Is there still segregation in schools?

No Equal Opportunities: Segregation in New York's Schools

New York has the largest public school system in the United States, with 1.1 million students and more than 1,800 schools. It is also very diverse, which is associated with enormous challenges. Children from the most diverse families, social classes and with diverse origins attend elementary schools, middle schools and high schools in the five districts. For example, the Department of Education offers documents in eleven different languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian, Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu - a mirror of New York society. Almost 73 percent of the students come from economically disadvantaged families, with 114,000 students not even having a permanent home and being accommodated in emergency shelters or temporarily with family members.

The majority of urban students are Hispanic, followed by African American or black students. Asian and white children are the minority in New York schools.

Segregation begins in elementary school

The New York school system is not only large and diverse, but also one of the most segregated in the country. Schools attended almost exclusively by children from middle-class white families are in close proximity to schools with 95 percent African American and Hispanic students. Some school buildings even house different types of schools under the same roof with students separated by origin and income class. Differences in school equipment or grade point average vary widely in a very small space. Active "parent associations" in the affluent schools organize regular fund raisers and thus massively support their children's schools, finance libraries, additional programs and equipment for the classrooms. In the economically disadvantaged schools, the absolute minimum is often missing.

Segregation begins from an early age. The catchment area for most primary schools is generally linked to the place of residence. The elementary schools, which are located in the good residential areas, are attended by middle-class children, whose families can afford the housing prices there. Public housing for low-income New Yorkers, sometimes right next to apartment buildings with expensive apartments, are often assigned separate elementary schools, separating the poorer children from the rest of the neighborhood. In districts like the Bronx or Queens, which have a high concentration of low-income families with a migrant background or African American population, the elementary schools reflect the demographic reality of the area. This geographical segregation is further exacerbated by the so-called "Talented and Gifted Programs", which are mainly used by white or Asian children.

Discussion about entrance test for middle and high schools

Segregation in middle and high school is due to the consideration of certificate grades, performance on standardized tests, and separate exams for admission to some schools. Children from good schools usually do better in the standardized tests that take place annually, which primarily test knowledge of English and mathematics. Many students also spend a long time preparing for the difficult entrance tests for the best high schools, often with the costly support of tutors. Among the 830 middle and high schools in the city, 190 so-called "screened schools" select candidates according to the criteria mentioned above, which means that the students there are mainly white or of Asian origin.

In New York's eight elite public high schools, which cover the entire city, admission numbers for black and Hispanic students have hit a historic low. The prestigious Stuyvesant High School, for example, only accepted seven black students for this school year, out of a total of 895. This has sparked public outcry and has brought the issue into the limelight. It is now being discussed whether the admission procedures and criteria used so far are even permissible in a public school system, since they clearly prefer a small percentage of students. The question is what the alternative is.

"Educate - not segregate" - there is a demonstration

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his School Chancellor, Richard Carranza, have set themselves the goal of putting an end to segregation, but are faced with strong opposition. De Blasio's proposal to abolish the entrance tests for the Specialized High Schools met with so much resistance, especially from Asian parents, that it has been on hold ever since. And the School Chancellor said in a conversation with the "New York Times": "If I integrated the system, the next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to walk on water." - "If I manage to integrate the system, I can probably walk on the water soon."

Students have recently started demonstrations to raise awareness of the situation. Teens Take Charge, a youth-led movement promoting equal opportunities in the educational system, organizes regular strikes in the city. One of the demonstrators formulated the problem as follows: "As the son of two poor immigrants, neither of whom are fluent in English, I already had obstacles in my path, but by that point, I knew that my educational environment had become one, too. " - "As the son of poor immigrants who can hardly speak English, there are some obstacles on my way. Then I realized that my training opportunities are also an obstacle."

The best middle schools in some of New York's most segregated school districts began last year reserving 25 percent of school places for children who do poorly on standardized tests and who come from economically disadvantaged households. The remaining 75 percent will continue to be selected through rigorous and competitive selection processes. How and whether this attempt at integration works will only be found out in the next few years.

Private schools - "Independent Schools"

In addition to the vast public school system, New York City has a significant number of private schools, including some of the best schools in the United States. The New York elite send their children to these schools from toddler age with the long-term goal of getting a college place at one of the top universities. The annual cost of a private school place is approximately $ 50,000, with some schools offering financial assistance to low-income qualified candidates. (Stella Schuhmacher, December 15, 2019)

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