Mayor Bill de Blasio probably thought he’d make himself a hero to people of color with his plan to diversify NYC’s elite schools by eliminating the admissions test.
“I’m not sure if the mayor is racist, but this policy is certainly discriminatory,” Kenneth Chiu, chairman of the NYC Asian-American Democratic Club, said last week. “Our mayor is pitting minority against minority, which is really, really messed up.”
New Yorkers of Asian descent make up the majority of students at NYC’s eight specialized high schools, according to city data. The mayor’s plan, which includes a new way to admit students based on middle school grades and scores on standardized tests, is intended to include more economically disadvantaged students in the elite schools, many of whom are black and Latino — an admirable goal. The problem is de Blasio’s plan would reduce the number of qualified Asian students in these elite schools, a number of whom are living in poverty themselves.
“We are absolutely on the side of equity,” said Soo Kim of the Stuyvesant Association, “but we don’t believe that the solution is taking from one needy community and giving to another needy community.”
De Blasio’s heart might be in the right place, but what he seems to be saying to minority students is “OK, we’ve given you a lousy education since first grade, but now we’re going to make it up to you.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
There are some terrific public schools and charter schools in the city. But taking the top students from every middle school, even those with lousy track records, and placing them in elite schools, serves no one’s interest. Those admitted to a specialized school who have received an inferior education are not only more likely to do poorly in their new highly competitive schools, but to feel poorly about themselves as well.
The solution? Improve resources offered in low-income neighborhoods from kindergarten on up. Create more specialized high schools to meet demand. And eliminate the advantage that pricey test preparation provides by allocating funds so that disadvantaged kids receive the same test-prep opportunities as more affluent ones.
De Blasio’s plan won’t be passed into law before the June 20 end of the session in Albany. “We want to come up with something that’s good for all students,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).
There’s a novel idea.