District 15’s schools are among the most socio-economically and racially segregated schools in New York City. District 15 includes Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Sunset Park, Red Hook and parts of Downtown Brooklyn. In the fall of 2017, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) initiated a community planning and engagement process, The District 15 (D15) Diversity Plan, aimed at creating diverse, meaningfully integrated middle schools.

Within the current middle-school admissions process, in which families rank schools, most of the schools use academic “screens” to select the students they want.

In the new admissions plan, Fifth grade families will continue to rank their middle-school choices. But the plan will eliminate academic and other screens. The district will use a lottery that gives extra weight to students who come from low-income families, are learning English as a new language, or are homeless.

The city announced it would dedicate $500,000 towards new resources, training, and other supports for parents and educators to help make the plan work. A new coordinator will be responsible for helping families navigate the admissions process, and an outreach team is tasked with contacting every parent with information about how to apply to middle schools. Additionally, it will be up to a new “diversity, equity, and integration coordinator” to oversee the district’s work, which will include providing teachers with anti-bias training, social-emotional learning, and alternative discipline practices.

Main changes and propositions:

  • Remove all screens. (These screens include: lateness, attendance, student behavior, admissions exams/tests, standardized test scores, report card grades, & auditions. Maintain the current system of school choice.)
  • Create an admissions priority for students who qualify as low-income, are English Language Learners (ELLs) and/or are Students in Temporary Housing for 52% of all seats at all D15 middle schools. A more specific & accurate metric will be developed & used to identify low-income students status.
  • Allow elementary students who have completed a dual language program to be automatically eligible for middle school dual language programs. Utilize a transparent & objective assessment to determine bi-literacy for new students entering a middle school dual language program.
  • Improve support & funding for existing programs in middle schools which have historically been ranked lower by applicants.
  • Explore, implement & fund specialized programs in middle schools which have historically been ranked lower by applicants, Equitable Admissions such as Spanish and/or Chinese dual language programs & specialized STEM programs.
  • Pilot a busing program for 6th grade students traveling beyond 1 mile to their middle schools. Ensure bus routes provide access for students with limited subway & bus access.

The plan will be implemented this fall for next school year.

Photo: Public workshop for District 15 school diversity