Schott Report: “Education Redlining” & “Apartheid-like” practices in NYC Public Schools

Posted on May 5, 2012 by


We have heard it said any number of times: EDUCATION IS THE CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE OF OUR TIME.

But the report entitled, A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City, by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, goes a long way toward drawing the picture of exactly what that means. Further, the report outlines what ought to be done about it, not only in New York City (NYC), but wherever in the country the overt-covert-systematic denial of equal educational opportunity is sentencing students of low-income families (disproportionately African American and Latino) to futures of economic and social depravation.

 The Schott report asserts that the city’s public school system is “failing to meet its responsibilities for most of its stu­dents — particularly for Black and Latino students, and for students from low-income families,” with less than 18 percent of black and brown students achieving proficiency in reading on the National Assessment test and over two-thirds of those who graduate being strapped with thousands of dollars in higher education remediation classes as a result of those failures. 

Dr. John H. Jackson

In his preface to the report, Dr. John H. Jackson, CEO of the Schott Foundation, said, “. . . it is alarming that in the largest school system in the United States, that of New York City, the right to an Opportunity to Learn is undeniably distributed by race, ethnicity and neighborhood. This unequal distribution of oppor­tunity by race and neighborhood occurs with such regularity in New York that reasonable people can no longer ignore the role that state and city policies and practices play in institutionalizing the resulting disparate outcomes, nor the role played by the lack of federal interven­tion requiring New York to protect students from them. In fact, there is clear and compelling evidence that federal resources provided to NYC only reinforce education redlining in New York. . . .”

 Dr. Jackson asserts that NYC is guilty of “a pattern of consistent education redlining,” which results in the schools of Black, Brown and poor communities of any ethnicity being closed rather than being furnished with the necessary resources and supports to enable the students to flourish. Jackson says, “Metaphorically, it is as if New York State and City are knowingly testing Black, Brown and students of any race or ethnicity living in poverty, on their swimming abilities while also knowingly relegating them to pools where the water has been drained. These students are then stigmatized as failures, their parents as being less than fully engaged, their teachers as being ineffective . . . The policy landscape in New York sets the table for school closures in low income communities of color, a more negative media image of boys of color, and a pipeline for students to be pushed out or, as U.S. Department of Education data indicates, the overrepresentation of Blacks and Latinos among those suspended and expelled. . . .” 

Dr. Pedro Norguera

In his forward to the report, Dr. Pedro Noguera, a New York University education professor, goes further, saying that the report shows “evidence of blatant disparities (which) amount to Apartheid-like separations that have been accepted in New York for far too long.” Rather than merely being angered by his perceptions, Noguera expressed his hope “that readers of this report will be outraged by the fact that education in New York City is more likely to reproduce and reinforce existing patterns of inequality than to serve as a pathway to opportunity. . .”

 The Schott report outlines this “education redlining” or “apartheid-like separations” revolves around five major dynamics:

1.      Most, if not all, students in majority middle class Asian and White, Queens Commu­nity School Districts 25 and 26 have an opportunity to learn in a high-performing school, where most students are able to achieve at high levels. Meanwhile, none of the students in Harlem, Bronx and Brooklyn Community School Districts 5, 7, 12, 13, 16 and 19 have the opportunity to learn in a high-performing school. The latter districts serve some of the poorest children in the city.  “Students who live in neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly Black, Latino, or impoverished White or Asian have little opportunity to learn the basic skills needed to succeed on state and national as­sessments, attend one of the city’s selective high schools, or obtain a high school diploma qualifying them for college or a good job.”

The causes of these “enormous disparities in education outcomes,” the report concludes, is the “alarming” link between low test scores and the geographic residential boundaries — the corro­sive impact of “redlining.”

 2.       This redlining/apartheid-like separation takes place and continues in spite of the fact that the New York City Independent Budget Office recently confirmed that the city’s poorest children do well in schools with relatively few poor students (better equipped, better staffed schools). Conversely, students who are not “poor” do not do well in schools (less-well/poorly equipped and staffed) that predomi­nately serve students living in poverty. The report concludes, “This tells us what should be obvious: A child’s opportunity to learn is determined by the quality of the school she or he attends. In New York, and nationally, access to high-quality schools is extraordinarily dependent on where that student lives. . . . All too many are ‘redlined’ out of the opportunity to learn in a high performing school.”

The report projects that an increase of 600 percent in the chances of a Black or Hispanic student in New York City reaching the desired Level 4 on the Grade 8 English Language Arts examination could be realized if staffing and programming in their schools were equal to those in the better performing schools. (Need to find ways to get and retain more/all “highly educated” teachers!! As the world’s best School Systems do!!!)

 3.      It is estimated that these practices result in NYC spending “19 percent more on the education of children from the city’s most prosperous neighborhoods than it does for children from the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Data released in 2012 by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) supports these conclusions. According to OCR, there is a difference of $8,222 in high school teacher salaries between schools with the highest and lowest Hispanic and African American enrollment in New York City. Thus the teach­ers who are expected to perform miracles are paid the least. . . . Thus, consistent with Wall Street, those who have get more; those in need, get less.”

  4.      This year 14,000 kindergarten children were tested for the city’s Gifted and Talented programs and 4,000 were deemed eligible for the highly coveted spots in these district and citywide programs. The children tested represented 21% of the city’s kindergarteners. However, they were not equitably distributed across the city. In some Community School Districts, as many as 70% of the children were tested; in others, as few as 7% were tested. Districts testing the highest percentage of their students tended to be those with the fewest “poor” students; those testing the lowest percentage of their students were those with the highest percentages of “poor” students living in poverty.

The report projects, “If the percentage of children tested were 70% citywide, and the percentage of students tested found eligible were at the current average of 29%, then an additional 9,500 students might be found who qualify for Gifted and Talented programs. Most, if not all, of these additional students would come from low-income families.”  

Additionally, the report found, “Community School Districts with the lowest percentage of Black male kindergartners test much higher percentages of their students than do those with higher percentages of Black male students in kindergarten,” while those with the highest percentages of Black male kindergarten students tested much lower percentages of their students. This policy and practice “reinforces a depiction of Black males as being viewed as less gifted,” the report concludes, adding, “Psychologists tell us that ‘giftedness’ is, by definition, evenly distributed among children. In New York City, what is not evenly distributed is the opportunity to learn in such enriched environments.”

 5.      Elementary and middle school inequities become high school inequities. A Black or Hispanic student, or a student of any race or ethnicity from a low-income household, is most likely to be enrolled in one of the city’s poorest performing high schools: 46% of the city’s White students and 47% of the city’s Asian students are enrolled in top quartile high schools, while only 18% of Black and 16% of Hispanic students are enrolled in those schools, and 17% of “poor” students are enrolled in those schools; only 19% of the city’s few Native American students were in the highest quartile schools. Meanwhile, a Black or Hispanic student is nearly four times more likely to be enrolled in one of the city’s poorest perform­ing high schools as is an Asian or White student, where the average student has a 29% or less chance of graduating in four years with a Regents diploma (which will be the only regular diploma granted beginning in 2012).

Of the 103,000 high school students beginning Grade 9 in 2005, more than two-thirds were Black or Hispanic; the remaining 28% were fairly evenly divided between White, non- Hispanic and Asian students. Of these students, 35,700 graduated four years later with Regents diplomas, a graduation rate of 35%. Sixty-three percent of Asian students graduated with Regents diplomas, while only 28% of Black students received Regents diplomas. Fifty-five percent of White students received Regents diplomas, while only 26% of Hispanic students received Regents diplomas.

 These dynamics and their results have led Dr. Jackson to express the following in his preface: “Within the context of education being a right, given these results, it makes sense for parents to say “No more tests,” for students to walk out in protest, for parents to force highly resourced schools like Stuyvesant (which Black and Brown students have a very little chance to attend) to accept their children, or demand that their neighborhood schools remain open and are transformed to serve as hubs for creating opportunities in their communities. These are rational responses by individuals who recognize that under the cur­rent system, students’ fundamental right to learn in New York City is being systemically thwarted. . . .”

 The Schott Foundation report urged the following seven actions to begin addressing and correcting the “redlining” and “Apartheid-like” dynamics within the NYC school district:

 1.  The State of New York, which is legally responsible for providing a “sound basic education” to all children, should restore and increase funding in accordance with the CFE decision (Court of Appeals, CFE v. State of New York; November, 2006), to facilitate that “sound basic education

  2.  The adoption of policies that provide equitable access to the Department’s best schools and programs. For example: 

• All middle schools should offer the courses necessary for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) (e.g., Algebra II). If it is determined that extracurricular tutoring confers a competitive advantage for the SHSAT, it should be offered gratis to all students eligible for free and reduced-price meal programs. 

• The Gifted & Talented Program Test should be administered to all prospective kindergarten students. If it is determined that extracurricular tutoring confers a competitive advantage for the Gifted & Talented Program Test, it should be offered gratis to all students eligible for free or reduced price meal programs.

 3.  Direct additional resources to schools on a non-competitive basis in accordance with student need: schools serving students from homes with fewer resources should receive significantly more per student funding than those serving students from homes with greater resources. The system currently in place is not adequate to this purpose.

  4.  Each student who is currently a grade level or more behind in Reading should immediately be given a Personal Opportunity Plan that gives the student access to additional academic (tutor, extended day learning, ELL), social (mentor) and health supports (eye sight, dental, mental health) necessary to bring the student to grade level proficiency within a 12 to 24 month period.

  5.  Every school should have an opportunity audit to determine if it has the supports and inter-agency relationships to offer each student a fair and substantive opportunity to learn, through access to high-quality early childhood education, highly prepared and effective teachers, college preparatory curricula, and policies and practices that promote student progress and success.

  6.  The setting of goals and time limits for bringing every school’s Opportunity to Learn Index (or the equivalent) to no less than a .80 by 2015 and 1.0, like CSD 26, by 2020.

  7.  Take the necessary steps to achieve parity in teaching staff and experience, throughout the school, and reverse the salary gap between teachers in high and low poverty schools.

 America’s urban hubs must ensure that all students have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn and achieve at high levels. In New York, few Black, Latino and impoverished students have that op­portunity. These persistent and predictable inequities ravage certain New York City communities and limit the futures of whole generations.

The lack of opportunity that is at the root of this failure is tragic not only for hundreds of thousands of New York students, but is a major contributor to the persistent failures of other school systems across the state and nation.

The fact that New York has consistently promoted policies that systemically lock out most of its student population from an opportunity to learn is tantamount to the U.S. allowing its national security, democracy and economic strength to rot away. The need to address this matter goes beyond a city’s or state’s prerogative but is a national issue that must be addressed with a sense of urgency.

What’s going on in YOUR school district?

What are YOU doing about it?