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‘Households like ours do it as best we can’: Readers respond to Brooklyn’s school segregation

M.S. 51 in Park Slope is one of the most coveted schools in District 15, and it stands to potentially change its student body dramatically with a new integration plan in place.
M.S. 51 in Park Slope is one of the most coveted schools in District 15, and it stands to potentially change its student body dramatically with a new integration plan in place.
Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat

On Wednesday, Chalkbeat published a story about how middle schools in one part of Brooklyn are highly segregated by race and class. It’s a story about how admissions policies that involve reviewing the academic records of 10- and 11-year-olds — and a whole series of other choices — help privileged families congregate in the neighborhood’s “Big Three” middle schools.

The report struck a chord, and we’ve rounded up some of your responses below.

One reader argued that integrating the district’s schools is a matter of making sure they all have equally rigorous academic programs.

Simple obvious solution in order to attract high performing students to schools beyond the three: offer the same accelerated classes that the top three offer. That’s all parents want, to have a guarantee that their child will be challenged and be ready for a good high school. No parent with means will settle if their child does not receive an offer to the top three. Those students also apply to Mark Twain, NEST and private schools. Don’t expect them to put lower performing schools on their application without giving them what they want.
parentk

A self-described minority parent who lives in District 15 explained how the admissions system has created a great deal of heartache for his family.

Only my oldest made it into one of the big 3. My youngest did get a seat in Mark Twain, but my middle child has had a very difficult time with both the middle school and high school process. All my children are academically equal in their achievements with strengths in some subjects over others so there is no real explanation for the way the cards have been dealt to our middle child. I do agree that it is the people with financial means that get the seats. They get the tutors and the consultants to help them while households like ours do it as best we can. I think our home could be a case study on how broken this “choice” system is.
BklynDad

Jill Bloomberg, the principal of Park Slope Collegiate, a school in the neighborhood (and who was quoted in the piece), wrote that residents “have to stop wringing our hands” and must move to change admissions policies.

It’s not hard to find a way to integrate the middle schools in District 15 and around the city; it’s hard to find the will. The news these days is full of calls to wake up to the racist divisions in our society that represent the underlying causes of the killings in Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. At Park Slope Collegiate we have created an admissions policy designed to create a student body that is reflective of our district, borough and city. We are committed to creating that same integration within our classrooms. Every middle school in D15 could adopt similar policies today.

Another commenter wrote that many parents in the district know their kids can succeed without clamoring for a spot at the most competitive schools.

This article is very dismissive of the many other schools in District 15 that offer a fine education even if they do serve mostly low-income students. There is a smaller subset of parents who seem to believe that without going to one of the Big 3 (really the Big 2 — New Voices doesn’t even look at test scores in admissions) – they will not get into a good high school. But there are more parents — including those in Sunset Park — who know that isn’t true.
parent010203

Another potential integration solution? Automatic admission in certain areas.

I would recommend some variation of the Midwood H.S. model as part of the solution. This would mean that each middle school had a geographic zone with automatic admissions as well as room for applicants from outside the zone. This would reduce the madness of the application process for the parents in the zones, which would make them more likely to buy into the new system.
Stanley998

One take: The “Big Three” schools are actually quite integrated, even if they don’t match the district’s demographics.

It is worth pointing out that in the “big three” nearly 50 percent of the children are NOT White, and nearly 25 percent are low income. That looks like integrated schools to me, not segregated schools. Another way of describing the situation is this: in a segregated metro area, with a city whose public schools primarily serve the minority poor (because everyone else flees them), the Big Three are among the limited number of schools that are NOT segregated. If Whites were randomly distributed across the city, all the schools would have populations that were closer to the District 15 non-big three.
Larry Littlefield

Others had a simpler point: “Nothing new here.”

More affluent parents are more likely to themselves have had success at education–no shocker that the kids they are raising have an easier time at school. Also no surprise that parents who prioritize education and have the resources to do their research and legwork will choose the best school available for their child, and that parents who lack the resources will send to the default school.
GwenL

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