Progressive Education Today

How to ruin New York’s best high schools in the name of equality.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks during a news conference in Newark, N.J., May 1. Photo: Julio Cortez/Associated Press
The Editorial Board
June 6, 2018 7:07 p.m. ET


‘It’s like the [Education Department’s] motto is, ‘If it’s not broken, break it.’” So said state Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, in an apt summary of plans by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to diminish standards at eight high-performing public high schools.
Mr. Dinowitz, who was quoted in the New York Post, is a proud alum of the Bronx High School of Science. In America’s largest school system, where most children are failing proficiency tests in math and reading, only a modern progressive such as Mr. de Blasio could think the solution is watering down standards at the schools where students are achieving.
The mayor is alarmed because Asian students are disproportionately doing far better than black and Latino kids. At Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School, for example, 2.8% of students are Latino and 0.69% black. But 72.9% are Asian-American.

The disproportion is similar at other high-achieving New York City schools where admission is determined by an achievement test. Mr. de Blasio’s solution requires taking seats at these elite schools from Asian or white students and giving them to less qualified black and Latino children who may not be prepared for the academic demands. Either he’s setting these students up to fail, or he’ll have to ruin the schools by dumbing down their standards.
The mayor wants to scrap the Specialized High School Admissions Test and introduce a quota of 20% for students from high-poverty schools. He complains that though there are almost 600 middle schools across the city, “half the students admitted to the specialized high schools last year came from just 21 of those schools.” He’s right that the school system he presides over does a grave disservice to black and Latino children. But he’ll never admit that the reason is because the public schools are run by and for adults, i.e., the teachers unions that are Mr. de Blasio’s political allies.
Vouchers for private schools would let parents place their children in the city’s parochial schools. In the Catholic archdiocese of New York, which includes Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, the student body is almost half black and Latino. In these schools, 97.93% of seniors graduated from high school last year—and 92% go onto college. Black and Latino children can achieve if they are told to aim high and given the environment to do so.
Ditto for the best public charter schools, which Mr. de Blasio is always battling. The New York City wait list for a charter is 47,800. If Mr. de Blasio wants to see more black and Latino students getting into the hjghest-achieving schools, he could give more of them access to charter grammar and middle schools like those run by Success Academy. Instead, he blocks their expansion and harasses every move.
It’s a perverse progressivism that in the name of equality would wreck the best schools for the best students instead of working to lift standards and performance at every school.

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