Educating for Democracy: Why Not Affirmative Action for 'Elite' High Schools?
The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to revisit "affirmative action" in college admissions leads me to the observation that the advantages of diversity in higher education could be applied as well to the specialized high schools in New York City. In a recent report by the Civil Rights Commission, the New York City Department of Education was criticized for relying exclusively on a single test to determine the eligibility of a prospective student to be enrolled in Bronx Science -- which has produced more Nobel Laureates than any other public school, including the most recent in Chemistry -- Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech as well as several more public high schools that use such tests. The complaint states:
For decades, a single factor has been used to determine access to these Specialized High Schools -- a student's rank-order score on a 2.5 hour multiple choice test called the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). Under this admissions policy, regardless of whether a student has achieved straight As from kindergarten through eighth grade or whether he or she demonstrates other signs of high academic potential, the only factor that matters for admission is his or her score on a single test. Because there is a limit to what any single factor can predict about a person's academic promise, let alone his or her potential to succeed and thrive in life, admissions decisions based solely on a high-stakes test have been roundly criticized by educational experts and social scientists. They also defy common sense. By relying upon a test as the sole criterion, the admissions policy for the Specialized High Schools does not fully capture any student's academic merit or his or her potential.
... during 2005-6, blacks made up 4.8 percent of the Bronx Science student body, according to city figures, down from 11.8 percent in 1994-95... At Brooklyn Technical High School, the proportion of black students had declined to 14.9 percent from 37.3 percent 11 years ago, and at Stuyvesant, blacks made up 2.2 percent of the student body, down from 4.4 percent.
The percentage of black and Hispanic students offered admission to the city's elite public high schools inched lower this year, continuing a decade-long slide, according to the results of the city's admissions process released Friday [February 11, 2011]. Just 4 percent of the students offered admission to the seven specialized high schools were black. Notifications were made on Friday. Six percent were Hispanic, 35 percent Asian, and 30 percent white.
"I think that Stuyvesant and these other schools are as fair as fair can be... There's nothing subjective about this. You pass the test, you get the highest score, you get into the school -- no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is. That's been the tradition in these schools since they were founded, and it's going to continue to be."
This blog post has been shared by permission from the author.
Readers wishing to comment on the content are encouraged to do so via the link to the original post.
Find the original post here:
The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.