Accountability · School Choice

What To Expect When You’re Expecting a New SHSAT Plan (Part #3): Whose Fault Is It, Anyway? And Who’s Going To Fix It?

In Part #1 of our four part series, I dove into the nitty-gritty of the Mayor’s plan to get rid of the SHSAT test in Specialized High School admissions, and speculated about his true motives.

In Part #2, I laid out who would win and who would lose when the proposal is codified into law.

This week, I point the finger at who got us all into this fine mess in the first place, and make suggestions about how we might get out of it.

Obviously, New York City School Chancellor Richard Carranza cannot be held solely responsible. He only started the job in April of 2018.

And Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t the only one at blame, either. As I noted here, mayors and chancellors were fiddling with screened school admissions long before he came onto the scene.

“How is that OK?” Carranza kept asking during his interview with Politico, referring to the fact that not all NYC kids have access to all NYC public schools, due to the screening methods currently in place for everything from elementary Gifted & Talented programs, to honors middle schools, to specialized high schools. (Did he ask himself the same question when, during his tenure in San Francisco, his own daughter attended the city’s top exam school?)

According to Politico:

Hinting at how he’ll approach academic tracking in New York, Carranza recalled a decision he made as the superintendent of San Francisco’s public schools to end a two-tiered math track for middle school students…. That experience was instructive for Carranza because of the results: Once math tracking was eliminated, the city’s black and Latino students started performing better on math exams, and white and Asian students’ performance didn’t suffer, he said. “Everybody is doing better.”

Really? Then why did, in 2017, the NAACP want a state of emergency declared over the persistent achievement gap? Why was San Francisco declared California’s worst county for minorities? Why does the loudly and proudly liberal City by the Bay have the highest percentage of kids in private school?

How is that OK, Mr. Carranza?

In his first op-ed on the subject of changing Specialized High-School admissions, de Blasio asked, “Can anyone look the parent of a Latino or black child in the eye and tell them their precious daughter or son has an equal chance to get into one of their city’s best high schools?”

Well, no, Mr. Mayor, they absolutely, positively cannot. (They can’t even promise that the high school diploma their child is holding qualifies them for admission to CUNY or SUNY without remediation.)

But whose fault is that?

Carranza has the answer!

“It’s the system, not the students.”

Okey-dokey, then.

In that case, yes, let’s definitely change the system.

But should we change the system of how we test to see whether students are prepared to do high-level work and let those who aren’t pass through anyway, or should we change the system and make it so that all students are prepared to do high-level work?

As Buffy the Vampire Slayer would say, “That wasn’t supposed to be a stumper.”

That wasn't supposed to be a stumper.


There are many, many problems with the plan to change SHSAT school admissions (see my previous two posts, here and here.). But, the biggest, and the one that I will keep harping on (sorry, regular readers, I know it can get repetitive), is that absolutely nothing in the latest plan addresses IMPROVING K-8 EDUCATION!

To wit:

We could expand Gifted & Talented programs so that two-thirds of kids who qualify aren’t shut out.

Even better, we could give all students the “G&T treatment” as this district in the Bronx is doing.

We could crank up the science instruction. We could add – instead of take away – accelerated schools and focus them on various areas of interest, from computer science to humanities.

We could junk the concept of connecting grades to ages and let all kids move through all subjects at their own pace. We could have them graduate when they are ready and not merely because they’ve served a predetermined number of hours, ala prison, then expect the next educational level to pick up the slack.

Carranza is right. It’s not the students’ fault. They are capable of doing much higher level work. Frankly, the bar in American education is set far too low for all kids.

In the same Politico interview, Carranza asked, “Are you identifying truly gifted kids, like off the spectrum gifted, who require a totally different experience?”

No, Mr. Chancellor, we are not. What we call “gifted” education in the US would be standard curriculum – and a year or two behind – in Europe and Asia.

But, the problem is, you are not providing it in the standard curriculum. So what choice do parents have but to go through the sham of “gifted” testing?

Whose fault is that, anyway?

And whose responsibility is it fix the system?

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