Consultant: Buffalo’s best schools segregated by race, poverty

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A civil rights expert hired by the Buffalo School District says the city’s best schools need to change requirements for admission.

Dr. Gary Orfield’s report was sparked by federal complaints to the U.S. Department of Education by Buffalo inner city parents.

In Orfield’s report he says Buffalo is segregated by race and poverty, conditions that have led to a school system that discriminates against a large number of minority students who cannot get a quality education.

“Finally the federal government came in here,” said parent advocate Sam Radford. “They looked and said whoa!  What is going on?”  Radford calls the system “patently unfair.”

Orfield found that two-thirds of the applicants rejected at criteria-based schools were black.

His study also shows that non-English speaking households have been largely ignored.

In addition, he found that criteria schools’ faculties have very few teachers of color.

Orfield’s recommendations to the Buffalo School Board include placing less weight for admissions on a student’s I.Q.

He also wants ten percent of seats in criteria-based schools set aside for students who show signs of strong potential.

Many City Honors parents and students are concerned that their school may have to lower its standards.

Jeff Russo, whose daughter will be attending City Honors next school year, said admissions changes would take away from the students with advanced skills.

His daughter Anna said she wants to be around students with high I.Q’s. “I can try to achieve like they do,” she said.

“If you change the admissions  standards for City Honors,” said Jason Amos, “you’re going to lose what City Honors is.”

His son Jakye, a fifth grade student at the school, said “I don’t think that we could just handle everyone coming in.”

He is concerned that children with behavioral problems could disrupt classroom instruction.

Dr. Orfield’s study concludes that the city’s choice system has declined. He noted the success of Buffalo schools decades ago, when magnet schools were created. They catered to a diverse population of students when Buffalo schools were desegregated.

“The student and faculty populations in some schools have resegregated,” the report noted. “The system has not been strong enough to compete with the new charter schools,or adopt to the city’s changing population.”

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