2016: Click here for updated data on demographics in D1 and controlled choice admission policies.


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Presentation on D1 School Diversity – CEC 1 President, Lisa Donlan

“Welcome Chancellor Fariña, parents, teachers, administrators, community members and students of District One (D1).

 We thought it would be good to introduce our new Chancellor on her first formal visit to CEC 1 to our community with a short presentation about our district schools.

I am sure that D1 is like many of the communities you visit every day, Chancellor. I am sure that the hopes dreams aspirations and challenges that our families and schools face are similar to those you see each day though out the New York City Public School system.

We face insufficient budgets, rising class sizes, curriculum narrowed by the national obsession with testing and inadequate facilities. While D1 is rich in school buildings, many were built over 100 years ago to accommodate the many waves of immigration to the Lower East Side and thus lack “modern” amenities such as gyms, cooking kitchens, labs and many need major repairs.

Some 85% of our schools share buildings with one or more schools- as they have been doing since the late 80’s when the Community School Board (CSB) of District One created small innovative programs that were cited in unused portions of our existing school buildings.

Our CSB, like you, believed in early childhood education as a way to reduce the historical resource and opportunity gaps, so all of our schools have had full day pre-k for generations.

Under the CSB, many of our schools operated as early examples of the community school- knowing that providing services and supports such as clinics, job training, language classes and after school programs for the whole child and her family pays dividends in long term outcomes.

Yet D1 is also unique in many ways.

We are geographically and numerically very small. We are quite diverse and we have a long history of advocating for school diversity and equity of access.

From 1991-2002: CSBS removed zones/catchments and implemented measures of fairness for lotteries in oversubscribed schools, based on gender, race, ethnicity- eventually adding linguistic, socioeconomic and academic diversity. The goal was to allow all families equal access to our neighborhood schools so that all of our schools would eventually serve and reflect our diverse neighborhood.

In 2004 under mayoral control, and centralization, D1’s diversity based assignment plan was turned into a market based open enrollment system with no measures or controls for fairness or equity.

As a community, we have been working together ever since with our elected officials and the DoE to return to a system that is built on parent choice but that also allows us to achieve our community values of equity and diversity. We have held summits and forums, protests and press conferences, organized petitions, work groups and task forces. We have proposed improvements to the admissions policy in many ways- not just for D1 but even for the rest of the city. But we are still operating under the open enrollment/ market based system imposed on us 10 years ago. As your predecessor, Ch. Dennis Walcott, once put it -in this very auditorium- for the last administration- Choice was equity.

However a data study we commissioned last fall shows that admissions policies matter. Looking at our schools from 1999-2011, we see that under open enrollment more D1 families chose to attend our neighborhood schools BUT the schools have also become increasingly segregated by race, socioeconomic status and academic performance.

What does this look like?

Using data from NYSED from 2012-13 us see that:

Students in Temporary Housing: one of the most academically at risk groups are largely concentrated in a few schools that serve 3-4 times the district average (13%) while many serve very few Students in Temporary Housing.

Economically Disadvantaged Students: a measure used by the State Education Department to identify low income families, another factor that correlates with lower academic outcomes. The average for D1 is 79%, yet in many of our schools 90% -100% of the students are low income while a few schools serve fewer than 50%.

Title is distributed in much the same way.

English Language Leaners:  a sub group that correlates statewide with lower academic performance are also concentrated in a few schools that serve again 3-4 x the district average (10%) while a number of schools serve fewer than 5% ELLS.

Interestingly Students With Disabilities, another at risk subgroup, is somewhat less unevenly distributed.

While a few schools serve few Students With Disabilities (because of their admissions priorities as Gifted and Talented or Dual Language schools) most of our schools are fairly distributed around the average (9 above, 9 below) because for a number of years our District Leadership Team has worked with Office of School Enrollment to monitor the school averages to ensure that all schools are serving our Students With Disabilities fairly, as this was one of the sub groups under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that caused our district to be categorized a District In Need of Improvement (DINI). This indicates that managing for fairness can make a difference, resulting in a more even and fair distribution.

What does this mean for our schools?

If we look at racial/ethnic demographics we see four general clusterings of schools:

  1. Half the district schools (13/25) are largely Black and Latino ( district average= 70%) at high 80s-90s%
  2. A few school that serve a noticeably larger percentage of Asian students above the average
  3. A few schools reflect the district demographics- more or less- such as Tompkins Square Middle School that purposefully uses its ability to select students to achieve diversity- academic, socio economic and racial/ethnicity
  4. Around ¼ or 6 schools serve a significantly higher percentage of white students than the district average (13%)


Looking at these same groups we see strong academic correlations among them as well. How can we talk about “value added” or “school quality” when schools are not operating on a level playing field?

And in a choice based district this dynamic can only be self-perpetuating- as it has been, as the data makes clear.

Last January we held a community charrette to envision a new school for D1 in SPURA or the huge Essex Crossing Development that is soon going to change the face of the Lower East Side.

Diversity was an uncontested and unifying value that emerged along with the need for a Pre-K – 8th grade Spanish Dual Language program steeped in STEAM, gardening and play based curriculum, portfolio evaluation and assessment.

Then as follow up in March we piloted a workshop to engage parents on the topic of school diversity and integration.

This month we launch a series of 7 similar community workshops ( that grow out of the pilot) to be held over the academic year that will help our community members work towards consensus over what school diversity looks like.

By June we hope to have a clear picture of the parameters the D1 community agrees make for a diverse school.

Based on active design principles and learning sessions led experts (like Michael Alves- national leader in school diversity assignment plans, here with us tonight) participants will learn about the district’s growing segregation, have the opportunity to learn about solutions and collaboratively negotiate the values and factors that can make schools more diverse and equitable in facilitated break out groups.

Each session will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders- from our community schools, housing developments and CBOs.

The first one is scheduled for Oct 25th– we are doing outreach beginning tonight to pull people in to participate, so please take a hand out and mark your calendars!

Before I close I wanted to give a brief opportunity to some of the representatives in the audience form our numerous school based diversity task forces to make a brief comment about their work on this issue.

Sally Lee – Children’s Workshop

Michelle Withim – The Neighborhood School

Devan Aptekar – Tompkins Square Middle School

I know that was a lot of information and data- I thank you all for listening and I look forward to hearing from our Chancellor and you in the next part of the program. ”