New York remains No. 1 in an area most states wouldn’t want to be.

A new report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that New York State has maintained its status as the most segregated state in America for Black students. Officials at the Civil Rights Project analyzed trends from 2010 to 2018. Their 2014 study, which found New York to be the worst, analyzed data up to 2010.

“All racial/ethnic groups but Latino students have experienced declining contact with white students in NYS; this has been supplanted with growing exposure to Latino students,” read the report. “Black students have seen a 10-point increase in their contact with Latino students since 1990 (21% to 31%).”

The report also points out that white students are no longer the state’s majority group like they were in 2010 when they clocked in at just over 50%.

“The ongoing national changes in population are clearly present in the state, which is experiencing overall declining enrollment: shrinking shares of white and Black students and rising shares of Latino and Asian students,” the report stated. “With the growing population of nonwhite students, more students are attending diverse schools, but shares of predominantly nonwhite schools are increasing.”

In New York City, specifically, 40.6% of its public school students are Hispanic, 25.5% are Black, 16.2% are Asian and 15.1% are white. However, Hispanic and Black students were more likely to attend schools that were segregated by poverty (71.1% and 67.8% respectively according to the New York City Council).

When contacted by the AmNews to address the study’s conclusion a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed to the mayor’s accomplishments in the education sector during his tenure at City Hall.

“This administration has taken bold, unprecedented steps to advance equity in our schools and ensure our classrooms reflect the diversity of New York City––suspending academic screens in middle schools, removing district priorities in high schools, and dismantling a system that uses the test results of four year olds to determine their academic success,” said spokesperson for the mayor. “While we know there is more work to do, our persistent focus on driving equity for New York City families is ongoing, and we will continue to build on these efforts.”

Schools in New York City, however, are not only segregated by race, but they’re also segregated by economics.

In the report’s foreword Civil Rights Project Co-Director Gary Orfield wrote “New York’s segregation is not just segregation by race but is double segregation by race and poverty, since the city’s Black and Latino students are in schools that average about three-fourths poor children.” Orfield said this adds to the burden on students learning and helps explain the achievement gap between Black and Latino students (most of the bottom 20% of state tests scores) with white and Asian students (most of the top 20% of state tests scores).

Tracy Jordan, a parent of the New York City public school student, said that addressing school segregation must start with addressing issues outside of academics.

“There is not just one thing the mayor of New York City can do to address our segregated schools,” Jordan told the AmNews.  “This is a systemic issue. To treat it otherwise is not realistic. The various items that need to be addressed are affordable housing, school choice, mayoral control of our school system, and equitable resources. Community schools, which are essential, are non-existent because these items are problematic.

“Ultimately, they combine to put New York at the top of the list as the most segregated state in America for Black students.”

It’s something that Danielle Cohen, of the Civil Rights Project, pointed out as well. In order to address segregation in schools, you’d have to address them in all aspects of life in towns, suburbs, exurbs and cities.

“Racism in housing and education policy have played very important roles in creating and perpetuating school segregation,” Cohen told the AmNews. “The city as well as communities are starting to make small moves toward integration, but the scope of the problem is vast and the efforts underway represent just a small share of enrolled students. 

“Leadership and commitment to resources at the city and state level are needed, but communities and parents also have a role to play in keeping the status quo, particularly when it comes to exclusionary entry requirements to screened schools and specialized high schools,” continued Cohen.

One can look to a place like Rochester, NY, a city that landed in the top 20 of the most “hyper-segregated” cities in America according to a report by the Yale Environment Protection Clinic and City Roots Community Land Trust in 2020. The report pointed to the fact that deeds in Monroe County still contain clauses that restrict which people can purchase properties or occupy spaces.

According to the report, these clauses tend to include people of color, Jewish people and other ethnicities. Thousands of these deeds still exist in the city and its suburbs and activists and advocates state that the arrow could be directed towards local government, the real estate industry and others for the reasons why.

With the primaries coming up next week, some New York City mayoral candidates weighed in on the issues as well.

When asked about her education plan, Maya Wiley’s spokesperson pointed to how her education plan already addresses this issue through actions such as appointing a Chief Integration and Equity Officer to oversee a collaborative integration process ensuring agency coordination to help reduce residential and school segregation, creating racially integrated schools through community collaboration and innovation and eliminating discriminatory admissions “screens.”
“Make admissions as simple to navigate as possible, by ensuring that the DOE simplifies the processes  so that all schools at each level of schooling will have the same application process,” read part of the plan.

New York Mayoral Candidate and current New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer called the segregation of New York City’s public schools “morally tragic” said his “bold vision” would fix the academic ailment.

“As mayor, my administration will take a robust approach to integrate and equalize our schools by ending segregationist screens, putting two teachers in every K-5 classroom to give every child the individualized attention they need, changing the Gifted and Talented program as we know it because every classroom will have the same resources, ending the SHSAT and reforming the high school admissions process, and diversifying teaching staff by launching the nation’s largest paid residencies to better recruit, prepare and retain new teachers of different backgrounds,” said Stringer in a statement to the AmNews.

The mayor once, and still, recommends that the top 7% from each public middle school gain automatic admission into the top three specialized high schools Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech and while students outside of the public school system be subjected to a lottery.

The Asian community pushed back stating that they were being ignored as low-income New Yorkers and they do well on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). They believe that the exam is their children’s ticket out of poverty via academics.

According to the City Council report, Asian New Yorkers make up close to 62% of students attending Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. While 15% of public school students are white, they make up 24% of Specialized High School students.

In early 1982, 51% of students in Brooklyn Tech were Black. That number had dropped to 6% in 2016.

This is where charter schools join the discussion.

A recent study by the Benenson Group, conducted on behalf of the pro-charter school advocacy group StudentsFirstNY, found that out of more than 1,500 Democratic voters, 81% of Black voters and 81% of Latinos said charter schools are “mostly good” for New York City school students. However, the Civil Rights Project’ report called out charter schools for being some of the most racially-isolated schools.

An increase in charter schools just happened to coincide with the beginning of the year the study began (2010).

“We found slight decreases in the share of charter schools that are intensely segregated since 2010, except for in Queens where there has been a sharp increase in the share of segregated charter schools,” read the Civil Rights Projects’ report. “There is great variation among racial/ethnic isolation among city boroughs and community school districts. Black and Latino students experience the greatest isolation in the Bronx, and white and Asian students have the highest isolation on Staten Island.”

Mayoral Candidates Eric Adams and Andrew Yang didn’t respond to interview requests but have already publicly established their pro-charter school stances.

When the AmNews contacted officials at Success Academy Charter Schools, a spokesperson claimed that the Civil Rights Project’s conclusion was off base and didn’t focus on the achievements of charter schools.

“Charter schools do not contribute to segregation,” said Sam Chafee, a media relations specialist at Success Academy. “By definition, segregation is a restriction that is enforced by zoning policies––children are required to attend their neighborhood school to which they are zoned. Families actively make a choice to apply to free charter schools, and if there are more applications than seats a lottery is held. No one is forcing parents to apply to these schools; the schools exist, and parents choose them.”

“The simple answer is more great schools.”

But, according to Cohen, what tends to be classified as great schools tend to exclude Black and Latino kids. Pointing back towards the discussion around the Specialized High School Admissions Test, Cohen said that the argument masks issues that everyone needs to address.

“There is fierce blowback anytime the issue of discontinuing the SHSAT has been raised,” said Cohen to the AmNews. “Asian and white students who enjoy the large majority of enrollment in these schools would likely lose enrollment shares under alternative plans proposed. Many alumni and other groups fight the SHSAT as it has afforded them coveted spots in some of the best schools in the country, and some Asian groups consider discontinuing the use of the test to be discriminatory.”

Cohen and company’s report suggest either expanding more specialized/magnet schools or eliminating them. No matter the effort, it should focus on increasing diversity. It also recommends that the city use state funds to accomplish this.

“New York City policy makers and community members should reflect on how we define ‘best’ in the country if it means segregated schools,” said Cohen.

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