Students with low test scores are usually shut out of New York City’s best public schools.
But next year, such students could be offered a quarter of the sixth-grade seats at even the most selective middle schools in Manhattan’s District 3 as part of a desegregation plan being debated in the district, which stretches from the Upper West Side to Harlem.
The plan is unusual because it focuses explicitly on low-performing students, and seeks to achieve “academic diversity” across the district’s middle schools.
Although it might be the last race-neutral government program in the U.S., I have never been a huge fan of the NY system of sending the smart kids off to a nerd farm. It seems unfair to those who are left behind. They’ll never see the top 10 percent of achievers and therefore will overestimate their abilities. If I were a school dictator, I would set up individualized instruction and extra challenges delivered to the brightest students who stay within a regular school, reserving the magnet schools for special subjects such as arts and music.
If New York is now going to have quotas for academically weak students in their schools for the academically strong, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more sensible to tear down the entire exam school system. Just have “schools” that can cater to both the good and bad students.
Readers: What do you think? Does an exam school become pointless if people who fail the exam are also admitted?
[Separately, a friend’s daughter recently graduated from what is perhaps America’s toughest high school: Stuveysant. She crushed the entrance exam, got grades near the top of her class, and scored 1580 out of 1600 on the SATs. She rejected advice to “pull an Elizabeth Warren” and check a box to identify as a member of a victim group. She was in turn rejected by Yale, despite being, objectively, one of the best-educated 18-year-olds in the United States. To me this shows just how tough the U.S. has become for young people. When I was in high school (late 1970s), anyone who was reasonably bright and willing to work hard would get into an Ivy League college. To young people who might be impressed that I have an undergrad degree from MIT… close to 50 percent of people who applied to become members of the Class of 1982 were admitted. It was a different world!]