Keep elite schools elite

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.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “Keep elite schools elite”

  1. This posting is very upsetting.
    Nothing that Big Bill does surprises me.
    It is another example of a person in charge making a decision in an area he knows nothing about.
    If this goes through, there will be a negative effect on so many children.
    Exam Schools are called Exam Schools for a reason. Very simple – if you can’t pass the exam, you will not be accepted. Shame on the administration if they drop the passing standards.

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  2. mathcoach2: Mayor de Blasio and Superintendent Carranza are determined to engineer diversity at any cost. They are setting up unprepared students for certain failure and penalizing qualified students. Little by little, rigor will be undermined.

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  3. The answer to most/all problems regarding minority/low-income students’ academic deficiencies is, as you note, societal intervention from birth through kindergarten so that the minority/low-income students start kindergarten (that is, start academic work) with the larger vocabulary, stronger cognitive skills and more developed neural pathways that middle/upper-middle-class kindergarteners enjoy. Trying to repair the birth-through-kindergarten deficiencies after kindergarten is very hard, very expensive and usually unsuccessful. Trying to repair the birth-through-kindergarten deficiencies via integration of under-achieving minority/low-income students into advanced academic courses is, as you note, a recipe for disaster for all concerned. But, it’s cheap — at least in the short run.

    These conclusions are, to me at least, obvious. It is depressing that think tanks, govt officials and the media largely ignore these conclusions as they press for K-12 school “reforms” rather than birth-through-kindergarten reforms as the answer to the achievement gap.

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  4. Labor Lawyer: New York City’s major educational accomplishment is its success with exam schools. But de Blasio is determined to undermine their rigor by his obsession with diversity. Little by little, standards will be lowered to achieve that goal. In the process, fairness will be destroyed. It’s a prescription for disaster.

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