In a misguided attempt to help disadvantaged students, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to change the admission rules to New York City’s specialized high schools (“New York City Mayor Alters Exam-School Admissions,” The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 2). What will happen is that the very students he wants to help will be precisely the ones who will be harmed.
When students lack the wherewithal to succeed in academically rigorous schools, the curriculum will be diluted, the students will be placed in easier classes, or they will be flunked. But de Blasio is determined to engineer a racially acceptable mix of students regardless of the damage he will do. Not only will ill- prepared students suffer, but parents whose children are succeeding will likely pull them out to go elsewhere when they realize that rigor is undermined.
A far better way of increasing the number of disadvantaged students in elite high schools is to intervene early in their lives through wraparound services. Unfortunately, by the time these children enter kindergarten, they are already months behind. When intervention is done properly, the payoff will be reflected in the number of students who can qualify on their own merits for admission to elite schools.
It would be a shame if New York City, home of the nation’s largest school district, caves in to pressure and destroys its best schools without considering the consequences. Nations with the best schools have no problem in differentiation beginning at an early age. For example, Singapore, which consistently ranks near the top on tests of international competition, begins the sorting out process with its Primary School Leaving Exam.
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