Buffalo Schools Trying to Balance Selectivity with Diversity


The Buffalo School District in New York State has hired a civil rights expert who says the best schools in the city are in need of a change in terms of requirements for admission.

The report, written by Dr. Gary Orfield, found the city to be divided by race and poverty.  These conditions have resulted in a school system that discriminates against minority students in the city who do not receive a quality education, reports Rich Newberg for WIVB.

The report came as a result of federal complaints to the US Department of Education by parents throughout the city concerning the number of minority children found in Buffalo’s criteria-based schools.

“Obviously, we as parents have been saying this for years,” DPCC President Sam Radford said. “We said it to the board of education and the administration. Nothing was done about it. We said it to the State Education Department. Nothing was done about it.”

In all, the report found that 75% of applicants who were rejected from criteria-based schools were of African American decent.  In addition, many criteria schools were found to hire a limited number of teachers of color.  “Rather than redistribute the scarce opportunity, the necessity is to increase the quality and quantity of the opportunity,” Orfield said.

Orfield suggested that the Buffalo School Board put less weight on a student’s IQ for their admissions requirements.  He would also like to see 10% of seats at each criteria-based school to be set aside for students who show strong signs of potential.  Other recommendations included an overhaul of how information from the district reaches parents, as well as the creation of three new criteria-based city schools and a magnet school to be shared by the city and the suburbs, writes Sandra Tan for The Buffalo News.

However, many parents throughout the city feel that doing so could lower standards at these schools and take away from students with advanced skills.  Many feel that allowing the admission of students with behavioral problems could result in the disruption of classroom instruction.

“If you change the admissions standards for City Honors,” said parent Jason Amos, “you’re going to lose what City Honors is.”

According to the study, the choice system in the city has plateaued.  While schools across the city saw great success years ago when magnet schools were created, that success has since diminished.

“The student and faculty populations in some schools have resegregated,” the report noted. “The system has not been strong enough to compete with the new charter schools,or adopt to the city’s changing population.”