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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The diminishing number of black students at NYC selective high schools


There is an interesting NY Times article about the diminishing numbers of black students at Stuyvesant and other Specialized Science High Schools (SSHS) in NYC.   It includes the following statement: 
NY Times chart
Over the years, there have been a host of efforts to increase the number of black and Latino students at Stuyvesant and the other large specialized high schools in the city, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School, like making interviews and grade-point averages part of the admissions process. 
 It is linked to an article that mentions an earlier DOE program to prep promising middle school minority students for the exam (which now has been recast as a program for economically disadvantaged students and has been heavily cut back in any case.)  But it has no info that I can see about any efforts on the part of city to change the actual admissions process which is based solely on one high-stakes exam.   
When there was a push by some advocates and elected officials to make the admission process more holistic many years ago, the NY state legislature stepped in and passed a law making this impossibleThis law, the Hecht-Calandra Act was passed by the New York State Legislature in 1972: 
(b)  all specialized  senior  high  schools. The special high schools shall include the present schools known as:  The Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School,  Brooklyn Technical High School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts in the borough of Manhattan, and such further schools which the city board may designate from time to time. The special schools shall be permitted to maintain a discovery program in accordance with the law  in effect on  the  date  preceding  the  effective  date  of this section; admissions to the special schools shall be conducted in accordance  with the law  in  effect  on  the  date preceding the effective date of this section;
 As you can see, though state law makes an exam the sole criterion for the three original specialized science HS – Stuy, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, as well as La Guardia, which uses another pre-existing process – Joel Klein as Chancellor expanded this rigid admissions policy by mandating that the test be the only factor in admissions to Staten Island Tech, which previously had a more holistic admissions process. 
He also mandated that the test be the only criterion for admission at four more high schools established under his watch, including the HS for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College, the HS of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens HS for the Sciences at York College and Brooklyn Latin.  
I don’t see that Walcott has made any move to change this, which would be totally under his control to do, nor to advocate for any change in the state law to allow this at the big three.
Moreover, the DOE has apparently refused to analyze the test to see if it is racially discriminatory, as several people have pointed out, including Joshua Feinman, who wrote about this on our blog here: 
 Excerpt: No predictive validity studies have ever been done– not only to see if the test suffers from prediction bias across genders and ethnic groups, but to see if the test is linked to any desired outcomes. In fact, the NYCDOE has never established what specific, measurable objectives the SHSAT is supposed to achieve. Without well-specified objectives and carefully constructed validity studies, there’s no way to know if these admissions criteria are serving their purpose, or if an alternative system would be more reliable.

Feinman also revealed several glaring problems with this exam, and reported that his FOIA requests to DOE for more data about the exam got no response.
 Something to think about during a week when DOE claimed that they had no choice but to respond to the FOILs for the inaccurate & unreliable Teacher Data Reports.

1 comment:

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