Segregation Has Been the Story of New York City’s Schools for 50 Years

It’s important to understand the political climate before the NY State legislature decided to pass Hecht-Calandra in 1971. The New York Times does a great job filing in that context.

In 2016, a proposal to send some Upper West Side children — who were zoned for a high-performing, mostly white, wealthy elementary school near their homes — to a lower-performing school, attended mostly by low-income black and Hispanic students, about a ten-minute walk away, was met with vitriol.


A version of the plan — which ultimately impacted a relatively small number of schools — eventually passed after years of negotiations.

Stuyvesant Alumni President: Calling NYC Schools ‘Segregated’ Makes Me ‘Feel Like I’m a Bad Person’

“How is this possible, that people are saying we’re segregated, we’re Jim Crow,” Kim told the Times. “These words are too harsh. It makes me feel like I’m a bad person.”

This is a striking and revelatory assessment of what’s happening. New York City officials admitted long ago to having a segregated public school system, and committed to integration. A 1955 study — conducted the year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education — found that 42 city elementary schools were more than 90 percent black and Puerto Rican, and nine middle schools were more than 85 percent.

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The anniversary of de Rivera’s battle comes amid another controversy about diversity at Stuyvesant. The school accepts students based entirely on an entrance exam, and the result is that few black and Latino students are admitted. (Only ten black students were admitted to Stuyvesant’s incoming class last year.) Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed eliminating the test for all of the specialized public schools in the city and offering admission to the top seven per cent of students in each district, insuring more diverse enrollment.