Wednesday, February 24, 2016
School Diversity And Reality.
The big push by Chancellor Carmen Farina is to try to diversify schools but how do you do this without forced integration which was declared illegal by the Supreme Court back in 2007? Trying to diversify a school is a very tricky issue. You don't want to scare off middle income families, manly White, by encouraging them to send their child to a school with low test grades and that cater to low-income minority students from the housing projects. Moreover, by establishing a quota system as some elementary schools are trying to do has resulted in failure when tried in the past. The end result was that many middle class families will just send their children to the local parochial or private school, defeating the purpose. Finally, no right-thinking parent from well to do households will allow their elementary school child to be bused to a lower performing school outside the neighborhood when their child's friends are going to the higher-performing neighborhood school? Not many parents will allow their elementary school child to be a guinea pig just to satisfy someone's idea of social engineering.
That brings me to school choice. Many districts allow parents to select their school and many middle class parents select schools with high test scores and low poverty rates that has caused clustering in specific schools. Few, if any, parent would gamble their child's education and well-being by having them travel outside the safety of their community for lower quality schools., How will the diversity forces encourage the middle class parents to take a chance in integrating a lower performing school? Unfortunately, there is no real solution to this thorny diversity issue. Even when one or two schools succeed in becoming diverse, they usually tip the other way by ending up to attracting many of the middle class families to the school and crowding out the low-income minority student. Brooklyn is a prime example where a school that is majority middle-class and white is located a couple of blocks from a near 100% minority school who are usually low income and struggle with low test scores. How do you force middle class families to send their children to these low performing schools? You can't!
At the high school level, school choice is real and any student can apply to any school in the City. However, look at our high schools, few are diverse. Some in Northeastern Queens, Southern Staten Island, and parts of Brooklyn are. Otherwise, most of the city high schools are near 100% minority or, when it comes to highly screened and specialized schools, majority Asian/White. School choice is a joke when it comes to Southeastern Queens where my school is located in a solidly middle to working class community, with no low income projects in the area. Yet, many of the students in the four schools that inhabit the Campus find that the majority of their students live in Far Rockaway, South Jamaica, and Rochdale Village, all two bus rides from the campus. Had the Bloomberg Administration retained zoned schools, the Campus would have retained the student population of the community rather than scrounge for low-achieving and over-the-counter students who are usually "high needs". Three of the four schools in the Campus were short between 75 to 130 students for their freshman class this year and took far too many level one students just to meet the numbers.
The reality of the situation while income and racial diversity is a worthy goal but achieving diversity in the New York City schools is simply a pipe dream. Bbringing back the neighborhood schools while attacking the poverty issue is a better approach to improve our schools in the long run, even if we cannot solve the school diversity issue...