New York City’s specialized high schools are a model of opportunity. They have stellar academic records, and, being public, they are free to attend. Their alumni tend to go on to elite colleges and prestigious careers. Together, the schools serve close to 18,000 students each year, and at eight of the nine schools, admission is determined based on how middle schoolers do on a standardized test.

That test—called the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, or SHSAT—has been the sole admissions criterion for eight of the nine specialized high schools for a couple of decades (and even earlier for some, as mandated by a 1971 law). (The ninth, LaGuardia, is a visual and performing arts school that grants admission based on auditions or portfolio reviews, but not the test.) And earlier this month, New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, put forward a radical proposal: Get rid of the test.

The problem, as he and many others see it, is one of equity: There are very few black and Latino students in the specialized schools. The three highest-status schools—Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech—have black and Latino student populations of 4, 9, and 13 percent, respectively, far below the 70 percent in public schools citywide. What would replace the SHSAT? A system that would admit the top 7 percent of students at every public middle school in the city, which by the mayor’s reckoning would make the collective student body at the specialized high schools roughly 45 percent black and Latino.

Some aren’t pleased with the idea. Their view is that it would kill off a straightforward assessment of merit that applies across schools—the test is an objective measure, they say, and can’t be gamed the way interviews or grades can be, which can reward kids who are richer and/or white.

More specifically, de …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Best of


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