Friday, March 28, 2014
A new report by the Civil Rights Project finds that New York “has the most segregated schools in the country.” Weighing the state down is New York City, “home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.” This was not always the case, says the report. “Forty years ago, school desegregation was a serious component of the state’s education policy, as a result of community pressure and legal cases.” But “[a]round the time of Reagan’s administration, the state moved away from desegregation efforts and instead focused on other practices and policies like accountability systems, school choice, and charter schools.” Today, those policies, particularly school choice, “are exacerbating racial isolation as demographics continue to change.”
The report takes an interesting new tactic on the question of high performing minority schools, the idea of which drives the charter school movement. The Civil Rights Project writes: “Can separate be equal, yes. If measured by test scores, a few resegregated schools show high performance." This point is one that often breaks down discussions about integration, even within the minority community, because some believe that integration policy is a statement that minority schools cannot be successful. Thus, the Civil Rights Project allows that they can (even if inconsistently) and moves on to more important points. It writes, "even if equality can be reached between racially isolated schools, students may never achieve the skills and abilities required to navigate an increasingly diverse nation.” Moreover, 60 years of research demonstrates that integrated schools produce greater academic achievement, higher future earnings, better health outcomes for minority students, reduced racial prejudice, and greater interracial communication skills.
The report argues that school segregation is not inevitable in New York. In fact, the conditions are ripe for integration. There is “a growing diversity of student enrollment in schools and school districts across the state and main metropolitan areas, particularly in urban schools.” Education policy has simply failed to tap into it, instead allowing segregation to persist, if not increase.