Never mind that the always dubious logic behind educational quotas and affirmative action is finally being exposed and discredited: New York’s socialist-in-all-but-name Mayor de Blasio is determined to have the city’s elite public schools “look like New York City,” which is code for “quotas.”
“The status quo is broken. We have to make a major change. We have to make sure that the very best high schools are open to every New Yorker, every kind of New Yorker. They need to look like New York City,” he has said. So he has announced a proposal that would change how students are admitted to eight of the city’s specialized high schools, the crown jewels of NYC’s school system, the equivalents of private schools in quality of teachers and challenging curriculum where students gain entry based on their performance on a single test, taken by all applicants. That seems fair…but since it doesn’t yield a perfect demographic match to the city as a whole, de Blasio’s social justice sensibilities are offended.
Black and Hispanic students make up 67 % of the public school population, but the specialized high schools, which include Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, have just 10 % of students from these groups occupying the 500 available slots, with no improvement in that percentage for years.
Ah! The test must be the problem! This has been the accepted, conventional wisdom and cant that has been repeated by Democrats and affirmative action activists for decades, despite little but blind faith to bolster it. The Mayor, of course, is a believer.
“The Specialized High School Admissions Test isn’t just flawed — it’s a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence,” Mr. de Blasio wrote in an op-ed on the education website Chalkbeat. “Can anyone defend this? Can anyone look the parent of a Latino or black child in the eye and tell them their precious daughter or son has an equal chance to get into one of their city’s best high schools? Can anyone say this is the America we signed up for?”
Me! Me! I can! I signed up for an America where people are allowed to succeed according to their ability, achievement and diligence, regardless of color. The black and Latino kids who have scored well on the test had the same chances of getting top scores as the white kids. If there are factors, and there are, that cause more minority students to lack the skills to excel, then by all means, address those.
This, however, is not how de Blasio, being a true fan of enforced diversity, approaches such problems.He wants to replace the test, called the SHSAT, and admit students based on their class rank at their middle school and their scores on statewide standardized tests. This looks like a non-starter, as the State Assembly would have to approve it, and has shown no inclination to do so. Among the parties opposing de Blasio’s plan are the parents of Asian-American students, who do better on the tests than everyone else, damn them, and would lose seats under any system that rewards color rather than ability.
On the other hand, such discrimination would prepare them to apply to Harvard, so there’s that.
Mayor de Blasio has initiated another measure that he can enact without the state’s approval. Beginning in the fall of 2019, the city set aside 20% of the seats for low-income students who will be just competing against each other. Those students would then attend a summer session called the Discovery program. Just 5% of the places at the elite schools are set aside this way now. Currently, poor students with sub-par scores from all over the city qualify for this group. Blasio’s plan will restrict it to high-poverty schools—in other words, to minority students. No matter how you spin it, de Blasio’s plan will mean that better qualified, higher-scoring students who deserve admission based on ability will be denied the opportunity because of their color….and de Blasio’s social justice priorities.