Tag Archives: David Kirkland

“Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?” School Integration/Segregation and School Improvement Policy

“We conclude that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” —Chief Justice Earl Warren

In 1954 the Earl Warren Supreme Court unanimously reversed the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision, states could no longer, by statute, segregate public schools.

 In the late fifties and into the sixties increasing numbers of Afro-American children entered the New York City school system.  David Rogers, 110 Livingston Street: Politics and Bureaucracy in the New York City School System, 1968, chronicles the hesitant and conflicted efforts of the Board of Education: increasing political pressures to promote integration and vigorous community resistance characterized by the Parents and Taxpayers (PAT) organizations. Under the Lindsay mayoralty (1965-1973) the push to school integration waned and moved to support for school decentralization, empowering locally elected school boards with wide powers over hiring, curriculum and budget. Lindsay, a progressive Republican, chose not to antagonize his white voter base and appeal to liberal and black voters.

 The Board of Education, at the high school level, successfully created and implemented integration efforts; and a number of school districts created integration plans within their districts (District 15, 22) while others (District 3) supported pockets of white schools within a primarily Afro-American district.

 For three decades following Lindsay the school wars were over the power of school boards, not school integration: accusations of corruption, suspending school boards in the poorest and most politicized districts, battles over jobs and political influence.

 Mayoral control under Mayor Bloomberg ended local control and placed decision-making back into the hands of a central authority. The Bloomberg administration closed and created hundreds of schools. Over two hundred of the newly created schools were “screened” schools, schools with entrance criteria, usually scores on state tests. To a large degree the screened schools have larger percentages of White/Asian students and lower percentages of Black/Hispanic students, having an impact of further segregating the remaining schools.

Sixty years after Brown v Board of Education the UCLA Diversity Project released a report sharply critical of New York City,

 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.

 In this report, we provide a synthesis of over 60 years of research showing that school integration is still a goal worth pursuing. From the benefits of greater academic achievement, future earnings, and even better health outcomes for minority students, and the social benefits resulting from intergroup contact for all students – like the possible reduction in prejudice and greater interracial communication skills – we found that “real integration” is indeed an invaluable goal worth undertaking in growing multiracial societies. Can separate be equal, yes. If measured by test scores, a few resegregated schools show high performance. But even if equality can be reached between racially isolated schools, students may never achieve the skills and abilities required to navigate an increasingly diverse nation.

According to 2017 New York State data, the New York City schools are 14.6% White, 27.2% Black, 40.6% Hispanic and 15.6% Asian, if we subtract out Staten Island the citywide White school population declines to 11.8%.

The minority school population is heavily concentrated in a number of districts, District 23 (Brownsville: 75.6% Black, 21% Hispanic, 1% White) District 19 (East New York: 46% Black, 43% Hispanic, 7% Asian, 2% White), other districts have a wider range of races/ethnicities within the district (District 2 Mid-Manhattan: 24.2% White, 23% Asian, 37% Hispanic, 15.9% Black) while the highest achieving schools within the district, for example two of the high achieving middle schools, (IS 104: 28.2% White, 39.8% Asian, 20.9% Hispanic, 8.1% Black and IS 167: 41.9% White, 18.6% Hispanic 27.2% Asian, 8.3% Black) in no way reflect the district numbers.

Attempts to change school zoning lines, one of the few powers delegated to Community Education Councils (CEC), the local school boards, have created contentious battles. PS 191 and 199 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (District 3) are a few blocks apart, one school almost totally white and other school almost totally minority. For months the “white” school battled against any changes that would move white students into the minority school (Read NY Times article here)

Slowly, in the face of mounting pressures from advocates, research organizations and the City Council, the mayor and the department  began to support “controlled choice ,” and, in June, 2017 released a widely criticized plan.

The plan impacts only a handful of schools and creates a task force that will make non-binding recommendations in 2018.

The loudest advocates on the City Council are Brad Lander and Richie Torres; the black council members have not been vocal on the issue. The traditional Afro-American organizations have also not aggressively supported school integration.

Absent from the discussions is what happens within newly integrated schools: what happens when small numbers of children of color are introduced into white classrooms, a parent muses,

“Just as it can be intimidating to be the only white child in a class, it can also be intimidating to be the only child of color in a class,” she said. “If this is going to work, both sides have to really think hard about how to make everybody feel welcome.”

 A larger question: what are the academic data in the most and least diverse schools? David Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center at NYC explores that very question in a recently released report,

Analysis of 2015-16 achievement data suggests that there is a modest benefit for vulnerable students attending the City’s most diverse schools. Third and eighth grade students attending the most diverse schools modestly outperformed students attending the City’s least diverse schools on state standardized tests in both English and math.

In addition, students attending the most diverse high schools were slightly more likely to graduate on-time than their peers attending the least diverse schools (68.8 percent versus 66.5 percent); less economically advantaged students in particular seemed to benefit from attending the most diverse high schools. By contrast, White, Asian, and more economically advantaged students were much more likely to graduate in four years in the City’s least diverse schools than their peers.

 “White and Asian students seem to benefit incongruently from segregated schooling, which means that school segregation may give some students an unfair and seemingly unhealthy advantage – thus, sanctioning uneven opportunities for success,” said Kirkland.

“The academic achievement and high school graduation evidence that we analyzed suggests that increasing diversity can increase equity in New York City schools and significantly decrease gaps in some student outcomes such as high school graduation,” Kirkland concluded. “Thus, plans to stimulate diversity in New York City schools can pay off for the City’s most vulnerable students.”

The report includes recommendations for stimulating diversity, expanding opportunity, and interrupting segregation in New York City schools, including challenging “opportunity monopolies,” such as specialized high schools, that only provide privileges to certain groups of students. The researchers also recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.

Two years ago at a Medgar Evers College symposium, “Improving Education Outcomes for Young Men of Color,” a high school student asked, “Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?”

The comment of the student has resonated in my mind, yes, school integration, societal integration, should be a goal. The dramatic rise in interracial marriages would indicate the without any externally imposed policies integration is occurring,

In 2015, 17% of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried

Race does not define class. There are middle class households that are black and Hispanic, their neighborhood schools are black and Hispanic and parents have no interest in busing their children to white schools.

Gentrification has converted traditional inner city neighborhoods to middle and upper class primarily white neighborhoods further concentrating high poverty families in fewer and fewer neighborhoods.

The goal of the UCLA Report is to encourage, “real integration” which the avers is a “invaluable goal worth undertaking in growing multiracial societies”

 What we don’t know:

Who are the minority children in integrated schools? Do they live in segregated neighborhoods or in integrated neighborhoods? Is their family income equivalent to the incomes of the white families in the schools? Are the classrooms also integrated or are they in segregated classrooms for high needs children? Why have the minority parents chosen to move their children into primarily white schools?

And, a core question: are efforts to integrate schools diverting attention from improving the poorest and least academically effective schools?

For decades the city supported decentralization as a remedy for low achievement in high poverty, high minority schools, without any positive impact, in fact, a negative impact.

The #blacklivesmatter movement, a new generation of black scholars (Ta Nisi Coates, David Kirkland, Edward Fergus, Ibram Kendi), racially conscious black comedians (Dave Chappelle) and rappers – race is widely discussed across the nation, and, I believe, a positive element in our society. The discussion about improving schools must continue, Decentralization was a tragic distraction, I believe school choice is another distraction, and while school integration is a worthy goal we cannot ignore our most dire educational quandary – improving outcomes for our poorest children: regardless of race.


The Suspension Conundrum: Do Suspensions Improve Behavior and Academic Outcomes for All Students or, a Pipeline to Dropping Out and Prison?

A few weeks after the election of de Blasio in 2013 I dropped by the transition tent to listen to a panel of community activists talk education. The panel trashed the Department of Education over excessive numbers of student suspensions, for the panelists, evidence that the “school to prison pipeline” was alive and well.

(Read here, here  and here).

The data is clear, students who are suspended in the 4th grade are likely not to graduate high school and the more frequent the suspensions the more likely the student will enter the criminal justice system.

As a reaction school districts have sharply curtailed the numbers of suspensions, especially in urban school systems.

Twenty-seven states have revised their laws to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, and more than 50 of America’s largest school districts, serving more than 6.35 million students, have implemented discipline reforms. From 2011–12 to 2013–14, the number of suspensions nationwide fell by nearly 20%.

Is there a downside to reducing suspensions?

Advocates of discipline reform claim that a suspension may have negative effects on the student being disciplined. Critics are concerned that lax discipline may lead to more disruptive behavior, disrupting classrooms and harming students who want to learn.

A just-released report from the Manhattan Institute (“School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public School, 2012 – 2016 “) takes a deep dive into the suspension and school climate data.

The report concludes,

[School discipline] deteriorated rapidly under de Blasio’s. Specifically, teachers report [note: using school survey data] 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.

Supporters of the regulations limiting suspensions argue that new approaches, restorative justice and, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports  are in the beginning phases of implementation, it will take a number of years to train school staffs and assess the effectiveness.

What is missing from the debate are the underlying questions:

* Are students actually exhibiting behaviors that are inappropriate in school settings, and, if so, why?

* Is the failure of teachers to address these behaviors the cause of the suspensions? Is the preparation of school leaders/teachers inadequate? Are school leaders/teachers culturally and racially insensitive?

* Do suspensions modify the behavior of the students who are suspended?

* Do suspensions improve the outcomes for the remainder of the students in the classes?

and a core question,

Why do schools with similar populations have such different rates of suspension?  Are we preparing and selecting the “right” school leaders?

I was visiting a middle school in community (in)famous for handgun violence. One school was on the first two floors and another on the top floor. As I walked up the stairs it was sadly clear that the school on the lower floors was out-of-control. The school on the top floor was totally in order. Same kids from the same community, different school leaders with different skill sets and different outcomes.

A campus high school, four schools in a building, had a long history of school suspensions. A since retired head of school safety looked over the data and explained how to construct a school safety grid. We mapped the “precipitating event” and time of the “event” on a map of the school. It was fascinating!!  The “precipitating events” took place in and around the student cafeteria and in the hallways. The hallway events were clustered near classrooms with newer and/or less effective teachers.  More supervision in the cafeteria and more help for targeted teachers led to a more orderly school, at least , for a while.

The key to reducing suspension are the effectiveness of the school leaders and the classroom teachers. Should Lisa Delpit (““The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,”) be a foundational text for every teacher preparation classroom, or, because it is the foundational text, is that the source of poorly prepared teachers?

Will increasing the numbers of black teachers improve outcomes and reduce suspensions of black students? and, if so, why? (Read research findings here)

…there is compelling evidence that when students have a teacher of the same race, they tend to learn more at school (see “The Race Connection,” research, Spring 2004).

Those findings raise a parallel question: Does having a teacher of the same race make it more or less likely that students are subject to exclusionary school discipline?

David Kirkland, A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Young Black Men (Teachers College Press, 2013)

… argues that educators need to understand the social worlds of African-American males to break the school-to-prison pipeline cycle.  The book asks the education community to listen to the voices of black youth to better understand what it means to be literate in a multicultural, democratic society.

Once again, is the source of the “problem” the failure to properly prepare teachers and school leaders?

If we expect student behavior to improve we must modify our behaviors. Suspension is a last resort, yes, occasionally the “street” does win. Schools reflect the cultures of their communities. The role of a school is to convince students to become “bi-cultural,” to accept that the culture of the street is not acceptable in a school setting. Teachers have argued that a suspension may “straighten out” a kid, and, is a lesson for the other kids: misbehave and you’ll be next to be suspended.  Does zero tolerance or suspensions improve outcomes for the remainder of the class?

The most common place for pickpockets to ply there trade was at the hangings of pickpockets. The area of deterrence theory may be applicable to the question of school discipline “The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket’s Hanging,”

This study examines the premise that criminals make informed and calculated decisions. The findings suggest that 76% of active criminals and 89% of the most violent criminals either perceive no risk of apprehension or are incognizant of the likely punishments for their crimes.

Studying behaviors of principals in low suspension schools in high suspensions districts is a place to begin. Unfortunately school district leadership usually looks for the quick fix, the “program” that will “fix” the problem. I have no objection to restorative practices or PBIS, I have rarely seen a program that fixes such a deep-seated issue. “Turning off the faucet,” changing the regs to limit suspensions, does not resolve the underlying issue. Harsh and rigid suspension rules do not  appear to impact the suspended student or the remainder of the students.

Some principals and teachers have figured this out, maybe we should find them and listen to them.

Are Suspensions a Pipeline to Prison or a Valid Response to Unacceptable Behavior? How Do Suspensions Impact the Behavior of the Other Students in the Class? Are Afro-American Parents Opposed to Suspensions?

Three years ago we were in the midst of a hotly contested mayoral election. Four high profile Democrats were battling for the democrat line on the November ballot. Bill Thompson, an Afro-American, had given Bloomberg a close run in 2009, the President of the City Counsel, Christine Quinn, the Comptroller, John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were dashing from forum to forum. When the dust settled not only did de Blasio win he won 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff. A key was clearly his early and vigorous opposition to Bloomberg’s “Stop and Frisk” and the Dante TV commercial..

de Blasio received more Afro-American votes than Thompson, the only Afro-American in the race. Virtually every Afro-American male in the city, regardless of their income or residence has a story. A cop stopping them for no apparent reason, treating them as if they were a  criminal, a victim of “walking or driving while black.”

During his three years de Blasio fulfilled his campaign promises, he has been the progressive mayor, seemingly vying for the leadership of the left wing of the Democratic Party, and, watching polling numbers drop.

The NY Post and the Daily News have criticized him daily, the Wall Street Journal and the Manhattan Initiate also taking shots at the mayor and Governor Cuomo has made it clear, he, Cuomo, not de Blasio, is the leader of the Democratic Party in the state.

A year away from the next election and the vultures are circling, de Blasio seems wounded, and possible opponents are smelling the carcass.

At this point there is no “Stop and Frisk” issue, at least not until after the November presidential. A Hillary presidency would put a totally different spin – she could endorse de Blasio, or, send out an “I support Bill” message, or, remain aloof. Crime continues to fall to historic levels; the city is prosperous, what are the issues?

Lack of affordable housing, high taxes, homelessness, poverty, undocumented immigration, crowded subways: the list goes on and on; are any of these issues core election issues? Can they grab the electorate?

The Dante TV commercial and de Blasio’s early outspoken opposition to Stop and Frisk, in my view, catapulted him to victory in 2013.

Is there a core issue in 2017 that will create a path to victory?

First, who are the potential voters?  An NYU Wagner report in 2013 parsed likely voters. Older, better educated, higher incomes and union members are more likely to vote,

See a detailed analysis of likely voters by neighborhood before the 2013 mayoral election:

Prime voter lists and detailed voter information can be purchased – see what you can find out about likely voters: http://gograssroots.org/files/analyzevoters.pdf

Potential voters are extremely diverse, by ethnicity, by income, by age, by education, by race and by religion or lack thereof.

Getting back to issues: will suspensions be the stop and frisk issue of 2017?

Are schools (i. e., suspensions) the pipeline to prison tropes so deeply ingrained in minority and liberal voters that it will emerge as the core issue? See Atlantic articles here  and here; and, as the Department of Education, perhaps responding to harsh criticism from the teacher and principal unions, backs away, even ever so slightly the Atlantic and progressives shove back.

While the suspension/pipeline to prison issue resonates in progressive circles, both white and black, does it resonate among Afro-American parents?

A year or so ago I was at an education forum, during a break a teacher was engaging with an Afro-American charter school parent. The teacher was telling the parent, “Charters throw out the disruptive kids.” The parent answered, “That’s exactly why I send my child to a charter school.”

You cannot simply use the term, “Afro-American voters,” who do you mean?   Older black voters?  Millennial black voters? Caribbean voters? See fascinating breakdown of voting trends by neighborhood here.

Caribbean voters (Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti) tend to be socially conservative, church-goers, union members, prefer kids to wear uniforms to school, and, I would argue far more likely to support strict discipline in schools. Highly educated black intellectuals firmly support the school to prison pipeline concept: David Kirkland director of  the Metro Center at NYU chairs the  Commission for Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

 If we trace backwards: are kids who end up in criminal justice and/or fail to graduate high school more likely to have been suspended in school. Did the suspension(s) lead to poor academics and/or antisocial behavior? Could alternative disciplinary procedures such as restorative justice practices or Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports  (PBIS) avert the negative outcomes associated with suspensions?  Do suspensions so stigmatize the student that future negative behaviors are to be expected?  On the other hand, how do suspensions impact the other students in the classroom?  Does the removal of disruptive students improve educational outcomes for the remainder of the class?

Complex issues and issues that are firmly held.

Interested in becoming a campaign consultant?