H.S. Policy Earns 'Incomplete'
For the past two weeks, we have been bringing you opinions about the education of gifted children in NYC’s public high schools. The issue arose when the NAACP complained to the Federal Department of Education that the current test for children seeking admission to the city’s specialized high schools does not predict academic success.
Their complaint alleges that the test’s reliance on reading and mathematics precludes the measurement of other skills which contribute to overall intelligence. They say that it disregards a student’s grades, participation in extra-curricular activities and leadership qualities.
Today, we publish an editorial which appeared in Crain’s New York on October 7th. The article agrees with Edward C Sullivan, another critic of the test, and disagrees with the views of Michael Benjamin and John McWhorter who feel that the existing test is the fairest and most practical way to choose between thousands of applicants and should not be changed because of political pressure.
H.S. policy earns 'incomplete'
The lack of diversity at top city schools is stunning.
When evaluating job applicants, employers consider experience, education, character and skills. They do interviews and check references. Colleges and universities do the same with students seeking admission.
But for seven of the city's elite public high schools, a single test score is all that matters. That doesn't make sense.
The result has been a lack of diversity at these top schools that is nothing short of stunning in our multicultural city. The student population at Stuyvesant High School is 72% Asian, 24% white, 1% black and 2% Hispanic. Bronx High School of Science is 64% Asian, 25% white, 4% black and 7% Hispanic. Asians, who account for 13% of city residents, also predominate at Queens High School for Sciences (74%) and Brooklyn Technical High School (60%).
Asian students deserve credit for performing so well on the Specialized High School Admissions Test. They can't be blamed for mastering the process, which has been enshrined in state law since 1971. The problem is the system itself.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes that the test is purely objective: All applicants who score above the cutoff set by their top-choice school are admitted.
But high-school admissions need not be free of subjectivity. The point is to admit students who are most likely to succeed and who best enhance the experiences of fellow students. A test score alone does not predict success in school as well as a combination of grades, test scores and other factors. That stands to reason, because flourishing in school requires much more than acing one test.
The NAACP recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education about the city's policy. That was no surprise: The organization advocates for blacks, who are dramatically underrepresented at schools that rely on the SHSAT. More telling is that the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, though not a party to the complaint, also views the policy as problematic even though it appears to favor Asians. The advocacy organization opposes admission policies that discriminate without reason, and this one fits that description.
A school is better off having a diverse population of bright students than a homogeneous one. An admission policy that is selective and comprehensive would produce a student body more reflective of the city and more likely to thrive academically and socially.
To broaden these elite institutions' one-dimensional admission policy would not be to “get rid of these schools,” as the mayor impulsively claimed. It would improve them.