Report: Unfair Gap Between Blacks/Hispanics, Whites/Asians in NYC

A new report suggests that in New York City schools, disparities in access to college-level courses and school facilities exist between black and Hispanic high school students and their whites and Asian high school peers.

The report charges that a difference in learning facilities and opportunities in New York City schools is marked between predominantly black and Hispanic schools as compared to the whites and Asian schools. On average, white and Asian students attend high schools with twice as many Advanced Placement courses and almost twice as many science labs as schools populated by black and Hispanic students, writes Ben Chapman of the New York Daily News.

The findings come from analysis of 2011-12 school year data from the Education Department. Despite the suggestion that the data shows bias, the report was described as “extremely misleading” by a spokeswoman from the Educational Department.

City high schools that admit fewer black and Hispanic students have come under criticism in recent years because their admission policies tend to herd black and Hispanic students in underperforming schools, thus setting them up for failure. This system has been described as racially biased by Education Law Center attorney Wendy Lecker, who filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights that calls for a federal investigation and overhaul of a system that they say concentrates minority students in struggling high schools that are packed with high-needs pupils.

“The city is sending African-American and Latino students to schools where they are much less likely to earn a diploma,” said Wendy Lecker. “We want new policies to give all students a fair shot.”

It’s no surprise that such a system has led to the unequal distribution of resources in schools. A report by the Independent Budget Office states that black and Hispanic students have fewer science subjects available in their high schools and fewer arts classes and rooms as compared to whites and Asian students. They’re also less likely to have a library, medical office or gym in their school buildings.

Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at the Alliance for Quality Education, an activist group that requested the budget office report, argues that most kids in the city are black or Latino, yet less is being done for them.

“It’s alarming and it’s frustrating,” she said. “Most kids in the city are Black or Latino, but there’s a lot less for them. It’s not fair.”

Disparities highlighted in the report are being addressed, say education officials. However, some reports are contrary to that claim. Just 15.3% of black kids and 18.6% of Hispanic kids in the city system passed state math tests in 2013, compared with 50.1% of white kids and 61.4% of Asian kids, showing lack of results by the city to reduce the achievement gap faced by black and Hispanic kids on measures of student performance such as state math tests.

The budget office analysis notes that participation in AP classes, for which students can receive college credit, has increased across all racial and ethnic groups since 2003. However, Education Department spokeswoman Erin Hughes, pointed out that AP data may not tell the full story because it doesn’t cover other college-level classes.

“This report is extremely misleading,” he said. “It fails to account for the other college preparatory courses besides AP that are offered and taken by nearly 27,000 students across the city.”

Hughes also said that 57% of the students who participate in the city’s College Now programs, which offer college prep and college-credit courses, are black or Hispanic.

“This report is extremely misleading,” he said. “It fails to account for the other college preparatory courses besides AP that are offered and taken by nearly 27,000 students across the city.”