In The Age of Gentrification, What Constitutes A “Good School”? How To Make Education Colorblind

By Jeff Vasishta August 17, 2016

Gentrification. Perhaps the most contentious issue in real estate today. Mention the word in some circles and the room will go as silent as a Trump rally in Park Slope. But long-term home owners don’t always grimace at the word. Some actually welcome it. After living for years in urban blight, an influx of affluent neighbors and soaring home prices can be like a balm to some chaffed psyches. Even many minority residents will tell you, change isn’t always a bad thing. Especially when it comes to schools.

RelatedBirth of a Brooklyn Nation: How the Gentrified Nabe Went From Grit to Glitz

The Academy of Arts and Letters, a small K-8 school in Brooklyn was founded in 2006. It was part of the Education Department’s initiative to create a racial and socioeconomic balance at schools in fast-gentrifying neighborhoods. Initially, the charted school was more than 90 percent black and Hispanic and it reflected the Brooklyn neighborhoods around it—Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Fort Green. More than 80 percent of its students qualified for free or reduced lunch. But in the early 2000’s the neighborhoods started to change.  In Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Fort Green, the white population rose 120 percent from 2000 to 2010. At the same time, the black population fell by 30 percent, according to the Center for Urban Research. While this extreme demographic shift took place, The Academy of Arts and Letters gained a reputation for its humanities, science and arts lab— and so it became a hot commodity. Now half of its kindergarteners are white and its demand has sky rocketed.

John O’Reilly, Principle at Arts and Letters told the New York Times recently, “I love the fact that so many white affluent families would want to send their children to my school, but I know the impact it has on the diversity.”

In New York City in 2016, 38 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 36.4 percent passed the math tests. At Success charter schools, including the majority black and Latino Harlem school, the corresponding results were 82 percent and 94 percent. Clearly minority schools can succeed academically.

“Performance is closely linked to a student’s socio-economic level,” says Ted Hamilton, Work Based Learning Coordinator at the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism in Flatbush, Brooklyn. “Minority parents like their kids going to school with white kids and in elementary school it’s all about where you’re zoned. Middle school and high school in New York City are a different animal. In some respects, they’re are insulated from gentrification because you can choose where you want to go. Great schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are based purely on testing. Some Manhattan schools like MLK or Washington Irving don’t have a lot of local kids because parents who can afford to live near Union Square or Lincoln Center don’t send their kids to public school.”

Inevitably, many parents, including minority residents in gentrifying neighborhoods, welcome gentrification. Increased property prices and greater taxes mean better equipped local schools. Given a choice, most parents, regardless of color, want to send their children to the best performing schools they can. And usually that happens to be schools that lack diversity.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

    Stefano Boeri, the architect mastermind behind the famous plant-covered skyscrapers, is now designing Forest Cities in Liuzhou, China. #ForestCity #China
    Auction is the second scheduled in a month for a One57 unit and it could set a NYC foreclosure record. #BillionairesRow #Foreclosures
    Once a couch-surfing website, Airbnb moves on to luxury properties, further disrupting hospitality industry. #Airbnb #Luxury
Four Countries To Retire In With $200K In Savings—And How Much Real Estate Costs There
Ever dreamed of retiring abroad? You know, affordable healthcare, better climate, more positive news—becoming an expat seems like an enticing option, especially one you no…
While Other Real Estate Platforms Start Charging Agents $3-Per-Day Exposure Fee, Agorafy Remains Accessible To All
Real Estate searching platform are always finding news ways to diversify their revenues models. Case in point—on Tuesday July 18, Streeteasy, one of New York…
Is Real Estate Crowdfunding The Fix That Urban Housing In America Really Needs?
Saving money for a down payment? One can only hope. Most millennial in their twenties or thirties are mortified that they might never be able…
Brooklyn And Queens’ Real Estate Sub-Markets Continue Their Ascent To The New Heights
So, the sales prices in Brooklyn and Queens hit record highs. Again. Just like they did in December 2016 and at the end of this…
The Economy Of Car Services And Delivery Apps Might Be Making NYC Less Eco-Friendly
Living in an eco-friendly neighborhood is a good thing. And, as it always the case with the good things, it also costs more. High rents…
Building Communities: What The U.S. Developers Should Learn From Soho China
As our world emerges into the new period of globalization and technology, some of the most important by-products of this process are buildings that have…
Five Reasons Why All Entrepreneurs Must Keep Their Eyes On China
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Chinese influence on the modern global economy. Carving out a place in Chinese market and winning over…
Airbnb Up Their Game With A New Luxury Tier Featuring Mansions And Villas
Airbnb is about to seriously up their game. First, the company started testing a new service called Select in an attempt to push accommodation listings…