HomeSchool Reform NewsDeclining Admissions Standards at Select Public High Schools

Declining Admissions Standards at Select Public High Schools

Declining admissions standards at select public high schools are exemplified by what has happened in New York City.

by Eileen Griffin

Advocates for equity claim that excellence will not be compromised in the process, but evidence gathered from two New York City public schools refutes that claim.

Parents at two select high schools, Bronx Science and Stuyvesant, gathered four years’ worth of data through freedom of information act requests (FOIA), the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal reported on December 9.

New York state’s 1971 Hecht Calandra law established a merit-based system where the highest scoring students on a blind-graded exam, the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT), were admitted to the specialized schools.

Discovery Exception

New York City Mayor DeBlasio (D) created a back-door process for students to gain admission without taking the test under an exception called “Discovery.” This process allowed disadvantaged students to gain admission through a teacher recommendation and a summer catch-up class only.

Under DeBlasio, approximately one-fifth of specialized school students entered through the Discovery exception process. After admission, the Discovery students follow the same curriculum as the other students.

Data documents a clear difference between those admitted through merit and those admitted in the name of equity. The Regent’s exam scores show that the SHSAT students outperformed the Discover students at Bronx Science and Stuyvesant schools, in some cases by a full letter grade.

“A letter-grade step difference cannot be dismissed,” wrote Wai Wah Chin for City Journal. “The politico-education establishment might say that a B+ is ‘good enough’—after all, they can’t even get half of New York State’s kids to grade-level proficiency. But Stuyvesant and Bronx Science are intended to achieve rarefied levels of excellence.”

‘Excellence Sacrificed’ to Equity

Heartland Daily News previously reported on the attack on merit from activists on the Left, in which gifted and talented programs are being eliminated, and standardized tests have been abandoned and replaced with diversity and equity goals.

“Around the country, top meritocratic exam schools such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia, Lowell in San Francisco, and Boston Latin are all seeing their excellence sacrificed on the altar of equity,” Chin wrote.

The decline can be seen in public schools across the country, says Chin.

“Nor are exam schools the only battlegrounds where excellence is under assault,” wrote Chin. “Lotteries replacing admissions criteria at non-exam schools, weak curricula further dumbed down, grades inflated, Gifted and Talented programs hollowed out, and the number of charter schools capped despite demonstrated excellence—all are being done in the name of equity.”

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Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin writes from Richland, Washington.


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