Give credit where it is due. The New York City Department of Education has a strong record of maintaining and increasing inequality. Eighty percent of black and Latino students and…
Give credit where it is due. The New York City Department of Education has a strong record of maintaining and increasing inequality. Eighty percent of black and Latino students and all those eligible for free or reduced price lunch programs, read at the basic or below basic levels of proficiency, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Only 20 percent of black and Latino eighth-graders are at grade level or above, as compared to 40 percent or more of students from more prosperous homes as well as White, non-Hispanic and Asian students. Nearly 90 percent of black and Latino eighth-grade young men eligible for free or reduced price lunch programs read below grade level at grade 8, while most White non-Hispanic peers from more prosperous home read at or above grade level.
Out of school suspensions make it less likely that a student will graduate. In New York City, young black men 10 times as likely to be suspended as white students, while Latino male students are six times more likely to be suspended from school than whites. Expulsions of black students are nearly twice as disproportionate.
Given that record in teaching something as basic as reading, and the great disparities in “discipline,” it is no surprise that despite having one of the larger per student expenditures among major urban districts, just over a third of New York City’s young black men – the students most-vulnerable to educational failure – graduate from high school in four years.
The Department of Education diverts resources from students living in the city’s poorer neighborhoods to those living in the city’s richer neighborhoods. One way this is done is through its gifted and talented programs. Students in these programs have greater resources devoted to their educations than other students. But they can only get into those programs by passing a test given in the early grades.
In Manhattan’s prosperous District 2, six percent of students, k-3, were deemed qualified this year for admission to city-wide gifted and talented programs: the brass ring. The runner-up was District 3, also in Manhattan, also at six percent. The three districts with the lowest percentages of students qualifying for admission to city-wide gifted and talented programs were 7 and 9 in the Bronx and 23 in Brooklyn, whose populations are nearly all black and Latino with free and reduced price lunch program enrollments of between 80 percent and 90 percent. Together, these districts only designated 25 children –or less than one tenth of one percent of its students – as gifted and talented as compared to the 698 students in District 2 alone.
There are about 60,000 students in districts 7, 9 and 23, of whom twenty-five are gifted, according to the New York City Department of Education.
At the other end of the k-12 pipeline the city provides the highest quality high school educations overwhelmingly to white and Asian students alone. The New York City Department of Education’s specialized high schools — including Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science –are gatekeepers for elite colleges, upper middle class careers, and the reproduction of class status. They have world-class facilities, teachers and curriculum. They have close to 100 percent graduation rates and college admission success.
Students are admitted to these schools by their scores on a test taken in grade 8. It is basically a mathematics test. For context, 18 percent of New York City’s white, non-Hispanic, students scored at the Advanced level in 2013 on NAEP’s grade 8 mathematics test, as did 26 percent of the Asian students. Just one percent each of the city’s black and Latino students did so. If nearly all of New York City’s black students are not performing at Advanced levels in eighth-grade math, they have no chance of gaining admission to Stuyvesant or Bronx Science.
It is generally acknowledged that the test for admission to the specialized high schools cannot be passed simply by taking courses in the New York City schools. Tutorials are necessary. Kaplan, Inc., among others, offers tutorials for the test. They charge $5,000 for their premium model. The median income of Black families, female householder, no husband present, in New York City is $36,000. A Kaplan “Premier Tutoring” course would cost a Black woman raising her children without a husband present, 14 percent of her annual income.
The result? This year Stuyvesant admitted 952 students: 680 are Asian/Pacific Islander; 164 are White, non-Hispanic; 79 are “Unknown”; 21 are Hispanic and 7 are Black. It is not known how many of those seven Black students are African-American students of the New York public schools. They could all have been privately schooled children of African diplomats.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics median earnings for people with professional degrees are nearly four times those of people without high school diplomas and nearly three times those of people with just a high school diploma. Men, especially Black men, without high school diplomas are likely to spend time in prison. Their families are more likely than others to live in poverty and their children in cities like New York are likely to follow the same path: inadequate basic skills, high out-of-school suspension rates, failure to graduate from high school.
In this way, New York City’s traditional school district currently maintains and increases inequality. How could it do more to make New York more inequitable? Let’s not ponder the ways.