raise your hand

Raise Your Hand: Where are co-located schools working well together?

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Kate Del Priore, executive director of Schools That Can NYC

“Is there a building that houses many schools that are working particularly well together? How are the schools collaborating?”

Kate Del Priore, executive director of Schools That Can NYC, has had that question on her mind as she checked in with schools this week.

Her organization works with 25 city schools — district and charter — to help them share and hear smart ideas. And Del Priore posed the question to Chalkbeat’s Raise Your Hand series, which seeks out education-related questions from the public and invites readers to help determine the stories that Chalkbeat reports.

After earning the most votes in a public voting round, Del Priore’s question turned into Chalkbeat’s first Raise Your Hand investigation. We just began working on the reporting, but sat down with her this week to learn more about her and what she hoped would come out of the story.

Del Priore said she spends her days working with schools, about half of which are co-located. But she doesn’t know much about how the other schools in their buildings operate, and how they can work together to better serve the students and teachers under the same roof.

“This was something that I really wanted to look into for the next year. I would like to see the schools that I work with be creative about what they’re doing with colocation,” she said. “I know that schools are willing — they’re willing to share and collaborate, so I think it would maybe make sense to start with the people that are in your space. But I also know that there are variables that I’m not aware of, so I don’t want to come off as being naive.”

Del Priore said she is looking for “a few recipes” of how co-located schools are working together successfully to help her schools that “see the value in coming together and crossing those lines when they can be so divisive in so many ways, and kind of going above the politics.”

She also sees a connection to another issue in New York City education: teacher turnover. Six years as a middle school and high school teacher in Philadelphia forced her to find ways to be what she calls “sustainably great,” which was a difficult task when faced with the “stress involved both from the students that are served and the teachers that serve them.”

“That is another issue facing New York right now,” she said. “Schools are worried about the sustainability of the job, and really keeping great people in the schools.”

“I kind of see there being a connection … if you can be creative and work together in a smart way, that might really benefit not just the kids, but also the talent within the building.”

Help us investigate this story. Add examples of co-located schools working well together in the comment section of this story, or email suggestions to community editor Stephanie Snyder at [email protected]

By the numbers

Do any schools’ populations mirror the city average? Just two.

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty / © 2013

It’s not quite Powerball odds, but it’s pretty rare for a school’s demographics to line up perfectly with the city average.

Still, when a reader asked us which schools closely reflect the racial and economic diversity of New York City, amid a spate of headlines addressing the city’s severe school segregation, we were up for the challenge. We analyzed nearly 1,800 district and charter schools to identify the ones that come closest to sharing the racial breakdown of the city’s overall student population.

We found just two schools that came within five percentage points of the city school system’s overall student demographics for Hispanic, black, Asian, and white students during the 2014-15 school year: P.S. 97 in the Bronx and International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn.

For many reasons — including school zones, high school choice, geography and residential patterns — the New York City school system is not set up to evenly distribute students.

In the case of these two schools, one is in an unusually diverse neighborhood, while the other is set up to enroll recent immigrants from all over the world and illustrates the limitations of looking at a school’s racial breakdown to assess school diversity.

First, there’s P.S. 97 in the Pelham Gardens neighborhood of the Bronx.

This District 11 elementary school is zoned, meaning it accepts students who live in the surrounding neighborhood. Its state test proficiency rates (27 percent of students passed English, and 39 percent passed math) surpassed those of the district, but were very close to the city averages.

And the nearly 750-student school also looks pretty similar to the city when it comes to its share of low-income students and students with disabilities.

Then, there’s International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn.

While the school has similar racial demographics to the city school system, Principal Nedda DeCastro said all of the enrolled high school students have been in the United States for four years or less and city data shows that 90 percent of students last year were still learning English.

“It’s a diverse school, but I don’t think it’s representative of the city,” DeCastro said.

Beyond racial diversity, where are the city schools that reflect the city’s economic and academic diversity?

Not including demographic data, five schools come with three percentage points of the city statistics for poverty, English learners, and students with disabilities.

  • PROGRESS High School for Professional Careers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which has a 68 percent four-year graduation rate.
  • Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School in Cambria Heights, Queens, which is currently in its last year of being phased out.
  • P.S. 58 The School of Heroes in Maspeth, Queens, where about half the students passed the state English and math exams last year.
  • I.S. 228 David A. Boody in Gravesend, Brooklyn, which offers dual-language programs in Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Hebrew.
  • Brooklyn Studio Secondary School, which enrolls students in grades six through 12 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

letter to the editor

Letter to the editor: City needs systemwide solutions for school diversity

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Mishi Faruqee talks to her daughter, Naima, who is in kindergarten at P.S. 38 The Pacific School in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

This letter comes from Mishi Faruqee, who Chalkbeat profiled last week after her question was selected to become the focus of our next Raise Your Hand series.

To the Editor:

Chalkbeat New York has played a major role in furthering the public conversation about how to address school segregation in New York City’s public schools. That is why when your Raise Your Hand series asked readers to submit questions about school segregation and diversity, I asked Chalkbeat to investigate: which public schools reflect the diversity of New York City?

I asked this question not because, as a public school parent, I was simply looking for more diverse schools to choose from. Rather, I asked Chalkbeat to investigate diverse public schools in New York City because I want to know if the diversity in these schools is a result of policies and practices that can be replicated systemwide – so that New York City can move forward rather than backward in integrating its public schools.

Like many New Yorkers, I am very concerned the city’s schools are the most segregated in the country. A recent report from the New Schools’ Center for NYC Affairs found that school segregation in New York City is not just a function of residential segregation. There are many diverse neighborhoods in New York City that still have segregated schools.

It is important to recognize that school segregation, like residential segregation, is not an accident. Segregation is a result of deliberate policy choices, and, hence if we want to reverse segregation, New York will have to adopt specific policy reforms to make this happen. The city took a first step by adopting a new law requiring schools to report on diversity and what steps they are taking to improve school diversity. Also, the city recently announced that seven schools — six of which are unzoned schools — will adopt diversity plans to set aside seats for low-income students.

But much more needs to be done. First, we need to reframe the debate to move away from a false dichotomy between diverse schools and “high-performing” schools. In fact, diversity adds to a school’s quality. Research indicates that all students – white, African-American, Latino, affluent, middle-class, low-income – benefit from attending diverse schools.

That is why I am hoping the Chalkbeat investigation will illuminate possible policy and practice choices by looking into diverse schools in New York. Many middle class and affluent parents seem to favor progressive schools that emphasize critical thinking and project-based learning. Can the city implement this educational philosophy in more schools to attract a more diverse mix? Should New York City eliminate residential school zones as they have done in Manhattan’s District 1? What policies can New York City introduce to prevent displacement and ensure inclusive school cultures? School choice within school districts has sometimes exacerbated class and racial differences among schools, but what role can “controlled choice” policies play in integrating schools?

As a public school parent, I have been lucky to find diverse, high-quality schools for my two children. But ultimately, if we want to dismantle school segregation, we have to broaden the discussion away from individual choices or even individual schools to the larger system changes that the city must undertake to ensure educational equity for all students.

Sincerely,

Mishi Faruqee