props

Read these 4 great education stories by new ‘Genius’ grant winner Nikole Hannah-Jones

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones moderated a panel about school segregation in March 2016.

Among the 24 new winners of a no-strings-attached prize known as the “Genius Award” is a journalist who focuses on school segregation.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times correspondent focusing on race and urban affairs, will take home $500,000 from the MacArthur Foundation. The prizes are meant to free leaders in their fields to innovate.

The foundation said this about Hannah-Jones: “She combines analyses of historical, academic, and policy research with moving personal narratives to bring into sharp relief a problem that many are unwilling to acknowledge still exists and its tragic consequences for African American individuals, families, and communities.”

Here’s how Hannah-Jones reacted on Twitter:

She later added: “Very few things in life leave me speechless. Getting this call did. I’m honored, grateful to have a platform to expose [the] scourge of segregation.” (Hannah-Jones’s Twitter handle is a play on the name Ida B. Wells, the pioneering black journalist whose reporting in the 1890s called attention to lynching — and who inspired the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a group Hannah-Jones created to diversify the investigative reporting field.)

Here are four stories that show how Hannah-Jones is shining a light on school segregation:

2014: “Segregation Now” exposed the resegregation of schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama — a trend that many had observed but few have described in such searing detail.

2014: “School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson” looked at the extreme racial segregation of the schools that Michael Brown attended before he was killed by a police officer.

2016: “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” reflected on the choices that families in New York — including her own — make that can lead to segregated schools. (It also inspired a piece by an educator and father that ran on Chalkbeat.)

2017: “The Resegregation of Jefferson County” is a deeply reported take on how racially motivated school district secessions are contributing to school segregation. (Here’s another take from us, and a graphic one from Vox.)

sounding off

New Yorkers respond to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to overhaul admissions at elite but segregated specialized high schools

PHOTO: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to better integrate New York City’s specialized high schools was met with fierce pushback but also pledges of support after the mayor announced Saturday he would work to overhaul admissions at the elite schools.

The reaction foreshadows the battle that lies ahead if de Blasio is going to convince lawmakers to sign off a key piece of his plan.

Considered the Ivies of the city’s high school system, eight of the nine specialized high schools admit students based on the results of a single entrance exam (the remaining performing arts school requires an audition.) The most significant but controversial change de Blasio is proposing is to scrap the test in favor of a system that offers admission to top students at every middle school, which requires a change in state law for some of the specialized high schools.

Many alumni from those schools have fought fiercely to preserve the entrance exam requirement, worrying that changing the admissions rules will lower academic standards.

Many made the familiar arguments that the city should instead focus on improving the quality of middle schools, or expand access to gifted programs, to serve as a feeder into top high schools.

Alumni who would like to see the Specialized High School Admissions Test remain in place likely have many lawmakers on their side. New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, a Democrat who represents several Queens neighborhoods, released a statement that she “couldn’t disagree more” with the mayor’s proposal.

The reaction also captured concerns about how the changes could impact Asian students, who make up a disproportionate share of enrollment at the specialized high schools. Those students are also likely to come from low-income families.

But others took to social media to support the mayor’s proposal. Specialized high schools have enrolled an increasingly shrinking share of black and Hispanic students: While two-thirds of city students are black or Hispanic, only about 10 percent of admissions offers to those schools go to black or Hispanic students.

Some thanked the mayor for taking action after campaigning for years to make changes.

And not all alumni were against the changes. Also included in the mayor’s plan is an expansion of Discovery, a program that helps admit low-income students who just missed the cutoff score on the entrance exam.

going viral

With a late-night tweet, Carranza steps into emotional and divisive Upper West Side desegregation fight

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Chancellor Richard Carranza greeted families outside Concourse Village Elementary School in the Bronx on his first official school visit.

If there were any doubt that new New York City schools chief Richard Carranza would take a stronger stand on segregation than his predecessor, he shut it down with a tweet overnight.

Just before 1 a.m. Friday morning, Carranza tweeted a viral version of the NY1 video that shows Upper West Side parents angrily pushing back against a city proposal that could result in their children going to middle school with lower-scoring classmates.

Carranza didn’t add any commentary of his own to the message generated automatically by the site that amplified the NY1 video, Raw Story. He didn’t have to for his Twitter followers to see an endorsement of the site’s characterization of the video — “Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools.”

Parents and educators began responding as the city stirred awake this morning. Here’s one response from a high school principal:

And another from a middle school math teacher and founder of Educolor, an advocacy group for teachers of color:

Since taking the chancellorship, Carranza has signaled that he believes the education department has a central role to play in desegregating schools — offering a contrast to the chancellor he replaced, Carmen Fariña. She called school diversity a priority but argued that integration efforts should happen “organically” and be driven by school leaders and local communities, not department officials.

One early exchange on Twitter in response to Carranza suggested that any moves to desegregate schools could face resistance — and that he also would have support.

Carranza’s tweet came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his city budget would include $23 million for “anti-bias training” for school staff, something that some parent activists and some elected officials have been demanding.

It also came hours before he’s scheduled to visit a Harlem middle school, Hamilton Grange, that wouldn’t be part of the academic integration proposal because it is part of District 6, not nearby District 3 where the idea is under consideration.

Such a proposal would likely look different there, because just 28 percent of fifth-graders in District 6 — which includes some parts of Harlem as well as Washington Heights and Inwood — met the state’s standards in math last year, compared to 57 percent in District 3. The gap was similar in reading.