Engineering diversity will undermine excellence

The latest venue for the obsession with diversity in public schools is New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio is hellbent on giving 20 percent of seats at the city’s elite high schools to disadvantaged students (“De Blasio Lawyers Say Change for Elite Schools Isn’t Biased Against Asian-Americans,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 19).

A state law allows the city to offer spots to disadvantaged eight-graders who miss the cutoff score but agree to summer tutoring under a program called Discovery.A suit filed in federal court by Asian-American civil rights groups and parents argues that Discovery discriminates against their children because it is limited only to the highest poverty middle schools, whereas in the past applicants citywide were eligible to sign up.

I support efforts to diversity schools – but with one caveat.  Diversification must not negatively impact excellence.  If students cannot handle the work at these elite schools, they will either drop out or standards will be lowered.  In both cases students will be shortchanged.  Asian-American students disproportionately comprise enrollment at these schools.  But they do so because they have demonstrated the aptitude to achieve.  Enrolling students to meet a quota, which is precisely what de Blasio is doing, will mean an end to the academic jewels of the New York City system.

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


2 Replies to “Engineering diversity will undermine excellence”

  1. I’d probably accept a program that gave a limited number of seats at an elite school to low-income applicants who just missed the test-score cutoff and also demonstrated ability in a summer program. Seems like enrolling applicants who satisfied these criteria would not have an adverse impact on the elite program. And, seems like coming from a low-income family would tend to reduce an applicant’s test score independent of the applicant’s raw intelligence.

    On the other hand, I would not argue for such a program either — generally agree with the proposition that elite academic programs must enforce academic standards.

    Would strongly oppose a program that gave a limited number of seats at an elite school to minority applicants (as opposed to low-income applicants).


  2. Labor Lawyer: I have no problem with giving students from all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds who miss the cut score by a few points a second chance. But de Blasio wants to go far beyond that and establish quotas. It’s a prescription for disaster. Students who lack the aptitude to handle rigorous work will drop out or standards will be lowered to accommodate them.


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