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How Brooklyn is Trying to Integrate its Middle Schools

On the first day of sixth grade, at his new school in a new neighborhood, Angel Angon Quiroz, 11, sat by himself in the corner of the cafeteria, wondering if he had made a mistake.

Students at Angel’s old elementary school overwhelmingly come from poor and Hispanic families. Now, a new integration plan in Brooklyn had placed him at a middle school called the Math & Science Exploratory School. It was popular with affluent families, but would he fit in?

“Everyone else knows each other, but I know none of them,” he said. “We are all puzzles, and I’m the only puzzle who doesn’t fit.”

New York City, with more than 1 million students, is far and away the nation’s largest school district — and one of its most segregated. Resistance to integration dates to the 1950s, when mothers in Queens staged an early demonstration against busing.

Now, in fits and starts, the city is becoming a laboratory of experimentation, examining whether it’s possible to tackle the stratification that courses through urban districts.