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New Report: NYC Public School System Characterized by “Vast Inequalities”

A new report out from the  Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG) evaluates the level of New York City’s “inequalities”  in six sectors: economy, health, housing, justices, services, and — most importantly for our purposes — education. This analysis is ISLG’s second annual iteration and Founding Director Michael Jacobson notes that while last year’s report was “ground-breaking for charting new ground in understanding inequality,” this follow-up “uses dynamic, multi-year scoring” that allows us to see whether “progress has been made in lessening inequality.”

What’s the bottom line on the De Blasio Administration’s efforts to ameliorate  inequality (inextricably tied to race) in the New York City school system?According to the report (funded by the Rockefeller Foundation), the answer is “meh.”

And that’s a generous summary. From the report:

These scores suggest that NYC continues to be characterized by vast inequalities, and that when looking at the city as a whole, little has changed. Generally speaking this score means that overall, the disadvantaged groups represented here are almost twice as likely as those not disadvantaged to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life, as measured by the Equality Indicators.

According to ISLG metrics, elementary and middle School Inequality Indicators decreased by four points from last year and high school Inequality Indicators decreased by one point. 

Let’s look more closely.  

Elementary and Middle Schools

The study makes direct reference to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal Schools program (see here for background) that funnels more money to 86 chronically-underperforming  traditional city schools. The verdict:

Two indicators saw no change and the other two saw negative change, but overall better results for their groups, suggesting that the impact of these policies may be better understood in later reports.

Specifically, “there was no change from last year in the disparity between black and Asian students’ performance on the math Common Core.” In fact, eight out of ten Black students in grades 3-8  scored “not proficient” in math while over two-thirds of Asian students demonstrated proficiency.  Three-quarters of Latino students and 42% of White students were not proficient. In reading, 69.7% of students receiving free or reduced lunch (a measure of economic disadvantage) did not achieve proficiency. From the report:

The City has implemented a number of initiatives in the past three years to improve middle school students’ academic performance, including expanded after-school programs, the School Renewal Program (providing the most challenged schools with additional funding), instructional resources and experienced leadership, and the Community School expansion. However, there were no noticeable improvements in students’ math proficiency this year, and large disparities remained. Given that the vast majority of black students continue to fall short of proficiency, more targeted initiatives or new programs may be needed.

The report also analyzes the median years of principal experience, an important indicator of school functionality and sustained leadership. City schools that enroll a majority of Asian students had the highest years of principal experience and schools that enroll a majority of Black students had the lowest years of principal experience.

High Schools

There was little change from last year in metrics of high school inequality: a drop of 1 point. “Inequalities remained the same in race and academic performance (change score of 0), while race and foster care child education (-3) and disability and on-time graduation (-2) saw small, negative changes.” Analysts note that a new mentoring program, Single Shepherd, is too new to evaluate. De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña’s “Equity and Excellence for All” program, which aims to have 80% of students graduating high schools and two-thirds college-ready by 2026, may “need some new initiatives.”

High school student outcomes were largely static. The percentage of both Black and White students not passing the Regents English test decreased very slightly, 29.5% to 29.2% for Black students and 14.4% to 14.2% for White students. Results for Latino students were similar to last year (about 29% not passing), while Asians did better: only 15.7% didn’t pass.

The Executive Summary concludes this way:

The 2016 NYC Equality Score is 46.01 out of a possible 100, an increase of +0.56 from the 2015 score of 45.45. These scores suggest that NYC continues to be characterized by vast inequalities, and that when looking at the city as a whole, little has changed. Generally speaking this score means that overall, the disadvantaged groups represented here are almost twice as likely as those not disadvantaged to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life, as measured by the Equality Indicators.

While this score comprises all six sectors, it serves as an indication of the challenges facing the De Blasio Administration’s attempts to improve equality in the New York City school system.

What do you think?

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