Big Gender Gap Persists in Arts Schools, and Math and Science Schools. Why?

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series by staff that explores New York City — home to the most segregated school district in America. For more, click here

Even though the Department of Education has created special programs designed to attract more girls to its schools that specialize in math and science, boys continue to outnumber girls in these schools by a wide-margin. And for the middle and high schools that concentrate on music, fine arts, dance and theatre, there are no such citywide programs designed to attract more boys. Consequently, girls outnumber boys at arts schools by an even greater margin.

An analysis of gender ratios in these specialized schools over the last five years shows that math and science-focused schools are on average 58 percent male and 42 percent female. These percentages have remained virtually unchanged since the 2010 school year. Schools that specialize in the arts, on the other hand, are now 64 percent female and 36 percent male, a disparity that has grown slightly larger over the last five years.

 The DOE has not responded to repeated requests for comment about whether it has tried to address the imbalance of boys in the arts.

Last year, 52 percent of those taking Advanced Placement tests in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) were female, which represents an 8.3 increase between 2012 and 2014. During the same time period, the percentage of boys taking the AP tests rose by 6.9 percent. And for the city’s DNA Science Camp—a summer camp dedicated to gene science—applications from girls dominated the pool at 65 percent. Three-quarters of the camp’s enrollees ended up being girls, according to the Department of Education.

In addition, 65 percent of this year’s students selected for both the preliminary and final rounds of the NYC Science and Engineering Fair — a joint effort of the DOE and the City University of New York — were female.

The city’s Department of Education claims these numbers are a result of its successful initiatives aimed at encouraging female students to enter STEM fields, even though some have not achieved their goals. One such initiative is the Software Engineering Pilot, which DOE spokesperson Will Mantell said is a “multi-year computer science program focused on improving STEM access for girls as well as black and Latino students.” Now in its second year, the program’s participants are still only 40 percent female — lower than the city’s average female participation in STEM schools. The DOE recently unveiled a summer STEM program for 2nd, 7th and 10th graders that offers instruction to 1,200 students. The classes are in partnership with Microsoft and New York University Polytechnic Institute, though no special outreach to girls has been created. The DOE did not respond to request for comment as to why a female-targeted program achieves such low levels of female participation.

The High School for Construction Trades and Engineering in District 27 in Queens has one of the highest gender imbalances in the city. The average percentage of boys enrolled in the school is 68 percent over the past five years, while its enrollment has stayed, on average, at 900 students.

The number of girls entering the Queens high school fell sharply between 2011 and 2013, declining by nearly 20 percent in just over two years. According to Audrey Graves, the school’s parent coordinator, the school does not actively seek out female students because it already receives an overwhelming number of applications: Over 1,000 students competed for only 250 spots in this year’s freshman class.

Still, Graves said, the picture is better than it looks. She said the girls who do come to the school thrive. Last year the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian were both girls.

“They seriously out graded and out worked their competitors, their peers,” Graves said. “The bottom line is that the girls that are here are definitely not afraid to get their feet wet.”

The fact that girls are outnumbered by boys doesn’t seem to faze Uju Nwoke and Carmen Johnson, two of the school’s 125 female students. Both freshmen said they were drawn to the school because of its strong offerings in STEM courses.

“I came here because I wanted to be a biochemical engineer and this is probably the only school that has engineering and architecture in the name,” Johnson said.

But a few STEM-focused high schools in New York City have managed to maintain nearly an equal number of boy and girl students. One such school is the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in District 4, which has remained basically equal over the last five years, even though the percentage of female students has dropped slightly over time. In 2010-11, the school was 54 percent girls — the number has now dropped to 49 percent.

The school’s assistant principal for guidance, Michael Salek, said the success in achieving a balance between the genders is rooted in its programming.

“Fifty percent of our robotics team is female,” said Salek. “A lot of the advanced math programs are female.” One way the school administrators achieve this level of equity is because the school’s guidance counselors seek external programs such as Columbia University’s Robogals and HYPOTHkids where girls can participate in STEM education. The results have been favorable, he said.

The school’s valedictorians have been girls for six out of the last seven years. “The female students have outperformed the male students. It’s one female seeing another female student go,” Salek said. “They build upon it.”

An equal number of boys and girls have applied for next year’s class at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. “We have made a deliberate effort to bring in more female students and get them involved in STEM,” Salek said.

Extra effort to target girls is necessary, said Katie Johnson, assistance professor of mathematics at Florida Gulf Coast University. Johnson said she has noticed that at a certain age, girls stop performing well in math, partly due to societal pressures and an ideas that math is a subject for boys.

“The best thing the DOE can do is support STEM programs that target middle-school girls,” she said. Girls encourage each other, she said, and having role models in STEM fields is important from a young age.

“It made a huge difference to me growing up that I had girl friends who also liked math,” Johnson said.

No such attention is paid to bringing more boys into schools dedicated to the arts, however.

At one of the city’s most famous arts high schools, Fiorello H. LaGuardia School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan’s District 3 — whose famous alumni include Jennifer Aniston, Laurence Fishburne and Liza Minnelli— male students make up less than 30 percent of the student body.

At Talent Unlimited High School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the numbers are even lower: On average, boys account for less than 20 percent of students in the school.

But, some schools’ enrollment numbers are balanced.

Albert Shanker School for Visual and Performing Arts (I.S. 216) in Long Island City, Queens is one example of a school where the enrollment demographics mirror those in the district. In fact, there are slightly more boys (52 percent) than girls at the school this year— a ratio that has been steady for the last five years. The school has no special programs for boys, nor does it pay particular attention to balancing its gender ratio.

Rosalyn Henderson, the school’s parent coordinator, thinks the equal numbers may be due to the fact that Albert Shanker is a middle school, not a high school. “The students don’t know what they want to do yet,” Henderson said. “At this age it’s lines in the water–they’re still feeling their way around.”

Even in the wake of new programs that encourage girls to participate in STEM programs, gender disparities exist in science and technology-based schools and no programs that target boys to enroll in  arts or communication schools exist. It is unclear whether this happens when kids apply or when schools make their admissions decisions.

What is clear is that special programs aimed to change the gender balance help ease the gap, somewhat.

District Guide to New York City Public Schools

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series by staff that explores New York City — home to the most segregated school district in America. For more, click here


District 1 Lower East Side

This district covers the increasingly trendy East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown. The numbers for specific ethnic groups seemed to either dominate a specific school or be in the single digits. That was particularly true for white and Latino populations, which might be explained by geographic clustering in this area of Manhattan.

While there were expected gaps among high schools that target high-achieving students, particularly Bard High School Early College and Nest +m High School, it was more surprising to see those gaps in among neighborhood elementary schools. For example, The Neighborhood School is 47.7 percent white, while three blocks down, P.S. 142 Amalia Castro is only 1.6 percent white.

English Language Learner populations vary throughout the district. Schools that have a high percent of white students serve smaller populations of ELL students, while other schools have as many as a third of students in the ELL program.

Up north in the East Village, progressive elementary and middle schools like the Earth School, Children’s Workshop School and University Neighborhood Middle School attract more white families. However, those schools are relatively small.

Free lunch status is also very clustered. Some school populations are nearly completely free or reduced priced lunch, while some schools don’t even qualify for Title 1 federal poverty funds.

Though traditionally an immigrant neighborhood, the area has grown more affluent, as seen through its low government assistance numbers. That makes the clustering of school populations who qualify for free or reduced lunch all the more striking.

District 2 Greenwich Village and Upper East Side

This district covers some of the most affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan, from sections of Midtown West to the Upper East Side. Some of the city’s highest performing schools can be found here, and they serve predominately white and Asian student populations. At P.S. 6. Lillie Devereaux Blake School, where Chancellor Carmen Farina once served as principal, more than 70 percent of its students are white.

On average, students in District 2 are more affluent. School populations here are less likely to qualify for meal programs. At P.S. 41 Greenwich Village, less than 4 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

District 3 Upper West Side

This district covers sections of Midtown West all the way to the Upper West Side. While this area serves a diverse demographic of Latinos, black and whites, schools hardly represent the population. District 3 is one of the most racially diverse, and racially segregated school districts in the city. While more than half of the district’s students are black and Latino, some schools have more than 90 percent black and Latino students.

Additionally, while 8 percent of its students are English Language Learners, schools like Manhattan Bridges High School report more than half of its students as ELLs, while Stuyvesant High School has no ELL students at all.

Free lunch status varies through the district. Students at P.S. 415 Middle Early College High School all qualify for free or reduced lunch while predominately white schools like P.S. 527 East Side School for Social Action have less than 10 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

District 4 East Harlem

District 4 covers East Harlem, and more than 20 percent of its students have disabilities, higher than the city’s average at 16 percent.  Surprisingly, this district also has the third highest percentage of female students in the city. This seems at odds with the common criticism that children are more likely to be assigned to special education if they are male.

Assuming  disability and gender are normally distributed among schools, District 4 is in the 95th percentile for female students and the 96th percentile for disabled students. This makes the district an anomaly, as districts with more male students tend to have greater proportions of their students classified as disabled. This proves that the conventional wisdom holds true for New York City: as districts become more male, they tend to become more likely to be assigned to special education.

District 5 Central Harlem

This district covers Central Harlem and serves a high population of blacks and Latinos, many of whom come from working class families. Most schools in this area reflect that demographic. At P.S. 36 Margaret Dogulas and Mott Hall High School, more than 90 percent of students are black and Latino. Specialized schools like The Urban Assembly Institute for New Technologies are exceptions, where more than 40 percent of its students are white.

Two underperforming schools are closing next year: Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School and Choir Academy of Harlem.

Poverty is also an issue in this district. Most students qualify for a free or reduced lunch. At P.S. 123 Mahalia Jackson and P.S. 175 Henry H Garnet, more than 90 percent of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.  Economically disadvantaged students comprise 84 percent of the district’s population. One of the poorest schools in this district is PS/MS 123 Mahalia Jackson, where 91 percent of students were eligible for free lunch. The school, surrounded by homeless shelters, has a problem with attendance since most of its move to another neighborhood due to socioeconomic issues. About 45 percent of students were chronically absent. This elementary school shares space with Success Academy Harlem 5 Charter Elementary School.

District 6 Washington Heights

This covers Washington Heights, Inwood and all the way up to the upper half of Hamilton Heights. It has the largest population of Dominicans outside of the Dominican Republic. Eighty percent of the neighborhood’s population is Latino. The schools’ population mainly matches that of the neighborhood: it is 86 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, 5 percent White, 1 percent Asian and 1 percent other.

About a third of the district’s student population are English Language Learners.  The Mott Hall School is an exception, where only 2 percent of its students are ELL. Some schools show a drop in ELL students which may be a sign of changing demographics.

Seven schools in the district have entire student populations that qualify for free or reduced lunch. Ethnic clustering occurs in part based on residential ethic clustering. For example, P.S. 18 Park Terrace gives admissions priority to students in the neighborhood, and more than 90 percent are Latino.


District 7 The South Bronx

This district covers the South Bronx, which is an industrial area, and one of the poorest in the city. The population is growing, however, as more Manhattanites move in. The majority of the district’s student population is black and Latino, and the district has the highest percentage of non-white students, as well as a high percentage of English Language Learners.

It also has a slightly higher population of students with disabilities. At Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies, more than 30 percent of students are in special education programs. Schools with special language programs, like the Bilingual School or International Community High School for new immigrants, are standouts when it comes to enrollment oddities. Two schools have a significantly low number of students in need of free or reduced lunch: Bronx Haven High School and Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science. Both also have higher populations of Asian students, especially compared to the small number of students in the district. A number of charter schools serve the area, including three Success Academy schools.

District 8 Hunts Point and Throgs Neck

This district covers the southeast corner of the Bronx and like the rest of the borough, has a high black and Latino population. Families live in neighborhoods like Hunts Point with high levels of poverty, as well as Throgs Necks, where luxury condos are part of the real estate. One-third of the students qualify for free lunch in the district overall. At P.S. 36 Unionport and P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake, all students qualify for free lunch.

Housing differences play a huge role in this district. In affluent areas P.S. 14 Senator John Calandra School is more than 25 percent white, and  P.S. 304 The Early Childhood School is nearly one-third white. Conversely, P.S. 93 Albert G. Oliver Elementary School is 99 percent non-white.

District 9 Morrisania

This district covers the Southwest Bronx, and poverty is a big issue. More than 80 percent of the district’s student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. That number is even higher at Frederick Douglas Academy III and P.S. 132 Garret A. Morgan, where 100 percent are poor.

The district also has a large Black and Latino student population. For example, at P.S. 218 Rafael Hernandez Dual Language Magnet school, about 80 percent of its students are Latino. More than 30 percent of its students identify as English Language Learners. The district also has a higher than average amount of students with disabilities. At schools like I.S. 229 Roland Patterson and P.S. 230 Dr. Roland Patterson, more than 30 percent of students are in special education programs.

District 10 Fordham and Riverdale

This district covers the northeast Bronx and is highly segregated. Neighborhoods like Tremont and Belmont with high poverty rates exist next to wealthier neighborhoods like Riverdale, which is home to three of the most expensive private schools in the country. District 10 (in large part because of the population in Riverdale) has a higher percentage of white students than the entire borough. At P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil, 41 percent of students are white and less than 30 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In contrast, the rest of the district is predominantly black and Latino. At mostly non-white schools like P.S. 159 Luis Munoz Marin Biling and P.S. 207, all students qualify for free and reduced lunch. At four schools, more than half of their student populations are English Language Learners.

While the population of white students has increased to 9 percent in the district, there does seem to be some movement of white students across schools over the last five years. Six schools have more than a 100 percent increase in white student enrollment while 13 schools are experiencing a more than 30 percent decrease in white student enrollment.

District 11 Parkchester and Pelham Bay

This district in the Bronx borders Westchester and includes the neighborhoods of Pelham Bay, Eastchester and Woodlawn. The district has a large black and Latino student population, although South Asians are expanding into some areas. In schools like P.S. 106 Parkchester and P.S. 194, more than 30 percent of its students are Asian. In schools with large black and Latino populations like P.S. 121 Throop, 100 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. But for schools like P.S. 19 Judith K. Weiss, which has a large white population, fewer than half of its students qualify for free lunch.

At specialized schools like the Bronx Academy of Health, more than 60 percent of its students are girls. Meanwhile at Bronx Aerospace High School, more than 80 percent of its students are boys. More charter schools, especially Icahn Charters, are moving into the area.

It is also home to a school for children with severe disabilities, the Helen Keller school.

District 12 Crotona

This district encompasses the Bronx’s Crotona Park, the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. There are less than 50 schools in the district, known for having under-performing schools.

The district has a high black and Latino student population. At P.S. 211 and P.S. 536, more than 80 percent of their students are Latino, and more than half of them are English Language Learners. On Average, more than 80 percent of the district’s student population qualify for free and reduced lunch.

James Monroe High School was closed in 1994, and District 12 ended up with many small schools. There are film schools, charter schools like South Bronx Classical Charter School and Kappa III. Bronx Latin has been recognized for its academics.


District 13 Fort Greene

This district covers upscale townhouses of Brooklyn Heights, new high-rises along Flatbush Avenue Extension, sprawling public housing complexes and homeless shelters on the north side of Fort Greene Park, and the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford Stuyvesant.

This area has grown more affluent in recent years. At P.S. 11 Purvis J. Behan and P.S. 9 Teunis G. Bergen, less than half of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. That number drops to less than 15 percent for students at P.S. 8 Robert Fulton, one of the highest performing schools in the district.

District 13 is a “district of choice,” according to a principal cited in a Chalkbeat article, and there are truly many options for students. As some schools in the neighborhood become increasingly attractive to middle-class students, others are rapidly losing their students as segregation rises.

The population is 43 percent African American, 40 percent white and 6 percent Asian.The median income in the district in general is much higher for its population than citywide, but the difference between white and black householder income is also much larger: white household earners make twice the amount that black household earners do. Schools are very segregated. Only nine out of the 42 schools in the district that have more than 10 percent white students.

The percentage of ELLs also decreased slightly and its proportion is much smaller than citywide. The percentage of students with disabilities, on the other hand, increased in the same time period from 11 percent to 12 percent, though these numbers are lower than citywide.

District 14 Williamsburg

This district covers Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and has seen a slight decrease in public school students overall, and a slight increase in both white and Asian populations. At The Brooklyn Latin School, more than 30 percent of students are Asian. Overall the district has a high student population of blacks and Latinos. Over the last 10 years, enrollment has decreased by 55,000 students. The district has 11 charter schools, much higher than most districts.

Most schools are zoned and a few are audition-based. P.S. 110 The Monitor, a predominately white school, has a French dual language program and an active PTA.

The district by comparison to others, does not have a high number of English Language Learners, 85 percent of whom speak Spanish as their first language, followed by Polish, Arabic and Yiddish.

Overall, more than 80 percent of the district students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

The district is slightly poorer than the city average, as 87 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

District 15 Park Slope

This district covers Park Slope, Prospect Park, Carroll Gardens and Sunset Park. The district has a 7 charter schools: The Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, Success Academy and Summit Academy. The district is home to a growing number of French dual-language schools and the first Japanese dual-language program will open this year.

Poverty rates vary depending on the school. At P.S. 107 John W. Kimball and P.S. 321 William Penn, less than 8 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Meanwhile at P.S. 1 The Bergen and P.S. 15 Patrick F. Daly, all students qualify for meal programs.

Some schools in this district also serve a high number of students with disabilities. From P.S. 131 Brooklyn to I.S. 136 Charles O. Dewey, more than 40 percent of students are in special education programs.

District 16 Bedford Stuyvesant

This district in Brooklyn encompasses Bedford Stuyvesant and has a high black and Latino population, particularly Caribbean and West African immigrants. More than 80 percent of the district’s student population qualify for free and reduced lunch. At P.S. 21 Crispus Attucks and The Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance, all students qualify for meal programs.

This district also serves a high number of students with disabilities. At Frederick Douglas Academy IV Secondary School and M.S. 35 Stephen Decatur, more than 30 percent of students are in special education programs.

There are 10 charter schools in the district, with new ones set to open like New Beginnings and Excellence Girls and Launch Expeditionary.

District 17 Flatbush

This district covers central Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Museum and the Botanical Gardens, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and East Flatbush.

This district is home immigrant families, African Americans and orthodox jews. There are 18 charter schools in this district, including four Achievement First chains and two Success Academies. Dual language programs have increased in recent years, notably Haitian Creole and Spanish programs. At International High School at Prospect Heights, more than 90 percent of students are English Language Learners. Although schools in District 17 haven’t always been known for high performing schools, things are improving. There are science and research based schools, notably Pathways in Technology Early College High School known as P-TECH. This district also has more charter schools than other districts, notably Knowledge is Power Program, Citizens of the World and Success Academy Prospect Heights.

District 18 Canarsie

This district covers  Canarsie and Flatbush and Southeast Brooklyn and has a significant black student population. This district also has a high number of gifted and talented programs. More than 80 percent of the district’s student population qualify for free and reduced lunch. At specialized schools like Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School, more than 60 percent of students are girls.

There is also a Nest program for children on the autism spectrum at P.S. 224. District 18 has 11 charter schools, including the New American Charter School and Leadership Prep Bedford Stuyvesant Charter School.

District 19 East New York

This district covers East New York, which is home to several public housing projects including Linden, Pink and Cypress, each with more than 3,000 residents. The district is one of the poorest in the city. At schools like P.S. 65 and P.S. 159 Isaac Pitkin, all students qualified for free and reduced lunch.

The district has a large black and Latino population. One notable school is P.S. 89 Cypress Hills, which is the only K–8 Spanish/English dual-language program in the city. More than 90 percent of its students are Latino and 43 percent are English Language Learners.  The district is also home to 11 charter schools.

District 20 Borough Park

This district covers Borough Park, Bay Ridge and Dyker, a small section of Sunset Park and the Fort Hamilton base. It also houses the city’s newest Chinatown, which hosts a higher Asian population at 43 percent. At P.S. 105 The Blythebourne, more than 90 percent of students are Asian.

This district has many gifted and talented programs as well as a few dual language, one in Russian and one in Arabic. There are double the number of English language learners, however. At P.S. 160 William T. Sampson, more than 70 percent of students are English Language Learners.  About 80 percent of students quality for free and reduced lunch.

District 21 Coney Island

This district covers Brighton Beach and Coney Island with a large Italian population. The Asian community has also been growing in the past five years and makes up 25 percent of the district’s student population.   At P.S. 101 The Verrazano, more than half of students are Asian. The district also has a significant white and Latino population. More than 70 percent of the student population qualify for free and reduced lunch.

There is one dual-language Russian program at I.S. 228 David A. Boody, with a large Asian student body. There are only a few charter schools in this district.

District 22 Ditmas Park

This district covers Ditmas Park and Mill Basin. Because the district covers such a wide area, many immigrant groups live in the area, although 2013-2014 data shows a lower-than-average number of English language learners 9 percent. The demographic breakdown is 37 percent Black, 29 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic and nearly 18 percent Asian. Two new charter schools have opened in the District in recent years.

District 23 Ocean Hill-Brownsville

This district covers Brownsville, Ocean Hill and a part of East New York. These are among the poorest sections of this city. This district has a large black and Latino population. Some notable schools are P.S. 41 Francis White, the city’s first school designed to teach babies and toddlers – some as young as six weeks. More than 60 percent of its students are black.

The Riverdale Avenue Community School, which opened in 2012 has received much acclaim from their parents. About 71 percent of the district’s households make less than $50,000 a year, according to the census, while more than 90 percent of the district’s students qualify for a free or reduced lunch. Two schools have unusually high numbers of white students.


District 24 Glendale

District 24 covers Corona, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Long Island City, Maspeth and Middle Village. It has a diverse student population of whites, blacks and Asians. The district also has a large number of English language learners. At P.S. 7 Louis F. Simeone and P.S. 19 Marino Jeantet, more than 60 percent of students are ELL.

Overall, 85 percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Four schools in the district have higher numbers of white students than the district average.

District 25 Flushing

District 25 covers Flushing, and also includes Whitestone and College Point. Two new schools have been added to the district – Queens High School for Language Studies and Veritas Academy, which has a bilingual program for Korean Speakers. These schools have significant numbers of students who identify as other.

The district has a high Asian immigrant population. At P.S. 24 Andrew Jackson and The Active Learning Elementary School, more than 80 percent of students are Asian. Schools have a high number of English Language Learners as well. At P.S. 163 Flushing Heights and P.S. 20 John Bowne, more than 30 percent of students are ELL.

District 26 Bayside

District 26 consists of Bayside, Oakland Gardens, Fresh Meadows, Douglaston, Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Floral Park, Bellerose, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Hillcrest and parts of Hollis Hills and Holliswood.

In Jamaica Hills, there has been a 34 percent increase of Asians and Pacific Islanders, according to the census,

For its student population, the district has 51 percent of students who are Asian, 17 percent are White, 17 percent are Hispanic and 12 percent are Black. There is an even split between poor students and financially stable students, as seen in the numbers of students requiring free/reduced price lunch. According to our best estimates, two schools in the district have higher numbers of white students than average.

District 27 South Ozone Park

This district covers Ozone Park, Rockaway, Howard Beach, and Woodhaven to form the Southern Queens district, which is highly segregated. The district has a large black, Latino and Asian population. At P.S. 64 Joseph P. Addabbo, more than 90 percent of students are nonwhite.

Schools that have mostly white students show the segregation in this area. At P.S. 47 Chris Galas, where more than 80 percent of students are white, only 40 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Meanwhile at M.S. 53 Brian Piccolo, where more than 90 percent of students are nonwhite, 100 percent qualify for food assistance.

District 28 Forest Hills

District 28 covers Forest Hills,Rego Park, Briarwood, Kew Gardens, South Jamaica and Springfield Gardens.

The district’s Jamaica section is the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, one the most selective schools in the city.

The district faces higher poverty rates, as 75 percent of its students quality for free or reduced price lunch. However, there are exceptions.  Only 21 percent of students at P.S. 101 School in the Gardens, 26 percent of P.S. 144 Col. Jeromus Remsen School, 38 percent of P.S. 174 William Sidney Mount , 25 percent and 15 percent of The Academy for Excellence through the Arts’ students qualified for  free or reduced price lunches.

District 29 Springfield Gardens

This district covers the Eastern Queens neighborhoods of Bellerose, Briarwood, Brookville, Cambria Heights, Holliswood, Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans. The district has two elementary charter schools, and also has very selective and specialized schools, like Queens Gateway to Health Sciences and the Preparatory Academy for Writers.

Eighty percent of the students in the district require free or reduced price lunches.

District 30: Long Island City

This district covers Astoria, Ditmars, East Elmhurst, Hunters Point, Jackson Heights, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside, with high populations of Greeks, and Italians. A significant influx of Latinos now make up 53 percent of the student population. The district has many dual language schools, like East Elmhurst Community School.

The District is relatively poor compared to other districts. About 86 percent of students in the district qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

District 31 Staten Island

District 31 covers the entire borough of Staten Island. Although the borough is primarily white, one school stands out for its diversity: P.S. 65 The Academy of Innovative Learning. About 78 percent of the borough is white and the average income is $73,000. However, two schools are less white than average, P.S. 20 Port Richmond and P.S. 78, where more than 80 percent of students are nonwhite.

District 32 Bushwick

District 32 covers Bushwick and part of Bedford Stuyvesant, and faces high poverty rates. Of the district’s student population, 95 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most students are Latino and black. Public School 151 Lyndon B. Johnson is the district’s whitest school. There are less than five charter schools in this district.




Eagle Academy School for Young Men is Less Hispanic, Less Poor than its Surrounding South Bronx Neighborhood

The founders of the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx decided to open the school in 2004 in one of the city’s poorest school districts for a reason. The mission of the pioneering sixth through 12th grade school was to provide the best education possible for New York’s most disadvantaged boys.

More than a decade later, the school does not reflect the demographics of the surrounding South Bronx neighborhood. Tremont is primarily Hispanic, and nearly completely low-income. About a quarter of its students need extra help with English. Eagle Academy, on the other hand, is disproportionately black and English speaking. Even more surprisingly, the school has fewer kids living in poverty than any other school in District 9.

The neighborhood that surrounds the school is 33 percent African American and 60 percent Hispanic. Only 36 percent of students at Eagle Academy identify as Hispanic and 63 percent identify as black. The percent of its 645 students who are poor is significantly lower than the district’s average.  While 95 percent of students at the average school in District 9 qualify for free or reduced lunch, a measure of poverty, only 81 percent of students at Eagle Academy fall into that category. This school is the only school in the district to have numbers skewed so significantly in this way.

The chairman of The Eagle Foundation, said the school does its best to serve the city’s neediest students. “We take our students as we find them,”Mark Getachew said. “Some of them are the most challenging students in the educational system.”

The Bronx school was founded by One Hundred Black Men, an organization which, according to its website, exists to “capitalize on the collective power of community to address issues of inequities and to empower African Americans to become agents of change in their communities.”

One Hundred Black Men was founded in New York City in 1963, and has a long-standing reputation in the black community. Its prestige likely accounts for the fact that more black parents are drawn to enroll their children in the school. Neither the organization nor the school administrators returned requests for comment.

The school typically only admits incoming sixth grade students, and priority is given to students who attend a Saturday information session with their parents in the fall. Parents must fill out an application to be considered for the school.

“They have to buy into the program — longer school days, school on Saturdays, no girls. Things like that,” said Getachew. “That has its own weeding out process as a result. Those who are not interested might not rank us at the top of their list that they submit to the DOE. It’s a little bit tough to say it should reflect the community on a percentage by percentage basis.”

When asked to explain why the school does not attract more Hispanic students in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, members of the school’s administration who have been directly contacted via email, telephone or face-to-face, did not respond.

A professor of economics and education at Teachers College at Columbia University said the time-intensive admissions process might have something to do with the skewed socioeconomic numbers. “Even though some higher income families are very busy and fully employed, they may have the ability to get time off work,” said Professor Henry Levin. “People in low wage jobs don’t have that luxury.”

He said single working mothers are at a bigger disadvantage. They are less likely to be able to take off work, or to pay for someone to take care of their children in order to participate in the school’s required information sessions and meetings with guidance counselors.

English Language Learners in The Eagle Academy’s stand at 4 percent, compared to 25 percent in District 9 at large.

The advertising method for the school might be a factor as well. Information on Eagle Academy’s website is not offered in Spanish.

Stan Johnson, a 17-year-old junior at Eagle Academy, said he knows of students at the school who come from higher-income households, adding that he believes their parents picked the schools that offered opportunities “that other schools might not.”

These extra programs are available due to private funding streams that bolster the Eagle Academy network, which has grown in recent years to include five schools in the city and one in Newark. The academy receives two types of funding: private money from the Eagle Academy Foundation, which raises over $1.5 million annually, and the city’s per-pupil funding that is available to all public education students.

In order to promote its mission, the foundation allocates over $500,000 to after-school programs, which provides students with a place to study and stay off the streets. This allows parents and guardians the opportunity to work longer shifts, said Getachew.

The fact that the school has fewer English language learners and fewer children who live in poverty has not worked to raise its test scores, however. Eagle Academy’s scores are below the district’s average in both English and math. Eleven percent of its students passed the English Regents exams with a score of 3 or 4, which is below the district average of 13 percent. Only 3 percent of the school’s students passed the math Regents compared to district average of 13 percent.


Editor’s Note: This is part of a series by staff that explores New York City — home to the most segregated school district in America. For more, click here

Brooklyn Schools Struggle to Maintain Racial Balance in Rapidly Gentrifying Neighborhoods

By Jenny Luna, Lou Mariller, and Stephanie Ortigoza

On a Friday evening in May, when parents picked up their children from P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights, the students all had their hair colored brightly for the school’s “Crazy Hair Day.” Parents bought ice cream for overjoyed children, who distributed Mother’s Day cards. It’s not just crazy hair that causes the students at P.S. 8 to stand out — on this day and every day. The magnet school also has an unusually large number of white students for Brooklyn’s District 13: While only 12.5 percent of the district’s students are white, 60 percent of P.S. 8 students are Caucasian.

“There was more diversity in my school growing up in the Midwest,” said Suzanne Subracko, a P.S. 8 parent who moved to Brooklyn from Seattle a year ago.

District 13, with its quickly gentrifying (or already gentrified) neighborhoods, and its mix of neighborhood, district, and citywide charter and public schools, makes for an interesting case study in what causes school segregation. Among the 58 schools in District 13, which encompasses upscale townhouses and homeless shelters stretching from Brooklyn Heights to Fort Greene, four schools have significantly more white students than their district’s counterparts. Meanwhile, 11 schools have less than one percent white students.

In some cases, this shift reflects longstanding residential patterns. In others, it is the result of rapid gentrification. At still other schools, segregation increased after specialty programs developed, such as gifted and talented classes, which enrolled disproportionate numbers of white students.  Once the demographics became skewed by race, it was hard  to turn back the clock.

The disproportionate number of white students at P.S 8 is mostly about residential segregation. “It’s the neighborhood that’s not diverse,” explained Emy Gargiulo, a mother of two who has a 10-year-old at P.S. 8.

Prior to 2004, P.S. 8 was labeled a so-called failing school by the Department of Education. A three-year magnet grant for arts enrichment in 2004 and a major restructuring helped to turn the school around, as a 2005 New York Times article reported. Test scores increased, and parents in the neighborhood who used to send their children to private schools started considering P.S.8 as a viable option. Meanwhile, an increase in residential development also participated to an increase in student enrollment that is expected to continue.

According to the school’s website, 3,750 housing units will be built by 2017. P.S.8 is the only zoned public school in zip code 11201 in Brooklyn Heights, where whites comprise a significant majority. P.S. 8 has an active parent-teacher association and a wide range of after-school activities, including robotics, cheerleading, gardening and drama. The school’s partnership with the Guggenheim Museum brings speakers to the elementary school on a weekly basis and the social studies-based curriculum facilitates creative approaches to learning.

A logical solution to abating school segregation would be to open schools to wider geographic areas. But District 13 shows that this isn’t always the ideal answer. Most of the schools in District 13 with a disproportionate number of white students are, in some way, open to students throughout the district.

P.S. 9 Teunis G Bergen School, for example, also has far more white students than the district’s average. The school, located in Prospect Heights, is technically zoned for students in the surrounding area, but it also accepts students from the entire district for its gifted and talented and dual language programs. In 2011, the school had 14 percent white students; now it has nearly 26 percent. The percentage of black students decreased over the same period, from 63 to 49.

The gifted and talented program has been longstanding and a dual language program opened in 2012. Each grade has one talented and gifted class, according to a P.S.9 report. Although the demographics for the gifted and talented program at P.S. 9 are unavailable, InsideSchools reported that it’s likely disproportionately white compared to the rest of the school.

Admission for gifted and talented programs in New York City is based on an exam, and far more white students apply and get in. While African Americans and Latinos make up two-thirds of the school population across the city, they make up only one-fourth of elementary school students in gifted and talented programs, according to James Borland, an education professor at Columbia’s Teachers College. He is opposed to the tests that get students into the programs.

Admission is based off the “scores of two standardized tests given to children who are four years old, and family of origin plays a major role,” Borland said. “The families who can afford for their four year olds to go to a test prep class have more of chance to go to a talented and gifted program.”

Park Slope’s P.S 133, also in District 13, accepts students from both District 13 and District 15 ever since it changed location in 2013. In 2010-2011, P.S 133 had 42 percent black students and 10 percent white students. But this year, the percentage of white students tripled to 30. The explanation for this transformation lies in shifting demographics, as the surrounding neighborhood rapidly gentrifies.

At P.S. 133, and some other schools in the district, school leaders are trying to ensure the school maintains at least some racial and socioeconomic balance. As part of Principal Heather Foster Mann’s efforts, the school succeeded last year in convincing the Department of Education to set aside 35 percent of kindergarten seats for kids who receive free or reduced lunch and are English language learners. In 2011, the school started a dual language program — in both French and Spanish.

But as a report released by the city showed in 2014, and despite Foster Mann’s efforts, the number of ELL learners at P.S 133 dropped from 2013 to 2014, largely because many who were offered spots refused it — probably because of commuting issues (as an extensive analysis of the school’s evolution on DNAinfo shows). This year, P.S.133 will implement yellow bussing in District 15 in order to pick up English language learners directly from different neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Foster Mann does not work alone: a task force led by parents, principals and the district superintendent, Barbara Freeman, is working to promote more diversity in the district’s schools.

A fourth school that attracts significantly more white students than others in the district went from 8 percent white students in 2010-2011 to 27 percent in 2014-2015. The Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene expanded in 2010 from a middle school to a Kindergarten through eighth grade school, causing some tension with P.S. 20 that shared the building. Parents at P.S. 20 worried about overcrowding and losing a spot in the middle school to students who started at Arts and Letter from kindergarten.  During that time, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch plummeted. Its principal, John O’Reilly, wants to reserve a portion of seats — up to 40 percent — for low-income students.

According to Amy Stuart Wells, an education and sociology professor at Teachers College who has written extensively on school segregation, integration efforts led by individual schools are not enough. True change, she believes, must be much more systemic.

 Editor’s Note: Thanks to comments from readers, this story reflects some clarifying notes in bold, including context on how and why The Academy of Arts and Letters and P.S. 8 enrolled more and more white students. 

This is part of a series by staff that explores New York City — home to the most segregated school district in America. For more, click here

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