Admission Policy Troubles aren’t new

Admission Policy Troubles Aren’t New

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1998/05/13/35buff.h17.html

When I was in high school, one of my classmates younger sister was denied admission, and her family sued the school for racial discrimination saying that the policy gave an unfair advantage to minority students.   There were established quotas and they said that Elizabeth outperformed the minorities on the list and should have been admitted.   The suit was settled and City Honors changed   from a single exam to more criteria based assessment.   I’m not sure what the racial make up of the school is like but as a minority there, I know that we were definitely in the minority, especially when compared to the next ranked high school, Hutch-Tech.  I somewhat remember that the next year class looked conspicuously caucasian and that in the back of my mind I had this nagging feeling that some person would come out to question my right to be there.  I wonder if Elizabeth has any minority friends from her high school class.   Imagine her in a class where all the minorities students know that she feels that she should have displaced any one of them.   (Elizabeth lives here in New York City as well.  I ran into her at Target.   She teachers people with disabilities, and I think that awesome.)

I can see why her family would bring the lawsuit up.  City Honors is a public school. It offers higher level classes and in comparison to many schools nationwide it is a beacon of light.   When I think about the class environment or the way I would like to teach, I think of my experiences there.  I had a right to be and it takes a lot of gumption to challenge admission standards from the Zagare’s perspective. I think that the quotas that had been mandated by state law served a purpose so that you don’t end up with a lily-white school.  It’s proven that economic advantages or disadvantages tie into performance in school. In a city such as Buffalo where race and poverty are almost married to each other, nothing good could come of pretending that race isn’t a factor.  Unfortunately, the school decided that race shouldn’t be a determining factor, and that other criteria should also be established.   Which is ok, I think that there should be criteria, but there should be a quota.   As is impossible as it seems, there could be a chance that not enough minorities met that criteria and then you end up with a school population that thought it is supposedly the best and the brightest the city has to offer, it looks nothing representatively like what the city population looks like.   And it should look like the best and brightest of all the city, not just a segment of the city.

Or else you end up  the mess that we have here at the Specialized High Schools here in NYC.

Right now the admission policy for the New York City Specialized High School is being challenged as unfair.  It’s being argued that depending on one test score simply discriminates against minorities.  Newsday reports “Mulgrew said many minority students now excluded from Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School and five other specialized high schools deserve to be there. Only about two dozen African-Americans and Latinos were among the more than 3,000 students admitted to Specialized High Schools this year, while they represent about 70 percent of the city’s 1.1 million public school students.” Which is appalling- the numbers speak for themselves.  It simply is ridiculous.   Is it something wrong with the test and the way it’s written?   Are there reasons why African-American and Latino students aren’t performing well enough on it?  Do they need more support or strategies for test taking?  Are enough just not applying?  

Read the facts again- this time from the New York Times –

The numbers disclosed by the Education Department showed that of the 28,000 students citywide who took the Specialized High School Admissions Test, 5,701 of them were offered seats. Although 70 percent of the city’s public school students are black and Hispanic, blacks were offered 5 percent of the overall seats and Hispanics 7 percent — the same as a year ago. Asians were offered 53 percent of the seats, compared with 50 percent a year ago; whites were offered 26 percent of seats, compared with 24 percent a year ago.”

As unpopular as it sounds- maybe quotas should be applied to the specialized High School.  Maybe the Specialized schools should be considered Magnet programs.  Researcher Marcy Crouch reports that  “ voluntary-magnet programs to be successful at reaching racial integration goals and maintaining those proportions. As more cities throughout the United States implement magnet programs not only will students of all races benefit from superior educational opportunities, they will also experience voluntary racial integration which will hopefully provide a solid foundation of open-mindedness for living in this multi-racial country.” The gifted and talented should have a place to go, but again, I think that publicly funded schools should at least honor the public.  I think what sucks is that no minority has filed a lawsuit for discrimination.  I would be highly interested in seeing the arguments for why the specialized schools should remain as exclusive as they are.   At the very least, portfolio  assessments and other criteria must be considered.   Or else call those schools, private schools and let them fend for themselves.

-Chester Kent