Addressing Educational Apartheid in NYC

According to the New York Times, our schools are among the most segregated in the entire nation.

Public schools in NYC are more racially segregated than ever before.  

According to the New York Times, our schools are among the most segregated in the entire nation. Last week the NAACP filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against New York City for what they believe is a discriminatory admissions policy for the city’s most selective schools. 

For example, although more than 3,000 students are enrolled in Stuyvesant H.S., the most selective of the specialized schools, only 25 students are black and Latino, this in a city where 72% of students in our schools are black and Latino. 

Admissions to the city's specialized schools are based upon a single high stakes examination. The city says that they have tried to address this issue by offering free test preparation at middle schools with majority black and Latino populations. 

The NAACP argues that test prep does not solve the problem and that the admissions process should be overhauled entirely and must include multiple measures to ensure that the most elite schools accurately reflect the diversity of the city. 

Even if the NAACP is successful in its efforts to change the admissions criteria for the specialized high schools, I believe that this will do little to change the fact that we have a systemic problem of de facto segregation in our public schools that result in educational inequity. 

58 years ago in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education; the court held that “Segregation of white and colored children has a detrimental effect on colored children”. Despite this finding, we continue to subject our children to racially divided schools. 

Now I don’t believe that the achievement gap will magically be erased by simply sitting black and Latino children next to white and Asian children in a classroom. 

But what I do believe is that black and Latino children will benefit enormously from the additional resources that” inexplicably” are available in schools that have significant numbers of white children attending. 

Experienced and well trained teachers, access to the latest technology, superior building facilities and politically active and economically advantaged parent associations are a few of the benefits that would be enjoyed by black and Latino children attending truly integrated schools. 

The reasons for the persistent racial separation that occurs in our public schools are multi-layered and deeply complex, involving the intersections of economics, geography, race, culture, public policy and history. This means that the possible solutions to this problem are equally complex. 

The question then is do we have the public will to address this complex problem with an appropriately complex solution? Well if history and current economic and educational policies are any indication, the answer to the above question is a resounding no. 

Faced with a blatantly racially segregated public school system with ridiculous inequity in the distribution of resources (i.e. school s with greater needs receive the same resources as schools that have an embarrassment of riches) our response has been to adopt a “no excuses” stance to school improvement, making it heresy for an educator to suggest that schools serving disadvantaged communities may require more resources to level the playing field. 

We are instead told that if we simply had “high expectations” educational outcomes will improve. I fail to understand how “higher expectations” will help a student whose family is homeless or who have had their utilities shut off for non-payment, complete their homework assignment. 

However additional funds to extend the school day and provide homework study centers might help. If we ever hope to truly achieve the dream of a post racial society, we must begin with our educational system. 

Until we decide that it is unacceptable for children to attend racially segregated (and by extension resource deprived) schools, we will be forever haunted by the specter of the great race divide.

S. Friedland October 02, 2012 at 01:57 AM
The diversity of NY City will be reflected in the City's elite schools when minority students seeking admission, have the grades to gain acceptance as other students must do. To simply enroll black and Latino students in such schools to achieve diversity, will greatly harm those students not prepared for the rigorous curriculum such schools impose. The answer is to help such students in the intermediate schools to meet the entrance criteria of the elite schools by intensive study sessions after school and in the summers. The NAACP can file all the suits it wants; to achieve their goals they should first address the root of the problem: students unprepared for the elite schools.
BRADY October 02, 2012 at 02:05 AM
NOW IT'S EDUCATION APARTHEID! STOP ! you have to be kidding me ! is this some kind of joke! thank you nyc and the naacp for furthering the misconception and the preconception that people of color can't do anything without a lawsuit ,can't buy a house SUE,can't pass a test SUE,can't control what happens in the neighborhood,blame everyone else and then SUE when something is tried to better the outrageous amounts of crime that happens everyday .these things don't happen in other neighborhoods with the same frequency as they do they do in these neighborhoods .WHY are they better people ,are they better parents ,do they care more about what happens, do they actually get out and do something! according to the NAACP they are ,and people of color are not up to the task ,and it's someone elses job to clean up otherwise it's APARTHIED. the shame....the shame.....
Robert October 02, 2012 at 02:09 AM
What a racist rant from what appears to be an unabashed racists. The problem is not with the schools or teachers, its with the parents and community and most importantly people like you Reginald. If you really cared about the community you would tell the parents that it is their responsibility to make learning important, no excuses..Especially if you buy into that disproportionate spending crap!!! When you hear that only 25 students of color did well enough on the test to get into Stuyvesant you should be in the community screaming at the parents, pastors and 'community organizers' that THEY need to do better. Instead of being jealous of successful communities they need to communicate with, and emulate those communities in the way they raise their children(and not all are white and rich. Many poor immigrant communities are producing very successful students from parents that have little or no formal education.).. work ethic cannot be provided by increased school spending.. Give Bill Cosby a call and he will explain the whole thing to you (you probably (and intentionally) wont understand a word he says but at least you will enjoy the funny faces..
BRADY October 02, 2012 at 03:38 AM
So much for BLACK PRIDE it's come to the point where someone else has to produce a show or documentory to show the black man or woman what their capable of
Reginald Richardson October 02, 2012 at 11:33 AM
As a black man raised in a single parent family from the Bronx who graduated from one of the elite high schools and who also graduated from Harvard University, I fully understand what it takes to achieve academic success. However I believe that one of the important facts contributing to students being unprepared to enter the elite schools is directly related to inequity in school funding. Inexperienced teachers, antiquated technology and facilities are directly related to funding. I have been critical in my earlier writing of the NAACP efforts to keep failing schools open (http://bed-stuy.patch.com/articles/naacp-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-school-reform-movement). I also have always been a staunch proponent of communities of color exercising more responsibility for the education of our children. (http://bed-stuy.patch.com/articles/the-need-for-a-new-narrative-of-excellence-in-the-black-community). This does not mean that we should remain silent in the face of blatant inequity. It is interesting to me how easy it is for us to accept the narrative that only 25 black and Latino students have worked hard enough to gain entry to elite schools, yet we have a more difficult time asking questions about a system that produces such lopsided results.
Reginald Richardson October 02, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Disproportionate spending on schools is not "crap" it is math. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/campaign_for_fiscal_equity_v_state_of_new_york/) sued the state of New York and won. Poor urban districts with primarily minority students were not funded at the same rate as other school districts. Saying fiscal equity in education is not a real issue is like saying global warming is a myth. It is simply a fact that inner city urban schools have been underfunded for decades and the highest court in our state agrees. This under funding has resulted in inferior quality education in the early grades for students of color which means that they are at a disadvantage in being prepared for the rigorous admissions tests. This is not to say that parents and community should not bear the brunt of the responsibility for properly educating their children. If you have read any of my earlier columns (http://bed-stuy.patch.com/articles/the-need-for-a-new-narrative-of-excellence-in-the-black-community) you will see that I have consistently called for black and Latino communities to take responsibility for the education and moral development of our children. However, this does not mean that we should not discuss systemic inequity where it actually exists.
Truth2Power October 02, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I'm more than a little puzzled by some of the comments. I'm a 42 year old Black man. I grew up in NYC and I can tell you that the majority minority public schools are prep schools for failure/prison. The few (like myself) that make it out are exceptions that prove the rule. Also, the writer never suggested that we simply place unqualified minority students at elite schools. Rather, he points to pervasive and long standing systemic inequities that make it extremely difficult for disadvantaged minority students to compete at that level. However, the problem needs to be addressed at the K-6 level. It's foolish to think that kids from Brownsville will be competitive with kids from the Upper East Side. I don't understand why some commenters are so hostile to these realities.
BIgMMA October 03, 2012 at 01:42 AM
It saddens me to read the comments above. As a life long resident I have watched the neighborhood become more diversified yet the schools have remained unchanged. It is modern day segregation at its best; separate and drastically unequal. Everyday I watch my new neighbors walk, bus or drive their children to schools outside of the local district. Could it be that these parents have become privy to the same information as the NAACP? Within the African American/ Latino communities, there is a scarcity of resources. The local schools are filled with unacceptable conditions; poor performing teachers, antiquated books and obsolete computers. As African Americans, are we not entitled to the same opportunities and resources as White people? Our children deserve the very same opportunities as everyone else.
BedStuy Bred October 03, 2012 at 02:09 PM
BigMMA, as a life long Bedforfd Stuyvesant resident, you should be honest and acknowledge that most African American BedStuy residents who have the means or option don't send thier children to the local public schools either. Even in the 50's the Black middle class were sending their kids to the local Catholic schools. Reverend Al Sharpton sent his daughers to the now 30k plus Poly Prep. Where did Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama send their children to school? So BigMMA, don't just pick on the newcomers, it's much more of a class, and values thing, than a race thing.


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