Integration Bootcamp

New York’s most segregated school districts can now apply for integration training

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
A meeting in Manhattan's District 1, one of 11 New York City district's eligible for the new grants.

Though New York’s schools are among the nation’s most segregated, few districts are doing much about it. But now, the state education department is making them a deal: If you commit to integrating your schools, we’ll show you how.

The state’s most segregated districts can apply for training grants of up to $70,000, which will allow school and district leaders to attend workshops on how to identify the causes of segregation in their local schools and come up with plans to reduce it, the department announced Wednesday.

Among the 22 districts eligible to apply for the grants are 11 in New York City, including ones on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Upper West Side, gentrifying sections of Brooklyn and Queens, and Staten Island. Many of those districts are home to a diverse mix of students of different races and classes, but they are spread unevenly among the schools. Other highly segregated districts, such as those in the Bronx, did not meet the state’s eligibility rules.

The grants, which officials previewed in the fall, are the latest iteration of a $1.25 million program launched in 2014 that aimed to revamp low-performing schools by helping them enroll more middle-class students. Some districts were stymied by bureaucratic delays and transportation costs as they tried to carry out their integration plans, but the grants still spurred some changes — including a new enrollment system in the Lower East Side district meant to help desegregate the local elementary schools.

The latest round of grants, worth a total of $1.4 million, expand the program’s scope beyond socioeconomic integration: They can also be used to desegregate schools with high concentrations of students of color, those who are still learning English, or students with disabilities.

“Too many schools in New York are home to troubling inequalities,” said Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in a statement. “For students to reach their full potential, they must have fair and equitable access to educational resources. This program will help us get there.”  

In addition to school integration strategies, grant recipients will also learn about “culturally responsive practices” — teaching methods, curriculum materials, and school policies that recognize and celebrate students’ diverse backgrounds.

To be eligible, districts must have a poverty rate of at least 50 percent, at least one low-performing school, and be ranked among the state’s most segregated districts — measured either by the racial and socioeconomic imbalance among schools within its borders, or between its schools and those of its home county.

Districts have until Feb. 2 to apply. Those that complete the trainings, which run from February through August, can compete for additional state funds to actually carry out their integration plans.

hot off the presses

A silver medal for Detroit pre-K. Now where are the kids?

PHOTO: Getty Images

Detroit has earned a silver rating, the second-highest possible, in a national ranking of urban preschool programs published Wednesday. But the report by the advocacy group CityHealth also says that too few eligible 4-year-olds are enrolled.

CityHealth, a foundation-funded organization that rates America’s largest urban centers based on their public policies, looked at how big cities stack up in offering preschool programs in a report published Wednesday.

Researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University conducted the study and compiled the report.

Following standards set by the largest state-funded pre-K organization, the Great Start Readiness Program, Detroit requires teachers in state preschool to have at least a bachelor’s degree, limits class sizes, and requires health screenings of children.

Those are some of the hallmarks of a high-quality program, according to CityHealth.

Only eight of the 40 cities whose policies were reviewed earned a silver rating, and only five earned the top gold rating. A handful of cities — Indianapolis and Phoenix, Arizona, among them — were far behind, with low enrollment and few or none of CityHealth’s model policies in place.

Still, the gap in Detroit’s pre-K system is a big one. The city has far fewer pre-K seats than it reportedly needs. That’s the case in many of America’s largest cities, according to CityHealth. In nearly half of the cities studied, pre-K programs reached less than one-third of the cities’ pre-schoolers.

The lack of preschool slots is one reason advocates from Michigan’s largest cities are pushing lawmakers to put early childhood on the agenda in Lansing. And it’s part of why Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has gotten behind the idea of a expanded pre-K system for Detroit.

Read the full report here:

School Funding 101

Report: Michigan has biggest school funding decline in nation

How’s this for a grim school funding statistic: A new report out Wednesday says total revenue for Michigan schools declined 30 percent from 2002 to 2015 — the largest decline for any state over the past quarter century.

The statistic, adjusted for inflation, is among findings of a report by researchers at Michigan State University that reviews school funding and recommends how the state can improve.

“Michigan has tried to improve schools on the cheap, focusing on more accountability and school choice,” wrote David Arsen, lead author and professor of education policy. “To make those policies effective, they have to be matched with adequate funding. We have been kidding ourselves to think we can move forward while cutting funding for schools.”

Co-authors are Tanner Delpier and Jesse Nagel, MSU doctoral students.

Here are a few of the highlights in the report — which is aimed at spurring public discussion of how to improve school funding in the state. The data were adjusted for inflation:

  • Dead last: Where Michigan ranks in total education revenue growth since the mid-90s, when the state’s current school funding formula was developed.
  • 60 percent: How much funding for at-risk students has declined since 2001.
  • 22 percent: How much per-pupil revenue declined from 2002 to 2015.

 The report comes about a year after the bipartisan School Finance Research Collaborative released a comprehensive set of recommendations for fixing the school funding system in Michigan. The MSU report provides a review of that report and adopts many of its recommendations.

It also comes after a December lame-duck legislative session in Michigan that ended with lawmakers voting to shift some funding from the state School Aid Fund to other priorities, such as road repairs and environmental cleanups.

Officials from the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, a group that represents educators in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, said the MSU report should be a wake-up call for lawmakers. They said it confirms that Michigan’s K-12 funding is in crisis.

“Lawmakers need to stop hiding behind talking points that claim they are investing in our schools when the reality is our funding hasn’t even kept up with the rate of inflation, let alone the increased cost of the services we are being asked to provide our students,” said George Heitsch, president of the alliance and superintendent of Farmington Public Schools. “When you see the numbers from this report showing the drastic funding cuts that have been forced on our schools in recent years, it should be no wonder why our state ranks at the bottom in reading and math proficiency. This simply has to change because our students deserve better.”

Read the full report for more information and recommendations: