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New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina Unveils a New Plan: Integration
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In push to enroll more poor and diverse students in gifted, one school makes slow progress
Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a sought-after school that accepts only gifted students from across the city, is slowly moving the needle on improving access for those from low-income families. That’s according to information released Thursday by the New York City education department.
As Chalkbeat recently wrote, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry is the only citywide gifted school to join the city’s Diversity in Admissions pilot program. Citywide schools are among the most difficult to get into since they only admit students with top scores on the gifted test. Like gifted programs across the city, they are also starkly segregated.
The admissions pilot, which now includes 21 schools from pre-K through 12th grade, allows principals to set aside a percentage of seats specifically for students who are poor, learning English or who meet other criteria.
In some cases, school leaders are seeking to preserve the diverse student body that already exists. In others, like at BSI, principals want to encourage integration. The school set aside 40 percent of its available kindergarten seats for low-income students.
“I think that was just what we needed,” principal Donna Taylor told Chalkbeat in November.
But, because siblings of current BSI students get priority in admissions, only a small number of seats are available to the wider public every year. That meant that only 20 slots were reserved for low-income students this year. Though the school has made admissions offers for each of those openings, it remains to be seen how many families will actually enroll.
At BSI last year, fewer than 10 percent of students were black or Hispanic, and the poverty rate was 23 percent.
Citywide, about 70 percent of students are black or Hispanic and 77 percent are poor. In gifted, about 73 percent of gifted students are white or Asian, and the poverty rate is about 43 percent.
The city has tried to address the disparity by opening gifted programs in districts that had gone years without and by changing the admissions criteria in new gifted classes.
The Bronx and Brooklyn borough presidents have launched a taskforce to study segregation in both gifted and specialized high schools, which base admissions on a single test. They hope to come up with recommendations for enrolling a more representative mix of students.
Chancellor Fariña Announces New Admissions Pilot at Seven Elementary Schools Designed to Promote Diversity
Changes Reflect the Mayor and Chancellor’s Commitment to Fostering Diversity in City Schools
Result of Collaboration Between DOE, Principals, School Communities and City Council
Changes Will Go into Effect for This Year’s Kindergarten Admissions for the 2016–17 School Year
NEW YORK – Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced changes to the admissions policies of seven schools that are designed to promote diversity. As part of the new admissions pilot, schools will give priority to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch (FRL), English Language Learners (ELLs) or students in the child welfare system. The changes stem from proposals that the schools’ principals recommended to the DOE in 2014. All of the seven schools are elementary schools, and the changes will be for both pre-K and kindergarten admissions cycles. The DOE is working to expand diversity across our schools in partnership with the City Council and other partners, and this initiative is a pilot and remains one piece of a larger effort.
“Students learn from the diverse experiences and cultures of their fellow students, and it’s important that our schools match the diversity of our City. I’m pleased that by working with principals, superintendents and community members, we were able to create admissions policies that promote diversity and respect the needs of the community. I’m hopeful that these changes will help serve as a model for schools across the City,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Diversity in the classroom is a powerful tool for our society and our students,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “Students in diverse classrooms learn more, have more opportunity and they develop a better perspective on life outside of school. The Chancellor’s plan is a strong first step that will help foster New York classrooms that are as diverse as New York itself.”
“By providing students who are in the child welfare system, those who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and English Language Learners priority admission to seats, we move closer to ensuring that these schools serve as fair and inclusive places of learning for all children,” said Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Our public schools must welcome students of all linguistic, cultural and economic backgrounds and reflect the diversity of our great City. I applaud Chancellor Fariña for implementing this progressive school admission pilot program and will continue to work with her to improve the school experience for all our children.”
“Empowering elementary schools to use admissions processes that strengthen diversity is a strong step in our ongoing effort to confront the segregation of our schools,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “This model is working at PS 133 in Park Slope, helping to build a richly diverse, inclusive, energetic school community that nurtures future leaders. I’m confident these policies will lead to more diverse student bodies and to inclusive, successful learning environments at these seven schools – including the Brooklyn New School and The Children’s School in my district – and serve as a model for other schools around the City. I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Fariña, the NYC Department of Education, Community Education Councils, educators, parents and advocates on future steps to expand and increase diversity across our school system.”
“The Department of Education’s changes to the admissions policies of seven schools to promote diversity is a powerful and important first step to tackle the issue of segregation. It is no secret that students who learn in diverse environments are better equipped to become fully engaged members of our diverse democracy,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “The City still has more work to do in order to create diverse classrooms but I am confident that we can achieve that goal and provide our students with enriching learning environments. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña for supporting schools that actively want to promote diversity, and I look forward to working with the Administration, my colleagues in the City Council, teachers and parents to create an education system that reflects the diversity of our great City.”
Under the proposals, schools will give priority to some of the above-mentioned groups for a certain percentage of seats within the context of existing admissions priorities. The DOE worked closely with the principals and superintendents of the impacted schools to ensure the proposals could be implemented smoothly and fairly for all families in the communities. The schools and admissions changes include:
- Neighborhood School in Manhattan: Students who qualify for FRL or are ELLs would have priority for 45% of seats.
- Earth School in Manhattan: Students who qualify for FRL or are ELLs would have priority for 45% of seats.
- Castle Bridge School in Manhattan: Students from families impacted by incarceration would have priority for10% of seats and students who qualify for FRL would have priority for 60% of seats.
- Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn: Students who qualify for FRL would have priority for 40% of seats.
- PS 146 Brooklyn New School in Brooklyn: Students who qualify for FRL would have priority after siblings and current pre-K students.
- The Children’s School in Brooklyn: Students who qualify for FRL or are ELLs would have priority for one-third of seats.
- Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School: Students who are ELLs or are in the child welfare system would have priority for 20% of seats.
“This new admissions policy will help our school better reflect the diversity of our City. Creating a diverse school community is critical to developing the kind of schools and society intended by the Brown v. Board of Education decision. I am thrilled that this administration is taking this step,” said Julie Zuckerman, principal of Castle Bridge School in Manhattan.
“This new policy will help ensure that our school reflects the community around it, and that our students are able to learn from the rich experiences of their peers. I am excited to be part of this pilot, and I look forward to working with my teachers and the school community to ensure a smooth transition that best meets our school’s needs,” said Sandra Soto, principal of Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School.
To ensure that families are aware of the changes, elementary school directories will be updated online and translated. Families will also be made aware at kindergarten information sessions which will take place in every borough throughout the month of December. Kindergarten applications open on December 7, 2015 and families can submit applications through January 15, 2016. Families wishing to learn more about these schools, or about the kindergarten application process, can visit schools.nyc.gov/kindergarten, call 718-935-2009 or visit a Family Welcome Center.