work ahead

Who’s who on New York City’s School Diversity Advisory Group

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a school diversity plan that calls on a working group to come up with additional ways to encourage integration.

The city has rounded up parents and academics, students and advocates, teachers union and charter school representatives, and others, to flesh out the education department’s school-integration plan.

The “School Diversity Advisory Group” includes more than 30 members from a range of backgrounds handpicked by City Hall. The task given to the group, which began meeting last month, is to evaluate the city’s current proposals and recommend additional ways to promote school integration.

Integration advocates hope the group will push for more ambitious goals than those outlined in the de Blasio administration’s diversity plan, which some critics knocked as overly timid when it was released last June.

But others have faulted the panel itself for being insufficiently diverse, saying it should include more parents and representatives of different religious groups. They also have raised concerns that officials could disregard the group’s non-binding recommendations.

Shino Tanikawa, a parent-leader in Manhattan’s District 2, said the city formed a similar advisory group to suggest improvements to its method for calculating how much space is available in schools. But its proposal for smaller class-size targets in the later grades went unheeded, she said.

“My fear is a replay of the Blue Book Working Group,” she said, referring to the overcrowding group. “We developed recommendations and the most important one was rejected by the administration.”

Here are all of the group’s members.

Executive Committee

Amy Hsin, Queens College
Hazel Dukes, NAACP
Jose Calderon, Hispanic Federation
Maya Wiley, New School
Richard Kahlenberg, Century Foundation

Members

Alexa Sorden, Principal, Concourse Village Elementary School
Amy Stuart Wells, Teachers College, Columbia University
Andrew Averill, Teacher, The College Academy
Ashley Valente, Teacher, P.S. 396
Asya Johnson, Principal, Longwood Preparatory Academy
Cassandra Baptiste, Teacher, The Children’s Workshop School
Celia Green, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC)
David Jones, Community Service Society of NY (CSSNY)
David Kirkland, NYU Metro Center
DeKaila Wilson, Senior at Pelham Lab High School and Director of DeCriminalization at IntegrateNYC
Dennis Parker, ACLU
Diana Noriega, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF)
Frances Lucerna, El Puente
Frantzy Luzincourt, Alumni of Leon M. Goldstein, Sophomore at City College, and Director of Strategy at IntegrateNYC
Henry Rubio, CSA
James Merriman, NYC Charter School Center
Janella Hinds, UFT
Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children
LaShawn Robinson, Office of Equity and Access, NYC DOE
Liam Buckley, Student, NYC Lab High School; Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council (CSAC)
Lois Herrera, Office of Safety and Youth Development, NYC DOE
Marco Battistella, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC)
Marisol Rosales, Superintendent, Manhattan high schools
Matt Gonzales, NY Appleseed Foundation
Matthew Diaz, Junior at Bronx Academy of Letters and Director of Outreach at IntegrateNYC
Meisha Ross Porter, Superintendent, District 11
Nequan Mclean, Education Council Consortium (ECC)
Noreen Mills, Principal, Carroll Gardens School for Innovation
Rebecca Rawlins, Office of District Planning, NYC DOE
Ryan J. S. Baxter, PASSNYC (Promoting Access to Specialized Schools in New York City); REBNY
Sarah Kleinhandler, Office of Student Enrollment, NYC DOE
Shino Tanikawa, Education Council Consortium (ECC)
Sister Paulette LoMonaco, Good Shepherd Services
Sonia Park, Diverse Charter Schools Coalition
Vanessa Leung, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF)
Wayne Ho, Chinese-American Planning Council
Yolanda Torres, Division of Family and Community Engagment, NYC DOE
Yousof Abdelreheem, Student, John Bowne High School; Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council (CSAC)

counterpoint

Some Asian American groups have backed the SHSAT, but this one says the exam should go

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Stuyvesant High School is one of the city's most sought-after specialized high schools.

In the fight to integrate New York City’s coveted specialized high schools, one source of opposition has stood out.

Asian parents and alumni have waved signs at City Hall, heckled education leaders at town halls, and marched in protest of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the test that serves as the sole entrance criteria for the elite schools.

That’s why it’s noteworthy that the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families is calling for the test to be nixed in favor of an admissions system that weighs multiple factors, releasing a report on Tuesday that attempts to bring nuance to a debate that has often played out in sound bites.

“We believe that current admissions processes to specialized high schools contribute to the problems of segregation and inequity in NYC public schools,” the advocacy organization’s report notes.

Specialized high schools enroll a disproportionate share of Asian students. Many have argued that the mayor’s plan, which aims to enroll more black and Hispanic students in the schools, pits one community of color against others. Only about 10 percent of specialized high school students are black or Hispanic, even though those students comprise about 70 percent of enrollment citywide.

The Coalition’s report offers a counter-narrative to the debate, highlighting that many Asian organizations have long called for admissions changes at the specialized high schools and arguing that Asian students would benefit from an overhaul.

But the organization stops short of endorsing de Blasio’s proposal, blasting his administration for failing to include the Asian community in its development or rollout. (One of the coalition’s co-directors is a mayoral appointee to the citywide Panel for Educational Policy.)  

“We remain highly critical of the processes that he and the Department of Education have taken in crafting and releasing those proposals to the public,” the report says.

An education department spokesman said the city looks forward to working with the coalition to eliminate the test, and said the city is presenting its plan to every community school district.

The report comes as parents are considering suing over the city’s diversity efforts and supporters of the test have hired a lobbyist to fight the potential changes.

The coalition’s stance also highlights the steep challenge de Blasio faces as he gears up to lobby state lawmakers to scrap the entrance exam, which is currently required by state law. Though Democrats managed to gain control of the Senate in the latest election, the issue doesn’t have a clear party line — and some of the mayor’s natural allies have expressed doubt, or even backed away from the mayor’s proposal.

Read the full report here

By the numbers

Enrollment is up in Tennessee’s largest school district for second straight year

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat

After several years of steady decline, Shelby County Schools is continuing an upward trend in student enrollment.

About 111,600 students attend schools in Tennessee’s largest district, up about 2 percent from last year and higher than projected enrollment, according to district numbers.

That includes about 15,300 students enrolled in charter schools overseen by the local district, who now make up about 13.5 percent, a slight uptick from last year.

The increase could signal a growing trust in public school options in Memphis and that recruitment and early registration efforts are continuing to pay off. Last year was the first year the Memphis district gained students since six suburbs exited the district to create their own school systems with about 34,000 students.

However, enrollment in the state’s district for low-performing schools dipped for the second year in a row to 10,622 students. The Achievement School District, which mostly operates in Memphis, has lost about 2,000 students since 2016 as schools have closed and money for school improvement efforts has dropped off.

Note: The numbers are taken from each district’s attendance on the 20th day of school, which leaders use to determine any staffing adjustments to match a school’s student population.

Sharon Griffin, the Achievement School District’s chief, told Chalkbeat that she focused her efforts this semester on restarting the district’s relationship with the neighborhoods its serves, and that she is hopeful to see gains in enrollment throughout the year.

“Most of our schools have met their projected enrollment, but we have one or two elementaries that are struggling,” Griffin said. “Part of that is due to the fact that new charter schools and options that have opened up in neighborhoods we’re in, where there’s not enough kids in the neighborhood.”

Five charters schools opened this year as five others — a mix of district-run and charter schools — closed.

Notably, Shelby County Schools’ charter sector is growing faster than the district. The number of Memphis students attending charter schools overseen by the district increased 5.8 percent this year, while enrollment in district-run schools increased about 2 percent. Shelby County Schools did not provide a statement or an official for comment.

Nationally, the average charter school enrollment has increased from 1 to 6 percent of students between 2000 and 2015, according to federal data. That year, Tennessee charter schools enrolled 3 percent of students.

In response, the local district has looked to charter schools for recruitment strategies in an increasingly competitive environment. Over the summer, Shelby County Schools doubled down on recruitment and registration efforts by sending officials to grocery stores, libraries, summer camps, the Memphis Zoo and community centers — and has even hosted block parties throughout the city. The district also opened its online application two months earlier than last year to encourage parents to register sooner.

Those efforts resulted in 70 percent of expected students to register for school two weeks before school, which was double from the previous year.