NAACP Attacks Admission Policies at Eight Elite NYC High Schools

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of working with minority students to improve skills, civil rights advocates want to lower the bar for everyone.

The crusade to make all students equal by infringing upon the rights of high achieving students has made its way to New York City.  According to a September 27, 2012, piece in the New York Times:

A coalition of educational and civil rights groups filed a federal complaint on Thursday saying that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from New York City’s most selective high schools because of a single-test admittance policy they say is racially discriminatory. . . .

Although 70 percent of the city’s public school students are black and Hispanic, a far smaller percentage have scored high enough to receive offers from one of the schools. According to the complaint, 733 of the 12,525 black and Hispanic students who took the exam were offered seats this year. For whites, 1,253 of the 4,101 test takers were offered seats. Of 7,119 Asian students who took the test, 2,490 were offered seats. At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.

How is the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) racially discriminatory, exactly?  According to the NYC Department of Education website:

The SHSAT is a timed multiple-choice test with two sections, verbal and math, that must be completed in a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes. In the first section, students demonstrate their verbal reasoning and reading comprehension by ordering sentences to form a coherent paragraph, answering questions of logical reasoning, and analyzing and interpreting texts. In the second section, students demonstrate their math skills by answering computational and word questions that require arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, geometry, and trigonometry . . .

In other words, the SHSAT is discriminatory because the reading portion requires students to write in coherent paragraphs, use logical reasoning to answer questions, and analyze text.  What bias!  On the math portion, students must know arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, geometry, and trigonometry, or put another way, they must know how to do math.  How racially insensitive!

Damon T. Hewitt, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said of NYC’s elite high schools, “I refuse to believe there are only 19 brilliant African-Americans in the city; it simply cannot be the case.  It is a shameful practice and it must be changed.”

I agree with Hewitt, it is shameful.  It’s shameful that all cultural groups, according to ETS’s report “Parsing the Achievement Gap II,” don’t place a high emphasis on educational achievement; it’s shameful that all cultures, according to ETS, don’t value reading; it’s a shame that all cultures don’t always respect authority; maintain a two-parent nuclear family; actively participate in homework and school; regulate internet and television watching; emphasize nutrition and exercise; and stay mentally active over holidays and summer months.

Asian students, who are a racial minority in NYC but take up the majority of seats in the eight elite high schools, do take their studies seriously.  According to the New York Times:

[Asians] cited their parents’ observance of ancient belief systems like Confucianism, a set of moral principles that emphasizes scholarship and reverence for elders, as well as their rejection of child-rearing philosophies more common in the United States that emphasize confidence and general well-being.

Several students said their parents did not shy away from corporal punishment as a means of motivating them. And they said that rigorous testing was generally an accepted practice in their home countries, with the tests viewed not so much as measures of intelligence, but of industriousness.

Industriousness.  AKA: Hard work.

So how do people like NAACP lawyer Damon T. Hewitt, who claim to have the best interest of minorities in mind, respond to the situation at NYC’s eight elite high schools?  Does he preach having young black and Latino children (and their parents) roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty with the business of making education a number one priority?  Of learning arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, geometry, and trigonometry?  Of answering questions using logic and writing in coherent paragraphs?  Of eating right, and exercising right, and doing homework, and reading books, and staying mentally active over the summer and holidays?

No, Hewitt does none of these things.  He calls the SHSAT’s discriminatory and files a complaint with the US Department of Education.  In Hewitt’s mind (and in the minds of social justice advocates who preach a toxic brand of educational socialism), equal opportunity isn’t good enough; they demand equal achievement.  Performance–and more importantly, preparation–doesn’t matter.  Racial balance is the ultimate goal, even if it’s achieved by infringing upon the rights of high achievers.  Never mind the sacrifice of elite students who’ve paid their dues and earned their admittance through years of hard work.  Forget hard work and results.  Hard work, like being on time, is simply a matter of cultural perspective.

Obsession with race and the misguided ideology of social justice is once again killing academic excellence in America’s public schools.

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4 Comments

Filed under Achievement Gap, Standardized Testing

4 responses to “NAACP Attacks Admission Policies at Eight Elite NYC High Schools

  1. cookie loewer

    I am a white student from an upper middle class family who just took the exam this morning. Although I agree that scores should not be curved in favor of colored people, I do not completely agree with some of the points you made, and primarily the racist tone you used. Its not the fault of people who were born into poor uneducated families that they cannot do as well on the test. I hardly studied, on the one practice test I took I got a 350 and a 308, a total of 658 (far above the cutoff). It is not the result of hard work that I am able to get these scores, it is the result of my parents being educated intellectual professors. Black people were slaves at some point 150 years ago, and it takes a few generations to work your way out of a whole like that. I think that more funding an better teachers should be sent to middle schools in ghetto areas, because without that if you are born black, or Hispanic it is very difficult to get into one of the 8 specialized high schools. Black people have the same genetic capability to be intelligent diligent people. Letting a history of discrimination pull you down, just by being born black, is unacceptable.

    Letting black people in who have lower scores is bad for them, it will be hard for them to keep up, but something must be done so that rich white kids, or hard working Asians aren’t so much in the advantage.

    (btw poor people can’t hire tutors).

  2. phillystyle71

    Hi Cookie,

    You sure care a lot about educational policy for being an 8th grader! Anyway, why is it that you assume that the white students who pass the exam and get into NYC’s top public schools are “rich,” and that the black students who get low scores and get denied are “poor” and from the “ghetto”? Just because you are from an affluent family doesn’t mean all white students are, and thinking so is called stereotyping. You state, “Its not the fault of people who were born into poor uneducated families that they cannot do as well on the test.” I disagree. Attitude and cultural values (and high expectations as opposed to an attitude of “cannot do well on tests”) transcend money and class status, and Asian students (who are a working class minority and were discriminated against in America for decades are a prime example). But the interesting thing about your comments is that you agree with me; we both think expectations should be raised and more should be done to support minorities in NYC. That is my point: instead of lowering the standards, do more to help minorities get the skills they need to succeed academically and resist the temptation to make excuses for poor performance.

    Thanks for writing.

    Christopher Paslay

  3. Rick

    The question involves the definition of success. It
    is clear that Asian immigrants are of a upwardly mobile
    stock from their home countries. As a nation, we allow
    immigrants in the belief of equal access to liberty and freedom.
    To pit this certain class of Asians against disenfranchised blacks
    and hispanics is a miscarriage of justice. Especially blacks who
    have spilled mammoth amounts of blood, with the nation be the
    primary beneficiary. From before this nation even existed for that
    matter. I respect any human being who attempts to their fullest, to
    make best, the situation they are born in to. This is the measure that
    should be used to measuring success, not a single test that benefits
    those that are in a form fit upbringing which provides them all the guidance
    they need, to do well on a written test.

    • phillystyle71

      Hi Rick,

      You make an interesting point. However, in this case, the definition of academic “success” is not culturally relative. Math, reading, and writing transcends race and culture, as do the universal human characteristics of motivation, attitude, work ethic, and respect. Why hasn’t the racial achievement gap in America moved in nearly 25 years? Because people like you keep up the toxic mantra of “can’t.” Can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t. How long do blacks and Latinos need to be told that they can’t? How long? Instead of holding on to “can’t” and lowering the bar for all, why not preach can! Preach “can” and teach all the academic skills and values needed to achieve “can.” I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that minorities are handicapped and need special circumstances. The can and should be held to the same academic standards as everyone else. And if they want admittance to an elite academic school that requires high reading, writing, and math skills, than they better well have high reading, writing, and math skills. No exceptions or excuses. That is true liberty and freedom, and the way to keep up America’s academic excellence.

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