Only Ten Black Students Were Offered a Spot at Stuyvesant High School This Year, But Is This Really a Problem?

Stuyvesant High School via Wikipedia

Forget the subtle changes in the weather at this time of year, there’s really only one guaranteed way to know that spring is finally here: Reports are released about the students accepted at New York’s elite, test-based high schools, and it’s revealed that, once again, only a small percentage of the city’s black and Latino students will be attending. The New York City public school system has 405 public high schools, but like much else in this city, taken as a whole, these schools are indicative of the type of inequality that runs rampant here. Some of the lower performing high schools have 4-year graduation rates that hover at around 40% with only a tiny fraction of the students going on to attend college or technical school, while others have 100% graduation rates and with many students going on to attend Harvard, Stanford, and MIT.

And because perhaps no other public high school in this city is as celebrated as Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School, the scrutiny it (along with the seven other test-based specialized high schools) face with regards to its lack of racial diversity is intense. This year, the specialized high school’s incoming freshman class will contain 5% black students and 7% Latino students, despite the fact that blacks and Latinos make up approximately 70% of the public school student population as a whole. As a comparison, 52% of the class will be Asian and 28% will be white, even though both groups together comprise just under 30% of the public school population. On the surface of things, at least, this seems to be a huge problem, one that Mayor de Blasio and School Chancellor Fariña are trying to change by changing the criteria for admission to these schools, with de Blasio saying last year, “We cannot have a dynamic where some of our greatest educational options are only available to people from certain backgrounds.”

Since its founding over a century ago, Stuyvesant has served as a beacon for many New York families within the public school system, a place where children who came from all backgrounds would have the opportunity for an excellent education without a huge price tag. Stuyvesant’s elite status was obtained by the Bronx High School for Science (Bronx Science) and Brooklyn Technical High School (Brooklyn Tech, attended by Dante de Blasio), and then eventually five other schools as well, all of which have a student’s score on the Specialized High School Aptitude Test (SHSAT) as their sole admissions requirement.

The test was first instituted in 1970 as a way of better representing the public school system’s racial diversity; prior to the test, the vast majority of specialized high school students were white, with only a small fraction being black, Asian, and Latino. In the more than 40 years that the test has been in place, the number of Asian students has grown, while the number of black and Latino students (which was comparable to the number of Asian students before 1970) has fallen precipitously. This change was gradual at first, but has happened more dramatically in recent years, according to an article in the New York Times:

At Brooklyn Tech, 10 percent of the 5,332 students today are black — sizable in the realm of specialized high schools, but also a big drop from 1999-2000, when 24 percent were black. At Bronx Science, 3.5 percent of the 3,013 students are black, down from 9 percent in 1999-2000.

The number of blacks at Stuyvesant peaked in 1975, when they made up 12 percent of the school’s enrollment, or 303 of the school’s 2,536 students. In 1980, there were 212 black students; in 1990, 147; in 2000, 109; and in 2005, 66, state records show.

It is because of statistics like this that politicians and administrators have long sought to get rid of the test, or at least minimize its impact on admissions. Mayor Bloomberg was a notable proponent of the test, saying that it is “as fair as fair can be… You pass the test, you get the highest score, you get into the school — no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is.” But de Blasio has been vociferously in favor of looking at new admissions criteria, and Chancellor Fariña recently said in a statement, “Our goal is to ensure specialized high schools reflect New York City’s unique diversity, while upholding the same high standards. We continue to review a variety of ideas to increase diversity at our specialized high schools such as increasing access to the SHSAT, offering expanded free test prep and continuing to examine changes to admissions policies.” De Blasio, Fariña, and other advocates for reform seem to think that if the specialized high schools adopt similar admissions requirements to some of the city’s other screened high schools, like Bard High School Early College, Beacon, and Millennium, that diversity will be a natural outcome, and that the schools’ make-ups will be more reflective of the city as a whole.

As it turns out, though, this does not look to be the case. A fascinating new study by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools indicates that not only would diversity at the specialized high schools probably not increase if admissions were changed, but it is possible that the only students who would significantly be helped would be economically advantaged, white students. As Sean Corcoran, a researcher from NYU and one of the co-writers of the report, told Chalkbeat, “Maybe it was naive, but I thought if you switched to more holistic measures, it would diversify the admissions pool considerably. It turns out that students disproportionately offered admission to specialized high schools are the same students who get high scores on the state tests and get high grades.”

And, you know, maybe it was naive! Because as is evidenced by the population make-ups of many of the city’s elite, screened high schools, while they might possess larger populations of black and Latino students than at the specialized schools, there is also a significantly higher population of one race of students in particular: whites. The fact is that the students who would most benefit from things like an interview process or an evaluation of things like extracurricular activities are those who already possess an awareness of the the type of social cues that are a product of being born into a privileged social, racial, and economic class. Getting rid of the test would only serve to discriminate against the type of kid who doesn’t know how to do well in an interview, but who can ace the kind of difficult exam which rightly serves as a determination of how well they will be able to do over the next four years of high school.

The other thing that very few opponents of the test like to talk about is the fact that it benefits precisely no one (least of all the students themselves) to allow kids to enter a fast-paced, ultra-competitive school where they have little chance of, well, competing. One thing that the big three (Stuy, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech) specialized high schools all have in common is how large they are. The incoming freshman classes of both Stuy and Bronx Science hover at just under 1,000 students, for Brooklyn Tech, that number is over 1,700. These schools foster atmospheres where independent, self-motivated learners can thrive; students who need more guidance and supervision tend to flail and falter. It serves no one to allow students to enter into an academic setting where they have no chance of succeeding.

But so where should they go? This, in the end, is the real question. Why, after all, is there a focus on dismantling what are inarguably some of the most successful schools in this city, when there are so many others that are failing? Why seek to compromise a positive environment when there are countless other schools that could use some attention? And, really, why is there a focus on the black and Latino kids who are high-achievers already, and who can thrive at schools like Medgar Evers Preparatory School or Midwood High School, where they can get excellent educations, simply because they aren’t attending Stuy? The answer, I think, is as simple as it is depressing: Schools like Stuyvesant will always be a lightning rod because they are examples of the system working (albeit imperfectly), and politicians and administrators would rather focus on a school like that than talk about the far more troubling fact that while only a small percentage of black and Latino students might get into Stuy, less than 65% of blacks and Latinos graduate from high school at all, as compared with over 80% of white and Asian students. But fixing the systemic problems in this city’s public school system are obviously a much bigger task than addressing the lack of diversity in a few of the schools, and so public figures simply distract people from the real problems, and focus on relatively insignificant ones instead. But doing that helps no one, least of all the students who need help the most.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. Why does your article not address the negative impact Di Blasio’s proposal will have on asian students?With 52% of the student population its clear who has the most to lose. Obviously, its because the only race issues that matter are black/white and disadvantaging asian students (not to mention their families) who make the personal sacrifices necessary to gain admittance to specialized schools has no negative political consequences for a white mayor with a black wife. The truth is that most of the asian students that go to specialized high schools come from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or recent immigrant families. The asian students, despite the lack of resources, make the personal investment to prepare for the entrance exams and their families provide the discipline necessary for them to succeed. Clearly they must be punished. Your article, just like every other aspect of modern american/nyc culture and politics, marginalizes asian interests. But who cares, asians are quiet, they won’t raise a stink. Your liberal perspective is quite convenient in its scope.

    It amazes me how there is no talk about subsidizing preparation classes for disadvantaged blacks students, a proposal I could fully support. Probably, because its easier just to take from asians and give to blacks. Demanding that black students achieve higher scores it seems is just too hard.

    • It does address that, actually, because I make clear that the students who will benefit most from moving away from a test-only admissions are white people—at the expense of Asian students. The whole point of my article is that the system at the specialized high schools shouldn’t be changed. Your comment is the only thing here that is pitting black and Asian students against one another.

      • If you think this issue is anything other than black versus asian, you’re obviously white. The political pressure is coming from the African-American community. Saying white students will benefit the most, does not necessarily correlate to asian students being disadvantaged. Commentary on this issue that does not specifically address the group that suffers the most is pretty much ignoring the elephant in the room.

    • There’s so much wrong with your comment that it’s ridiculous. I didn’t agree with all of the points in this article but nowhere does she suggest that the school system take anything away from Asians to give to blacks, and it’s certainly not pitting Asians against Blacks (which pretty much no one does, by the way.) Yes there are many issues with the way that Asians are treated in America but the fact of the matter is that institutional racism was built specifically to disenfranchise black people, something that is abundantly clear from the zoning of NY neighborhoods to the way black children are treated in classrooms.

  2. Stuyvesant also didn’t admit women until 1969, if you’re going to talk about accessibility across the school’s history.

  3. As someone who’s worked across the street at Borough of Manhattan Community College and who sees Stuyvesant students in their wolfpacks crowding the Chambers Street sidewalk, I’d like to say most of them act like total dummies in public. They may score high on tests, but do they have any common sense? I say, turn that building into a good use, like a model homeless shelter and send the current Stuyvesant students back to their neighborhood high schools to learn to behave like human beings, not animals.

    • From someone who went to Brooklyn Tech and have taught math in CUNY, I can assure you that the kids in Stuyvesant has more emotional security than people in CUNY. Also, the people in Stuyvesant can add fractions, which is something I had to teach to kids who are studying calculus in CUNY.

      Also, it’s just not fair to compare high school students with 30 year olds who attends community colleges. Of course kids will behave like kids.

    • The comment from the person working at BMCC brings to mind the senior prank where everyone at Stuy applied to BMCC. As a joke, obviously. As if they’d suddenly be getting hundreds of applications from students all of whom were graduating with advanced regents diplomas, had a minimum of seven years in the math department, 18-30 advanced placement credits on the average, and SATs around 2100.

      The disparity between the students walking into BMCC and Stuyvesant is obvious. The Stuyvesant ones are clutching their review books which they read on the stairs, with anxious looks, versus the loud crowd at BMCC, which seems to be into pushing each other (I’ve been literally pushed down by accident when the shoving game gets going) and seem straight out of Norman Thomas high school.

      For all its worth, I’ve heard that BMCC students are the go to’s for Stuyvesant students seeking drugs.

      I agree with the article – holistic admissions will benefit the type of students who now end up at Eleanor Roosevelt on the Upper East Side. It’s whites who have lost spots to Asians. Clever to frame that as a civil rights/oppressed minorities issue – dishonest, but clever

  4. First, according to the NYC schools website, the percentage of students at Stuy who are Asian is 73%. Whites are 22%, Hispanics are 2% and blacks are 1%.

    Based on the numbers used in this article — 10 blacks — out of a freshman class of about 850, well, that’s roughly 1%. So, no changes.

    Meanwhile, it is outrageous that the mayor and his school chancellor would decide that schools with competitive admissions policies should turn the policy of merit into a charade and admit students based on race.

    My son is one of those smart kids. He’s taking AP chemistry, and I saw his current homework assignment. It involves thermodynamics, tough territory in that subject. He’s doing well, doing well because he’s been working pretty hard since he started in kindergarten. But more than working hard, he cares about this subject because his ambition might lead him to medical school.

    On top of his efforts and his ambition is the fact that he’s smart. That combination makes him about the same as everyone else at the school.

    Stuyvesant does not make them superior students. They were admitted to Stuyvesant because they’d already established their superiority, and the signs were evident rather early. Most Stuy kids began their schooling in the Gifted Program. However, even acceptance into that program guarantees nothing.

    Around 7% or 8% of the kids in public school are accepted into the Gifted Program. However, as someone who watched my kids and my nieces go through it, I saw that around 3rd grade a divide opened up — in the Gifted Program. And the divide was racial.

    At the outset — kindergarten — the demographics show that roughly equal percentages of white, Asian, Hispanic and black kids are accepted. But in 3rd grade, the Asian and white kids pull ahead. It’s evident at the middle school, junior high level. Check Mark Twain Intermediate School for confirmation.

    The kids are admitted by test much like they’re admitted to Stuy. They also audition. Twain admits kids based on “talent.” Could be math talent, science talent, creative writing talent, music talent, dance talent or athletic talent. When it comes to high school, Twain is the number one feeder school to Stuy and Brooklyn Tech. It’s also a major feeder to Performing Arts HS.

    The results, the admissions to the select high schools, are not a function of affluence or some biased policy. Kids end up in these top schools because they’ve put in years of study, they’re ambitious, they’re smart and they’re encouraged by family.

    If kids without those elements are placed in these schools, they’ll flunk out. Flunking out would impart some real damage. That damage would undoubtedly serve the interests of the mayor and his way over-the-hill chancellor.

  5. Moving away from a test-only admission practice would lead to an even higher concentration of whites and Asians at the top schools. To believe otherwise is to believe in stereotypes.

    You can be absolutely certain that whites and Asians would take into account the requirements for acceptance and direct their efforts wherever they need to go. If the new requirements call for music, art, dance, athletics and double dutch, in addition to a solid grounding in math, science and English, well, the white and Asian kids will do what they need to do.

    Therefore, the only strategy that would sharply increase the percentages of blacks and Hispanics at Stuy is a strategy that boils down to affirmative action. A race-based selection process, which would turn into a disaster.

  6. When will the mayor and the school chancellor begin to study Asian families to learn how they raise kids who become such good students?

    Why knock success when the path to success can be learned from following those who’ve already blazed it? What makes the chancellor and the mayor so envious of Asian academic success that they’d destroy academic opportunity for everyone?

    • asian students are excellent–damn near perfect when it comes to math and science. but english courses and social studies and any courses that require reading, interpretation, creativity, etc., for some reason, these same asian students do not fare well. as a result, the math and science scores are often weighed heavily while other “less important” subjects [who determines this?] are ignored and i have even witnessed [gasp] changed/altered scores. [sorry] i respect the asian student so much so that i believe all parents should note asian choices as being the place where they should want to send their child. if you see that a particular school has very few asian students, then look for a different school where asian students are in abundance. the amount of asian students in a school actually DOES determine that school’s worth. however, the beginning of this comment is also true. it is math and science [ONLY] for the most part. and i absolutely, positively LOVE the asian student. this comment was not meant in any way as an insult to any group.

        • Not really. Creativity is almost always lacking in Asian kids. So is knowledge of things like history and geography, because they are not considered “important” things to learn. Most Asian kids are taught that they will get by if they excel only in Math and Science and the rest can lag because their overall grades will reflect their excellence in Math and Science. That the standardized tests are divided into only Math and Verbal has a lot to do with producing kids who can’t tell you where Mexico is, for example. I had an Asian friend who graduated from Johns Hopkins and was extremely puzzled when I told her I was from Central America. “South of Mexico,” I told her. Still puzzled.

          • wow, this is an uninformed statement. but if it makes you feel better about yourself, go for it.

          • I am Asian American and I have always excelled in the arts. Math, in fact, was my weakest subject. I know plenty of other Asian people who are interested in creative subjects and careers as well, so the stereotype that you mention doesn’t hold true for the entire race.

            You are probably thinking of Asian students who weren’t raised in the States. I know a lot of people who came here from China/Hong Kong at around the age of 10-12. These students are the ones that excel in math/science and lag behind in the arts. This is mainly due to the way the Chinese education system is laid out. Students there are taught advanced math at an early age. Non-STEM subjects such as English and Art are considered not as important. This also holds true for Japanese, Korean and Singaporean educational institutions.

            I just want to emphasize again that “creativity” is NOT “almost always lacking in Asian kids.” Such a statement is way too broad and just generally not true.

  7. And why can’t we just mimic and multiply the factors that make Tech, Stuy, and Bronx the great learning environments that they are and have been for so many years? – instead of tearing down or diluting what we already have accomplished there.
    Spread the wealth -don’t envy and destroy it. Set up more and different specialized high schools and adjust the admission requirements as needed. Experiment.
    See what works. But don’t destroy the templates. Don’t for God’s sake destroy what obviously works well to achieve some kind of false “diversity”. Create and foster greater equal opportunity by spreading the success of these specialized schools, not by stifling them, or by penalizing their success
    I take exception to Kristen in one area when she claims that “These schools foster atmospheres where independent, self-motivated learners can thrive; students who need more guidance and supervision tend to flail and falter”.
    My own learning experience at Tech was just the opposite: Tech students were INTENSELY supervised and guided, with rigorous demands placed on them throughout their Tech careers. When I graduated to City College I almost felt lost in the relative “freedom” and “independence” there, after 4 years of Tech boot camp …for which I have always been grateful!

  8. So wrong wrong wrong.

    Where did the writer pull out her ideas?

    This is a terrible article with an assumption that only a clueless person with biases can have, conscious or unconscious. None of the articles in her links claim to read the minds of black people. But she does.

    Medgar Evers and Midwood’s science and humanities programs are good, but they still don’t offer what a specialized high school can offer and the students not all on the same high level (half of Midwood’s seats are reserved for a less challenging general HS program; MECPS accepts students with 80 averages and half the graduates are not college ready).

    How dare the writer assume that all blacks deserve and perhaps they even prefer those other programs. So why do they take the SHSAT each year if they don’t want to go? And when they don’t get into a specialized high school, why do they go to private and boarding schools?

    The problem is not being told about Stuyvesant in enough time to prepare, a G&T system that doesn’t capture all the students — especially in Black neighborhoods, and the teaching to the lowest denominator policy of the middle schools. Not only that, the schools that have middle and high school grades withhold information from students and parents in order to keep the high performing students and make their schools look better. Also, test prep businesses like Princeton Review don’t set up shop where they are obvious in black neighborhoods.

    But if the writer sleeps better thinking that the people are where they want to be. . .

    • I don’t think the writer was trying to imply that high-achieving black and latino students should just accept their lot at Medgars Evers and Midwood and not be allowed to go anywhere else. I think she was trying to convey that there are alternatives to specialized high schools and that these options could be improved (as you’ve pointed out) if people stopped focusing on schools that are already working. I think she’s also trying to say that it doesn’t make sense that high-achieving students are the concern when it makes much more sense to worried about students who aren’t even graduating.

      You pointed out the flaws in Medgars Evers’ and Midwoods’ curricula, but I think people oftentimes don’t realize that specialized high schools aren’t perfect either. People who havent attended Stuy tend to put it on a pedestal as this glorious beacon of hope where teachers are constantly helping students with their homework, students are cooperating on projects are having a great time and everybody gets into Harvard and lives happily ever after at Google or Goldman Sachs. This is not true. As Kristin pointed out, Stuy is very much for the independent, type-A student, who, if I may add, is frequently neurotic and stressed to the point of breaking. In addition, the students who aren’t resilient and relied on natural talent to get in often give up and end up coasting into a state school or even dropping out. Stuy is not for everyone. Stuy is for strugglers and survivors who sure as hell wouldn’t let a stupid test stand in the way of admission. I’m SURE there are school systems (that exist or can be developed) that do a better job of nurturing students’ potential, but people have to accept that Stuy just isn’t for everyone — no matter what color you are.

  9. Race shouldn’t even be an issue. Take the test. Get the required score. Get into the school. That’s it, end of story. People are just making it about race because they see the result of how poorly that race is doing. If you want more African Americans and Latino Americans in the school have them study and learn more, have them DO better on the test. The article and the people that are trying to make it a racial thing, They’re just trying to stir things up. By lowering the standards so more African/Latino Americans can get into the school is only gonna reduce the overall quality and prestige for the school.

  10. Kind of ironic to find this story on Brooklyn Magazine, given that this magazine caters only to BK’s new ‘trendy white yuppie’ demographic. Scrolling down the site’s front page yields a parade of white faces, and the “lifestyle” type articles all deal with artisinal-type stuff that appeals to trendy white yuppies.

    You’re showing a very, very small slice of the borough.

  11. Made it through 3 lines of this garbage before I got too tired to continue.
    This isn’t about Black and Latino vs. White and Asian.
    If your kid is too stupid to go to a good school, that is your fault and theirs, not the schools.
    Stop with this useless fucking drivel and take your kid to a tutor.

  12. Black and Hispanic students: Step up your game if you want to attend. Don’t expect the school to make exceptions for you.

  13. Attending Stuy and the other top high schools is absolutely a matter that’s delineated by race. But race is merely the feature that makes the divide obvious to the eye.
    Stuy and the other schools are essentially Asian and white. The real division, however, is not race, but culture. Say what you want, but there isn’t a nation in the world where black students outperform whites and Asians.
    Why is that? Hard to say, but blacks are barely visible on the radar of science and engineering. So there must be something lacking in the lives of black students outside of school that leads them away from the tougher subjects.
    It’s well known that blacks receive 200 bonus points on the SATs when they apply to Ivy League schools. Fewer points are added at less competitive schools. As for graduate school, LSATs, MCATs, GMATs, GREs, the average score of blacks is lower than the average for whites and Asians.
    Sooo, it wouldn’t hurt to study the paths taken by whites and Asians that lead to their better performances. Then blacks can follow their path. However, I’m not holding my breath for a sharp improvement in scores for black kids taking the SHSAT test.

    • It is most definitely the culture. People argue about more privileged families having the resources to send their children to test preparation classes. While there is some truth to that, the majority of this phenomenon is priority; prioritizing family income and resources to giving their children the best education possible. And also, the upbringing and emphasis on academic excellence. That drives the high percentages of Asians and white students.

  14. Dont want to sound like an ass but Asian families come to NY without anything and there kids get into these schools through hardwork not because the test is unfair

  15. This is not an issue of race but of the arrogance of the culture of STEM. College professors and high school science teachers believe that it is their mission to identify potential geniuses and weed out the rest. They teach to those who already have the best background and are content to leave the rest of the students behind. They don’t care about the idea of starting the students from their current level and patiently instructing them in the material to make sure they learn it. In community college it can be the same way. All of the sections of a math class have to go at a mandated pace and a teacher can get into trouble with the administration for trying to teach at the pace that the students can actually handle. When companies offer employee job training, they teach the material so that the students can actually learn it. The same is true with textbooks. Engineering textbooks say “it is easy to show that” or “it is trivial to show that” when, in fact, it is not. The textbooks in China do not say “the reader is left to show that…” In China the textbooks contain the mathematical derivations. In China they do a better job of teaching science to a large population of students rather than trying to identify a few geniuses and forgetting about everyone else. And then scientists wonder why there are so many people who don’t listen to them on climate change. The entire philosophy of science teaching has to change.

  16. There is a provision in the law which allows these specialized schools to create a program for “disadvantaged” students whose scores fall below the test threshold, but meet other standards (e.g., grades). Unfortunately, Stuyvesant and the like have disbanded the program, and that is why the number of minority admits has dropped so significantly. Most colleges have similar programs – testing is not an objective means of assessing intelligence or likelihood of success. These tests are a good measure of how much parents can afford to pay for test preparation classes. The numbers are shameful and they matter because (1) these schools are feeders to elite universities (2) the resources and education available at these schools can change the trajectory of a student’s career (3) diversity in perspective and experience enhance the quality of discussion in the classroom. That’s not to say, let in the minority’s kid that’s failing out of middle school; it’s to say, let in the straight A student whose score fell short on the exam.

    • It never even occurred to me that the Discovery Program was an affirmative action program. (I found a NY Daily News article that confirms what you are saying.) That explains why Brooklyn Tech was over 35 percent black in the 1990s. My guess is that back then the number of offers made equaled the number of seats available. When students declined an offer then the seat would be filled with an affirmative action candidate from the Discovery Program. Nowadays the selective schools make far more offers than seats available knowing that many students will decline an offer.

      Stuyvesant and Bronx Science never accepted students below the citywide cutoff, so their respective black and Hispanic percentages never went above 15 percent each. “Through the Discovery Program, Stuyvesant, traditionally the school with the highest admission cutoff score, could admit a limited number of disadvantaged students who scored high enough for Bronx Science, traditionally with the second-highest cutoff score; Bronx Science, in turn, could take students who qualified for Brooklyn Tech.

      But, over a decade ago, when the city created the five new specialized schools, it changed the rules of the Discovery Program so that schools could only use it to take in students who scored too low for any of the eight, said Stanley Teitel, the former principal of Stuyvesant.

      He felt that Discovery students were now too far behind the other students, so he stopped participating. Of the three big schools, only Brooklyn Tech participates in the Discovery Program.

      In addition, most race-based policies were discontinued in public schools nationwide after a slew of lawsuits in the 1990s. Recently Brooklyn Tech only admitted 30 students from the Discovery Program. In 2015 the DOE took 100 offers from Brooklyn Latin and added them to Brooklyn Tech which resulted in Tech offering seats to more blacks and Hispanics than the previous year. Of course that trick can’t work every year.

      Asians are the poorest ethnic group in NYC so any program that benefits the disadvantaged would benefit them.

  17. A couple of things:

    Let’s face up to reality, that our city is sorting children very early in their lives and providing opportunities to some and not others. One could argue that the 13 year old students who get in to Stuyvesant, for example, deserve it based on their one test score. And if only 1% (10 out of 1000) of the students are black, maybe those are the black students who deserve the opportunity to attend. But it’s really hard to argue that of all the students born thirteen years before, such a small percent of black babies deserved such an opportunity, or that the percent of black children who deserved the opportunity was so much smaller than the percent of white or Asian babies born that year. So I think we have to look at what’s happened for those kids over the course of the 13 years and recognize how much society and schools in particular have sorted children in the city. I think we need to face the implications of sorting children so young and setting them on such different paths.

    Let’s recognize that the way we frame this conversation is problematic. One could argue that we shouldn’t worry about changing things at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech; we’re focusing on relatively few students and should instead focus on the systemic problems that affect the wider system. In fact, the conversation about the big three frames the conversation about the system in ways that are actually destructive. For example, If we justify the test based admissions and say that the kids who test in deserve it, then we’re assuming: a. that tests are a good way to measure a child’s worth, b. that some children deserve to be in a rarefied environment even if others are in environments that are far worse, c. that it’s best for students to be in large schools with little to no racial diversity, d. it’s ok to sort children as young as 13 to such different sets of opportunities. Then we apply these lessons to the rest of the system and say testing is good, some children deserve more than others, racial segregation is ok, and it’s fine if we sort students. And these are devastating when accepted for some and then accepted across the city.

    As a Stuyvesant alum myself, and a professional educator, I can tell you that what made Stuyvesant what it was in the 1980s and what makes Stuyvesant what it is today is the student body and the opportunities these students are afforded to be in programs like the Intel Science program that has students doing real, rigorous science research. The school is very traditionally structured. There is little that is innovative or new about the curriculum as a whole. There were a handful of truly amazing teachers, but it wasn’t the teaching body as a whole. When we focus on Stuyvesant and the test we are distracted from the systemic questions we need to address – about how the school system should be organized; how individual schools should be structured, using time, space and resources to know students and meet their needs; how to ensure curriculum is broad and deep and engages students in meaningful learning that connects to their lives and prepares them increasingly for more opportunity. Nor do we address the need to give every high school student opportunities to engage deep, rigorous academic work. These are some really tough issues that deserve our attention.

    -Stuy ’86

  18. Simply just get Jay Z to open equivalent school for fools appease indifference. Since not cool to be in school Hip hop every time when unequal is racist what jobs. Blacks don’t want always easy way not paying of schools just weed on the block stealing revealing. Attitude those saying polices racist trash!

  19. I just want to say this whole notion of changing the test is bullshit. I am a black alumni of Stuyvesant class of 2002 and I got in with one of the highest scores in my year. I took no test preparation courses, so that negates people saying “oh it’s only kids who can afford to spend a ridiculous amount of money on Kaplan or Princeton Review get in” If you’re smart enough and test well enough you will get it regardless of your race I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that. if you’re a minority and you want to go to Stuy, study really hard from an early age like I did and you very well may get to go

  20. I am an immigrant form Mexican origin, and after reading this article I am going to try to be sarcastic, forgive me if I am not. On the same tone of voice why don’t the NBA lower their standards so I can see more Mexicans playing in its teams. Why in the world when choosing people that are going to compete in the olympics the olympic committee do not lower the standards so I can see more athletes of Mexican origin representing our country? Same thing with Hockey why teams in the NHL do not take more Mexicans so I can see my people playing the game on TV and it would add more diversity at the same time? Why rap artists are not more open to Mexican artists so I can see more people of Mexican origin singing rap? Why don’t schools in New York City don’t lower their standards so I can see more people of Mexican origin graduating from High School (oops, I think they already did)? Same case with the schools of Medicine around the country? What about the schools of Engineering, I want to see more of people of my origin being Engineers, or Lawyers or Cardiologists or Physicists, may be Architects? Lady we never asked for your help, let us try to work harder, do our best and become better citizens, we can do it without your help.

  21. Savvy post . my assistant yesterday was made aware of print pdf , It’s kind of uncomplicated to try and it’s excellent , I saw they offer a free trial ongoing


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