In September 2012 I wrote an article entitled "Racially Based High School Entrance Exams?" I was not in agreement with the lawsuit being filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Latino Justice PRLDEF and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College against my alma mater, one of the "elite" schools in NYC, Stuyvesant High School. I did not buy in to the concept that a standardized entrance exam could be racially biased. After all, I took the exam and passed. I went to Stuyvesant and graduated in 1975. How could things be worse now than they were close to forty years ago.
I was so wrong.
The year that I graduated was the high water mark for Black and Latino student enrollment at Stuyvesant. Since then it's been a downward spiral.
In a March 2012 Huffington Post Blog Stuyvesant alumni Richard Buery writes:
I didn't go to one of the better junior high schools but the school administration took an interest in helping us prepare for the exam. We spent hours every day after school studying for the exam. We read dictionaries and we took practice exams. Our teachers did everything that they could to make sure that we were prepared.
There was an article written for the New York Times in February 2012 where the writer states:
The school’s parent coordinator, Harvey Blumm, said that when he visited middle schools whose enrollments were overwhelmingly black and Latino, it was not uncommon to find students who had never heard about the specialized high school exam; or to meet students who had signed up for the exam, but had never thought of taking a practice test or prep course — something common among white and Asian students; or to have guidance counselors tell him that Stuyvesant “isn’t for our kids.”
I have no doubt there is an awareness issue when it comes to these specialized schools. However have we subliminally written off some of our best and brightest students because of these schools are "too hard"? Have we considered the socio-economic conditions that exist today? Is the educational experience at any school better today than it was forty years ago?
For the record I'm not opposed to standardized testing but when something isn't working common sense compels us to take a fresh look. There is more to this issue than the ability to pass an exam.
The upcoming school year does not look any more promising. Gotham Schools reports:
The sharpest declines came at the city’s most selective schools. Out of 963 students accepted to ultra-elite Stuyvesant High School, just nine are black and 24 are Hispanic. Last year, the school accepted 51 black and Hispanic students. At Brooklyn Technical High School, the largest of the specialized schools, the number of black and Hispanic students accepted fell by 22 percent.
I don't have the answers but one thing is for certain, there are a lot of us that have benefited by graduating from these elite schools. We owe it to the upcoming generations to do whatever we can to ensure that these schools attain and maintain a level of cultural diversity that is consistent with that of the overall school system in New York City.
We cannot rely on anyone to get this done, it's up to us.
It starts now, let's get this thing done....
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.