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Dividing Line

A tale of two schools

Diversity Delayed


brown at 60

New York

Researcher: Gentrification can turn into school integration

The Useable Knowledge series brings education research to GothamSchools readers. In the second installment, Jennifer Stillman presents her research into racially diverse schools in gentrifying neighborhoods. Stillman, a research analyst for the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation, earned a doctorate in politics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She lives in Harlem. Leave questions for Stillman about her research in the comments section.  What questions guided your research?  I researched the process of school integration in gentrifying neighborhoods because I think school integration remains an important societal goal, despite the dismantling of racial integration programs across the nation. Gentrifying neighborhoods seem full of potential. I wanted to figure out how a school without any white, middle-class families goes through the process of integration. What does it take to attract the first white families to a school in a gentrifying neighborhood? And the next wave? And the next? Why do these families stay or go? Is there a point at which we can say the school has successfully integrated? My research question was one of process, not outcomes, relying on existing literature that links integration with positive effects. I am a “gentry parent” myself (which I define as white, middle and upper-middle class, highly educated parents who are gentrifying a neighborhood with their presence and wealth), and I understand why neighborhood gentrification is controversial. 
New York

A two-school solution in Park Slope has critics crying racism

A group of Park Slope parents is in an uproar over the city's plan to build a new school building that they say will house two "separate but equal" elementary schools. But schools officials say the plan is exactly how community leaders wanted it. The plan would replace PS 133's century-old school building in North Park Slope with a brand new building on the same site. The catch is that the shiny new space will house not just PS 133 but also a new school whose students are likely to be whiter, more affluent, and better prepared for school. That's because in an unusual arrangement, the two schools will belong to different districts. PS 133 is located in District 13, which stretches from Brooklyn Heights to Crown Heights. The second school, slated to be twice the size of PS 133, will be part of District 15, which begins just blocks away, and is intended to reduce crowding at PS 321, which is 62 percent white and has only a small fraction of students eligible for free lunch. On average, students in District 15 perform better on state tests than students in District 13. Parents and community activists say the presence of two separate schools with different demographic compositions would amount to a regression to the days of racial segregation. Via e-mail and Twitter, they are bombarding schools officials and City Council members from the area with requests for a different use of the new building. "This is an issue that demands creative leadership from you and Councilman [Bill] DeBlasio," a District 13 mother, Paget Walker, wrote to City Councilman David Yassky.