Brooklyn Prospect is embarking on an ambitious experiment in school integration.
BROOKLYN—The kind of high school Juana Lino and Ezra Taylor wanted for their twin daughters is all too rare, even in New York City: one with rigorous academics and a racially and socio-economically diverse student body.
“The workplace is diverse, and school is like a job,” says Lino, who identifies as Hispanic and black. She valued the diversity of her daughters’ Boerum Hill elementary school, PS 261, and wanted to see her 14-year-olds, Khadejah and Yazmine, in a similar environment for middle school. But in New York City, home to one of America’s most segregated school systems, finding a diverse school is no easy task
So Lino was pleased to discover Brooklyn Prospect Charter School while searching for schools online. The “diverse by design” charter opened seven years ago and now includes a middle and high school for grades six through 12 and an expanding elementary school that currently goes up to the second grade.
Brooklyn Prospect is part of a growing national movement aimed at creating a new paradigm: racially and socio-economically integrated charter schools. Across all grades, Brooklyn Prospect enrolls 36 percent white students, 34 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black, 8 percent multiracial, and 6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Forty-five percent of the children qualify for free and reduced lunch, a marker of economic hardship. Around 17 percent have special needs. That may not precisely reflect the demographics of the city’s schools as a whole—where 14 percent of students are white, 27 percent are black, and 40 percent Hispanic—but it comes closer than most city schools and certainly most charter schools. A 2014 report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA concluded that nearly 3 in 4 New York City charter schools are “apartheid schools,” meaning they enroll less than 1 percent white students. Brooklyn Prospect was one of the notable exceptions.
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