The New York City Department of Education defines racially representative schools as “those that enroll between 50 percent and 90 percent black and Hispanic students.”
By that definition, the public high school my sons attended, even though it was only 18 percent white, was still not diverse. That’s because it was also 71 percent Asian.
At 71 percent Asian, a school is not considered diverse. Even though at 71 percent – or even 90 percent – Black and/or Hispanic, it would be. (I realize I am using “racially representative” and “diverse” interchangeably, but that’s because school integration activists do the same. They also employ “minority,” “low-income” and “low achieving” as if they were synonyms. Which is insulting — and incorrect.)
My daughter currently attends a public 6th through 12th grade school which is 35 percent Hispanic, 31 percent white, 18 percent Black, 9 percent Asian, and 8 percent Other (which typically means mixed race).
35 + 18 = 53. Yay, diversity achievement unlocked! (We can also assume that some of the children in the Other category are half Black and/or Hispanic, like my daughter, so the total number is likely even higher.)
Though it starts in middle school, my daughter entered in 2021 as a 9th grader. In June, I wrote about my struggle to choose a school for my daughter that would please then-Mayor Bill de Blasio. Strangely, the school I went with was much more diverse than the schools he chose for his own children, when, supposedly, diversity was oh, so important to him. As it was to other public officials who were, nonetheless, forced to send their kids to non-diverse schools too.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I did not choose my daughter’s school in order to please Mayor de Blasio. Here’s why I did choose it, though:
- Location: We live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My daughter competes on a rhythmic gymnastics team at the Harlem Armory. (A team the DOE will be happy to hear, meets their criteria for being “racially representative.” It’s headed by Wendy Hilliard, the first African-American woman to represent the US at the World Championships!) I wanted a school that would make it easy for my daughter to commute to and from home/practice.
- Academics: I don’t care about a school’s high school graduation rate. Despite new Schools Chancellor David Banks touting just last week that NYC’s Class of 2021 “achieved a high school graduation rate of 81.2 percent,” I know that fewer than 60 percent of those students graduate “college ready.” Kids get shoved through from grade to grade, then out the door without the basic skills necessary to function in the adult world. So not only do I not care about a school’s graduation rate, I don’t believe it. The number I care about is “how many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help.” For me, the minimum acceptable statistic is 75 percent.
So here’s what I did when choosing my daughter’s high school: I ranked 12 schools which combined location with college readiness. The closer to our home and/or her gym, the lower I would accept the college readiness number being.
Really. That was it. I didn’t look at the school’s diversity numbers then. I didn’t look at them when she got into our first choice school. I only looked at them afterwards to write my post. (The same way that I didn’t look at the diversity numbers of the schools I sent my sons to.)
Because here’s a reality those who are fighting for unscreened schools (now that their own children have graduated) don’t want anyone to know: They want you (and the media) to believe that those who are pushing back against dropping the Specialized High School Admissions Test and lowering the grade point average to “C” level – or none at all – are doing it because, as one mother wrote me, they/we want to keep “blacks and browns” (does that expression bother anyone else? Are my children fabric swatches?) out of our schools.
I work with literally thousands of families every year to help them find the best fit school for their child. Maybe 5 percent regularly express the opinion that they would like to avoid schools which have “too many” of “those people,” (sometimes they mean Black, sometimes they mean Hispanic, sometimes they mean Asian, sometimes they mean white – racism has its diversity too!). But the vast majority never even ask about it. The vast majority only want to know about the academics. Does this school offer Advanced Placement classes? A variety of electives? Where do their students go on to college?
When I went looking for a high school with a strong college readiness rate, I also found one that was “diverse.” Because, guess what – “diverse” families care about academics too! In fact, they often care about them more than families who know that their child is going to be fine wherever they go because they have college funds and professional connections to fall back on.
What if every single NYC public school were to offer rigorous academics, high-level classes, and a diploma that actually certifies that the child learned something, rather than put in a certain number of seat-time hours (though, often, not even that)?
And what if every child had such a school within easy commuting distance? Do we think, under those circumstances, kids from the far reaches of Queens, Staten Island, South Brooklyn, or the Bronx would still be traveling up to 90 minutes back and forth from school each way? Or would they stay in their neighborhoods? Their boroughs? And, once that happened, wouldn’t every school organically become “racially representative” of the area where it was located? (Granted, that might make some schools still majority Asian, but perhaps the DOE would be willing to overlook it once they were no longer “cheating” to get in.)
Strong academics + Convenient location = Automatic diversity.
It worked for me.
I bet it would work for most.
What do you think?