10 Point Plan for the Integration of NYC Public Schools

Recommendations of Jackson Heights People for Public Schools

In 2014, the UCLA Civil Rights Project published a report showing that New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the country. Since that time, little has been done to seriously address this problem. Yet research shows that racially and economically-integrated schools are crucial for low-income students and are beneficial to high-income students as well. In fact, no demographic group is harmed by diversity. The benefits of racial and socioeconomic integration overlap.[1]

The New York City government needs to both

  1. Improve public schools making them the most attractive choice;
  2. End policies the enable segregation replacing them with policies that enable integration.

Jackson Heights People for Public Schools recommends these steps to begin the systematic integration of our public schools.

#1-3 Will make public schools the more attractive choice.

1. fully fund our public schools and reduce class size

Full funding following the current Foundation Aid formula would include reducing class size in accordance with the Contracts for Excellence plan. Reducing class size is one of the few strategies that has been shown to increase learning for all students (Mathis, 2017). Yet schools across the country have seen increases in class size in recent years.

In New York City, we have class size limits because of the teachers’ union contract. These limits are as follows:

  • Pre-Kindergarten: 18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional
  • Kindergarten: 25 students
  • Grades 1-6 in elementary schools: 32 students
  • Junior High School / Middle School (all grades 4 – 8 or 5 – 9, if located in a middle school, then middle school class size applies): 33 students in non-Title I schools; 30 in Title I schools.
  • High School: 34 students; 50 in Physical Education/Gym.[2]

In 2007 the Contracts for Excellence law required to reduce NYC class size as follows, but these targets were never met, making NYC out of compliance with this law.

  • Kindergarten - Grade 3: 20 students
  • Grades 4-8: 23 students
  • Grades 9-12: 25 students[3]

2. Develop culturally-sustaining schools

a) Develop more high-quality Dual Language Bilingual Programs

Create programs at more schools and more seats at schools where there are waiting lists. High quality dual language bilingual education is in a unique position to integrate our schools and raise achievement for all students. Dual language bilingual education programs by definition integrate English monolinguals and bilingual students in ways that would not occur otherwise, and families that are diverse by class, race, and home language practices are attracted to these programs. Research shows that students in a dual language bilingual program achieve higher rates of success (test scores and graduation rates) than students in monolingual programs.[4] By bringing together diverse groups of students, dual language bilingual education offers spaces where societal challenges of racism, classism, and other forms of inequity can be disrupted, especially when doing so is central to the curriculum.

b) Offer appropriate home language classes

Too many of our students, especially at the middle and high school levels, are required to take introductory Spanish classes when Spanish is their home language. Speakers of languages other than romance languages have few opportunities to study their home language in school. A variety of languages should be offered at the secondary level for language learning, with advanced learning opportunities to recognize and challenge students who speak the language of instruction at home and to support them to pursue the New York State Seal of Biliteracy.

c) Make schools culturally sustaining

Culturally-sustaining schools have teachers who live in the community where they teach, share a similar cultural background, and who understand and respect their students. New York City needs to do more to train teachers in culturally-sustaining education and to recruit teachers who reflect the socioeconomic background of the students. This will better provide our Black and Latin@ students, who are the majority of our students, with the role models and tools they need to succeed. Furthermore, a teaching force that better represents the student body sets forth an anti-racist model for students of all backgrounds.


3. Enforce NYS and city laws and guidelines regarding time for gym, the arts and recess

Schools serving low-income students are more likely to be shortchanged on time in the school day devoted to the arts and physical activity. All schools should follow NYS requirements for PE instruction and NYS and NYC guidelines for arts instruction. See the requirements and guidelines on our page about arts and physical education.

More information on daily recess.

#4-10 will replace policies that enable segregation with policies that enable integration:

4. Phase out gifted and talented programs and structure all schools according to the Schoolwide Enrichment Model instead

Gifted and talented programs add to the problem of segregation and create a stigmatized system of “gifted” and everyone else. The use of a single test of four-year-olds to determine giftedness is highly problematic, biased, and is not based on sound education research. Based on what we know about child development and the importance of early childhood education, gifted and talented programs are more likely to determine family class and income than true giftedness. The enrichment activities in gifted programs should be afforded to all students based on students’ strengths and interests.[5]

5. Stop the expansion of charter schools

Charter schools do not serve all students. They are publicly funded, privately run schools. Public schools and public funds must serve all students. Charter schools drain funds from public schools that serve all students. They also allow students to flee their zoned public school and thereby increase segregation and the inequality of resources. [6]

6. End the current admissions process to the specialized high schools

Admissions to the specialized high schools by a single test greatly contributes to segregation and education inequity at the high school level. Developing more programs to test prep low-income students has not worked and is not a solution to the problem. [7]

7. Pool PTA fundraising for all schools in the city to share

Many schools with wealthy families pressure those families to donate upwards of $2,000 a year to the PTA. The schools then use this money to hire classroom assistants and to provide other perks that further the education funding gap. Districts in other parts of the country have done away with this practice and have implemented a pool model so that funds raised serve all children. [8]

8. Stop placing value on annual standardized testing

Annual standardized testing serves no meaningful assessment purpose for students or teachers. While the annual grades 3-8 testing is federal policy, the city can stop placing value on these tests and their results, stop penalizing schools, and stop giving bonuses to principals based on test scores. Annual standardized testing is used inappropriately to evaluate and compare schools, and to determine principal bonuses, and has resulted in a narrowing of instruction in schools to tested subjects only (e.g., literacy and math at the expense of everything else - e.g., social studies and recess). The testing regimen has been a drain of public dollars to the private testing and test prep industries. Since the beginning of the annual grades 3-8 testing, the achievement gap has only worsened.

As a whole, success on the test is largely determined by family income, race, and English proficiency or by the extent to which a school engages in drill and kill test preparation and weeding out “problem” students (a practice seen at the Success Academy charter school chain, among others).

As the results of the tests are arbitrarily set by the State each year FOLLOWING the scoring of the tests and provide no meaningful form of evaluation, the DOE must stop the charade of publicizing the results. DOE schools should use valuable funds for quality education rather than in-school and after-school test prep. [9]

9. Institute a policy of set-asides for low-income students at all schools across NYC, including specialized high schools

2016-2017 DOE data shows that 75% of students citywide live in poverty. Schools should set aside seats for 75% of their students to be students living in poverty. This policy should follow yearly poverty trends for the city. [10]

10. The DOE should adopt a philosophy of encouraging integration rather than encouraging “choice.”

The message of choice we hear from administrators and the funneling of parents into schools with like-minded parents further segregates our schools. The DOE should draw families of different socioeconomic backgrounds together rather than encouraging them to separate. The administration should encourage parents to choose integration rather than segregation.[11]


[1] Roslyn Arlin Mickelson. School Integration and K-12 Outcomes: An Updated Quick Synthesis of the Social Science Evidence. (Research Brief No. 5) (Washington, DC: National Coalition on School Diversity, 2016). http://school-diversity.org/pdf/DiversityResearchBriefNo5.pdf

The Century Foundation. “The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms” (New York, 2016). https://tcf.org/content/facts/the-benefits-of-socioeconomically-and-racially-integrated-schools-and-classrooms/

Amy Stuart Wells, Lauren Fox, and Diana Cordova-Cobo. How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students (New York: The Century Foundation, 2016). https://tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-students/

[2] United Federation of Teachers. "What's my Grade?" http://www.uft.org/faqs/what-are-class-size-limits-my-grade

[3] To see what any public school in New York State is owed from from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, see "What Is My School Owed?" at http://www.whatismyschoolowed.com

The United Federation of Teachers, Class Size and the Contract for Excellence:Are we making progress in NYC’s public schools? (New York, 2008), http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2008-04-class-size-and-c4e.pdf

William J. Mathis, The Effectiveness of Class Size Reduction (Boulder: 2016), http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/publications/Mathis%20RBOPM-9%20Class%20Size.pdf

[4] Melinda D. Anderson, "The Costs of English-Only Education" The Atlantic ( Nov 2, 2015), https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/the-costs-of-english-only-education/413494/; Claude Goldenberg and Kirsten Wagner, "Bilingual Education: Reviving and American Tradition" American Educator 39/3 (Fall 2015), 28—32, 44; Jennifer L. Steele, Robert O. Slater, Gema Zamarro, Trey Miller, Jennifer Li, Susan Burkhauser, Michael Bacon, "Effects of Dual-Language Immersion Programs on Student Achievement: Evidence From Lottery Data," American Educational Research Journal 54/1 Suppl (2017): 282S—306S

[5] For more about SEM, see Renzulli Center for Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development, "Schoolwide Enrichment Model" https://gifted.uconn.edu/schoolwide-enrichment-model/ For more about Gifted and Talented issues, see Harold O. Levy, "Discrimination in Gifted Education Must End Minority and low-income students are underrepresented in gifted programs" Education Week (January 4, 2017), https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/01/04/discrimination-in-gifted-education-must-end.html

[6] For more information on charter schools, see the Network for Public Education's NPE Toolkit: School Privatization Explained: https://networkforpubliceducation.org/9121-2/

[7] For more information about this issue in NYC, see Elizabeth A. Harris and Ford Fessenden, "The Broken Promises of Choice in New York City Schools" (May 5, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/nyregion/school-choice-new-york-city-high-school-admissions.html

[8] For examples of how PTA funding has been pooled in other parts of the US, see Emilie Raguso, "Albany School District Levels Parent Fundraising Playing Field," San Francisco Public Press (February 13, 2014), http://sfpublicpress.org/news/2014-02/albany-school-district-levels-parent-fundraising-playing-field and Ashley Gross, "Closing The 'PTA Gap' In Seattle: Parents And School District Wrestle With Inequities," kqed.com (December 14, 2017), http://knkx.org/post/closing-pta-gap-seattle-parents-and-school-district-wrestle-inequities

[9] More information on standardized testing: New York State Allies for Public Education, "Why Opt Out in 2018?" https://www.nysape.org/2018-opt-out-factsheet.html; National Council of Teachers of English, "How Standardized Tests Shape—and Limit—Student Learning" (2014), http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CC/0242-nov2014/CC0242PolicyStandardized.pdf

[10] See information here regarding the Castle Bridge School with a similar set-aside: Kyle Spencer, "New York Schools Wonder: How White Is Too White?" (February 16, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/17/nyregion/program-aims-to-keep-schools-diverse-as-new-york-neighborhoods-gentrify.html