School reformers like to say demography is not destiny. But a new study of New York City’s reform effort, which made school choice a priority, has failed to bring about educational equity.
The study was conducted and written by The Annenberg Institute for School Reform, which is affiliated with Brown University. It says the evidence shows that a choice-based approach to school reform is not adequate to achieve real equity and it makes recommendations for more comprehensive change.
Here’s how the study starts:
During the past decade, the Bloomberg administration has explicitly prioritized narrowing the racial achievement gap. Former Chancellor Joel Klein has often argued, “neither resources nor demography is destiny in the classroom,” and the New York City Department of Education has
invested heavily in school choice to achieve this goal, remaking the high school choice system to increase the scope and equity of student assignment to high school. Yet a new study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University indicates that the college readiness of New York City high school graduates is still very highly correlated with the neighborhood they come from. In particular, the racial composition and average income of a student’s home neighborhood are very strong predictors of a student’s chance of graduating high school ready for college. The gaps between neighborhoods are enormous:
• Only 8 percent of students from Mott Haven graduate ready for college, while nearly 80 percent of students from Tribeca do.
• In the city’s neighborhoods with 100 percent Black and Latino residents, no more than 10 percent of high school students graduate ready for college.
• In the Manhattan neighborhoods with the highest college-readiness rates, fewer than 10 percent of the residents are Black or Latino.
• Eighteen of the 21 neighborhoods with the lowest college-readiness rates are in the Bronx (the other two are in Brooklyn).
• Thirteen of the 15 neighborhoods with the highest college readiness rates are in Manhattan (the other two are in Queens).
In spite of the city’s efforts to increase equity by expanding high school choice and creating five hundred new small schools and one
hundred charter schools, college readiness rates are still largely predicted by the demographics of a student’s home neighborhood. This suggests that the strategies of school choice and school creation are not sufficient to create the equity that the administration has envisioned.
Other policies that would begin to address these gaps are:
• Create a more equitable distribution of in-school guidance and counseling resources to help families successfully navigate the
school choice maze.
• Significantly increase the number of educational-option seats to ensure that students of all academic levels and all neighborhoods have a fair shot at seats in the high schools that are most likely to prepare them for college.
• Invest heavily in school improvement strategies, rather than just school creation and choice, to increase the capacity of existing schools to prepare students for college.
Without such comprehensive efforts, the vast disparity in opportunity that separates the city’s neighborhoods will persist.
Read the whole report here.