Elite New York City high schools such as Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science currently accept students based on their test scores. However, that may change in the near future if New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has his way.
The mayor, irate at the fact that African-American and Hispanic students typically have a hard time getting into elite schools, wants to force these schools to take in minority students with lower scores simply because they are members of a minority ethnic group. In fact, de Blasio has gone so far as to call the test, which is administered to eighth grade students who choose to take it, an impediment to justice, progress and academic excellence and has stated his intention of expanding a program that would automatically reserve up to 20% of all seats at specialized high schools for low-income students who score slightly less than the minimum cutoff score. However, this would just be a stop-gap measure. The mayor’s end goal is to abolish the test entirely, and instead provide automatic admission for the top percentage of students from each school.
Naturally, the move has angered those who feel that academic excellence alone should be the determining factor in deciding who gets into specialized schools. However, it isn’t angry white parents who are protesting based on “white privilege”. It is Asian-American parents, students and advocates who note that the move would have a serious negative impact on their community.
At present, Asian-Americans students make up 62% of the student population at specialized schools in New York, even though the Asian community makes up less than 15% of the population of New York City. However, it is worth noting that Asian Americans make up the largest percentage of students who take the tests required to get into these specialized schools.
It is also important to note that many of these students do not come from rich, privileged families. Instead, they are often the children of low-income parents who push their offspring to succeed by teaching their children good study habits and investing heavily in their education. Advocates note that setting aside seats for other low-income ethnic groups would automatically push out good Asian-American students who need opportunities to succeed and are willing to work hard for them.
There is also concern that students who miss the test cutoff might not be able to handle specialized schools with a high-pressure environment. As one current specialized school senior accurately notes, successfully making it through a four-year high school course at an elite school with high standards is not easy. It not only requires a great deal of commitment from the students but also support from family members.
The city has already tried providing extra help to minority students who typically have a hard time getting into specialized schools by offering free test-prep classes but the results have not significantly changed the percentage of Hispanic and African-American students who get into these schools.
Given the fact that elite high schools in New York City have an outstanding reputation, it is not surprising that so many parents want their children to gain admission. However, the schools only have a limited number of seats, and these must be distributed in a fair, equitable manner.
The three-hour admissions test may be difficult to pass, but it is perhaps the best method for determining who should actually move on to a rigorous, four-year study course. While students who do not make the cutoff are naturally disappointed and may miss out on some educational and career opportunities in the future, the fact is that not everyone can be the superior scholar they might imagine themselves to be.
Lowering the bar to allow students with sub-par scores into these schools while simultaneously excluding students who have studied hard and earned high scores is unfair to all involved. It deprives schools of top-notch students, deprives students who have earned placement in a top-quality school of enjoying the fruits of their labors and shows those who do not earn good test scores that effort, self-discipline and a good work ethic are meaningless if one is the “right” race.
~ Liberty Planet