The obsession with diversity in schools has reached a new high in New York City (“Study Shows Scores on Elite High School Test Predict Success,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 4). A study commissioned by its Department of Education found that the controversial Specialized High School Admissions Test had predictive value, particularly in math and science.
Yet despite the conclusion, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to eliminate the exam and use a mix of course grades and state test scores in order to engineer diversity at the city’s elite high schools. I understand the benefits of a diverse student body, but I think abolishing the test will have unintended consequences. When students lack the wherewithal to handle rigorous material, they will become discouraged and drop out. If their teachers attempt to adjust instruction to help them, their more advanced classmates will be shortchanged.
A better way of solving the problem is to continue to use the SHSAT as a screening device and then use a lottery to select those who surpass the cut score. The Principle of the Flat Maximum explains why. All applicants at the top of the curve possess the necessary qualifications for success. Trying to distinguish among them is a waste of time. A lottery will avoid charges of bias and favoritism. But I seriously doubt that will ever happen. Diversity trumps excellence as the ultimate goal.
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