Last week, the New York City Department of Education announced that they would not be rezoning several schools in Manhattan’s District 3 on the Upper West Side. Due to a flurry of new high-rises, the very popular and high-scoring PS 199 has had to wait-list and turn away families zoned for the school. The DOE attempted to send the overflow to nearby PS 191, a school that encompasses the Lincoln Center projects, with much lower test scores, and one that’s been classified as Persistently Dangerous by the city.
There had been talk of compressing the PS 199 zone and making less families eligible to apply, but an outcry from parents tabled the plans for 2016 Kindergarten admissions. Despite his fiery, “tale of two cities” rhetoric, Mayor Bill de Blasio has no interest in upsetting his wealthier constituents. (This, of course, does not solve the overcrowding problem in any way. Many families who didn’t get into PS 199 and refused to go to PS 191 have been sent to PS 452, instead, a school that was originally created to decrease overcrowding at the even more popular PS 87, and one that has a very similar, affluent demographic, albeit slightly lower test scores.)
Following the announcement of no rezoning for PS 199, the DOE did promptly release on Friday an admissions pilot at seven other elementary schools, designed to promote diversity. These handpicked schools will give priority in 2016 Kindergarten admissions to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch (FRL), English Language Learners (ELLs), or students in the child welfare system.
But will it really make much of a difference? The schools in question are:
* Neighborhood School in Manhattan: Students who qualify for FRL or are ELLs would have priority for 45% of seats. The school is currently at 38% FRL and 5% ELL.
* Earth School in Manhattan: Students who qualify for FRL or are ELLs would have priority for 45% of seats. The school is currently 42% FRL and 5% ELL.
* Castle Bridge School in Manhattan: Students from families impacted by incarceration would have priority for10% of seats and students who qualify for FRL would have priority for 60% of seats. The school is currently at 48% FRL and 19% ELL.
* Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn: Students who qualify for FRL would have priority for 40% of seats. The school is currently 33% FRL.
* PS 146 Brooklyn New School in Brooklyn: Students who qualify for FRL would have priority after siblings and current pre-K students. The school is currently at 28% FRL.
* The Children’s School in Brooklyn: Students who qualify for FRL or are ELLs would have priority for one-third of seats. The school currently has no FRL or ELL students.
* Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School: Students who are ELLs or are in the child welfare system would have priority for 20% of seats. The school is currently 8% ELL. However, it is 64% FRL. Unlike the schools above, which already draw students from across their district and even the borough, PS 705 is a zoned school (that accepts out of zone students for their Dual Language Spanish program). With the change in priority, it is conceivable that a zoned FRL student would be wait-listed in favor of an unzoned ELL student in order to prop up the Dual Language program.
Save for The Children’s School in Brooklyn, it does not appear that the new admissions priority would substantially affect – or diversify – the student body. Patrick Wall, who wrote a Chalkbeat post about the change, clarified over Twitter: The idea is to preserve that mix even as/if more affluent students seek to enroll there.
Do you think it will work? And do you think the city should be dictating zoned school policy?
Learn more about all your NYC Kindergarten options, including zoned and unzoned schools, as well as Dual Language programs, here.