Blog: Latino Ed Beat

New York City’s Schools Are “A Rotting Apple” for Latinos and Blacks, Report Says

The New York City public school system is a “rotting apple” that is failing Latino and black students, says a new report by the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation for Public Education. These strong words come as Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to make education a priority.

New York University education professor Pedro Noguera wrote the study’s foreword and said the disparities are “tantamount to apartheid-like separations.”

The foundation concluded black or Hispanic students are four times as likely as Asian or white students to be enrolled in one of the city’s lowest-performing high schools. Students from low-income families also have little chance of being tested for gifted and talented programs.

The researchers looked at 500 middle schools across the city’s 32 Community School Districts and found substantial inequities. The study sorted middle schools into four groups based on the results of the 8th grade math and English language arts test. School districts that had no middle schools performing in the top quartile were found in the city’s poorest areas such as Harlem, the South Bronx and central Brooklyn. The report used this information to calculate an “opportunity to learn” index.

Some of the other conclusions found:

  • While 46 percent of white students and 47 percent of Asian students are enrolled in top quartile high schools (where students were most likely to graduate with Regents diplomas), only 18 percent of black students and 16 percent of Latino students are enrolled in those schools;
  • In some districts, 70 percent of kindergartners were tested for gifted programs; in others, as few as seven percent were tested;
  • In some districts, 30 percent of the kindergartners tested were eligible for programs for gifted students; while in others, just one percent were;
  • There were also inequalities in the number of students who began the ninth grade in 2005 and later graduated with Regents diplomas, which are given when students have a passing score of 65 or higher on the five regents exams in English, Algebra, global history, U.S. History and science. For example, 63 percent of Asian students graduated with Regents diplomas, 55 percent of white students and 28 percent of black students. Latino students were the least likely to receive Regents diplomas at 26 percent.

The authors make a number of recommendations, including mandatory testing for the gifted and talented program for all kindergartners, restoration of school funding that has been cut and the requirement that all middle schools offer the courses necessary for the specialized high schools admission test plus free tutoring for free to low-income students.

GothamSchools reported that Department of Education spokesman Frank Thomas said the study’s recommendations for solving the problems are impractical. ”While there is much more work to do, the reality is that black and Hispanic students in New York City are graduating at their highest rates ever, and continue to narrow the achievement gap year after year,” he said in a statement. “A report that fails to acknowledge this progress is shortsighted and overlooks the gains made by thousands of students during that time.”

Read the full report here. 

Do you think such a harsh assessment is fair? In your own local districts, you can also look at disparities that exist in admissions to gifted and magnet high school programs. Ask for the information broken out by race and ethnicity.