Is Demography Still Destiny?

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Is Demography Still Destiny?

                                 Is Demography

                                 Still Destiny?
                                 Neighborhood Demographics and

    B R O O K LY N               Public High School Students’ Readiness

                                 for College in New York City




                                          B R O O K LY N

                                 The Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) is a national policy-research and reform-support organiza-
                                 tion, affiliated with Brown University, that focuses on improving conditions and outcomes for all students in
                                 urban public schools, especially those attended by traditionally underserved children. AISR’s vision is the
                                 transformation of traditional school systems into “smart education systems” that develop and integrate high-
                                 quality learning opportunities in all areas of students’ lives – at school, at home, and in the community.
                                 AISR conducts research; works with a variety of partners committed to educational improvement to build
                                 capacity in school districts and communities; and shares its work through print and Web publications. Rather
                                 than providing a specific reform design or model to be implemented, AISR’s approach is to offer an array of
                                 tools and strategies to help districts and communities strengthen their local capacity to provide and sustain
                                 high-quality education for all students.
                                 Written by
                                  Norm Fruchter
                                  Megan Hester
                                  Christina Mokhtar
                                  Zach Shahn

                                   Margaret Balch-Gonzalez
                                 Graphic Design
                                   Haewon Kim
                                 The authors would like to acknowledge Leonard Rodberg for access to the Infoshare Community Information
                                 System – a computerized database that allows community groups, nonprofit organizations, and others to
                                 access demographic, health, and economic information about New York City at different geographic levels –
                                 and for assistance in identifying the overlap between New York City zip codes and neighborhoods.
                                 Suggested Citation: Fruchter, N. M, M. Hester, C. Mokhtar, and Z. Shahn. 2012. Is Demography Still Destiny?
                                 Neighborhood Demographics and Public High School Students’ Readiness for College in New York City.
                                 Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University.
                                 This publication is available online at:
                                 © 2012 Brown University, Annenberg Institute for School Reform

                                  ■ Box 1985
                                    Providence, Rhode Island 02912
                                  ■ 233 Broadway, Suite 720
                                    New York, New York 10279
                                  Twitter: @AnnenbergInst
Is Demography Still Destiny?
Neighborhood Demographics and
Public High School Students’ Readiness
for College in New York City

Summary                                     college, while nearly 80 percent of    Other policies that would begin to
                                            students from Tribeca do.              address these gaps are:

D     uring the past decade, the
      Bloomberg administration has
explicitly prioritized narrowing the
                                          • In the city’s neighborhoods with
                                            100 percent Black and Latino res-
                                            idents, no more than 10 percent
                                                                                    • Create a more equitable distribu-
                                                                                      tion of in-school guidance and
                                                                                      counseling resources to help fami-
racial achievement gap. Former              of high school students graduate          lies successfully navigate the
Chancellor Joel Klein has often             ready for college.                        school choice maze.
argued, “neither resources nor            • In the Manhattan neighborhoods          • Significantly increase the number
demography is destiny in the class-         with the highest college-readiness        of educational-option seats to
room,” and the New York City                rates, fewer than 10 percent of the       ensure that students of all aca-
Department of Education has                 residents are Black or Latino.            demic levels and all neighbor-
invested heavily in school choice to      • Eighteen of the twenty-one                hoods have a fair shot at seats in
                                            neighborhoods with the lowest             the high schools that are most
achieve this goal, remaking the high
                                            college-readiness rates are in the        likely to prepare them for college.
school choice system to increase the
                                            Bronx (the other two are in             • Invest heavily in school improve-
scope and equity of student assign-
                                            Brooklyn).                                ment strategies, rather than just
ment to high school. Yet a new
                                          • Thirteen of the fifteen neighbor-         school creation and choice, to
study by the Annenberg Institute for        hoods with the highest college-           increase the capacity of existing
School Reform at Brown University           readiness rates are in Manhattan          schools to prepare students for
indicates that the college readiness        (the other two are in Queens).            college.
of New York City high school gradu-
                                         In spite of the city’s efforts to         Without such comprehensive efforts,
ates is still very highly correlated
                                         increase equity by expanding high         the vast disparity in opportunity that
with the neighborhood they come
                                         school choice and creating five hun-      separates the city’s neighborhoods
from. In particular, the racial compo-
                                         dred new small schools and one            will persist.
sition and average income of a stu-
                                         hundred charter schools, college
dent’s home neighborhood are very
                                         readiness rates are still largely pre-
strong predictors of a student’s
                                         dicted by the demographics of a stu-
chance of graduating high school
                                         dent’s home neighborhood. This
ready for college. The gaps between
                                         suggests that the strategies of school
neighborhoods are enormous:
                                         choice and school creation are not
 • Only 8 percent of students from
    Mott Haven graduate ready for        sufficient to create the equity that
                                         the administration has envisioned.

                                                     Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University              1
Introduction                                     the nation’s most comprehensive sys-      each of the three groups, while the

                                                                                     tem of high school choice on equity       other half were randomly assigned

                                    O       ver the past decade, Mayor
                                            Michael Bloomberg has reor-
                                    ganized the New York City school
                                                                                     of opportunity for the system’s high
                                                                                     school students. Our findings sug-
                                                                                     gest that while high school choice
                                                                                                                               by computer. Edward R. Murrow,
                                                                                                                               Murray Bergtraum, and Norman
                                                                                                                               Thomas High Schools were subse-
                                    system using principles and strategies           may have improved educational             quently opened as educational option
                                    extrapolated from his corporate sec-             options for individual students,          schools in the 1970s and employed
                                    tor experience. The mayor and his                choice has not been sufficient to         the same selection criteria.
                                    administration have restructured the             increase systemic equity of opportu-
                                                                                                                               These large ed-op schools expanded
                                    public school system into a portfolio            nity. Our results indicate that univer-
                                                                                                                               the equity dimensions of choice by
                                    district centered on choice, auton-              sal high school choice has not
                                                                                                                               attracting a diverse mix of students
                                    omy, and accountability. These                   disrupted the relationship of demog-
                                                                                                                               ranging from academically strug-
                                    strategies have been promoted as the             raphy to educational destiny across
                                                                                                                               gling to high achieving. In the fol-
                                    most effective and efficient way to              the city’s struggling neighborhoods.
                                                                                                                               lowing decades, more ed-op high
                                    reduce the school system’s substantial
                                                                                                                               schools were created and other high
                                    racial achievement gap and improve               Evolution of High School                  schools added discrete ed-op pro-
                                    the quality of education for all the
                                    city’s students. As a consequence,
                                                                                     Choice                                    grams, significantly expanding the

                                    New York City’s restructuring effort
                                    has been replicated in districts across
                                    the country, and the New York City
                                                                                     T     he New York City school sys-
                                                                                           tem has developed the nation’s
                                                                                     most comprehensive system of high
                                                                                                                                Choice has not been sufficient
                                                                                                                                to increase systemic equity of

                                    school system is often defined as the            school choice. In the century since
                                    nation’s foremost exemplar of a port-            Stuyvesant High School was opened          opportunity.
                                    folio district.                                  as a citywide choice school, students’
                                    After a decade of implementation,                selection of high schools (and high
                                                                                                                               range and equity of high school
                                    a variety of student, school, and                schools’ selection of students) has
                                                                                                                               choice offerings. These ed-op
                                    system-level outcomes offer a win-               become an almost universal process.1
                                                                                                                               schools and programs represent an
                                    dow into the successes and shortcom-             High school choice in New York            early form of controlled school
                                    ings of New York City’s portfolio                City has expanded and grown more          choice by offering placements within
                                    district reforms. This research brief            complex as efforts to extend the          designated schools to a mix of stu-
                                    examines one aspect of the impact of             scope and quality of student choice       dents with varying academic abilities.
                                                                                     have alternated with efforts to create
                                                                                                                               In the mid-1980s, the creation of
                                                                                     an equitable mix of students within
                                                                                                                               Central Park East Secondary School
                                    Stuyvesant High School began restricting         schools. In the late 1960s, John
                                    admission based on academics in 1919. In
                                                                                                                               as a high school of choice helped
                                                                                     Dewey High School opened as the
                                    1972, the New York State legislature linked it                                             initiate a wave of small high school
                                                                                     first educational option (or “ed-op”)
                                    with the Bronx High School of Science and                                                  development, pioneered by New
                                                                                     high school. Dewey offered place-
                                    Brooklyn Technical High School and man-                                                    Visions for Public Schools and the
                                    dated admission to those three schools to        ments to students categorized into
                                                                                                                               Center for Collaborative Education
                                    students with the highest scores on a special    three admissions groups – high, low,
                                                                                                                               and supported by the Aaron Dia-
                                    citywide test. Five additional high schools      and average achievers – according to
                                    were subsequently added to this elite cate-
                                                                                                                               mond Foundation. Through these
                                                                                     their citywide reading test scores.
                                    gory of specialized schools by the New York                                                initiatives, in the early 1990s some
                                                                                     Dewey selected half the students in
                                    City Department of Education during the                                                    thirty-five new small high schools of
                                    Bloomberg administration.                                                                  choice were developed. An equiva-
                                                                                                                               lent number of new small high
schools were developed as part of                                                      testing experts Howard Everson and
the New York Networks for School
                                            “Neither resources nor demogra-            Daniel Koretz (2010) showing that
Renewal, the Annenberg Founda-              phy is destiny in the classroom”           students who reach these bench-
tion’s New York City Challenge                                                         marks are significantly more likely
                                                                   ––Joel Klein
grantee, in the mid-1990s. These                                                       to earn at least a C in a college-level
efforts considerably expanded the                                                      course in that subject.
universe of high school choice.            improve the high school selection
                                                                                       ■ Methods
Starting in 2002, the Bloomberg            process was to ensure that demogra-
                                           phy was not destiny for the city’s          In 2011, the New York City Depart-
administration, supported by grants
                                           high school students. As the econo-         ment of Education (NYCDOE)
from the Bill & Melinda Gates
                                           mists who developed the high school         released data on college readiness
Foundation, Carnegie Corporation,
                                           choice matching process observed in         indicators for each New York City
and the Open Society Institute,
                                           a journal article about the new             high school, as an additional measure
greatly intensified the pace of small
                                           process,                                    of school performance on the NYC-
high school creation. The adminis-
                                                                                       DOE’s Annual Progress Reports. But
tration also recalibrated the high           One impetus for increasing
school choice process. Under                 school choice was to make sure
former Schools Chancellor Joel               students who lived in disadvan-
Klein, the process was refined to            taged neighborhoods were not              New York State’s definition of college readi-
increase the number of individual            automatically assigned to disad-          ness, based strictly on Regents scores, is
                                                                                       called the Aspirational Performance Meas-
schools each student could select,           vantaged schools. (Abdulka-
                                                                                       ure. For the purposes of this analysis, we
and the selection process was                diroglu, Pathak & Roth 2005, p.           have used the NYCDOE’s more expansive
improved by using a computer-                364)                                      College Readiness Index, which is defined as
driven algorithm similar to the                                                        the percentage of students who graduate
formula that matches teaching hospi-       High School Choice and                      with a Regents diploma, earn a 75 or higher
tals and medical student interns to                                                    on the English Regents or score 480 or higher
                                           Demography/Destiny                          on the Critical Reading SAT, and earn an 80
pair students’ choices with schools’
                                                                                       or higher on one Math Regents and complete
As a result, the percentage of stu-
                                           B     ut has the high school choice
                                                 system succeeded in breaking
                                           the link between demography and
                                                                                       coursework in Algebra II/Trigonometry or a
                                                                                       higher-level math subject, or score 480 or
                                                                                       higher on the Math SAT. A student can
dents placed in one of their top
                                           destiny? The analysis in this brief         demonstrate completion of math coursework
choices of high school has increased                                                   by: (a) Passing a course in Algebra II/
                                           begins to address that question.
every year since 2009. In 2011, for                                                    Trigonometry or higher and taking one of
example, 83 percent of high school         In 2010 the New York State Educa-           the following exams: the Math B Regents,
applicants were matched with one           tion Department developed a set of          Algebra II/ Trigonometry Regents, AP Calcu-
of their five top choices. Mayor           indicators to assess student capacity       lus, AP Statistics, or IB Math; or (b) Passing
                                           to succeed in college, based on stu-        the Math B or Algebra II/Trigonometry
Bloomberg and former Chancellor
                                                                                       Regents. We used this metric because it was
Klein frequently linked their school       dent performance on Regents exams
                                                                                       the latest data available at the time of our
reform efforts to the goals of the civil   and CUNY assessment tests. If stu-          analysis.
rights movement; for example, in           dents pass the Math Regents exam
2009 Klein proclaimed that “neither        with a score of at least 80 and the
resources nor demography is destiny        English Regents exam with a score of
in the classroom.” One of the goals        at least 75, they are now defined by
of the administration’s efforts to         New York State as college ready.2
                                           This metric is based on research by

                                                      Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University                         3
because the choice system often sev-            scores of all the city’s public high
                                                                                                                               No single neighborhood factor

                                    ers the connection between students’            school students, broken down by the
                                    home neighborhoods and the high                 students’ residential zip code. AISR       was as strongly associated
                                    schools they attend (since students             amalgamated the student data for
                                    choose schools throughout the city),            individual zip codes into a citywide       with college readiness as racial/
                                    the data did not connect the demo-              neighborhood index3 and then car-          ethnic composition.
                                    graphics of students’ neighborhood              ried out a series of analyses to assess
                                    residence with their college readiness          the relationship between students’
                                    scores to assess the extent to which            residential neighborhood demo-            ■ Findings
                                    neighborhood demographics are                   graphic factors 4 and students’ college
                                    associated with students’ college               readiness scores, aggregated up to        AISR’s analysis found that several
                                    readiness rates.                                the neighborhood level.                   neighborhood socio-economic fac-
                                                                                                                              tors, such as single motherhood,
                                    In 2011, researchers at the Annen-              AISR used an online data tool, devel-     extent of mother’s education, unem-
                                    berg Institute for School Reform                oped by the Infoshare Community           ployment rate, and citizenship status,
                                    (AISR) at Brown University                      Information Service, to merge U.S.        were significantly correlated with
                                    requested and received data from                Census data, primarily neighborhood       students’ college readiness rates.
                                    the NYCDOE on the high school                   indicators by New York City zip           For example, the higher the average
                                    graduation and college readiness                code, with the college readiness          mother’s level of education in any
                                                                                    scores by students’ residential zip       New York City neighborhood, the
                                                                                    code provided by the NYCDOE. To           higher the college readiness scores
                                                                                    aggregate from the zip code to the

                                    We use Infoshare’s definition of a New                                                    of the students residing in that
                                    York City neighborhood: “one of 292             neighborhood level, we used data          neighborhood. Conversely, the
                                    neighborhoods in which New Yorkers gener-       provided by Infoshare that specifies      higher a neighborhood’s percentage
                                    ally think of themselves as residing”           the overlap of neighborhoods and          of single mothers, the lower the col-
                                    (                            zip codes. Whenever neighborhood          lege readiness scores of students liv-
                                                                                    boundaries did not coincide with          ing in that neighborhood. The mean
                                    These residential neighborhood demo-
                                                                                    those of zip codes, we used 2009          income level in each neighborhood
                                    graphic factors were culled from the U.S.
                                                                                    Census tract populations, broken          was particularly strongly correlated
                                    Census 2005–2009 American Community Sur-
                                    vey averages for New York City. The five-year   down by the Census tracts in each         with students’ college readiness
                                    averages are the most reliable, have the        zip code and neighborhood, to calcu-      scores – the lower a neighborhood’s
                                    largest sample size, and are best used when     late the proportion of the neighbor-      mean income, the lower the college
                                    examining Census tracts and small areas         hood’s population that comes from         readiness scores of the students living
                                    such as neighborhoods.
                                                                                    each zip code. We assigned each           in that neighborhood.
                                                                                    neighborhood a college readiness
                                                                                    score that represents the weighted        No single neighborhood factor was
                                                                                    average of the college readiness          as strongly associated with college
                                                                                    scores of those zip codes that overlap    readiness as racial/ethnic composi-
                                                                                    with the neighborhood. We used            tion. The strongest negative rela-
                                                                                    the same procedures for any demo-         tionship to students’ college
                                                                                    graphic variable we converted to the      readiness scores was the percentage
                                                                                    neighborhood level.                       of Black and Latino residents in the
                                                                                                                              city’s neighborhoods – the higher the
                                                                                                                              percentage of Black and Latino resi-
                                                                                                                              dents in specific neighborhoods, the
lower the college readiness scores of
the high school graduates (in 2011)
in those neighborhoods. Figure 1,
with all the city’s neighborhoods
represented by circles, illustrates
this very strong negative log-linear
The relationship between the two
variables – students’ college readi-
ness scores and the racial composi-              FIGURE 1

tion of neighborhoods across New                 Proportion of Black and Latino neighborhood residents vs. college readiness

York City – is remarkably tight.
When we examined the relationship                                            80
of other demographic factors (e.g.,
income, single motherhood, citizen-
ship status) to college readiness rates,
we could identify several outliers –                                         60
                                                     Percent college ready
neighborhoods that broke the pat-
tern. But the very strong relationship
between race and college readiness
yielded only one neighborhood
(Woodlawn – see Figure 2 on next
page) as a possible outlier, and this is
explained by unusual population pat-                                         20
terns in the neighborhood.
Figure 2 shows that no more than 10
percent of the high school students                                               -3.0   -2.5      -2.0    -1.5     -1.0    -0.5   0.0
in the Bronx neighborhoods of Mor-                                                              log(Proportion Black or Latino)

risania, Woodstock, Longwood,
Claremont, and Mott Haven gradu-
ated high school college ready in
2011. These neighborhoods with low
college readiness rates have the high-
est percentages of Black and Latino
residents in New York City. In fact,
eighteen of the twenty-one neigh-
borhoods with the lowest college
readiness rates are in the Bronx, the
borough with the highest percentage
of Black and Latino residents.

                                           Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University                                     5
Conversely, as Figure 3 shows, 74

                                                                                                                             percent or more of the high school
                                                                                                                             students in more advantaged Man-
                                                                                                                             hattan neighborhoods such as
                                                                                                                             Tribeca, Little Italy, Soho, and
                                  FIGURE 2
                                                                                                                             Lenox Hill graduated college ready
                                  New York City high schools with lowest college readiness rates
                                                                                                                             in 2011. All four of these Manhattan
                                    Note high percentages of Black and Latino neighborhood residents
                                                                                                                             neighborhoods with very high col-
                                                                                       College          Black/Latino*        lege-ready rates have 10 percent or
                                        Neighborhood               Borough          Readiness (%)            (%)             less Black and Latino residents. An
                                     East New York                 Brooklyn               12                  96             analysis of graduate rates showed a
                                     Ocean Hill                    Brooklyn               12                  99             similar negative log-linear associa-
                                     North Baychester                Bronx                12                  93
                                                                                                                             tion with the proportion of Blacks
                                                                                                                             and Latinos in the neighborhood
                                     Edenwald                        Bronx                12                  93
                                                                                                                             populations. But there was more
                                     Melrose                         Bronx                12                 100
                                                                                                                             variation in graduation rates than
                                     Hunt's Point                    Bronx                12                 100             college readiness rates among neigh-
                                     East Tremont                    Bronx                12                  98             borhoods with the most Black and
                                     Mount Hope                      Bronx                11                  98
                                                                                                                             Latino residents, indicating that
                                                                                                                             there is more equity in opportunity
                                     Bathgate                        Bronx                11                  95
                                                                                                                             for high school outcomes than for

                                     Brownsville                   Brooklyn               11                 100             college readiness.
                                     Crotona Park                    Bronx                11                  99
                                                                                                                             Given that only 13 percent of the
                                     Port Morris                     Bronx                11                  96
                                                                                                                             city’s Black and Latino students
                                     East Concourse                  Bronx                11                 100             currently graduate high school pre-
                                     Wakefield                       Bronx                11                  83             pared for college, compared with
                                     Mount Eden                      Bronx                11                  99
                                                                                                                             50 percent of White students and
                                                                                                                             50 percent of Asian students,5 these
                                     Morrisania                      Bronx                10                 100
                                                                                                                             findings are not surprising. Yet it is
                                     Woodstock                       Bronx                10                 100             quite sobering that despite efforts to
                                     Longwood                        Bronx                10                 100             improve the high school choice sys-
                                     Claremont                       Bronx                10                 100             tem to increase educational opportu-
                                     Mott Haven                      Bronx                 8                 100
                                                                                                                             nities for the city’s students, the
                                                                                                                             relationship between demography
                                     Woodlawn                        Bronx                 8                 52**
                                                                                                                             and college readiness is so strong
                                 * Black/Latino refers to the proportion Black plus the proportion Latino, which can
                                                                                                                             across the city’s neighborhoods.
                                   sometimes be more than 100 percent because some people identify as both. Where            Because the college-ready indicator
                                   percentages added up to more than 100, we rounded to 100.                                 is so new, it has not been possible to
                                ** Woodlawn, which has a large White population, shares a zip code with Eastchester,         construct comparisons to determine
                                   a neighborhood that is predominately Black. There are disproportionately more
                                   Black high school students in this zip code, so its low college readiness rate reflects
                                                                                                                             whether the relationship between
                                   the characteristics of Eastchester.                                                       neighborhood demographics and
                                                                                                                             college readiness has changed across
                                                                                                                             time. Thus our analysis is very time-
                                                                                                                             limited – a snapshot based on one
                                                                                                                             year of data. However, because the
relationship between race and out-
    comes demonstrated in Figure 1
    could hardly be more tight, it is not
    likely to have lessened significantly
    in recent years.
                                                         FIGURE 3
    In a broadside that former Chancel-                  New York City high schools with highest college readiness rates
    lor Klein and Michelle Rhee pub-                      Note low percentages of Black and Latino neighborhood residents
    lished in 2010, they declared, “The
                                                                                                             College        Black/Latino
    single most important factor deter-                           Neighborhood              Borough       Readiness (%)          (%)
    mining whether students succeed in
                                                           Tribeca                        Manhattan             79               9
    school is not the color of their skin
                                                           Little Italy                   Manhattan             77              10
    or their ZIP code or even their par-
    ents’ income – it is the quality of                    Soho                           Manhattan             74               9
    their teacher.” Yet our findings indi-                 Lenox Hill                     Manhattan             74               6
    cate that ZIP code, income, and,                       Douglaston & Little Neck         Queens              74              13
    above all, the racial composition
                                                           City Hall                      Manhattan             71              12
    of students’ neighborhoods is very
                                                           Upper East Side                Manhattan             70               8
    strongly correlated with student
    success.                                               Chinatown                      Manhattan             68              16

                                                           Yorkville                      Manhattan             66               9
    In spite of the NYCDOE’s efforts to
    enhance both the extent of selectivity                 World Trade Center             Manhattan             66               9
    and the equity of high school choice,                  Battery Park                   Manhattan             66               9
    demography is still – and quite                        Oakland Gardens                  Queens              65              15
    relentlessly – destiny in terms of the
                                                           Bellevue Area                  Manhattan             65              13
    relationship between neighborhood
                                                           Turtle Bay                     Manhattan             65               8
    race/ethnicity and college readiness
    across the city’s public school system.                West Village                   Manhattan             65              11
    Universal high school choice seems
    not to have provided equity of out-
    comes for the city’s high school

    According to the NYCDOE School-Level
    Regents-Based Math/ELA Aspirational Per-
    formance Measure (2010), which is the only
    college readiness metric provided that is bro-
    ken down by race. See

                                                     Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University                             7
Exploring the Causes                     Corcoran and Levin discovered that         found that even given the students’

                                                                         the average number of high school          tendency to choose schools that
                                of the Choice/
                                                                         choices students made varied signifi-      matched their own backgrounds:
                                Demography Link                          cantly by the middle school they             Students’ first-choice schools are

                                W         hat might help to explain
                                          these disturbing results?
                                Sean Corcoran and Henry Levin’s
                                                                         attended. After controlling “for stu-
                                                                         dent characteristics (e.g., achieve-
                                                                         ment, race, poverty) and residential
                                                                                                                      on average more advantaged and
                                                                                                                      less racially isolated than stu-
                                                                                                                      dents’ middle schools . . . [but]
                                (2011) comprehensive analysis of the     area,” the authors observed “sizable         students’ final school assignment
                                city’s high school choice system pro-    middle school effects on choices”            is more similar to the students’
                                vides some suggestions. Corcoran         (p. 212). Efforts by the New York            feeder school. (p. 218)
                                and Levin found that under the           City Coalition for Educational Jus-
                                                                                                                    Thus, student preferences for
                                Bloomberg administration, educa-         tice (2007, 2008) have demonstrated
                                                                                                                    schools that match their back-
                                tional option program offerings,         that patterns of inequity in middle
                                                                                                                    grounds, combined with the opera-
                                which control school choice to           school curricula, as well as disparities
                                                                                                                    tion of the matching process
                                increase equity of student opportu-      in resources such as teacher quality
                                                                                                                    formula, tend to assign students to
                                nity, have significantly diminished.     and student support, are associated
                                                                                                                    schools more similar to their middle
                                Unscreened programs, in which stu-       with low student achievement in the
                                                                                                                    schools than the schools they
                                dents are randomly selected by com-      city’s middle schools. Given Corco-
                                                                                                                    selected as their first choice.
                                puter, with priority given to those      ran and Levin’s finding of “sizable
                                who attend a school open house or        middle school effects,” research           Corcoran and Levin acknowledge
                                information session, have signifi-       efforts should assess whether pre-         in their study that the Bloomberg

                                cantly increased. Researchers need to    dictable disparities in guidance-          administration has improved the
                                examine the equity implications of       counselor-to-student ratios in middle      choice system’s transparency and
                                these policy changes.                    schools are shaping these effects on       equity. If there is a cost, they suggest,
                                                                         high school choice.6                       it lies in the system’s increased com-
                                                                                                                    plexity and the administration’s neu-
                                                                         Corcoran and Levin (2011) also
                                 “Students’ first-choice schools are     found:
                                                                                                                    trality: “The DOE has shifted the
                                                                                                                    burden of a complex choice decision
                                 on average more advantaged and            Students tended to prefer high
                                                                                                                    onto students, their parents, and
                                                                           schools that matched their own
                                 less racially isolated than students’                                              schools.” They conclude:
                                                                           academic, racial, and socioeco-
                                                                                                                      Whether or not this shift
                                 middle schools . . . [but] students’      nomic background. . . . These
                                                                                                                      improves academic outcomes . . .
                                                                           patterns suggest that universal
                                 final school assignment is more           choice will be limited in its ability
                                                                                                                      will depend on how students and
                                                                                                                      their families make school
                                 similar to the students’ feeder           to prevent stratification of stu-
                                                                                                                      choices. If demand is relatively
                                                                           dents across schools by race,
                                 school.”                                                                             insensitive to academic quality
                                                                           socio-economic status, and aca-
                                                                                                                      and more responsive to location
                                   ––Sean Corcoran and Harry Levin,        demic ability. (pp. 214–215)
                                                                                                                      and/or social influences, even a
                                     “School Choice and Competition in
                                                                         But Corcoran and Levin also                  fair system of choice will fail to
                                     the New York City Schools”
                                                                         observed a pattern of disparity              provide an impetus for academic
                                                                         between students’ first choice of high       improvement. Moreover, to the
                                                                         school, students’ middle schools, and
                                                                         the high schools students were ulti-
                                                                         mately assigned to. Essentially, they
extent students vary in the values     accumulated years of knowledge              2002 levels, but significantly
  they place on school characteris-      about how to identify the most              increased. The goal should be to
  tics, decentralized school choice      appropriate high schools, combined          ensure that students from all neigh-
  has the potential to increase          with the accumulated experience             borhoods have a fair shot at seats in
  stratification by race, academic       of how to effectively negotiate the         the high schools that are most likely
  ability, and socio-economic sta-       choice process, can provide signifi-        to prepare them for college.9
  tus. (p. 224)                          cant advantages to students’ choice.
                                                                                     Providing effective guidance and
That last observation may offer an       Evening out these imbalances will           counseling support for students
initial explanation of the very strong   not only require a more equitable           negotiating the high school choice
relationship we found between col-       distribution of in-school guidance          process – and increasing the number
lege readiness and racial composition    and counseling resources. It will
across the city’s neighborhoods.         also require mobilizing neighbor-
                                                                                     The New York City Coalition for Educational
Reducing the Choice/                                                                 Justice has also promoted a series of
                                          In-school advantages are often             improvement measures, including expanded
Demography Link                                                                      learning time and social/emotional supports
                                          buttressed by the social capital           such as improved guidance services, partic-

W        hat policies might reduce the
         strong correlation between
neighborhood characteristics and
                                          that more-advantaged families
                                                                                     ularly focused on the high school choice
                                                                                     process, which might improve the appropri-
                                                                                     ateness and effectiveness of student selec-
                                          and neighborhoods can wield.
college readiness? Because our                                                       tion of high schools.
research represents only an initial
step in exploring the relationships      hood-based guidance and support             Forms of community-based guidance and
among these variables, our recom-        efforts provided by community serv-         counseling have been developed during the
mendations are necessarily prelimi-                                                  past decades to help students and their fam-
                                                                                     ilies negotiate the college admissions
nary and limited. But one obvious        and advocacy organizations 7 – and          process. But to our knowledge, very few of
way to begin is to investigate the       perhaps by middle and high school           these local forms of support have been mobi-
middle school effects on choice that     students through forms of peer              lized to help negotiate the high school choice
Corcoran and Levin observed. It may      counseling 8 – to help students and         process.
well be, for example, that the rela-     families in low-income Black and
tively small numbers of the system’s     Latino neighborhood successfully            One example of such programs is the effort
middle schools that serve more-          navigate the choice process.                to adapt the Urban Youth Collaborative’s Stu-
advantaged students have lower stu-                                                  dent Success Center model to the middle
                                         Corcoran and Levin’s finding that           school level, now being explored at I.S. 302 in
dent/guidance counselor ratios and
                                         the number of placements available          Cypress Hills.
more experienced and effective
                                         in education option schools and pro-
counselors. If there are such in-                                                9
                                         grams has been significantly reduced        These recommendations are similar to those
school counseling advantages, they                                                   made by Hemphill and Nauer (2009).
                                         suggests another appropriate policy
may well produce more appropriate
                                         intervention. To increase the possi-
choice of and placement in high
                                         bility that Black and Latino students
                                         with low levels of achievement have
Moreover, such in-school advantages      appropriate placements available to
are often buttressed by the social       them through the choice process,
capital that more-advantaged families    educational options seats should
and neighborhoods can wield. Fami-       not only be restored to their pre-
lies and neighborhoods that have

                                                    Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University                          9
of ed-op placements – would             school choice (and school creation)      References

                               undoubtedly improve the quality         as policies to achieve these goals.
                               and equity of student choices (and      However, our analysis suggests that      Abdulkadiroglu, A., P. A. Pathak and
                               ultimately, their college readiness     the restructured system of choice         A. E. Roth. 2005. “The New York
                               scores). But such support will not be   they created is far from sufficient to    High School Match,” American
                               sufficient to provide the new high      meet the citywide equity challenge.       Economic Review 95, no. 2, p. 364.
                               school placements necessary to cor-                                              Corcoran, S. P. and H. M. Levin.
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                                                                       dred new small schools and one hun-
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                               advantaged and less-segregated                                                    American Institutes for Research.
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                                suggests a much larger prob-

                                                                       increase the capacity of all schools      to College Readiness Indicators.”
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Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University   12
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