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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Integration’s limits

Success Academy Cobble Hill is one of a handful of New York City schools with a racially and economically diverse student body and a very small achievement gap.

When advantaged and disadvantaged students go to the same New York City elementary schools, achievement gaps are wide, reports Elizabeth A. Harris in the New York Times.

A New School analysis — with a cool interactive map — shows the third-to-fifth-grade math performance by race and approximate household income at each school.

“Very low-income black and Hispanic students usually go to school almost entirely with one another, encountering very little racial or socioeconomic diversity,” Harris writes. Schools that have diversity in enrollment rarely have equal results.

Take P.S. 8, the Robert Fulton school in Brooklyn Heights, which the Center for American Progress identified last year as having one of the richest Parent Teacher Associations in the country, and which has a relatively diverse student body. While 64 percent of its students passed the state math test in 2016, compared with 36 percent of students citywide, black students at the school were nearly a full proficiency level behind their white peers. Black students at the school also had significantly lower estimated incomes than white students.

It’s not enough to have different kinds of students in the same building, said Nicole Mader, the co-author of the study. “There’s a big leap between having diversity and having integration.”

However, schools in the controversial Success Academy charter network defied the trend. They showed “extremely high test scores for its students who are mostly poor minorities,” writes Harris. At the more diverse Success Academy Cobble Hill, the achievement gap is small, “with students doing equally well despite racial and socioeconomic differences.”

“Even though their income gaps are some of the widest on this chart, their test score gaps are among the smallest,” Mader said.

Why isn’t everyone studying Success to see how to replicate its results?

Educating all students is difficult, writes Matthew Levey of International Charter School of New York, a diverse-by-design school. “I raised this same concern three years ago, observing that the average Black-White achievement gap in seven desirable Brooklyn elementary schools was 37 percentage points in English and 43 in math.”

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