. Students are currently eligible if they meet the city Education Department’s criteria for being disadvantaged. But under the new plan, only students who attended high-poverty middle schools will be accepted. Changing to high-poverty schools means that those accepted will be more likely to be black or Hispanic, since they dominate at those schools.

John Yoo is a controversial figure;  he authored memos during the Bush administration supporting “enhanced interrogation” (aka, torture), and, recently has been critical of the Trump border wall.

Yoo was almost giddy in his presentation, quoted Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza as clear evidence that the new iteration of the Discovery Program was designed to discriminate against Asian students unconstitutionally depriving more qualified Asian students of seats in the elite schools and referenced challenges to college admissions.

Whether the current debate over the use of race in the admittance of students to college is equivalent to the elite high schools admittance is open to question.

SCOTUS, in Fisher v The University of Texas (2016), by 4-3 decision, upheld the racial elements used,

The Court held that the University of Texas’ use of race as a factor in the holistic review used to fill the spots remaining after the Top Ten Percent Plan was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Previous precedent had established that educational diversity is a compelling interest as long as it is expressed as a concrete and precise goal that is neither a quota of minority students nor an amorphous idea of diversity

Yoo reminded us that the Supreme Court has changed, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, according to Yoo, are likely not to support the Fischer when issue comes before the highest court again.

The Harvard Admissions case, alleging a quota restricting the admission of Asian students is awaiting a decision at the Circuit Court; the case will be appealed regardless of the prevailing side and could move towards the highest court, although it could take a  few years. There are similar law suits perking through courts in other areas of the country.

Yoo did not address the issue of “disparate impact;” if a test is used as a requirement of employment and adversely impacts a “protected group” the test is discriminatory absent evidence that the test is “job related.”  In Duke Power Company,

Court held that Duke’s standardized testing requirement prevented a disproportionate number of African-American employees from being hired by, and advancing to higher-paying departments within, the company. Neither the high school graduation requirement nor the two aptitude tests was directed or intended to measure an employee’s ability to learn or perform a particular job or category of jobs within the company. The Court concluded that the subtle, illegal, purpose of these requirements was to safeguard Duke’s long-standing policy of giving job preferences to its white employees.

Griggs v Duke Power Co (1971)

There are parallels to the use of tests to admit students to educational programs.

Students accepted into the elite high schools through the Discovery programs did as well as student’s accepted through the testing process: does the “disparate impact” concept challenge the use of the SHSAT?

In the early 70’s a class of Black and Puerto Rican teachers challenged the use of a qualifying examination for positions of assistant principals and principal, the court held,

[T]he examinations prepared and administered by the Board of Examiners for the licensing of supervisory personnel, such as Principals and Assistant Principals, have the de facto effect of discriminating significantly and substantially against Black and Puerto Rican applicants.

  Such a discriminatory impact is constitutionally suspect and places the burden on the Board to show that the examinations can be justified as necessary to obtain Principals, Assistant Principals and supervisors possessing the skills and qualifications required for successful performance of the duties of these positions. The Board has failed to meet this burden. Chance v Board of Examiners 1972

The litigants, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation chose to equate the Discovery program with the foundational decisions of the court; Justice Harlen’s dissent in Plessy v Ferguson (1896).

  Our Constitution in color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.  In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.   The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.  The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved….

On one hand only a handful of Black students passed the test, the entering class at Stuyvesant is over 70% Asian: is the test discriminatory, or, is the use of the new Discovery Program, that will result in Asian students having higher grades and not accepted, discriminatory?

While one can argue that the Discovery Program is part of the law, the term “disadvantaged students” is not defined, the Department has simply more narrowly defined the relvant section of the statute; clearly to achieve the intent of the law.

The issue is both emotional and controversial.

Black scholars, electeds, as well as white progressives argue that any test that advantages one racial/ethnic group over another is discriminatory, and, with a long history of racial discrimination the SHSAT is especially distasteful.  I was at a Midwestern university a few days ago and a professor of Afro-American history was appalled by the vigorous defense of the test. During the same visit I sat in on a class that discussed the many, many, centuries-old use of examinations in China to select the government ruling class,

The examination based civil service thus promoted stability and social mobility. The Confucian-based examinations meant that the local elites and ambitious would-be members of those elites across the whole of China were taught with similar values. Even though only a small fraction (about 5 percent) of those who attempted the examinations actually passed them and even fewer received titles, the hope of eventual success sustained their commitment. Those who failed to pass did not lose wealth or local social standing; as dedicated believers in Confucian orthodoxy, they served, without the benefit of state appointments, as teachers, patrons of the arts, and managers of local projects, such as irrigation works, schools, or charitable foundations

Examinations are at the core of Chinese cultural values.

I suspect the court will not sustain the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Interestingly, Afro-Americans were the largest supporters of Hillary Clinton in 2016; Asians were the second largest supporting group. While “testing” is an important value in the Asian community; the discriminatory impact of the test is of concern to younger Asians.

By the time the court challenges are resolved de Blasio and Carranza may have moved on to other careers.

UPDATE: The court refused to halt the de Blasio-Carranza revised Discovery Programwhile the case proceeds through the courts

Power and Politics in Education:Who Controls Education Policy? The Left? The Right? or Teachers and Parents?

A few months ago I began getting e-messages to join actions sponsored by #BlackLivesMatteratSchools,

  • End Zero Tolerance
  • Mandate Black Studies #ethnicstudies
  • Hire More Black Teachers
  • Fund Counselors Not Cops

Back in October at the Network for Public Education conference I met the teacher from Seattle who was leading the movement. The motion was introduced at the January delegates meeting at the UFT, the NYC teachers union. The motion was overwhelmingly rejected, teachers are, by nature, cautious.

The student behavior code in New York City is spelled out in minute detail, zero tolerance does not exist and suspensions at the school and superintendent level are closely controlled by the overlords. I believe curriculum should be determined, to the extent possible, by teachers at the school level, and, New York State is embarking on a statewide Culturally Relevant Pedagogy initiative. The Men Teacher in Education program, richly funded by the city encourages men of color to enter schools of education in the City University. And, I would change the last “Ask” to “Fund Counselors AND cops.”

Teachers want orderly schools, and have mixed feelings about the #blacklivematteratschool agenda.

A core question: will the asks/demands of #blacklivesmatterinschools lead to better outcomes for student of color or satisfy the philosophies of a small group of activists? Even deeper, who controls educational policies: elected/appointed school boards, educational (de)reformers, Unions, parents, or a power establishment with an agenda to control schools and other social services?

Is the #blacklivesmatterinschools an example of Critical Policy Analysis?

  • Challenging traditional notions of power, politics and governance
  • Examining policy as discourse and political spectacle
  • Centering the perspectives of the marginalized and the oppressed
  • Interrogating the distribution of power and resources
  • Holding those in power accountable for policy outcomes

Janelle Scott (UC Berkeley) Sonya Douglas-Horford (Teacher College) and Gary Newman (NYU) explore in the just-released, “The Politics of Education Policy in an Era of Inequality

” In a context of increased politicization led by state and federal policymakers, corporate reformers, and for-profit educational organizations … This book provides a critical perspective and analysis of today’s education policy landscape and leadership practice; explores the challenges and opportunities associated with teaching in and leading schools; and examines the structural, political, and cultural interactions among school principals, district leaders, and state and federal policy actors. [The book] shares a theoretical framework and strategies for building bridges between education researchers, practitioners, and policymakers”.

 On one side of the fence, Arne Duncan, Betsy DeVos, the Fordham Institute, the state commissioners, aka the decision-makers, straddling the fence, the teacher unions, and on the other side the Network for Public Education, the Opt Out parents, #blacklivesmatter and the growing host of opponents to the educational establishment, albeit, with many divisions within their ranks.

School discipline is an excellent example, should schools have a code of conduct, a discipline code, with clearly delineated punishments, including suspensions within an education setting, or, are the concepts of suspensions criminalizing students and an integral part of the pipeline to prison?

The “Fund counselors not Cops,” is an excellent example.

New York City employs school safety officers in every school; they are not police officers, not armed; although they report to the police. The number varies with the number of “incidents” reported by the school. All “incidents” in schools must be posted on the Online Reporting School Safety database, ORSS. The Department requires scanning in higher incidence schools and critics point to the scanning as demeaning and counterproductive; frequently resulting in long lines of students, having to arrive a half hour early to be on time to class.

Police officers are assigned to schools with high numbers of school incidents. Are these policies required to make schools safe environments for teaching and learning or do the very presence of police officers and school safety officers negatively impact student achievement?

A large study in New York City found,

We find that exposure to police surges significantly reduced test scores for African American boys, consistent with their greater exposure to policing. The size of the effect increases with age, but there is no discernible effect for African American girls and Hispanic students. Aggressive policing can thus lower educational performance for some minority groups. These findings provide evidence that the consequences of policing extend into key domains of social life, with implications for the educational trajectories of minority youth and social inequality more broadly.

 The results, on the surface point to heavy police presence as depressing academic achievement especially among Afro-American males.

The Pittsburgh School System selected targeted schools for training and implementation in restorative justice practices, after two years, modest reductions in suspensions in the elementary school grades, and surprising results in middle schools,

  During the study period, there was a negative effect on math test scores for students in third through eighth grade, particularly for students in middle-school grades and for black students. 

 The NYC Mayor and Chancellor hold Town Hall meetings, by invitation, elected parent leaders interact with the mayor and chancellor, a meeting was live streamed, the parents came from high poverty, high crime neighborhoods in the Bronx. One parent complained there weren’t enough police around the schools, especially in the morning and at dismissal, she received applause and positive nods from the parents in at the meeting.

Max Eden, at the Manhattan Institute, reviewed school surveys in New York City; parents, teachers and students fill out detailed surveys each year, Eden reported,

The key findings: school climate remained relatively steady under Bloomberg’s discipline reform, but deteriorated rapidly under de Blasio’s. Specifically, teachers report less order and discipline, and students report less mutual respect among their peers, as well as more violence, drug and alcohol use, and gang activity. There was also a significant differential racial impact: nonelementary schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst shift in school climate under the de Blasio reform. 

 How should school safety be approached: school safety officers, police, restorative justice, more teachers of color, perhaps more engaging curriculum and teaching?

 As far as “More Black Teachers,” in three school districts in Brooklyn in which the school population is 90% Black the teacher demographic is 60% Black:  Should there be a goal of a percentage of Black teachers? Are Black teachers more effective? (Are White teachers more effective with White students? Implications?) Does teacher gender impact student achievement?

At every level, from school districts, to cities to states to Washington the world of education is divided into factions, some hanging on to deeply entrenched beliefs, others increasingly challenging these beliefs.

Are the policy elites, who have dominated the aeries of the education world, who impose policies, simply yet another example of white privilege dooming the future of children of color? Or, is Critical Policy Analysis correctly challenging the power structure?  Or, are they trying to impose another set of policies emanating from the other side of the philosophical/political spectrum? Are research findings beginning to erode traditional beliefs, or, an example of advocacy research?

Politics pits ever-Trumpers versus never-Trumpers on the Republican side, traditional Democrats versus AOC Democrats on the other side, with a growing center searching for answers.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum one lesson should be clear, without teachers and parents, no educational innovation or policy will gain traction. Cuban and Tyack in “Tinkering Towards Utopia” parsed one hundred years of education reforms, one after another they faded into the dustbin of education policy initiatives without the support of parents and teachers.

Teachers and their union must be at the center of educational policy, as long as policy wonks view teacher unions as adversaries, change will be viewed as punishment.

The UFT, the New York City teacher union, in its new contract, is trying to move schools towards greater collaboration, in spite of opposition from the supervisors union. The chancellor and the union president are working together to engage the lowest performing schools, assisting the schools to develop tools to move the schools forward, risky for both the chancellor and the union.

Those at the top of the ladder, the foundations (Bill Gates, etc.), the electeds, the state commissioners, the think tanks should pick up the phone and engage Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the presidents of the two largest teacher unions.

Remember the Lyndon Johnson story: he appointed a critic of his policies to an important job in he White House, his advisors wondered, why? Johnson replied, “Better peeing out of the tent then peeing into the tent.” (Perhaps a little misogynistic, you get the point)

The Mayor Releases the School Diversity Advisory Group Interim Report: a Tepid Report with No Time Frame for Implementation

The long delayed Report was released on Tuesday, no roll of drums, a “soft” release with tepid, or shall I say a “toe-in-the-water” set of recommendations.

The NY Times headlines, “New York Public Schools Should Be Evaluated on Diversity, Not Just Tests, Panel Says,”

Over the next five years, the panel recommended, elementary and middle schools should reflect the racial makeup of their local school district, and high schools should look as much like their local borough as possible, in terms of race, income level, disability and proficiency in English.

 The education website Chalkbeat emphasizes what is not in the Report, “De Blasio’s School DiversityAdvisory Group issues its first Report — but it doesn’t touch the SHSAT or Gifted and Talented ”

… the group calls for more schools to represent the demographics of their immediate districts rather than the city as a whole. And it calls out nine specific districts that should be required to come up with integration plan.

 … the report is also notable for what it doesn’t include: It does not address the mayor’s controversial proposal to integrate the city’s elite specialized high schools. Nor does it say what to do about segregated gifted and talented programs or selective admissions policies more broadly (those issues are expected to be addressed later).

 The 118-page Report,  is rich in data with many charts and graphs, student demographics by race by district as well as teachers, principals and suspensions.

The Report is carefully written, dozens of recommendations and proposed strategies with a 3-5 year time frame.

Screened middle schools are commonplace across the city, schools that select students by grades on standards tests and other surrogates for race and class. The Report has “serious concerns,”

As an Advisory Group, we have serious concerns about the practice of screening students for middle school admissions – both because of the experience it creates for students and because of the impact it seemingly has on segregation in middle school. The Advisory Group will continue to consider the impact of middle school screens for its final report. However, it is important to this group that we consider the unintended consequences and the potential replacement policies before we move forward on any recommendations on this topic

 The Report has a major caveat, “unintended consequences,” meaning the fear of white/middle class flight.  Aggressive school integration initiatives not only did not achieve their goals in some instances the result exacerbated school segregation.

Admittance screening barriers in high schools are widespread, the Report, again, acknowledges the problem and tip-toes, avoiding any specific policies,

While we as an Advisory Group acknowledge the demographic imbalance in the City’s screened programs, we also recognize the advantage for all students to have access to academically advanced courses as well as the advantages that come from an academic experience fostered by a diverse environment, particularly in high school. The Advisory Group plans to continue examining the admissions practices of NYC high schools, and plans to look at admissions practices that have successfully led to high-performing, integrated school communities elsewhere, before making final recommendations.

New York City has a long history of gifted programs, Intellectually Gifted Programs (IGC) in grades 4, 5 and 6 determined by test scores, Special Progress (SP) classes in Junior High School, a few school districts collected all high achieving kids and placed them in gifted a school, under decentralization school districts had wide latitude, some districts tested kids and placed kids in classes with glitzy names (“Eagle”).

The Bloomberg/Klein administration was more cynical, screened programs were authorized across the city with test scores, interviews, portfolios  etc., required for admission, and , yes, in too many instances the programs/schools were segregated by race.  Most of the screened programs are in Manhattan, a lot less expensive than $40,000 for private school tuition.

The Specialized High Schools admission standards are not addressed in the Report, although, the resuscitated Discovery Program could increase students of color, we won’t know until the end of summer.  The nine districts listed in the Report will be encouraged to create their own plans, there may not be as much enthusiasm as there was in District 1 (Lower East Side) 3 (Upper West Side) and 15.Brownstone Brooklyn).

Under decentralization District 22 created one of the largest integration programs in the nation – over 1,000 Afro-American kids were bused from overcrowded all minority schools to underutilized white schools. The program was created by an elected school board was support from the electeds. It faded away under mayoral control. The current local boards, CECs, are ‘elected” by the local officers of parent associations. The CECs do have zoning authority within their district, albeit, with the approval of the Chancellor.

A mayor with “aspirations,” who defines himself as the most progressive mayor in the nation, who wants to build his progressive resume without alienating middle class white families, aka, “unintended consequences.”

Reminds me of the 19th century term, “mugwump .”

The Report has dozens of recommendations, a section rolling culturally relevant pedagogy into schools across the city, as well as training staff and prospective staff; recommendations to increase the role of parents and on and on.

The many datasets are interesting, and, raise questions. Why the sharp disparity in suspensions from district to district?  More effective restorative justice programs or superintendents tightening the faucet?  District 23, Brownsville, with among the highest crime rates in the city has among the lowest suspension rates, District 19, East New York, along side Brownsville, many more suspensions. District 23 also has (not in the Report) many instances of kids not receiving mandated Special Education services: a coincidence or district leadership that simply prohibits suspensions and ignores Special Education service mandates?

There are lots of doubts whether the administration or the chancellor intends to act aggressively. Tweets from NY Times reporter,

Eliza Shapiro‏ @elizashapiro

I heard a sense of resignation today on de Blasio’s willingness to integrate schools among some members of the working group today. When I asked about whether City Hall is going to make integration a priority, Maya Wiley [committee co-chair] noted that the mayor is only in office for 3 more yrs.

What if a good school in NYC meant a racially integrated school, not just a school with high test scores? It’s up to de Blasio, who has spent the last 5 years avoiding use of the word “segregation,” to decide whether that proposal will become city policy:

The Report is an interim report, I fear the final report will be up to the next mayor.