Blog: Latino Ed Beat

NYC Schools Initiative Aims to Improve Student Diversity

Source: Flickr/ via Mikel Ortega (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Schools in New York City are being asked to consider voluntary diversity plans in an effort to combat widespread segregation in the city’s schools. 

According to its online call for proposals under the Diversity in Admissions Initiative, the city’s education department ”seeks to empower schools to strengthen diversity among their students through targeted efforts to change their admissions process.” 

Through the initiative, schools might be able to consider factors like family income, English-language skills and homelessness to increase student diversity. The online application for proposals asks respondents to list their objectives for changing admissions policies and to specify how they would accommodate incoming students who are admitted based on the new criteria, including a plan for monitoring student success. 

This announcement comes after the city saw positive results from a pilot group of seven public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan that implemented measures in 2015 to diversify their enrollment, the New York Daily News reports. According to the article, all but one of the schools met their diversity goals for this year. (Yasmeen Khan of WNYC broke down the targeted admissions policies for each school here.)

Deputy chancellor of New York City schools, Josh Wallack, told WNYC that changing admissions criteria at a few schools will not solve segregation, but it’s ”part of the suite of strategies that we’re trying to deploy.” Both the mayor and city’s school chancellor of education “want to push on this issue,” he said.

The push comes after a 2014 report from the UCLA-based Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles found New York City schools to be among the most segregated in the country. Among the report’s findings:

  • In the 32 Community School Districts throughout the city, 19 had a white student enrollment of 10 percent of less.
  • The typical black and Latino student attend a school where the majority of students were black and Latino, and less than 10 percent of the students were white.  
  • Across the city, 73 percent of charter schools had a white student enrollment of less than 1 percent (what the report’s authors consider “apartheid schools.”) Ninety percent of charter schools had a white student enrollment of less than 10 percent. 

Moving forward, school principals must demonstrate buy-in from parents and teachers, WNYC reports. Schools have until July 8 to submit their proposals, which, if approved, will go into effect for the fall of 2017.