I remember it all too well. As a budding New York City resident in junior high school, and of course of Asian descent, I was bound to take the specialized high school exam. The test serves as the bridge between the mediocrity of regular high schools and the higher echelon of education in NYC. Essentially, the system involves a tree of nine selective schools, all located within different boroughs. A test is administered every year for 8th graders in junior high school, as well as 9th graders in high schools who are looking to transfer. The test has a verbal and mathematics portion, with each one equating to 400 points for a total of 800. Each school has a different required score, that changes every year, for admission. Needless to say, I didn't perform significantly well on the test; I scored well enough to gain entry into Brooklyn Technical High School, but neither Bronx High School of Science, my dream school of the time, nor Stuyvesant High School. Sure, I was disappointed, but I often wondered why I fared so poorly. Did I just not have the knowledge to pass? Perhaps I slacked off too much in prep school. Or maybe, just maybe, there was an error in grading my test. With the recent complaint by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on the fairness of the admissions process for specialized high schools, specifically in the grounds of civil rights, a question must be thought over: is the exam, or even admissions process, even fair? The answer to that question varies. For a current or former student educated in these schools, the allegations seem baffling and unreasonable. There isn't a true way to agree with the NAACP without undermining a person's own admittance into a specialized high school, which, therefore, puts the people who attended specialized high schools, with opinions, in a pickle. Other parents and students have a myriad of arguments against the exam. The process in which a person gains entry into a specialized high school ONLY involves a single test grade. There is absolutely no other thoughts taken into consideration, including, and not limited to, current/past grades in classes, statewide exams, and a teacher's recommendation/opinion. In this sense, when dealing with a scenario that may affect a child's entire life, surely a more rigorous approach should be taken in the selection process. There is no way to judge character or an accurate measure of intelligence based on a single test; some people just may be bad test takers. But the NAACP's complaint primarily refers to the low number of black and Hispanic students admitted into specialized high schools. The test maybe be the same for every student, but the lack of other criterias give a huge disadvantage to minorities, excluding Asians, who may not perform well on exams but are still intelligent human beings.
People are missing the point. Although the selection process is blatantly unjust and needs changing, the major factor, and perhaps racially indifferent one at that, is often ignored. Most standardized test in America are made for people of Caucasian descent, or at least of children with truly Americanized parents, including the specialized high school exams and the SATs. Specifically in the verbal potions of the exam, the amount of idioms and words used in the questions tend to give students who speak English as the primary language at home a huge advantage. This hurts many minority families, especially Asians and Hispanics; black students may be more exposed to idioms, though probably not as much as their white counterpart. Even the mathematics part can be misconstrued. The wording of words in word problems can confuse students who maybe speak English very well, but do not understand the tiny antics of the English language. The result of this is a poor formation of the exam. But then why do Asian students still perform so well? This is another problem with the test. Because it focuses on only two subjects, verbal and mathematics, and all a student needs is a COMBINED score, not a minimum in each section, it's completely fine to do extremely well in one part and not the other. What often ends up happening with Asian students is that they constantly score well in math, perhaps an easy 325+, but lack a good score in verbal. The issue is that it doesn't matter if Stuyvesant wants a 550 and I managed to score a 350 in math but 200 in verbal. Hitting the mark for these schools is way too simple. The disparity between scores in both sections spell out a major problem in finding well-balanced students; the result is a plethora of students who are not well-rounded in both subjects.
It's obvious that the specialized high school admissions process needs refining. The city needs to find a better way to garner students of all ethnicities who are well-rounded in all forms of education, not only verbal and math. There lacks a history and science portion that may help students who are better at those subjects. A minimum score in each section should also be proposed in order to find students who are not only good at one area of schooling. Perhaps the whole education system needs to be overhauled. Does the NAACP have a valid argument in fighting the exam? Absolutely, and I do not say this because I didn't go to a specialized high school. Any logical person can see the flaws associated with the exam. The only problem is this: the selection process can be unfair to people of Caucasian descent as well, as some may succeed due to a proficiency in one subject but not the other one. The NAACP should target, and I say this as an Asian American, the amount of Asian people who gain entrance into specialized high schools. For the lower level of schools, such as Brooklyn tech, which only requires around a 480 for entry, having an Asian student score 350 in math and 130 in verbal is dishearteningly sad. Stuyvesant may be a small exception, as you would need at least a half-decent score of a 200-220 in verbal to be considered. Even then, the disparity needs to be addressed and fixed.
I'm guess I'm just a little too tired of being surprised when a Hispanic or black person tells me he attends Stuyvesant.