Last Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and community leaders announced the decision at MS 51 in Park Slope. The city will adopt recommendations released by a 16-member working group made up of educators, parents and advocates.
The desegregation plan, developed after a year of meetings and public workshops, will go into effect for students entering the sixth grade in fall 2019.
“Why this plan is so powerful is it was created by this community, for this community,” de Blasio said at the announcement. “This is truly an expression of grassroots leadership.”
The diversity plan will remove screens from all middle schools in the district, which includes neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Sunset Park and Gowanus.
According to the city, ten of the district’s 11 middle schools previously used screening for admissions, including the consideration of grades, test scores and attendance.
Instead, the middle schools will prioritize 52 percent of sixth grade seats for students from low-income families, English Language Learners and students in temporary housing.
Additionally, the Department of Education (DOE) will create a District 15 Middle School Admissions Coordinator and outreach team to facilitate the transition. Another position, the diversity, equity and integration coordinator, will provide funding for teacher training and support.
The diversity plan has “unanimous support” from all district elementary and middle school principals, the city said.
“Today is literally the shot heard round the world as it pertains to equity in our city,” Carranza said. “This D15 Working Group took that challenge, invested themselves, invested their neighbors and came out with a plan that I think is actually a template for many others in our community.
“What I also appreciate is that they just didn’t come together and have a big screamfest,” he added. “They looked at data, they look at potential solutions, they had real back and forth as a community. They arrived at an answer as a community.”
De Blasio also announced that the city will launch a $2 million grant program to help other school districts develop their own diversity plans. The funding will be used to support community planning processes, including hiring outside firms, hosting meetings and providing materials.
School districts can apply for the grant in the fall. City officials expect ten districts to participate in the initial round of grants.
“We believe in the broad vision, but we think it has to be done district by district in the right way,” de Blasio said. “So we have to be there with expertise and we have to be there with time and energy.”
The mayor, who was once a District 15 parent himself, said he was part of a similar group of parents 15 years ago called the “diversity committee.” The group came up with models to address diversity issues and brought the plan to tDOE, which gave them the “coldest shoulder you’ve ever seen.”
“We believe there was a way for kids of all backgrounds to learn together, that everyone would benefit,” he said. “But the DOE did not share that commitment, so that effort went nowhere. What a difference 15 years makes.”