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Blueprint for Advancing Equity in NYC Schools

Blueprint for Advancing Equity in NYC Schools

Priorities for the Next Administration

(May 2021)

New York City schools have improved dramatically during the last two decades, including steep declines in dropout rates, increases in high school graduation and college enrollment, and improved attendance and achievement. Yet, despite the overall progress, deep inequities continue to plague the City’s education system. At every level of schooling, there have been large, persistent disparities linked to students’ race, ethnicity, and neighborhood. These are rooted in longstanding racial and economic inequalities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

The Research Alliance’s new policy brief, Blueprint for Advancing Equity in NYC Schools, outlines recommendations for how City and District leaders can take a more demanding approach to advancing equity, while sustaining the progress that has been made during the last 20 years. These recommendations include:

  1. Set an Evidence-Informed Foundation: Measure What We Seek to Change.
  • Build a robust system of education equity indicators—focused on opportunities and resources, not just outcomes—and make the information public.
  • Include measures of social and emotional learning. 
  • Gauge learning in more authentic and culturally responsive ways. 

2.  Reframe the Equity Agenda: Align Resources With Needs.

  • Disproportionately invest and build capacity in schools and communities with the highest levels of need.
  • Provide intensive, individualized support for students most affected by COVID (e.g., high-quality tutoring, smaller classes, mental health services).
  • Meaningfully integrate schools, attending to their internal dynamics and practices, as well as their demographics.
  • Improve service coordination and strengthen partnerships—to meet a wider range of student needs and provide a richer array of opportunities, inside and outside of school.
  1. Build for the Long Term: Leverage Innovation and Learning to Improve Equity.  
  • Leverage promising innovations from the last year (e.g., teachers’ expanded use of technology, the development of curricular resources, improvements in students’ access to devices and the internet, and school and CBO efforts to meet families’ basic needs). 
  • Use rigorous research to inform decisions about what to continue or scale up, what to modify, and what to discard.

While these recommendations focus largely on the education system—and decisions that can be made within that system—the Blueprint also emphasizes that schools do not operate in a vacuum.  Eliminating educational disparities will require addressing larger structures that perpetuate racial and economic inequality. To this end, the Blueprint highlights opportunities to link reforms in education to reforms in other systems in New York City. The first task of the next mayoral administration should be to assess how policies and practices across agencies, including those focused on housing, healthcare, employment, and policing, are either undermining or supporting young people’s development and academic success. The Blueprint is designed to inform these efforts.