Tag Archives: Discovery Program

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.