Students From Harlem To Hollis Are Fleeing Their Neighborhood Schools

Patch reports that influential leaders such as Mayor Bill de Blasio argue the racial segregation of New York City’s public schools is largely a consequence of where students live. But a new study showing how thousands of students have fled their neighborhood schools raises questions about that argument.

Some 40 percent of kindergartners attended elementary schools other than their zoned neighborhood school in the 2016-17 school year, according to a study published Wednesday by the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. That means more than 27,000 kindergartners leave their neighborhoods each day for charter schools, schools with specialized programs or regular public schools in other parts of the city.

Conversely, the proportion of kindergartners who enter their zoned schools has dropped from 72 percent in the 2007-08 school year to 60 percent in 2016-17, according to the analysis of kindergarten enrollment data over the past decade.

The increased migration may have exacerbated segregation rather than reduced it, the study shows.

If every elementary student attended their zoned school, more than 6,000 additional kindergartners would attend schools with proportions of students receiving free lunch that are close to the city average. And about 2,300 more kindergartners would be in schools that the Department of Education would consider “racially representative.”

“School choice may indeed give thousands of children better educational opportunities by allowing them to escape low-performing schools in their neighborhoods,” the study’s authors — Nicole Mader, Clara Hemphill and Qasim Abbas — wrote. “But the schools they leave behind face ever-greater challenges as they struggle to serve the city’s neediest children.”

While many students attend schools near their homes, the study says, about a third cross neighborhood boundaries, often into more affluent areas. Harlem students, for instance, may go to the Upper West Side, while some Crown Heights students head north to Fort Greene.

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