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.