Advocating for integrated schools and communities

Summer 2021 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

As I continue in my role as interim executive director at New York Appleseed, I am constantly thankful for the foundational legacy left by former executive director David Tipson. His role in spearheading integration efforts back in 2012 and planting seeds of influence for New York City to think innovatively about how to address school segregation cannot be understated. Moreover, those who worked closely with David know that he has the unique ability to navigate the complexities of this work while simultaneously pushing for better spaces for student and community voices to be heard. His leadership cultivated and sustained Appleseed’s leading mission of advocating for integrated schools and communities, and I look forward to continuing to build on the foundation he left behind.

With the upcoming school year on the horizon, Appleseed is ready to continue building on the momentum for Real Integration in New York City schools and communities. In the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic which continues to lay bare the harmful and deadly consequences of segregation, in tandem with a national racial reckoning due to the murder of George Floyd, several policy changes were announced for NYC schools. Particularly, NYC middle-school and high-school admissions took formative steps toward inclusivity by eliminating several of its most egregious gatekeeping tools. At the elementary school level, the discriminatory Gifted and Talented (G&T) test was also eliminated, although the segregated G&T programs still remain. 

These changes, while celebrated and welcomed, cannot mark the end of NYC’s push toward more equitable and integrated schools. It would be a tragic misstep in NYC’s history to revert back to the status quo that supported the harmful practice of screens that judged the educational attainment of a student as young as 9 years old in order to attend public middle-school. The changes made in December of last year have already shown promising preliminary results. For example, offers to previously selective middle-schools increased for both students from low-income families and English Language Learners. Additionally, high-schools that dropped their geographic priorities and increased their Diversity in Admissions priorities saw drastic shifts in offers to free and reduced price lunch eligible students. 

Many of these changes were announced as temporary, but steps toward equity must be permanent. We cannot go back to policies that exclude and harm our most marginalized students. We must sustain the changes that were made into the next chapter in City leadership and push for improvements. As New York Appleseed gears up for another school year, we stay committed to working with fellow advocates, City and school leadership and community members on fighting for truly integrated schools and communities.  



interim executive director

Immediate & Actionable Solutions to School Segregation

Over the summer, New York Appleseed synthesized immediate solutions to addressing school segregation in New York City to best inform continuing and incoming leadership. While we recognize that addressing school segregation to forward Real Integration in New York City schools will take far more than three steps, we highlight particular solutions that are crucial to moving us forward toward equitable and integrated schools. The outlined priorities will continue to guide our work into this upcoming school year with our focus on permanently ending middle school screens, promoting 21st-century student assignment policies and eliminating current segregated Gifted and Talented programs in favor of school-wide enrichment models. Special thanks to public affairs firm, Leading with Our Values, for aiding in the creation of this document. Read more here.

Informing Audiences on the Movement for Integration in New York City

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This summer, New York Appleseed continued our efforts to inform on school segregation and the state of integration in NYC through the facilitation and participation of educational events.

On July 15th, Appleseed’s interim executive director, Nyah Berg, participated on the New York City Bar Association’s panel, Segregation in NYC Public Schools: How Did We Get to This Point and What Lawyers Can Do to Address the Myriad Harms. In her comments, Nyah shed light on the history of segregation in New York City and the importance of legal advocacy and pro-bono partnerships in forwarding policies and practices for integrated schools. The panel discussed a myriad of topics regarding the educational justice landscape in NYC, including the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on our respected work in fighting for equity and inclusivity for the City’s most marginalized students. 

Community Roots Panel with IntegrateNYC

In June, Appleseed’s Lena Dalke organized a panel featuring student advocates from IntegrateNYC to speak with 8th grade students at Community Roots Middle School. IntegrateNYC’s student leaders shared their empowering personal experiences as part of the movement for integration, overall successes attributed to their efforts, and the changes they’re working towards. Community Roots students utilized knowledge gained from this panel for their research projects as a part of their unit on New York City school segregation.

Integration Coalition Hosts Virtual Town Hall, In Solidarity for Integration

On May 17th, for the 67th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education, New York Appleseed co-hosted a collaborative and informative town hall, In Solidarity for Integration, with partner organizations from the Integration Coalition -- New York City Alliance for School Integration and Desegregation, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, IntegrateNYC, NYU Metro Center’s Integration and Innovation Initiative and Teens Take Charge. IntegrateNYC’s historian team provided a thought-provoking history of the integration movement in NYC and panelists from the coalition's various organizations discussed how we can continue to work together to fight systemic racism in our school system and find solidarity in the integration movement.

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Juneteenth Celebration to Kick Off Restoration of Lefferts Historic House

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After years of advocacy pushing for the Lefferts Historic House (LHH) to include language and acknowledgement of its true history and the Lefferts family’s role in being one of the largest slaveholding clans in Kings County, we were pleased to see that Prospect Park Alliance launched its LHH restoration process by centering Black history through the creation of Juneteenth Way and the exhibition of Jamel Shabazz’s site-specific photo installation called, “Prospect Park, My Brooklyn Oasis.” 

The importance of acknowledging the lives of those enslaved at this historical landmark (as described further in our contribution to the LHH wikipedia page), cannot be understated as our nation grapples with those who wish to exclude and erase this particular part of our nation’s history. We stand with Councilmember Brad Lander's comments

This is a critical moment to make sure our collective histories are shared and not to

gloss over some parts of it we don’t want to share. I hope that when it reopens, the

Lefferts Historic House will be able to teach all who come to visit it the stories of the

enslaved people who lived and worked there, and that we continue to make New York

City historical sites more inclusive.

We look forward to the completed restoration of the LHH as a site that will contribute to public education and dialogue that moves us forward on a truthful and more equitable path.

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New York Appleseed is a part of a nonprofit network of 16 public interest centers in the United States and Mexico with a network office in Washington. Appleseed centers are dedicated to building a society in which opportunities are genuine, access to justice is universal and equal, and government advances the public interest. Click on the links below to explore the Appleseed network:

Alabama Appleseed

Chicago Appleseed

DC Appleseed

Georgia Appleseed

Hawai'i Appleseed

Kansas Appleseed

Louisiana Appleseed

Massachusetts Appleseed

Appleseed México

Missouri Appleseed

Nebraska Appleseed

New Jersey Appleseed

New Mexico Appleseed

South Carolina Appleseed

Texas Appleseed

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