There are New York City schools with only black students, schools that are largely white, and schools where every student is Asian.
For years, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been under pressure to more fully integrate the city's 1,800 public schools. Now, an advisory panel he named 20 months ago has released its first set of recommendations.
"We have to be much more aggressive, we have to take this on, and it has to be something we commit to and we do not turn away from," Maya Wiley, the chair of the School Diversity Advisory Group, said at a news conference about the report.
The panel is recommending setting diversity targets for each school, and evaluating the schools on whether the targets are achieved. The city education department currently evaluates schools based on students' academic performances and improvement, so adding diversity goals would be a significant change. The panel also wants the mayor to appoint a chief integration officer to direct all school diversity efforts.
The group names nine school districts where it says the neighborhoods are very diverse but the schools are still very segregated. It recommends the mayor require each to put in place an integration plan. That includes most of Manhattan, all of Staten Island, and neighborhoods like Forest Hills in Queens.
De Blasio has resisted even using the words segregation or integration, instead calling it a diversity issue. Now, he must decide whether to implement the recommendations from his advisory group.
"I think it's a good example of bringing in talented people who are looking to help us move forward and getting their ideas, and it's going to help us as we think about our next steps," the mayor said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday.
But Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who came on board last April and has been much explicit than de Blasio in talking about the problem, more fully embraced the panel's work.
"We are here today because we are acknowledging the elephant that is in the room — in many rooms," the chancellor said at the news conference for the report. "It's called segregation. We're here today to call this problem what it is and confront it head-on."
The report does not offer recommendations on what the city should do about gifted and talented classes or the specialized high schools — two programs that serve very few black and Latino students. But the group will continue to meet and expects to release a second report by the summer.
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