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In the midst of the political, religious and economic issues that plague our everyday lives, there is another issue that requires attention: educational equity. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts on Spotify called The Daily. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, The Daily is political podcast that focuses on local and national political issues from The New York Times. On April 2, 2019, in NYC, headlines were made about specialized high school admissions. It was stated that out of approximately 850 students that were accepted to specialized high schools, about seven or nine of them were African American. This led me to revisit old memories about my own encounters with specialized admissions and discuss whether it requires a major overhaul, and if so, how can it go about.
So as I mentioned, I went down memory lane. I decided to visit an old spot by Columbus Circle. I used to go there and break away from my security guard duties when I worked at Hugo Boss. It was nicknamed the rainforest: a hidden gem during the warmer days with big trees and benches everywhere. I was sitting by this bench when I saw this kid-sized table with ABCs and numbers engraved all over. I didn’t think much of it until I thought about this: let’s get back to the beginning.
It brought me back to when I took that same exact test that was explained in the podcast of April 2, 2019. It was an estranged memory. I remember vaguely when I stood on the line to take the SHSAT at Bronx High School of Science. I was surrounded by faces, but they did not look like me. They looked mostly Asian and white. I felt special, like my super smart abilities brought me there, but they, the students, did not look like me. In our 21st century, this sentiment stills rings true for many minority students who take this specialized exam to enter a school for students with talents and smarts.
Many students who go and compete intellectually for higher educational opportunities still fall short due to the implemented admission standards. In 1972, the New York State Legislature passed the Calandra-Hecht Bill to establish the mandate of an entrance exam as the sole criteria for admissions. Before the Calandra-Hecht Bill came into effect, the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed as a signature move by former President Lyndon B. Johnson's Administration to implement the dissemination of federal funds to school districts with low-income students to better educational outcomes. Fast forward to 1995, when the Specialized High Schools Institute was founded in NYC as a city-run preparatory program for the SHSAT with the aim of increasing the number of students from underrepresented Latino and Black school districts to take the exam and get a seat at a specialized high school. Then, in 2001 by the Bush Administration, the No Child Left Behind Act was passed as a reauthorization of the 1965 ESEA Act with new requirements for accountability, testing and school improvement. In 2007, Asian communities claiming the Specialized High Schools Institute was discriminatory by mandating them to meet income guidelines that didn’t apply to Black and Latino applicants. Then... there has been more back and forth between Asian communities and the NAACP on the standards of admissions, which continues to the present day in 2019.
Is it a sustainable method to study, study, study and hope it’s enough?
This brings me to a troubling point: for students who take this exam and don’t pass, is it a sustainable way to measure a students’ merits for acceptance to a Specialized High School? The idea that studying your ass off will help get into school weighs on my mind. As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I was a student of the system who relied on financial aid from the government in order to get into a prestigious college. As a young girl who once took this test, I see the struggles that minority students face when smarts are not a sustainable measurement to indicate entrance into schools. There have been many talks about updating the system and making amends to admissions processes for specialized schools.
It’s been brought up to either dismantle the system completely, create more specialized schools, or create additional standards to this test for admissions. It has become transparent that this system will not sustain the next influx of students who take this test and fall short due to a lack of educational opportunities. We are in desperate need of more specialized schools or additional standards to make it sustainable for the next generation.
Question: How many more students of the system have to endure this process of unrealistic measurements of success? This is a direct message to Mr. De Blasio. Maybe the tables would turn if your own kids were to live the world of urban living and go through the same process of educational opportunities that has been passed down through failed administrations.
We must revisit our failed process of administrating opportunities of educational equity if we want to see any true changes sustained for the long run.