Learning Environments That Reflect the Diversity of New York City

Like the United Nations, there is something inspirational about New York as a great melting pot of different cultures and traditions.
— Ban Ki-moon

We are proud to support the largest school district in the nation. New York City’s 1.1 million students across 1,800 public schools means that the impact of our partners can directly reach 1 in 50 schoolchildren in America. And the best part – what we believe makes New York City the ideal learning laboratory for new ideas and strategies in educating our citizens – is the immense diversity that can only be found in our five boroughs.

This week, Chancellor Fariña announced the release of Equity and Excellence for All: Diversity in New York City Public Schools. This report outlines NYC DOE’s commitment to school diversity and belief that all students benefit from diverse and inclusive classrooms, and sets specific initial goals that will be reported on annually.

Immediate policy changes in the plan include:

  • the elimination of the Limited Unscreened method for high school admissions;
  • the elimination of revealed middle school ranking;
  • the creation of online applications for middle and high school admissions;
  • the expansion of Diversity in Admissions pilots to include contracted pre-K providers (New York City Early Childhood Education Centers, or NYCEECs);
  • the evaluation and expansion of efforts targeted at increasing access for students in temporary housing;
  • efforts targeted at increasing access to the City’s eight specialized high schools; and
  • the opening of 15 new schools or programs over the next three years that have specific plans to serve diverse populations.  

The Fund for Public Schools sees this diversity plan as a natural extension of its work across several portfolio areas.

For example, the DREAM program, a free afterschool program that prepares students for the Specialized High School Admissions Test, will be expanded. Initially driven by $1M in support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, DREAM was able to boost diversity by enabling teachers to provide support and free tutoring to low-income students. DOE will also offer the SHSAT exams during the school day in fifteen middle schools (versus the current number of seven participating middle schools).

The NYC School Finder will be expanded to all admissions processes. Thanks to the important launch support of The Rockefeller Foundation and a recent generous grant from the New York Community Trust, this mobile-friendly search tool enables families to more seamlessly navigate the high school enrollment process. Since its launch, School Finder has been accessed by nearly 85,000 unique users who have spent significant time browsing the information (eight minutes, which is three times the typical visit on the DOE enrollment website).

Evaluation of efforts from the Students in Temporary Housing admissions pilot means additional supports for these students to help them maintain attendance at school and improve their chances for success academically and in life. Through our partners at Deutsche Bank, we have been able to support the Office of Community Schools’ strategy to address chronic absenteeism. 

And lastly, increasing participation of underrepresented students in STEM will help to further bridge the gap. Thanks to our partners, major funded initiatives such as Computer Science for All are well positioned to make significant inroads. The 98 elementary, middle, and high schools participating in year-long Computer Science for All programs have been required to develop plans to engage female and black and Hispanic students in their courses. Starting this fall, over 50 additional high schools – including the 24 Lead Higher schools – will support underrepresented students in accessing STEM and college-level coursework through AP for All and Computer Science for All. Additional schools will continue to take on this work through 2025.

As the Chancellor’s diversity plan makes its way through a multitude of stakeholders, The Fund will collaborate alongside our DOE colleagues to identify areas of both need and opportunity where we can facilitate public-private partnerships to advance the work.

If you are interested in joining our ever-growing list of supporters helping to ensure every student gets the excellent education they deserve, join us.

David Belsky