As Mayor Bill de Blasio begins a second term with a vow to make New York the nation’s ”fairest city,” his first assignment should be grading the fairness of the city’s schools. Decades after Brown v. Board of Education, school segregation is still rendering the nation’s most diverse public school district its most divided, putting children on divergent paths to poverty and privilege virtually from birth, undermining the entire city’s future prospects.

The city’s new school “diversity plan” has centered on tellingly unambitious goals: One aim is creating more racial diversity by boosting enrollment at “racially representative” schools by 50,000 students. To address “economic stratification” across district lines, the mayor aims to shave 10 percent off the proportion of schools (about 150 total) that are considered highly segregated by family income. The focus on statistics ensures that the changes will be perilously incremental—for example, a school can be up to 90 percent black and Latino and still be considered sufficiently “diverse.”

Setting arbitrary “diversity” standards obscures the institutional factors driving racial segregation in education. The city’s system of school choice encourages privileged parents to move to higher-performing, affluent, and often disproportionately white districts, which inevitably leaves behind, and excludes, poor children of color who get stuck in unstable, underfunded schools.

Segregation persists today in part because de facto housing patterns have replaced the more explicit segregation policies of the past, such as real-estate redlining and blockbusting. As more whites move in, inequality grows and schools become polarized internally by academic performance. This trend is exacerbated by testing systems that sort children based on rigid standards of “meri,” but often result in biased outcomes that are skewed by race and socioeconomic status across public-school institutions.

Read the full article about separate and unequal school districts by Michelle Chen at The Nation.