White-identifying parents say NO to ALL middle school screens

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As a white-identifying parent with a child (or children) in the New York City school system, I call for an end to ALL discriminatory and segregative middle school admissions screens and applaud your stance against racism in our school system.

I support the District 3 CEC’s plan to create more academic and racial diversity at competitive middle schools on the Upper West Side, but I also believe that we should take a bolder step toward equity: It is past time to end the use of all middle-school enrollment screens (except those designed to identify extraordinary talent in the arts, as long as those screening mechanisms are counterweighted by socioeconomic factors, such as free-lunch eligibility, mother's education level, or the fact that a student lives in temporary housing*) system wide. These screens systematically isolate and exclude students of color, and must be removed.

In the wake of the much-publicized debate over the CEC 3 plan, I applaud Computer School Principal Henry Zymeck for pushing back against parents who raised objections. Chancellor Carranza, I am also glad that you have stepped into the debate, and regret that you have felt compelled to apologize for your tweet on the topic. I stand with all leaders who are unafraid to point out the racism in our current school system.

Leadership is crucial because these screens, which are just one mechanism leveraged to protect and maintain the racial segregation of the city’s public schools, could be removed with a stroke of a pen. Chancellor Carranza, you could make this move tomorrow.

As a white parent, I understand that this segregation, which, as the students of IntegrateNYC remind us, results in schools that are #StillNotEqual, is segregation in which white parents like me have been, and still are, complicit. I understand that students of color suffer most acutely when "race-neutral" school admissions policies like screens operate in the context of white supremacy, a context we are very much living in today. I understand that these policies prioritize and privilege white middle-class students—like my own children—in navigating the choice system, and facilitate the concentration of students with the highest needs into schools serving mostly Black and Latinx students.

And as a white parent, I say that this unfair advantage for some children must end. As an alternative to screened admissions, I point to the idea of district-wide “controlled choice” approaches for middle schools in diverse but segregated community-school districts, per Council Member Brad Lander’s City Council Report, Desegregating NYC.

Desegregating our school system—and our whole city—is a huge job, but there is much good work underway, and strong momentum for change. It's an ideal moment to take a decisive policy step forward. Chancellor Carranza, please remove all middle-school admissions screens for the 2019-2020 school year. 

*Detail on arts screens added on May 4, in consultation with IntegrateNYC