Being black at Stuyvesant: Two students on what it’s like for African Americans at the specialized high school

Just because students are intelligent enough to pass a test doesn’t mean they understand people who might be ethnically, racially or culturally different.


That’s what happened to Gordon in his freshman biology class when his lab partner blamed him for the AIDS virus. Or when he was told to “go back to Africa” because he disagreed with some of his peers on the merits of the Specialized High Schools Admission Test (SHSAT).


And both of us have repeatedly heard something along the lines of, “Black people don’t care about education.”


While these stories may seem shocking or anachronistic, they are not unique among Stuy’s black and Latino students.

PUTTING DREAMS TO THE TEST: A special report; Elite High School Is a Grueling Exam Away

A NYTimes overview of the test and experiences in 1998.

The Stuyvesant test is officially called the ”Examination for the Specialized Science High Schools” — Stuyvesant, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School. The same test is given for admission to all three, and students simply list their first, second and third choice. Since a majority of students list Stuyvesant first — 11,397 out of 18,524 eighth graders who took the most recent test — the cutoff for admission to Stuyvesant is higher.

Stuyvesant Has 29 Black Students Out of 3,300. How Do They Feel?

The students — members of the school’s Black Students League and Aspira, the Hispanic student organization — recalled painful memories of having heard racist comments behind their backs at school. They reflected on their shared sense of alienation. They said they worried that adults would allow inequities in the system to persist.
“It’s frustrating to see that nobody wants to do anything, until it’s like, ‘Oh no, nobody got it in,’” said Katherine Sanchez, 17, whose parents are from the Dominican Republic.

Op-Ed: NYC High School Admissions Creates Winners And Losers. I Lost.

You would never guess that Victory Collegiate is located in one of the most diverse and wealthy cities in the world: my school was 90 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic, and had a few Arab and South Asian kids. Most of us qualified for free lunch.

One day, in my AP Biology class, a bullet flew into the classroom, lodging itself in the whiteboard, missing our heads by inches. The teacher was so traumatized that she never returned. But we, the students, were back in the same room two days later.

Racist? Fair? Biased? Asian-American Alumni Debate Elite High School Admissions

“We used to joke that whoever had the most money to spend on test prep would probably go to Stuyvesant.” That was how Ms. Rahman was introduced to the specialized school debate as a young Bangladeshi immigrant living in Brooklyn.

In high school, she came to believe that the admissions process was about money, not merit. Now, she said, “I feel like that system shouldn’t really exist.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/nyregion/nyc-specialized-high-school-test.html

My journey shows why specialized high school admissions must change

With a sense of tragic déjà vu, reactionary forces are once again pushing back against any proposed integration of prestigious, but largely segregated, schools. This development is so predictable that it would be comical – were it not for the terrible consequences. Already, several irate New Yorkers have called my district office to voice their displeasure with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to diversify New York City’s elite specialized high schools. Many of these phone calls possess the same overt racial animus of years past, with arguments that had served the same purpose then: to maintain the broken status quo.

Stop relying on just one test: Mayor de Blasio is right to try to want to turn away from the SHSAT high school admissions exam

I was the valedictorian of my eighth-grade class and earned a special honor for never missing a day of school, but that wasn’t enough to help me, or others like me, gain admission into schools like American Studies. Instead, a single specialty test was used to gauge my intelligence, work ethic and worthiness.

The mayor’s proposal to admit students based on a more equitable policy has been met with vehement opposition from people with false presumptions about students like me. Many assume that low-income students of color like me are just “too lazy” to prepare for the exam, and that kids who do better on the SHSAT prove they “deserve” to get in.

Overemphasizing a Test, Oversimplifying Our Children: An APA Perspective on Specialized High School Reform towards Educational Equity

The SHSAT is misperceived as an objective, and “colorblind” tool to measure merit. However, an expansive body of research reveals that school screening policies that do not consider race or socioeconomic status do not reduce, but rather contribute to further “stratification by race and ethnicity across schools and programs.”

[…]

In the field of testing, known as psychometrics, a single measure like the SHSAT violates the universally accepted norm and consensus in favor of multiple measures.[19] Having a single-test as the admission policy in no means takes into account the wide range of diverse experiences of all students and their families in New York City.

Whose Side Are Asian-Americans On?

Hsin, the sociology professor, told me, “If you were to put aside any concerns about goals of diversity at all and you just wanted to come up with mechanism for identifying the most talented individuals to be admitted to specialized high schools, you would never come up with the admissions policy you have now.” Grades, which are repeated measures over time, are considered better indicators of academic acumen. It’s also been shown that they are better than standardized test scores when it comes to predicting success for black and Latinx students.