July 26, 2018

Open Letter to Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza on Desegregating NYC Schools

NYC schools are the most segregated schools in the nation.

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza have blasted admission screening as a tool of segregation and released a plan to diversify the student population at NYC’s specialized high schools. This is an important first step, but they must know educators support taking swift action to desegregate our schools.

E4E-New York has written an open letter calling on Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza to continue their efforts to desegregate public schools and remove the artificial barriers that purposely keep minority and low-income students out of high-performing schools.

Click here to add your name to Educators for E4E-New York’s letter supporting the desegregation of New York City Schools.

Dear Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza -

As educators and members of the New York City community we support your efforts to desegregate public schools and remove the artificial barriers that purposely keep black, brown, and students from low-income families out of high-performing schools. The act of desegregating and opening the gates of selective schools to all New Yorkers is an important step in creating equity and excellence for all of 1.1 million students in our city.

In 1977 the United States Office of Civil Rights investigated the New York’s selective admissions schools because black, Hispanic, and female students were “greatly underrepresented” in the student population. This is a fight that can be traced through decades as parents from privileged communities fought to ensure that zoning and admittance rules favored those with the resources to purchase expensive property or pay for test prep that guaranteed admittance to higher performing elementary, middle, and high schools. Meanwhile, black and Hispanic students were left in segregated schools with fewer resources. It is time to fix these historic wrongs.

Broadening admittance policies beyond just a single test score is part of the solution to opening New York’s segregated schools. No other high-performing institution in America bases admittance on a single test. Furthermore, since the SHSAT is an entirely multiple-choice test, it is not designed to test critical thinking skills that are crucial in a 21st century economy, does not correlate with student achievement, and can be prepared for with access to test preparation courses. There is no clearer example of gatekeeping in our public school system that provides access to some students and locks the vast majority of students out.

Opponents of school desegregation argued in 1977 that “either we have to lower the standards for everybody so the special nature of the schools would disappear, or we would have to allow these students to be subjected to failure.” It is eerie how today’s opponents repeat these same arguments.This argument assumes that black and Hispanic students are unable to achieve at high levels because they don’t have access to SHSAT test prep. On the contrary, there is no evidence to support the idea that multi-measure admittance will diminish the quality of any of these schools. These arguments are tired dog-whistles to racist assumptions and entirely grounded in efforts to preserve access to these institutions for the few.

As educators we are proud of being part of a public education system that promises to provide an excellent education to every student that walks into our schools. It is a violation of that promise to have a system where 20 percent of schools have barriers to entry. We applaud your effort to confront the history and status quo that allows this system to persist.


New York City Educators