Monday, February 08, 2010

Sam Anderson on Lack of Black Students at Stuyvesant HS

SEVEN out of 958 incoming Freshmen for Sept 2010 are Black. That's just .07%!. Yes. That is 7 hundredths of a percent!

And this in a city where nearly 80% of the 270,000 hi school age children are Black and Latino. That's about 216,000 Black and Latino hi school students... with only 368 Black (1.7 out of a thousand Black students) students and 421 (1.9 out of a thousand Latino students) Latino students getting into the city's top eight schools. Absurd figures that are really a criminal indictment of a thoroughly race and class-biased "public" education system.

Stuyvesant's ridiculously tiny number of Black students is just a reflection of a much much deeper reality of systemic racist mis-education that has become the norm for the BloomKlein led Dept of MisEducation (DOME) on their quest to privatize public education.

It is a reflection/indictment of the:

(1) absolute dumbing down of the educational needs of the overwhelming majority of NYC's public school students thru the "teach-to-the-test" approach. You gotta know more than how to take a test to do well on the specialized schools exams. You need to know some substance on a subject and basic critical thinking.

(2) the dismantling of junior high schools- many of which had positive institutional structures, cultures and legacies (i.e. successful alums) that nurtured critical thinking over an obsession with test-prepping as well as a desire to push ones intellect (the "I am smart and proud of it" syndrome). When we look back at these schools- no matter dysfunctional or decrepit they were, most were far better than the norm we have now as middle schools.

How do we start to remedy this situation? By thinking out of the DOME/Race-to-the-Top box.

My Out-of-the-Box suggestions (I'm sure there are others among us who can come up with other creative ways to overcome this crisis):

(1) for the next ten years, set aside at each of the specialized hi school 30% of the freshman class coming from the top 5% of the 8th graders

(2) have a team of academic counselors and peer tutors for all students who may have academic difficulties at each specialized hi school

(3) have a team of Black/Latino alums and personal/social counselors available at each specialized hi school

(4) create a real (i.e. fully-funded, a full time staff, major ongoing publicity) citywide year round tutoring program for all 7th and 8th graders interested in taking the specialized hi school exam

(5) create a fully funded and staffed citywide parent committee that engages the parents at every level of tutoring, counseling and at-home support

(6) create a fully funded and staffed citywide Black/Latino peer study group utilizing face-to-face school/neighborhood/boro meets as well as all the online social network hookups (Facebook, twitter, myspace... and those still to come)

(7) have all specialized hi school educators and staff go thru ongoing "Undoing Racism" workshops

(8) establish MANDATORY Black & Latino history/culture courses at all specialized hi schools

(9) over the next ten years, increase the number of Black & Latino educators at these schools to reach the level of 50% of the staff

...Yes, This deep crisis requires fundamental overhaul of the elitist and racist idea of "specialized hi schools." Tweaking around the edges, symbolic tutorial gestures, and PR smoke and mirrors data have just exacerbated the crisis... and will continue to.

In Struggle,

Sam Anderson
author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners"
If work were good for you, the rich
would leave none for the poor. (Haiti)

February 5, 2010, 4:25 pm

At Top City Schools, Lack of Diversity Persists

Annie Tritt for The New York Times Students at Stuyvesant High School in September 2007.

Just seven black students were admitted to Stuyvesant High School’s incoming freshman class, down from a dozen last year, according to numbers released Friday by the city’s Education Department. The number of Hispanics also dropped incrementally, with 17 being admitted this year, compared with 24 last year. A total of 958 students were admitted last week for next year’s freshman class at Stuyvesant, long regarded as the crown jewel of the city’s schools.

For the last several years, education officials have struggled to explain the lack of racial diversity in the city’s elite public high schools. Admissions to the schools, including Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science, are based entirely on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, offered each fall. Over the years, several critics have charged that the test is inadequate, and that it is unfair to make it the sole criteria for admission.

Among the 5,261 eighth-grade students who learned this week that they had been admitted to the city’s top eight schools, 7 percent are black, among those whose race was known to the department. Hispanic students make up 8 percent of the students admitted, while 57 percent are Asian and 28 percent are white. Of the nearly 23,000 students who took the test, 23 percent were admitted to one of the schools.

When The New York Times reported the admissions gaps in 2006, one deputy chancellor called the numbers “extraordinarily shocking.” Two years later, Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Wolcott said he was not happy with the low percentage of minorities at the so-called specialized schools.

“It’s important for the halls of Stuyvesant, the halls of the Bronx High School of Science, to be reflective of the city itself,” he said at the time.

The department has tried to increase the number of black and Latino students admitted to the top schools by hosting an intensive test preparation institute, but even the students who participated have shown lackluster results –- only 21 percent of Hispanic graduates of the programs and 19 percent of blacks were offered admission at the schools.

In 2006, the Education Department promised to study whether demographic gaps were the result of some ethnic groups performing poorly on the two-and-half hour test or because they were not taking the test at all. It has since abandoned that effort.

Last year, 6 percent of blacks and 7 percent of Hispanics who took the test were offered admission at one of the schools, compared with 35 percent of Asians and 31 percent of white students. The disparities were the most striking at Stuyvesant, where 2 percent of blacks, 3 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of whites and 72 percent of Asians were accepted.

In the last few years, five additional schools have begun relying on the test -– Brooklyn Latin, the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College, the High School for American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College and Staten Island Technical High School.

Those schools, which are often referred to as “second tier,” are typically more diverse, but not extraordinarily more so. Of the 178 students offered admission to the school at City College, for example, 20 -– or 11 percent -– were black and 15 percent Hispanic.

The department released the demographic numbers just minutes after it put out a congratulatory news release in which Chancellor Joel I. Klein praised the students who were admitted. “It is a major accomplishment to be admitted to one of our city’s specialized high schools,” Mr. Klein said. “I congratulate all of the students who received an offer and those who took on the challenge of applying.”

Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the department, said in statement that officials “reach out to all communities across the city to make students aware of the outstanding opportunities presented by our specialized high schools.”

The statement continued: “Enrollment outreach efforts supplement but don’t substitute for the instructional prerequisites students need to do well on this test. Students need a strong background in math, verbal and critical thinking to succeed on the exam, and we continue to work to ensure every student receives the instruction required to develop those skills.”


Noel said...

Thanks for posting this, Norm. There is an error in the math, though: 7 out of 958 is 0.7%, not 0.07%. Of course that's still way, way too small.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but I just have a few speculations. Although such a small number of black, latino and hispanic children are admitted, it's solely based on the test, not the aspect of race. At schools like these, the students are all respectful of each other, and are very mature on the subject of race as well as religion and class. With kids as bright as these, racism in the schools is a rare occurrence. Also, you have good ideas, but I know for a fact that there are many groups of students who meet and discuss these matters, and school-wide awareness is definitely present. Of course, like any other high school, some kids at Stuyvesant tend to remain with people from their race instead of branching out. This actually happens more with people of Asian decent, whether it's because of personal opinions, cultural values, or just coincidence. The point is, lack of black students at Stuyvesant is by no means meant to offend, and is not even meant to occur. It just... happens that way each year based on test scores (Just in case this may interest you, I attend Stuyvesant High School).