Afrocentric schools’ appeal

New York City, home of the nation’s largest school district, remains one of the most segregated.  But rather than demand integration, some black parents are opting for schools that are specifically designed for their children (“ ‘I Love My skin!’ Why Black Parents Are Turning to Afrocentric Schools,” The New York Times, Jan. 8).  These Afrocentric schools tend to post high test scores and high graduation rates compared with other public schools in the city.

I understand the reason that some black parents – not all by any means – have chosen to enroll their children in Afrocentric schools.  But I wonder if abandoning integration serves these students well in the long run.  One of the most persistent goals in education is promoting diversity. But these schools by their very nature do not do so.  Yes, there are some Hispanic students enrolled but few, if any, whites.  In an increasing diversified workforce, will black students who have self-segregated be shortchanged?  Nevertheless, as readers of this column know, I support parental choice.

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2 Replies to “Afrocentric schools’ appeal”

  1. In NYC, as I understand the system, virtually all the taxpayer-supported schools (regular and charter) enroll via application + if a student’s parents do not submit an application, the student is assigned to the geographically closest school with empty seats. This results in bizarre kind of tracking of students based on parents’ characteristics — the concerned/functional parents identify schools they think are good for their kids and enroll their kids there while the unconcerned/dysfunctional parents either enroll their kids in whichever school is closest to their home (to minimize transportation hassles) or don’t submit any application so their kids end up in a school relatively close to their home that the concerned/functional parents have taken a pass on. The students of the concerned/functional parents often end up traveling all over NYC — via public transportation or parents driving them.

    Seems likely that these African-Centric schools will attract the children of the concerned/functional black parents (since these schools, whatever their other characteristics, have something special about them that will call them to the attention of the concerned/functional parents. Likewise, none of the concerned/functional white parents will enroll their kids in these schools. Overall, the African-Centric schools should therefore have somewhat better test scores than the not-special majority-black/Hispanic schools but somewhat lower test scores than the schools that attract the attention of white, Asian, black and Hispanic concerned/functional parents.

    As always, I argue to forget about the enrollment-via-application approach and reinstate tracking in the neighborhood public schools.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: I find it ironic that after so many years fighting for school integration, so many black parents are self-segregating in Afrocentric schools. They certainly have the right to do so, but I question if their children are being shortchanged. The world in which they will enter is increasingly diversified.

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