Heated Exchanges As Senators Listen To Brooklynites On SHSAT Exam

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DOWNTOWN – Friday night saw nearly two hundred people turn up for to voice their opinion on the future of the now-controversial SHSAT exam at the Youth and Community Speak Out on Equity, Diversity, and Admissions, held at the Pzifer Auditorium at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, at Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center. The event was organized by State Senators, including Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D 25), who is a member of the State Senate Education Committee, and Senator John C. Liu (D 11), who heads that same Committee. Other politicians, including Senator Zellnor Myrie (D 20) and Senator Andrew Gounardes (D 22), Kevin Parker (D21), Roxanne Persaud (D19) as well as assemblymembers William Colton (D47) and Jo Anne Simon (D52) were in attendance.

The format was a debate over whether to eschew the SHSAT exam in order to increase diversity for New York City’s eight specialized high schools grows stronger. The intensity over how some Brooklynites, as well as other New Yorkers, feel about the tough exam was felt strongly Friday night, with many wearing T-shirts declaring their support for the SHSAT.

Earlier in the day, there was a public NYS Assembly hearing, in which no consensus was made on regarding whether scrapping the SHSAT would help increase diversity at the aforementioned high schools, according to Chalkbeat. But one thing was agreed on: the political leaders were not pleased by Mayor DeBlasio’s plans of how to tackle segregation in NYC public schools.

Among the speakers were students, parents, educators, alumni from specialized high schools, such as Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant High School, and community activists. Nearly all supported the SHSAT. Those in attendance were mostly Asian families, some of whom attend I.S. 187 Christa McAuliffe School in District 20, a school where many go on to the elite high schools.

A couple of students from I.S. 187 Christa McAuliffe spoke on stage, urging the listening Senators to keep the SHSAT.

“Testing is a very objective measurement that shows how well you know something,” said a sixth-grader named Fiona. “I never had a teacher tell me or my classmates that if we don’t do well on a test, she would scrap the test.”

Another sixth-grader at I.S. 187 explained that the SHSAT is part of the American Dream, where if you work hard, you’ll advance in society. “Anybody can take the test, and it doesn’t matter how you look, where you live, or how you sound in an interview; you just have to work hard.”

Another sixth-grader, named Chorus Lee, said, “Taking away the SHSAT is taking away chances of many students. Everyone should have the chance to take it, no matter your race, no matter your color, no matter where you live, and no matter your looks. You just have to try.”

She went on to say she would be an eighth grader in 2021, and by then the SHSAT would be gone. Which would mean the chances of her getting in to a good high school, a good college and getting a high-paying job would be slimmer.

Other speakers pointed out that the tutoring and practice courses that help students prepare for the SHSAT can be too expensive for low-income families to take, and called for free SHSAT courses at schools so all students in all schools would be ready for the rigorous exam.

Many of those who spoke criticized both the Mayor and Chancellor Richard Carranza for politicizing the education system, and, as one parent put it, “scapegoating a test” rather than facing the real problems in NYC public schools.

One supporter of the SHSAT, named Charles and wearing a T-shirt that called for the fixing of the K-8 grades, paced around the stage while passionately denouncing the chancellor.

“I am sad that since Chancellor Carranza’s been here, I haven’t seen him do anything to try to improve education,” Charles said. “What I have seen him do is increase racial division. And by taking away the SHSAT, I see it as a cover-up for failure in K-8 education.”

Many applauded, but Charles was just getting started.

“What we’re seeing is some schools, where only 2% of the children meet state standards, yet 93% of them are passing their math tests. That’s fraud.”

Charles went on to say that parents need to know how their students are actually doing in school, so all – teachers, principals, and the Chancellor – could be held accountable. Those words were met with loud applause and cheers.

“By getting rid of the SHSAT,” Charles added angrily. “Chancellor Carranza wants to rely on lowered grades, but many of these grades are fraudulent! The SHSAT is the canary in the coal mine for this fraud.”

He ended his time by urging the politicians to pass the Gifted and Talented programs, and bring back the honors programs in schools.

The Gifted and Talented program was mentioned several times by other speakers. One of them, named Larry Carey, pointed out that during the 1980s and 1990s, there were extensive programs for the Gifted and Talented, as well as an enriching education program in the middle schools, which were eliminated under Mayor Bloomberg.

“You cannot say we are giving every kid in the city the opportunity to do well on the test,” Carey said. “When we don’t provide them with the experiences to do that. Let’s give them a program that really works.”

A few spoke out against the SHSAT. One was a Bed-Stuy resident named Tasya Rahman, who criticized the exam as being the “one chance to prove my value, my worth”.

“It was overwhelming and unbearable,” she said. “It created a sense of impending failure and disappointment at a young impressionable age.”

“When you allow a single test to be the only standard of intelligence,” Rahman continued. “You breed a toxic learning environment with students cheating, bragging about loss of sleep and competing with each other or even bullying each other. As a Muslim, I heard many Islamophobic comments.”

Although the Speak Out was meant to discuss the SHSAT exam and diversity in schools, the issue of race came up a couple of times, even though both the politicians and some attendants accused the Chancellor for pitting one race against the other.

When Chorus Lee spoke, she included this in her speech:

“If I work hard, should I have a higher advantage than those who don’t even try? Instead, they are the ones having a higher advantage. Because while I am doing practice exams, studying and trying my best, other students are probably watching TV and playing video games, and are not even trying. It’s just not right for me to work hard while others are just being lazy.”

Although a few chuckled at her words, Senator Montgomery was not pleased.

“Be very careful how you prepare them for this argument,” she said after congratulating the parents for raising future leaders. “We should not assume that because a group of young people that we’re fighting about…it’s not that they didn’t get into the schools because they’re lazy.”

That was met with enthusiastic applause, and the Senator went on to say, “It is your responsibility and it is an obligation that you make sure those children do not internalize those racist attitudes.”

Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (D 19) also said, “We’re not asking anyone to pit one against the other. By doing that, you’re not helping anyone by having that kind of conversation. It is not OK.”

That was met with some heckling, and Senator Liu spoke up to explain what the student probably meant by “lazy”.

“Chorus Lee never mentioned anything about race,” he said. “I could tell you…when we [Asian-Americans] say ‘lazy people’, we’re not talking about anybody from any other race. A lot of times, we’re talking about siblings and other people we go to school with.”

Later on, a woman named Mary Alice, an alum of Stuyvesant, did not hold back when lashing out at the Asian-American community.

“High achieving African-American and Hispanic youth scholars,” she said, “cannot compete with a culture that has no problem with cheating on standardized tests. I Googled cheating on standardized tests in Asia and the United States. Cheating is so rampant in Asia, that China had to pass a law.”

“Everything I am saying now, and will say, I have documentation,” Mary Alice held up a pack of papers. “Some of the newer immigrants… have come with their cultural view of cheating on standardized tests. There have been documented cheating in Stuyvesant in 2012 and 2013. This is a serious public policy issue. People who cheat on tests cannot be trusted to be competent doctors, engineers, judges, etc.”

A few audience members heckled Mary Alice during her speech, and there was a sense of awkwardness in the air. Even so, once her time was up, a good number of audience members applauded and she gave her stack of papers to Senator Montgomery, who accepted them. No one denounced her words.

Although the event started at 6 p.m. and meant to go until 8 p.m., the final speaker finished just after 10 p.m., since over 60 people signed up to speak. There were no final words as the auditorium had to be emptied out immediately, though Senator Liu gave a simple “Thank you”.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Mary Alice is a bigot to say that Asian Americans are foreigners and are the same as Asians from Asia. It is bad enough that Asian Americans are stereotyped as evil foreigners, now Asian American kids are getting their opportunity taken away and insulted by a bigoted woman who tries to affirm her bias by “Google searching”. Instead of pointing out that Asian Americans cheated on the SHSAT, she cited “culture of cheating from China”. Not all Asian Americans are from China. Plus its not even possible to cheat on the SHSAT exam when these students prep for it, I guess prepping for a test is consider cheating.

  2. Oh and let’s not forget another true racist Mary Alice making untrue statements about the entire Asian sphere:

    Later on, a woman named Mary Alice, an alum of Stuyvesant, did not hold back when lashing out at the Asian-American community.

    “High achieving African-American and Hispanic youth scholars,” she said, “cannot compete with a culture that has no problem with cheating on standardized tests. I Googled cheating on standardized tests in Asia and the United States. Cheating is so rampant in Asia, that China had to pass a law.”

    “Everything I am saying now, and will say, I have documentation,” Mary Alice held up a pack of papers. “Some of the newer immigrants… have come with their cultural view of cheating on standardized tests. There have been documented cheating in Stuyvesant in 2012 and 2013. This is a serious public policy issue. People who cheat on tests cannot be trusted to be competent doctors, engineers, judges, etc.”

  3. As A Stuyvesant alum from 1987. I benefitted from the Discovery Program that allowed those who lived in less affluent neighborhoods( I grew up in the Lower East Side) and missed the cut off by a few points, to attend. Why can’t they just keep the test as is, and extend the discovery program to 80-100 students, instead of the 40-50 it was in the 80s. It allows the elite not to lose their opportunity, and opens the door to some more students who are gifted, but maybe didn’t have the advantage of wealth, or good tutoring…

  4. Someone tell this Mary Alice woman that there’s this cheating technique, called not getting knocked up by dead beat fathers who leave their children behind, not letting your kids drop out of high school, not letting your kids do drugs, teaching your kids self control. That’s just a few cheats Asian immigrants bring to America, oh, and not committing 56% of homicide in America.

  5. I am so proud of every single person that came out to support the SHSAT. We need to call out racism when racism happen, Mary Alice is a racist and her dividing words incites hate.

  6. What was conveniently not mentioned in this article is that most of the Asian students who get into these elite high schools are from lower-income families, and that there ARE, in fact, free SHSAT preparation courses at lower-income schools. So, the non-Asian students who didn’t get in have no excuses.

    Especially egregious is the shameless racism from Mary Alice, who cherry-picked google evidence of cheating in China and extrapolated that to all Asian Americans. I could just as easily find evidence of white, black, or Hispanic students cheating and extrapolate it to them as well. But I wouldn’t, because I’m not a racist.

    Senator Montgomery denounced the sixth grader Chorus Lee for having “racist attitudes” but did nothing to denounce Mary Alice. This speaks volumes. Senator Montgomery seems to be totally okay with racist attitudes, as long as they’re directed towards Asians.

  7. “High achieving African-American and Hispanic youth scholars,” she said, “cannot compete with a culture that has no problem with cheating on standardized tests. I Googled cheating on standardized tests in Asia and the United States. Cheating is so rampant in Asia, that China had to pass a law.”

    Imagine if the roles were reversed and someone said, “High achieving Asian youth scholars cannot compete with a culture that has no problem with criminality and violence. I Googled violent crime in African- and Hispanic-American communities. Criminality is so rampant in those communities, that they had to pass a law.”

  8. Mary Always should have mentioned how the Catholic Diocese receives large amounts of cash to sponsor Asian students to help them achieve the American Dream by Housing these students to prep for and attend these specialized schools. These tests were born out of racism to keep certain schools segregated. When you he test was first established the senators who fought for it were quite aware of what they were doing. How can a small percentage of a population be the majority in these schools. NYC has the most segregated school system even to today. Time to cut this test out I agree with the Chancellor & the mayor!

  9. Folk can call me names but you can’t refute what I said.

    Btw, I was a reporter for 10 years. I know how to ask questions and look for the answers.

  10. Ummm,Mary Alice you ‘googled’ the answers. I don’t know how to tell you this but google isn’t a source of truth.

    Furthermore, you are a flaming bigot. Asian Americans and Chinese are too different entities unless we can start lumping in African Americans with Namibians now.

  11. Mary,

    Everyone literally just refuted the garbage that came out of your mouth. You can’t extrapolate what happens in a foreign country to ALL Asian-Americans (most of whom aren’t even of Chinese heritage). So what is your refutation to that? That’s right, nothing–you can’t refute the fact that you’re downright bigoted, racist, and dumb. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  12. Senator Montgomery and Senator Persaud denounced and criticized a little girl for merely mentioning of the word “lazy” with absolute zero association with race, and called it a “dangerous racist mentality”. And yet, they let an adult speaker openly smeared all Chinese Americans as cheater with zero comment. This is the exact biased and racist mentality we all should be criticizing, however our senators from the public hearing seems only interested in attacking an Asian middle schooler while kept mouth shut on racist comments from the adult.

    So, is racism against Asian not consider as “racism” in their definition? Or they are simply Okays with racism against other race as long as not against theirs?

  13. Did I just read this correctly? Chorus Lee talks about working/studying hard and being rewarded for it as opposed to students who don’t work/study also receiving that same reward. Lee mentions nothing about race, but Senator Montgomery makes it about race: “It is your responsibility and it is an obligation that you make sure those children do not internalize those racist attitudes.”

    Then later on, this Mary Alice absolutely makes it about race pitting African-Americans/Hispanics against Asian-Americans (by linking what students in Asia do, with all Asian-Americans in America…I’m pretty sure because they all look the same). And what does Senator Montgomery do? Accepts the documents this Mary Alice gives her with open arms.

    So apparently being openly racist against Asian-Americans (and Asians) is A-OK. But when you say people who work hard should get paid for that hard work, means you are being racist even when there is no mention of race. Ironically, the only person who equated ‘lazy’ with African-Americans and Hispanics is one Senator Montgomery.

  14. Mary Alice…. they teach in college that you can’t just cite anything you find on Google.

    Additionally…. it’s racist you applied that information to all people who “look” like a certain demographic.

    Furthermore this test is racially blind. It’s not racist. The segregated school system and lack of accessible test prep and tutoring in impoverished black and Hispanic communities are systemic and symptomatic of a bigger issue.

    Finally… how does an equally impoverished, minority group often learning English as a second or third language outperform other minority groups that may or may not have to also learn English as a second or third language? Psychological and anthropological means would likely point to culture, resilience, and community as the main key.

    Don’t fight the test. Fight for change in the community and seek accessibility to education. Changing/simplifying admission requirements only dumbs down the curriculum. Doesn’t that defeat what you’re trying to accomplish?

  15. How do you cheat on the SHSATs? It’s basic math and English. Either you know it or you don’t. Asians have a better chance because they have both parents’ full support. Don’t mess with the Asians’ education. They’ll fight tooth and nail. Messing with the Asians’ education is like messing with the blacks’ Jordans. You’re playing with fire if you do either.

  16. Mary Alice, shame on you! Senator Montgomery, SHAME ON YOU!
    Mary Alice, whenever you mentioned you are an alum of Stuyvesant, it makes me sick. What a bottom outlier you are from Stuy! You do not even have the slightest idea about what truth means.
    Mary Alice and Senator Montgomery, From which word of the little Asian girl’s speech, you make the association between “lazy” and your race? Asians obviously raise very fine children. Leave the Asians alone!
    It’s time for you to think about how to learn from the Asian culture!

  17. Folks like Mary Alice are the ones who facilitate a racial divide in this country. What a wonderful reporter you are cherry picking articles from google and posting your racist narrative.

    I could do the same you did, but I won’t stoop to your level of ignorance.

  18. Sensitivity to stereotypes and coded words play both ways. The little girl spoke about lazy people and Ms. Montgomery and Ms. Persaud were outraged because they heard code word: black Americans. But when Mary Alice, who is black, condemned all Asians (Chinese, Indian, South Pacific Islanders, Koreans, etc) with having a cheating culture, “People who cheat on tests cannot be trusted to be competent doctors, engineers, judges, etc.,” Ms. Montgomery and Ms. Persaud sat in silent agreement. I previously held Senator Montgomery in high regard but I have since changed my opinion of her.

    As for Mary Alice’s ridiculously racist argument that cheating is part of Asian culture, well, I highly doubt that Asians own cheating habits. And if she persists in this racial stereotyping (along with others who stay silent and complicit), she had better hold on to her hat because googling “felonious crime,” “violent crime,” “gang crime,” and “drug related crime” will bring up a slew of articles that, if printed, would drown her in paper. But I would not do that because it would be racist and unbecoming.

  19. And the reason why nobody made a big stink that evening and denounced Ms. Mary Alice is because she was elderly and walked with a walker. Chinese children are taught to respect the elderly and who has the heart to call out a disabled person? Not me.

  20. Mary Alice I want you to come up with any test that is offered in America. Asian students will outscore Black and Hispanic students the majority of the time. This roll happen even if you want to pick one out of a hat, so no one can prepare or “cheat” as you think Asians are suspect to.

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