Education

Brooklyn School Integration Is Totally Working! (Except for Some Non-Compliant Families, but They Probably Hate Diversity)

Middle-school enrollment is down 7% after a trailblazing admissions overhaul; politicians declare victory while insulting those who left.

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New York City is on the precipice of the country's most ambitious school-integration program since the days of busing. Just yesterday, City Council passed a bill requiring every school district to create its own "diversity working group" and subsequent action plan. A similar system-wide advisory group recently recommended making "all schools represent the socioeconomic and racial diversity" in the city within 10 years, which would require a logistically massive undertaking.

This "equity" push, which many integration advocates are holding up as a model for the entire country, was spearheaded last year in the middle schools of the Brooklyn district where my daughters both happen to attend. The 2019–20 class of District 15 6th graders, which includes my eldest, is the first to be admitted under a radical new system in which student performance no longer matters. It has been replaced by a "controlled choice" process of a bifurcated lottery (depending on socioeconomic status) that attempts to harmonize parents' school preferences with educational planners' demographic composition targets.

So there's a lot at stake—for families, for the district, for New York, for other cities that follow New York's lead—when it comes to the final fall enrollment picture of District 15's Diversity Plan. Would school demographics change significantly? Would people begin to abandon government-operated institutions for (still-public) charters, or private options, or new districts?

Well, those numbers began to come in yesterday afternoon, and the preliminary answers to those two questions are "yes" and "yes."

After a stage-managed release of selective enrollment information (there isn't yet any publicly available link to the broad data set), the headlines were overwhelmingly about the sharp increase in demographic integration across individual schools: "Drive to Desegregate Brooklyn Public Schools Increases Student Diversity," "Diversity improved in Brooklyn school district thanks to new admissions plan, NYC says," and so on.

Those numbers are indeed dramatic. "Eight of the district's 11 middle schools now enroll sixth grade classes that are between 40% and 75% needy students, compared to only three schools in that range last year," notes the Daily News.

Most salutarily from my point of view, students from neighborhood-zoned elementary schools that once never bothered with the district's so-called "Big Three" middle schools experienced a huge jump in both applications and acceptance. Expanding the opportunities for poorer kids should be at the heart of every educational reform, which is one reason I find it so appalling that Mayor Bill de Blasio and too many other New York officials have such a hostile attitude toward charter schools.

So that's one half of the enrollment picture. What, then, about the other half? Would the new changes lead to (or at least correlate with) more families leaving the system than before?

Those numbers are also dramatic, though downplayed in the reporting and ignored altogether in some of the political self-congratulation. Year-over-year 6th grade enrollment was down 7 percent in 2019, the first decrease of any kind in at least half a decade:

The percentage of applicants who ended up attending a district-run middle school decreased from 63 percent in 2018 to 59 percent in 2019. The percentage of same-year 6th graders compared to same-year 5th graders decreased—again, for the first time in at least half a decade—from 80 percent last year to 76 percent this year, though in several respects 2018 was an anomalous spike year for enrollment.

You can analyze what numbers that are available any which way—in fact, please do!

But the bottom line is that nobody at the dozen or so related public school meetings I have attended predicted anything like such a dramatic drop-off. "All of the schools in District 15 are very, very full," New York Department of Education Director of Enrollment Research and Policy Andy McClintock said at a meeting I attended in May.

The 7 percent drop isn't the only year-over-year statistic that may worry bureaucrats tasked with educating all willing students. The number of families who appealed their school designation but were rejected rose from 290 in 2018 to 435 this year (or from 7.7 percent of applicants to 11.8 percent). That net addition of 145 disgruntled families is awfully close to the 168-student reduction in this year's 6th grade class. Meanwhile, local interest in at least one of the five charter schools operating within district boundaries has effectively doubled.

When equity-focused controlled-choice systems lead to declining enrollment, as has happened in San Francisco, Charlotte, and elsewhere, it can have adverse effects for the very integration at the heart of the exercise. As The New York Times concluded in an April article about San Francisco (where current NYC schools chief Richard Carranza once ran things), "About a quarter of the city's children are enrolled in private school, a higher percentage than in some other major cities, like New York, where it is around 20 percent. The lottery system is thought to be a major reason wealthy parents here opt out of public schools, further worsening segregation."

So you might think that proponents would have reacted to yesterday's numbers with a measure of cautious humility. Er, not quite.

In a remarkable Daily News op-ed that came out even before the news did (funny, that), two school-diversity activists and my city councilman, Brad Lander, not only declared victory but did so without even acknowledging the enrollment drop. Along the way, they managed to smear constituent parents for making unenlightened choices:

Many observers prophesied that this long-overdue correction would cause many white and affluent families, including those in neighborhoods like Park Slope, to exit the public school system altogether.

We have predicted otherwise—both because the new plan hardly lays such a burden on these families as to cause anything so drastic, and, more fundamentally, because we have more faith in our community….

While we may have lost a handful of families who were not interested in building diverse and supportive school communities, we may be gaining some who are.

There are many reasons families decline to accept their school designations. For instance, when you get assigned a school you didn't put on your list, as happened to a whopping 45 kids at the district's least desirable and typically lowest-performing school (which, shocker, saw its 6th grade enrollment drop from 176 to 147). Or, as in the case of a Diversity Plan supporter who helped design the middle school algorithm in the first place, when your daughter gets her 10th-ranked pick and the school is far away. Or when the algorithm spits out two different middle-school destinations, 40 minutes from one another, for your twins.

No matter: As a class, you will be treated by the people whose salaries you pay as the kind of monsters who are "not interested in building diverse and supportive school communities."

As I wrote in September, "In what has become the education playbook for the city of New York, and a political tactic that threatens to jump the banks from Blue State America to some policy terrain near you, activists, government officials, and even journalists are recklessly deploying the scarlet letter of racism to clear out potential dissent."

For now, the educational establishment is too busy high-fiving itself to spend too much time slamming the door behind noncompliant parents. Instead, in an odd but telling example of goalpost-shifting, the consensus brag is that the year-over-year percentage of Caucasian kids in the district remained the same: 31 percent. Lander titled his piece "The white flight that wasn't." The enrollment numbers, activist Miriam Nunberg told The Wall Street Journal, "tests the myth there will be white flight if you create heterogeneous groupings."

What makes the white flight formulation particularly interesting to me is that in all the local school meetings I slogged through, I have never heard the phrase used by anyone except advocates for the Diversity Plan, usually as a straw man for the perceived unsavoriness of any skeptics' motives.

When a parent at one gathering asked a Community Education Council member what was being done to retain families who were given designations they didn't like, he shot back, "I don't know how you would address the question without it sounding like, 'What are you going to do about white flight?' Honestly, that is basically what the question is, and I don't know how you can ask a panel of people who have spent the last two years working on a Diversity Plan how we are going to cater to the parents who reject the idea of diversity."

When I mentioned at one elementary school rezoning breakout session that forcing 5-year-olds to travel long distances would create "a lot of unhappy parents," one woman snapped back at me, "You mean a lot of unhappy white parents!" Which I in fact did not mean.

When Lander at the beginning of this school year again declared victory for the Diversity Plan, he started off his Buzzfeed piece with a meditation on how "Segregation is central to the ideology of white supremacy and the reproduction of America's racial caste system," then went on to lament that "Integration efforts are often met with backlash as white (and now sometimes Asian) parents feel something is being taken from them."

Such accusatory generalizations discourage public participation in policymaking. Whether they end up discouraging parents from enrolling their kids in local public schools, after years of steady increases, remains to be seen. Yesterday's partial numbers tell us about representation, but not the lived-in experience of education. On the core question of whether students and schools will improve, it is far too early to declare either victory or defeat.

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  1. “Controlled Choice” sounds a lot like “we have control, and pretend to offer you choices”

  2. East Coast parents put up with a lot of things, but they don’t put up with pasty white progressives messing around with their kids.

    NYC is going to have to double its truancy police force and have them invade private schools and drag the students off to government centers. I predicted it here first.

  3. DeBlazio is screwing up the city. Even liberals I know don’t like him.

    I’m sure this time will be different.

    1. If ‘even Liberals’ don’t like him, how does he get elected? Or are the people he ends up running against even worse?

  4. Defeating racism by making EVERYTHING racial — what could go wrong?

  5. Welch’s family has it bad enough with Matt as the dad, so I can’t get my normal schadenfreude worked up here.

    But gods damn Matt, you have some ugly decisions ahead of you.

    1. How about moving out of NYC to a place less authoritarian?

      1. I was going to say something similar. Brooklyn is literally incompatible with libertarianism. I’ve lost respect for Matt knowing he lives there.

        New York libertarianism is basically “I wanna smoke pot and hate trump, but have a good enough job i kind of don’t like taxes”

        1. Where is he supposed to go, if he doesn’t want to live in a rural area? Politically, the suburbs aren’t what they were 40 years ago. Formerly Republican-leaning NJ and CT, for example, now vote in the same progressive mold in NY.

          1. I dont know im mostly effing around. But Brooklyn is an incredulous place to be right now. There no way it isn’t depleting him. Just look at his quoted conversation from his PTA meeting lol.

          2. Well, you don’t have to move to the middle of nowhere Kansas to avoid the crazy…

            There are tons of major cities where the split is almost 50/50 in city limits, but the county leans strongly red. In practical terms for most sane libertarians this is generally preferable, since the Dems have gone off the deep end.

            After living for over 14 years in one of the most prog infested cities in the USA I’m finally leaving soon for a midsized city (750K metro) where I could literally buy a mansion if I wanted to with the money I make… AND that isn’t run by lunatics.

            I used to be annoyed by the prog stupid here, but it was tolerable, and living in a big, and back then NICE city, was worth it to me. Now they’ve just got too nuts. It’s like how a conservative or libertarian could tolerate being in Cali 20-30 years ago… But things have gone so far now it’s just impossible to put up with it not. So too have many of the major cities gone that route.

            Honestly, I don’t feel like I’ll be losing much when I move. I’ll still have ramen and $20 hamburgers if I want them, a house, vacation house in a couple years, a boat, maybe get my pilots license, start stacking 60s muscle cars… All stuff I can do far more easily by moving. It’s a huge no brainer to me.

            1. You mean you are giving up the privilege of having Rev Kirkland and Tony as your neighbors? How COULD you?

              1. Yes, that is the one big massive downside I will have to suffer through 🙁

                SOMEHOW I suspect I’ll survive though!

  6. Shirley once the classrooms acurately reflect the neighbourhood, city, state, country and world demographics (racial and sexual-self identification) everyone will learn like Stakhavonites and all that necessary groundwork will be praised.

    1. Don’t call Welch “Shirley”.

  7. “You mean a lot of unhappy white parents!” Which I in fact did not mean.

    I wonder where she learned calling every criticism racist was a reasonable position? It’s a mystery.

    1. Welch is arguing in good faith against people who are acting in bad faith.

      See also – gun control.

    2. > I wonder where she learned calling every criticism racist was a
      > reasonable position?

      So far, it has gotten her what she wants. It has been an effective position, whether or not it is reasonable.

  8. How dare you question the plans of the Anointed, you worthless pleb!

    Do you really think they are looking for active participation in these plans rather than just obedience?

    1. Look around this world we made
      Equality our stock in trade
      Come and join the Brotherhood of Man
      Oh, what a nice, contented world
      Let the banners be unfurled
      Hold the Red Star proudly high in hand

  9. Wow, Matt Welch doesn’t want children going to his schools. You still get France healthcare? Amazing people should suffer for your privilege.

    1. Get up off of your damn knees.

      1. Look in the mirror, you’re already in yours.

        1. I’m in my mirror? That’s a relief.

          1. You’re exactly the type of reader Matt has successfully attracted, good job.

            1. Fuck off and die, scumbag.

  10. You can analyze what numbers that are available any which way—in fact, please do!

    Too few numbers for meaningful mathematical analysis. But the closest fit, perhaps coincidental, is:

    G6 = 11230 – 2.9172*GK [r=0.987]

    Based on it, the 2018-19 six grade enrollment is exactly as would be expected compared to the other years. The fact that r is so high is an indication that the fit is largely meaningless.

  11. Maybe Matt can answer. Government schools teach altruism, collectivism–especially racial collectivism–and the initiation of force. All the “school shootings” seem to me–a clueless layman in the field of murdering disarmed innocents–to occur at GOVERNMENT schools as opposed to private schools, at least in These Sovereign States. Is this just my impression, amplified by Google’s inability to fill the screen with amok berserkers shooting up VOLUNTARY schools?

    1. When you’re hammering a lot of square pegs into round holes, some of them are going to split.

  12. These clowns have been running the same scam for decades. It’s a jobs program for education graduates that aren’t qualified to actually teach. Parents of all races and classes actually care more about their own kids well being than some elitist social engineering scheme. Bussing a little kid past her neighborhood school to achieve segregation led to Brown. Doing the same thing to achieve “diversity” is no better from the parent’s perspective. The new improved social engineering purports to be based on socioeconomics not race only because the courts have taken an increasingly dim view of the latter. But in the real world they are one and the same.

    1. Parents of all races and classes actually care more about their own kids well being than some elitist social engineering scheme.

      The elitist point of view is that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

      1. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    2. I want to know about the co2 emissions increase with all this extra travel and traffic time.

    3. It’s a jobs program for education graduates that aren’t qualified to actually teach.

      Especially for Black women who weren’t actually qualified to be college graduates.

      1. Rubber stamping people who aren’t up to snuff is a BS thing. The people it harms the most are those that get rubber stamped, because once they’re in the real world and every employer they ever has finds out they’re incompetent, they’ll still get fired, AND be stuck with tons of student debt they can never repay… And the minorities/women that actually DID deserve to get in, because everybody will assume they’re an incompetent diversity hire too.

        It’s just bad news all around.

  13. So Matt, did you get the girls into Stonewall Jackson Christian Academy?

  14. EQUALITY will not be achieved until not only schools but also families and homes are re-organized by the state.

    1. Hold their beer….

  15. We need to go back to a system which focuses on educating the students who want to learn. Disruptive students should be suspended as a warning then expelled, leaving the remainder in an environment which supports their desire to learn. Disruptive administrators should be removed in favor of ones with a goal of increasing enrollment by making public schools better at what most parents want.

    1. Which market do parents want?? Amazon, Walmart, ShopKo, Sears, eBay (A collection of thousands of choices in itself with one “administration” guideline), JC-Pennies, etc… etc… etc… An utterly endless array of choices to find that perfect ______?

      The key to making “public schools” diverse and being EXACTLY what is wanted – is to remove the general “public” from being dictatively forced to fund the monopoly. Implement tight standards of welfare at the local welfare office for the few parents kids who require “beggar” funding due to medical conditions at city, county or state welfare office.

      Only then will school and education become as close to exactly what parents want and the world needs and practicality can all be balanced out by laws instead of some board members theories.

      1. ^^ “laws of nature”.

    2. Yup. The holding back of good students by bad ones has been a major theme in recent years. Some areas are getting rid of gifted/advanced courses because “it’s not fair.” Yet everything that makes the modern world great was created because we fostered and enabled exceptional people to become educated and invent cool shit like microprocessors and touch screens etc.

      These people are not only destroying the present, but the potential better future as well.

  16. You choose to live in Brooklyn and then complain that they are too racist…er, woke for your tastes. You made your bed, sleep in it!

    I recall visiting NYC in the 70’s and 80’s when it was a violent hellhole. Is it really any better now? Soviet Union and Red China and other repressive places have very low violent crime (ignoring state violence) too.

    1. No…instead of the corner hustlers asking if you wanted blow back then, they now ask if you want xanex, a dark red, and some tissues.

    2. They had violent crime in the Soviet Union, but normally did not wish to discuss it, especially where foreigners might hear.. A scholar of the area and travel expert told me of witnessing a murder outside his lodging in the late 1960s. When he inquired next day what the investigation had learned, everyone claimed he must have imagined it.

      I am more inclined to believe Maoist claims to have wiped out drug abuse. Starving peasants did not have anything of value to pay drug dealers.

      1. Cuba and most repressive states have low crime RATES because the penalties are so severe and trials are a joke. The rate is not zero, however.

        1. As far as for REAL crimes, not victimless crimes, I personally am of the mind we need to go back to harsher punishment in the west. We’ve become FAR too soft.

          Prison should be 1 step above being in hell if you’re there for rape, murder, large value theft, etc. 100% of inmates should be doing forced work, as hard and as shitty of work as we can find. They should pay 100% of their own incarceration costs if possible through this work. We should be handing out death penalties a lot more.

          This is all assuming we can get the court system to be slightly improved in terms of properly finding guilt of course.

  17. Mr. Welch, you should take a look at what is happening in Howard County, MD, which is fighting a similar proposal to redistrict 1/7 of the county’s schoolchildren (7400 out of 58000 kids) away from their neighborhood schools to “balance” Free and Reduced Meal rates and capacity utilization (and failing to move the needle at either). Parents are up in arms, proponents of the plan decry detractors as racists, and the county’s own data shows that the plan won’t close the achievement gap. It’s a mess

  18. As soon as I saw the direction the public school was taking, I got my child out of the ghetto and into a private school. My kid isn’t going to be used as a role model or babysitter for low performing peers. I want my kid to have the best, and that meant getting the hell out of the public system. It is stupid for parents to sacrifice their children’s success on the altar of diversity.

    1. Zealots gon’ zealot. People literally sacrificed their children for many previous forms of religion, so ruining yours kids life prospects is far less crazy for a True Believer than literally cutting their heart out or whatever.

  19. How to close the achievement gap: Don’t make babies until after you’ve graduated from high school, found a job, and gotten married. That’s all it takes. In twenty years the gaps not just in school achievement, but in social pathologies of all types, would disappear.

    1. I won’t go into great detail, but this stuff only gets you so far. All that is obviously a good thing… But it’s a chicken and the egg scenario. It’s mainly that certain people are doomed to be failures, at least to a certain degree.

      I’ve seen some break downs of stats. Back in the day being married didn’t account for much/any of the gap, because dysfunctional people were forced to stay married by social pressure. Their kids were still fuck ups.

      In short, people that make bad decisions now no longer get married, but when they did they were still a wreck. People that aren’t fuckups tend to hold jobs, get married etc even though one could not do so today and not be a pariah.

      One big piece of evidence that it’s basically just shit people is that one category of single mothers doesn’t have horrible results with their kids: The kind where their husband died. They do basically as well as kids from 2 parent households.

      So while some stability would come back from forcing 2 parent households, it’s those dysfunctional people themselves that are the problem.

      1. Not surprised that you looked at this through your lens of racism and missed the point.

      2. What was racist in the post? I didn’t even mention race. That info applied to ALL races blow it cases.

        As I said below, facts are facts, whether you like them or not. The truth is everybody is born how they are born. Some people are smart, and some people are dumb.

        All serious science shows that intelligence is 50-80% inherited genetically from your parents, with the most common finding being in the 60-70% range. Environment, nutrition, genetic randomness, etc account for the rest.

        But what that means is that dumb people MOSTLY have dumb kids. There’s some genetic randomness in there… But people are mostly born the way they’re born. Poor neighborhoods are filled with less intelligent people, who have less intelligent kids, ergo schools in poor neighborhoods mostly have not that bright kids.

        There will always be some smart kids in a poor school, and idiots in a rich school… But statistics don’t lie. Averages are a thing.

  20. Although I would vote against something like this, the fact that they use economic instead of racial data is at least Constitutional.

  21. My wife and I are homeschooling our kid. This is another reminder why.

    But its not all roses. Sadly homeschoolers still have to fight the government…..policy proposals aimed at homeschoolers, police and child protective service calls..

  22. Your first mistake is living in an overrated overpriced den of idiocy like New York City.

  23. If they actually cared about getting the BEST results for all students possible, instead of the most EQUAL results for all students possible… They would break the schools up based on scholastic ability, putting people with other kids of their same approximate intelligence, which would allow the classes to move at the right rate for the kids in the classes. Smart kids could move faster and get farther, medium and less smart kids could get the attention they need to do as well as they can.

    But of course they don’t want anybody to excel, because excellence is evil.

    1. Unfortunately, our country has a horrible history of racism that makes it perfectly reasonable for Blacks and other minorities not to trust that the classification of students would be done fairly and objectively.

      1. Then it’s their own damn fault for believing in boogeymen.

        1. For much of their history there WERE boogeymen. Observing reality is not a fault.

      2. Unfortunately tests are objective… And some groups do better on them than others. These tests results carry through to their real life outcomes for the most part… Blame it on dysfunction, inherent ability, whatever you want… But the bottom line is a class filtered by scholastic ability would be largely racially segregated. A school with Jews, whites, and Asians, and a few others thrown in… And one filled with everybody else.

        It’s not the school or the teachers that make poor students fail… It’s the kids themselves.

  24. City Council passed a bill requiring every school district to create its own “diversity working group” and subsequent action plan

    So it’s a job creation scam.

    1. They adjusted our local school district a bit to be more “diverse” a few years ago and while there was not an immediate exodus of affluent families, the watered down curriculum eventually drove many, including us, to private or parochial schools. We live in what was one of the better districts and the state test scores took a hit with the more diverse student body to the point the school was almost de-accredited. The school responded to by focusing on training kids to take the test instead of actually teaching subjects and they stopped assigning homework too. Almost half the teachers left and the rest rarely show up, since, well, they don’t really need to because they don’t really teach anything.

  25. These days, being called a racist by the Progressive Left is damn near a badge of honor. In usage ‘racist’ has come to mean ‘person comfortable with thinking for themselves, who doesn’t buy in to our failed narrative’.

    We’re going to have to come up with a new pejorative to describe ACTUAL racists.

    1. Let’s call them “veks”.

      1. Because I can read statistics and believe in objective reality?

        Reality isn’t racist… But it is reality. Too many people like to ignore facts because they don’t like them, but in the end that doesn’t get you anywhere good.

  26. Why would anyone except the very rich or the very poor choose to live in a major city?

    In any decent place in America, you could afford private school, or to keep a parent home to raise the kids. But you’ve chosen to live in a place where if you want an education for your kids, you have to pay hedge fund manager prices for it.

    You write words on the internet… You can do that from Asheville or Athens or somewhere livable.

  27. Marxist swine really overplaying their hand here. You can’t have “all schools represent the socioeconomic and racial diversity” without all neighborhoods representing it as well. This goes far beyond bussing; it’s anti free association. You aren’t allowed to pay to live somewhere nicer.

    It’s a great time to buy stock in helicopters.

  28. So can we send all the illegal alien kids to school in NYC so the proportion of whites in any one school will be reduced to whatever the school board thinks is right?

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