It has been pretty clearly proven that diversity improves the educational experience and outcome for all kids. How to get it is a tricky and possibly never ending conundrum, but a worthy one. When given a choice, it is not uncommon for families to 'clump' with other people they know (of the same race, same socio economic level, etc.). No matter how much we know that it is really the best thing for us all, we are a herd, and we have to push against that urge to clump. Sometimes things that are worthwhile are not easy.
The City has produced a plan.
There are a lot of general city wide initiatives without a lot of specifics about how they will be rolled out. There are also some delicious hints of things, that I particularly have been hoping for, that seem to be coming to pass kinda soonish. So yippee for some changes coming down the pike for the fall of 2019! The report is interesting and worth reading closely. I am only mentioning the couple of things that I think will make quick and significant improvements for my families (you guys in northwest Brooklyn who are doing your damnedest to find a nice place for your kids to go to elementary and middle school in the neighborhood and find a worthy high school that will prepare them for college without you stroking out or losing your job).
Pg. 6: "Eliminate 'limited unscreened' as a high school admissions method and replace with admissions methods that will promote greater diversity." Yeah! Limited Unscreened schools picked kids by lottery, but gave priority to families who attended a tour or open house. There was rampant nudge, nudge, wink, wink in this process. The 'dedicated interest' required almost always came along with the message "you need to rank us first" which confused and disadvantaged students. The City has acknowledged that the time spent touring the schools is crushing (although you need to see the schools to know how to rank them). And they said this, "We will work with schools to identify alternate admissions methods, including Educational Option, which fosters academic diversity by admitting students from a wide range of academic levels." Yeah!! I am a huge Ed Opt fan. Ed Opt is engineered academic diversity. Just because you didn't have a stellar 7th grade year and you didn't get into a coveted screened school, doesn't mean that you won't 'bring it' in 10th grade. An Ed Opt school gives you the opportunity for academic mobility on your own timeline. 16% of the population are high academic achievers (there is a 'carrot' for the kids who are setting their sights high - there will be other people like them there), 68% are solid on-grade learners and 16% are kids who are not academic (these kids are bringing other gifts to the table and if they decide they want to bring it academically there are opportunities and peers right there in their school). This is the most like real life that the City can gather and it provides opportunities for all. In my non scientific survey of programs they are also currently the most racially diverse, just cause it happens naturally.
Pg. 7 "a. Eliminate Revealed Middle School Ranking. At the middle school level, 25% of programs rank students using a set of admissions criteria, or a 'screen.' Nearly half of these screened programs– ones located in districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13 and 14 –maintain revealed ranking, which means that schools can also see where a student ranked them on their middle school application."
Yeah!! District 15 has blind ranking, and I have been calling for parents in all other districts to grab their pitchforks and demand the same! Finally! power to the parents (for those of you applying to attend 6th grade in fall of 2019). Blind ranking means that you can rank schools truly in the order that you like them, which means that you don't need to strategize. You will FINALLY have equal power along with the school to get the match that you need (when the schools knew how you ranked them - they held all the cards).
Pg 7 "b. Increase access to Screened High Schools and Middle Schools for Students with Disabilities (SWDs), English Language Learners (ELLs), and Students in Temporary Housing (STHs) to ensure screened schools and programs are accepting SWDs at a rate equivalent to the borough population for high school and the district population for middle school, and the Special Education Office will support schools to serve these students."
Every day parents ask me how their child's IEP will affect admissions. You guys all know that I follow school information through a gen ed lens. I am happy that continuing attention is being paid to assist all kids have access to the full range of schools.
Pg 7 "a. Create online applications for middle and high school admissions" There are going to be new online applications that will streamline the process and attempt to personalize the process based on interest, geography etc., save time reducing the amount of information families have to sift through (? not sure why you still won't want to sift through everything whether it is a paper process or an online process), allow for 'one stop shopping' with registration for SHSAT and auditions, etc. (THIS IS GREAT), ease the burden on the middle school staff (ALSO GREAT), and create better online access for help. It will be in place for 2018 8th graders who are applying for programs in 2019.
Pg. 8 "b. Expand the NYC School Finder tool to all admissions processes" The DoE is trying to get feedback to improve this system. HEH DOE! I have done the survey but you didn't ask me any of the right questions. You can read the blog I wrote about the issues I have with the HS finder.
Pg. 8 "c. Work with schools to streamline school tours, open houses, and registration for school-based assessments and auditions" YES!! anything they can do to give families more access, make the information clearer, ease the burden on the schools and give families more time to access the information are THE BEST CHANGES EVER!