Grassroots participation key to school desegregation
Sep 26, 2018 | 860 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Although New York City is considered a global bastion of diversity, its public school system has a long and sad history of segregation.

The de Blasio administration has taken many years to begin addressing this issue, but finally, some plans are coming to fruition.

The mayor and Chancellor Richard Carranza approved plans last week to begin desegregating District 15 in Brooklyn, which encompasses neighborhoods from Red Hook and Sunset Park to Cobble Hill and Fort Greene.

The plan will rid middle-school admissions of screening, a practice that involves considering a student’s grades, test scores and attendance. Middle schools will prioritize 52 percent of its seats for students from low-income families, English Language Learners and those in temporary housing.

Notably, this diversity plan was hatched not from Department of Education officials, but from local parents, educators and advocates on the ground.

They recognized the disparities among District 15 middle schools, and realized they had to create change for the future generation of students. Only they truly understood the problems in their neighborhood schools, so it makes sense for this group to find a solution.

As de Blasio said at the announcement, “ground-up is the best way to make lasting change.”

This should be the model for desegregating New York City public schools moving forward. The city must play a role –– they introduced a diversity grant program to kick things off –– but the energy, ideas and execution should come from within the district.

Compare that to the top-down approach the mayor tried to take with reforming the specialized high schools admissions process. There was not enough buy-in or grassroots participation to make reform possible.

Desegregating public schools won’t be easy, and it can’t be done in one fell swoop. To begin tackling the systemic inequities of our school system, our communities, with the city squarely behind, must take the lead.
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