Public Education in the Dynamic City: Lessons from New York City
The plight of urban schools and their failure to adequately and efficiently educate their students has occupied the national discussion about public schools in America over the last quarter century. While there is little doubt that failing schools exist in rural and suburban locations, the image of city school systems as under-financed, inefficient, inequitable and burdened by students with overwhelming needs is particularly well entrenched in the modern American psyche. As the largest school district in the country, New York City attracts particular attention to its problems. To some extent, this image reflects realities. New York City school children, like many urban students around the country, are more likely to be poor, non-white and immigrants, with limited English skills, and greater instability in their schooling, and the new waves of immigrants from around the world bring students with a formidable array of backgrounds, language skills, and special needs. The resulting changes in the student body pose particular challenges for schools. At the same time, despite a decade of school finance litigation and reform, New York continues to have trouble affording the class sizes, highly qualified teachers and other resources that suburban neighbors enjoy. Finally, there is evidence of continuing segregation and disparities in performance between students of different races and ethnicities.