seeing red

In report, advocates paint grim picture of city school inequities

Critics of school closures were not the only ones taking aim at the Bloomberg administration’s education policies today. A Massachusetts-based education foundation declared that the city’s schools systematically shortchange poor students and students of color.

Those students, who make up the vast majority of city enrollment, are less likely to attend top-performing schools as a result of educational “redlining,” according to a report released today by the Schott Foundation. The foundation gives grants to education advocacy groups across the country, including New York’s Alliance for Quality Education, a lobbying group formed to help win extra funds for city schools through the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

The term “redlining,” coined in the 1960s, refers to the practice of discriminating against people in certain neighborhoods or of certain races when deciding who should receive loans or other services. Writes New York University professor Pedro Noguera in a foreword,

While the term “redlining” might seem strong given that it implies a deliberate attempt to deny certain communities access to educational opportunities, this report will show that evidence of blatant disparities amount to Apartheid-like separations that have been accepted in New York for far too long. Rather than being angered by the language used, my hope is 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.

Using a methodology it has applied to other cities and research questions, the foundation assigned each of the city’s 32 school districts an “Opportunity to Learn Index” based on how likely it is that middle school students in the district attend schools in the top quarter citywide. It found that students in districts with many black and Hispanic students had a lower chance of attending top-performing schools.

The report also argues that black and Hispanic students have, on average, less experienced and educated teachers, resulting in lower total education expenditures in some poor districts because teacher salaries total a smaller amount. And it concludes that black and Hispanic students are far less frequently screened for gifted programs — a charge that gained another year’s evidence when the city revealed last week that several low-income districts again had so few students pass a screening test that gifted programs would not open there.

In its conclusion, the foundation echoes language in a recent report by a group that ex-city schools chancellor Joel Klein headed that argued that America’s lagging school performance would induce a national security threat. “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 Schott Foundation concludes.

The group’s recommendations include restoring extra state funding that has been cut in recent years; screening all incoming kindergarteners for giftedness; and limiting the proportion of inexperienced teachers at schools with low “Opportunity to Learn” indexes.

A Department of Education spokesman, Frank Thomas, suggested that some of the recommendations were impractical and others would undermine the city’s philosophy of funding schools based on students’ academic needs, not their demographics or family income. Plus, he said, the city is already on the right track when it comes to educating black and Hispanic students.

“While there is much more work to do, the reality is that black and Hispanic students in New York City are graduating at their highest rates ever, and continue to narrow the achievement gap year after year,” Thomas said in a statement. “A report that fails to acknowledge this progress is shortsighted and overlooks the gains made by thousands of students during that time.”

The Schott Foundation’s analysis came on the same day that a committee organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, a city advocacy group, released a report criticizing the Bloomberg administration’s approach to school closures and charging that the closures had concentrated poor students and students of color in low-performing schools. Noguera sat on a panel to discuss the committee’s recommendations this morning, and Zakiyah Ansari, an AQE organizer who emceed the event, urged attendees to examine the Schott report as well.

Asked about the charges of inequity this afternoon at a press event, Mayor Bloomberg said it is not fair to suggest that the city has shortchanged particular groups of students. With a schools budget of $22 billion, “to say that we aren’t devoting resources is ridiculous,” he said.

The full Schott Foundation report, “A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City,” is below.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.