In New York City, where students gain admission to some specialized high schools by achieving a high score on a single high-stakes test of their skills in math and English, only a small number of black students were offered spots in the most selective schools this year, Eliza Shapiro reports.
Politicians in New York City and New York state are fighting over proposed changes to the admissions policies for the schools.
How have other school districts handled the issue of low numbers of students from minority groups gaining admission to selective schools?
In “A Stubborn Excellence Gap,” Hilde Kahn describes decades of efforts to increase diversity at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, or TJ, a selective magnet school in Northern Virginia that was designed to provide an elite, high-tech education for academically gifted students
Efforts to make TJ’s admissions more inclusive have included: setting quotas by race, by income, and by feeder middle school; de-emphasizing the entrance exam; screening students for passion rather than achievement; offering enrichment programs to talented students from underrepresented backgrounds beginning in the early grades; hiring an outreach officer; and increasing access to advanced courses in middle school. Some of these efforts produced some gains in the number of minority students admitted to the school but most accomplished nothing.
The author concludes,
Before giving up on the potential of all capable students to succeed, we need to recognize that even the best public school systems—with the full weight of their political and economic resources aimed at eliminating disparities—cannot by themselves make up the difference between what some parents provide for their children and what others do not. Because all bright students have the potential to excel, we must find ways to provide the students of underrepresented groups access to the same preparation that the parents of admitted students provide for their children, and, along with it, a community of learners that encourages and supports their efforts.
For background on highly selective public schools in different states, please see “Exam Schools from the Inside.”
— Education Next