Background: New York City is one of the most segregated school districts in the country, but in the last nine years, school integration has moved from being marginal to a central education policy. Existing narratives have emphasized parents, school and political leaders, downplaying the significance of citywide coalitions of activists, especially youth activists.
Purpose: We examine how grassroots activists contributed to transform school integration policy, and the opportunities and challenges as a result through urban regime theory and specifically civic capacity, which highlights how various constituencies build a shared agenda for policy change.
Research Design: Working in partnership with four youth interviewers at two integration activist organizations, we conducted 72 semi-structured interviews with New York City student, parent and community activists. We also observed 36 hours of public meeting observations and collected publicly available documents, including 360 newspaper articles and policy documents in order to triangulate our findings.
Conclusions: We find that activist coalitions made progress in developing integration civic capacity through increased collaboration among diverse stakeholders, notably youth, toward a shared definition of integration. However, growing tensions with rival coalitions and the fragmented political landscape of NYC limited the strength and durability of civic capacity.
Teachers College Record