New York City Takes Milestone in Improving Inclusive Education by Measuring Diversity

There is an adage that many researchers and policy makers live by: what gets measured gets done. The saying suggests that measuring something improves your ability to achieve it, except, of course, when you’re talking about integrated schools. We have quantified, studied and assessed the importance of diversity in schools, but it is something that we are far from achieving.

While housing segregation strongly influences the composition of the student body, even in diverse cities, low-income black and brown students are increasingly concentrate in some schools. This is the result of middle-income, largely white, families. choose to group (read: separate) in middle and upper income schools and neighborhoods in their quest for a good education for their children.

“Income segregation creates neighborhoods of poverty or concentrated wealth, but high-income black families may be less likely than high-income white families to live in wealthy neighborhoods created by income segregation,” according to a 2018 study published by the American Sociological Association.

Since student test scores increase with the money their parents earn, a wealthy school with high test scores is too often automatically considered “good.”

Herein lies the problem which thwarts efforts to find and establish quality schools. Since the test results of the students to augment in conjunction with how much money their parents earn, a wealthy school with high test scores is too often automatically considered “good”. This assumption is not justified: the richest families are putting more of their discretionary money in educational activities like test preparation, which increase student scores, but richness inflates what we believe teachers, curriculum and culture inside the school add to student academic growth. Schools are good when teachers get the best out of their students, regardless of their economic situation, with a rigorous curriculum and engaging arts and sports programs. By confusing test results, and therefore income, with quality, parents justify their desire for self-segregation by looking out for the best interests of their children. But segregation is clearly not the way to create a good school.

Using standardized tests to measure academic achievement is one way to measure the quality of a school, but the differences in achievement that propagate inequality are caused by segregation. Raising test scores is far from the end goal we perceive to be. Integration at school and in the workplace, social cohesion and democratic decision-making are essential goals of a democracy that schools are supposed to foster. We have to avoid becoming more educated by being more segregated, which we seem quite comfortable with. Schools should be held accountable for higher order democratic goals like integration rather than simply pushing students to a certain level of academic progress.

New York City has just taken the first step by creating a robust accountability system that measures the right things. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group, which is made up of more than 40 parents, advocates, students, teachers and city government workers handpicked by city hall, released its Make the grade report, which provides a framework on how to hold schools accountable for diversity and inclusion goals. The report offers evidence of what is anecdotally known: New York City schools are among the most segregated in the country. The report recommends an improvement framework to the mayor, who has the power to act. The proposed framework addresses the three issues that prevent us from creating genuinely good schools.

The report tackles the confusion between richness and quality by recommending that all schools reflect the diversity of the city and borough in which they are located. The report asks schools in each New York borough, which is a sub-district, to develop student enrollment targets. based on percentages of racial and economic groups, language learners and students with disabilities in the district. The report also calls for the development of admission criteria that hold schools accountable for achieving these socio-economic diversity goals. In doing so, the report’s authors say that there can be no quality without diversity. It doesn’t set out specific admission criteria, but if and when the mayor or his team come up with new admission standards, such standards will almost certainly annoy middle- and high-income parents on the Upper West Side of the city. city.

Last year, pictures of a school reunion hosted by Spectrum News NY1 has gone viral. White parents have expressed disappointment and fury at a plan to require all colleges to set aside a quarter of their places for students who fall below academic standards as part of an effort to diversify schools. In doing so, they exposed their racism: wealthy families, mostly white, complained that the district was depriving their children of learning opportunities.

“You talk about telling an 11-year-old, ‘You worked like crazy and didn’t get what you needed or wanted,’” one woman said. “You tell them, ‘You’re going to go to a school that won’t educate you the same way you were educated. Life fears ! New York Chancellor of Education tweeted the story with the caption: “WATCH: Wealthy white parents in Manhattan got mad at plans to bring more black kids to their schools.”

Separate schools invariably lead to an unequal distribution of resources. Good schools support the funding of diversity; they do not discourage him. The report also addresses this central problem. The plan calls for the provision of “resources for any district to receive support for diversity planning.” It also recommends nurturing and supporting relationships between students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors and other school staff, alongside a rigorous curriculum. The quality of these relationships says more about the quality of a school than just test scores. The report recommends that district leaders assess the school climate, including the roles and responsibilities of school safety officers (aka the police).

Diversity is not just a matter of student enrollment. Inclusion also involves school staff.

Diversity is not just a matter of student enrollment. Inclusion also involves school staff. Therefore, the report calls for diversity among “principals, teachers, paraprofessionals and all other school staff”.

It is high time that districts introduced accountability goals that tackle the root of our educational problems: segregation. The segregation of housing undoubtedly makes it difficult to create integrated schools. While it is more difficult to change neighborhoods than it is to change schools, we can make sure that schools do not reproduce our separate lifestyles. Various cities like New York offer an opportunity to create diverse schools, we should seize it.

The old adage of measurement, that what gets measured gets done, doesn’t quite ring true. Liability-free measurement won’t get you far, especially if you’re measuring the wrong thing. By strictly measuring academics and rating schools on the sole basis of students’ academic performance, the forest for trees is a failure. We need to hold schools accountable to academics, but we also need to demand that schools meet our expectations of what our democracy should look like.

About Michael G. Walter

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