Is there something racist in the way the chattering classes discuss the low number of black students admitted to New York City’s most selective public high schools?
The figures are depressing indeed. This year, only seven out of 895 admits to Stuyvesant were black, as opposed to 587 Asian and 194 white kids. Only 12 out of the 803 students admitted to the Bronx High School of Science were black, and only 95 out of 1,825 admitted to Brooklyn Tech. This is all in a city in which 26 percent of public-school students are black.
Since 1971, admission to the eight most selective public schools in the city has been based solely on performance on a single test, the Specialized High School Admissions Test, or SHSAT. The naive observer of the current circumstances—say, a foreigner new to the country or an inquisitive 10-year-old—might suppose that the main question would be how New York, its parents and teachers, can help black students do better on that test.
But no—New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to scrap the test, and instead admit the top performers from all middle schools. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson agrees, advising that a task force develop a different way of evaluating students based on some kind of feedback from parents and assorted experts. Richard Carranza, the school-system chancellor, also wants to get rid of the test, and has claimed that Asian students somehow believe they “own” admission to the top public schools. Meanwhile, the journalistic establishment seems to assume that fixing the problem will require a massive social shift. The New York Times tartly summed up that either “1) the test is flawed and not accurately capturing the best and brightest students, or 2) the test is fair, and the schools that are preparing these children are bad.”