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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Complaint filed with Office of Civil Rights claims Bloomberg administration widens gap and violates rights of minority students in HS admissions process

Wendy Lecker of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity/Education Law Center has an excellent piece in Schoolbook, about the complaint just filed with the  U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf a group of NYC parents and advocacy groups.  The complaint shows that:

 "the D.O.E.’s high school admissions policy consigns African-American and Latino students overwhelmingly to schools with the highest concentration of high-needs students, which significantly diminishes their chances for obtaining a high school diploma. Moreover, the city has known about this inequity for years and has done nothing to address it."

We already knew about the confidential 2008 Parthenon report which I gave to GothamSchools in 2011, showing that the percentage of overage entering ninth graders was highly predictive of whether a high school would struggle or not.  As this report plaintively asked,

"Should we consider constraints on the [high school] admissions process that take into consideration the predicted graduation rate of the school? (e.g. “don’t allow any school to have a predicted rate less than 45%”)"

What I hadn't know was that there was an earlier Parthenon report in 2006 with similar findings.  And yet to this day, through its admission policies, the DOE consigns some high schools to failure by assigning to them an high concentration of at-risk, mostly minority students, many of them over-age and with special needs.

In fact, as an IBO report showed, as high schools start to decline, the DOE overcrowds the school with even more high-needs students, accelerating the decline, until the school is deemed a failure and is phased out.  When that happens, the support for the students is withdrawn, dropout and discharge rates spike, and the at-risk students who would have attended the school are diverted to other schools nearby, causing them to struggle.  As Wendy writes:

Although the Bloomberg administration prides itself on the use of data in its efforts to reduce New York City’s achievement gap, the complaint reveals that for at least seven years the D.O.E. has ignored its own data demonstrating that its policies have contributed to widening that gap.

Here is a copy of the complaint, where she asks that the DOE be required to implement a "controlled choice" admissions process to ensure no high school receives a disproportionate number of at-risk students. Hopefully the next mayor and chancellor will be more attentive to the issues of equity than the Bloomberg administration has been.

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