• October 22, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

On SHSAT, a win for our top students

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:07 pm, Thu Oct 10, 2019.

If you believe in fundamental fairness, in the individual, in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that one day people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, that all New York City children should enjoy equality of opportunity and not equality of outcome dictated from the top down, it’s time to celebrate.

After years of fruitless agitation that threw parents citywide into a tizzy, inflamed racial tension and endangered the future of some of the city’s top schools and their thousands of students, Mayor de Blasio has given up on his ill-advised effort to get the Specialized High School Admissions Test discarded and to diminish the education provided at the “elite eight” institutions that use it. He says it’s time to “start over.”

The mayor’s laudable goal is to diversify the student body at the schools. And the fact that so few black and Hispanic students can get into Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and the other five schools that use the SHSAT is abysmal, a blight on the city’s education system. But the mayor’s prescription — dropping the test and instead accepting the top students from all city middle schools to ensure diversity — would be worse. Not all schools are the same, and even within a given building, teachers are not giving the same exact grades for the same exact levels of knowledge and skill. Subjectivity is inevitable. A uniform test avoids that.

When are knowledge and ability tested with no subjectivity playing a role? When a student takes the demanding, high-pressure but colorblind SHSAT. Its value is shown by the subsequent success of students who make it into the elite eight. Who do you want to eventually become your heart surgeon — someone who masterfully focuses like a laser on achieving the task at hand, or someone who’s “not a good test taker?”

We congratulate all those individuals and organizations that battled to preserve the SHSAT, at public meetings, in the streets, in this paper. Those in Queens know that this page was your staunchest ally in the press, never yielding to the mayor and decrying his schools chancellor’s harmful rhetoric targeting the hardworking Asian community in particular.

The answer to the dearth of some minority students at the elite eight is not diluting the schools’ admission process, and therefore the level of education they can provide. It’s improving how students all over the city are being taught in the earlier grades so that all can make it into the best high schools. Non-Asian minority students used to be well-represented at the elite eight, and with the right policies, they can be again.

Welcome to the discussion.