Integration researchers and advocates like us have been recommending for years that all students in all classrooms deserve access to opportunities to challenge and stimulate their learning and creativity. Rather than telling kids that they’re in G&T or they’re out, the city should implement a gifted-for-all approach, shifting to a system focused on differentiation within mixed-ability classrooms, equipping teachers to provide high-quality instruction that includes project-based learning and challenge, and ensuring that there are entry points for all students.
Yet for years, neither the mayor nor the Legislature — nor anyone in Hunter College leadership — has taken the necessary action to overhaul a system that bases admissions to the most coveted schools on just a test, the SHSAT or the Hunter test. There’s not a single elite college in America that bases its admissions only on SAT or ACT scores, yet New York City’s best high schools make a single, homegrown exam make or break for thousands of students, despite results that worsen segregation.
The new effort, spearheaded by the advocacy group Teens Take Charge, comes on the heels of sweeping protests against racial injustice that advocates hope will shine new light on segregation in city schools.
“The recent protests really did show all of us racism is a really big issue and that we need to do better in improving integration in this city,” said William Diep, a 16-year-old Teens Take Charge member, and senior at Brooklyn Latin, one of the city’s specialized schools.
Over the course of our meetings, many students lamented the lack of diversity at our schools, specifically with regard to black and Latino students. They shared that the lack of representation at their schools created environments that bred racism and other forms of prejudice both inside and outside the classroom.
This atmosphere does not foster the inclusivity and diversity that all New York City public high schools ought to embody, and inhibits underrepresented students from experiencing their education as equals. While the paucity of black and Latino and Latina students at the specialized schools is certainly reflective of larger, systemic flaws in equitable access to New York’s education system, their absence also prevents white and Asian students at those schools from receiving an education that lives up to the spirit of Brown vs.
I’ve seen this man at just about every SHSAT demonstration I’ve attended. He’s definitely one of its most prolific organizers.
The man who’s been the loudest in the raucous movement to oust Richard Carranza is on the payroll of one of the school chancellor’s biggest critics — and more than willing to take one for the team.
Queens activist Charles Vavruska works as a part time education director for City Council Member Robert Holden, and Carranza supporters are calling on the councilman to rein him in.
How does the process work? Four-year-olds take a nationally normed standardized test (actually, two tests, the NNAT and the OLSAT, which are supposed to measure reasoning ability and general intellectual aptitude). No bubble sheets: It’s administered in person by an adult. Those above 90th percentile qualify for district programs. Those above 97th percentile qualify for citywide programs.
Those are the technical qualification thresholds. In practice, you need a 99 to qualify for a citywide school and usually something like a 95 to qualify for a districtwide program, though it depends on the district.
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.”
Students from families living in neighborhoods within the South Bronx and central Brooklyn were least likely to attend the famed schools, in a similar pattern to last year, the data show.
An analysis of city Education Department data revealed just seven of roughly 19,875 students from Bronx District 7 landed seats in the elite public schools in 2018.
That’s just .035% of students in the South Bronx district — and the smallest percentage of any of the city’s 32 school districts.
Studies show that almost every student can improve their grades with private tutoring. But when only the rich can afford it — in New York the average cost of private tutoring is $64 an hour, though rates can easily approach and even exceed $100 — it’s no surprise their children are overrepresented in elite high schools and colleges, at the expense of everyone else.
In fact, in New York there is a dedicated tutoring industry just for the Specialized High School Admissions Test, the now-infamous admissions test that is the sole criteria for admission to elite — and wildly racially imbalanced — high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.
And for others, paid school consultants, tutors and prep courses, some starting as early as kindergarten, give students with means, or those with parents in the know, a leg up. That includes poor Asian families who spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars prepping for the exam.
The same can be said for gifted and talented admissions, where disparities are equally abysmal. Or SAT and ACT results. There is an entire economy set up around test prep for a reason.