Understanding the Impact of Integration Policies in New York City Public Schools

Can two NYC district-wide plans to diversify middle schools through student assignment policies result in greater diversity, improve student outcomes, and reduce the achievement gap by race and class?

Many U.S. schools remain divided by race and class, and substantial achievement gaps persist. New York City has experimented with numerous efforts to diversify its schools, but in the absence of a citywide solution, local city coalitions launched initiatives in Districts 3 and 15 as students applied for the 2019–2020 school year. The initiatives aim to expand student access to high-quality education options in middle schools, especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including low-income students, homeless students, English language learners, and students with low test scores and grades. Initial data suggest the programs may have prompted different student enrollment patterns, but the broader effects of the policies remain unknown. This study will examine how the new admissions policies impact measures of school diversity, student access to quality schools, and academic outcomes. Working in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, Pathak will explore the short-term effects of current integration efforts and simulate the effects of these policies should they be adopted citywide, as well as how effects compare to those of alternative policies. The team will use quasi-experimental methods that leverage the centralized assignment mechanism the city uses to assign students to schools and, where appropriate, conduct simulations and machine learning techniques to examine how existing district-level plans affect diversity at middle schools, how effective alternative plans would be at increasing diversity in middle schools, and whether adopting the plans would increase the performance of disadvantaged students and reduce gaps. Findings will inform efforts to reduce inequality for students who are traditionally disadvantaged in New York City schools and offer lessons for desegregation efforts nationwide.