The Selective High School Dilemma

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Letter to the Editor:

Regarding the five or so highly selective High Schools in the city and the lack of diversity within them and desire to open them up to more underprivileged students, I think we are asking the wrong question.  Rather than scrap the current system why not expand it.  It seems that these are the same five schools that were the elite schools when I went to high school in 1956.  Nothing much has changed.

So better question is why can’t we create more schools like the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School and the others and scatter them throughout the boroughs?  Why is there none in Staten Island or eastern Brooklyn and Queens?

If we could duplicate these facilities and build the same high-quality staff and distribute them throughout the city then there would be good reasons for high achieving students to stay local.  If for no other reason than reducing the commuting time.  By doing so it would free up more space for those otherwise capable students who are currently being excluded based on small differences in test scores.

That would be a great way to spend education dollars and you might even get corporate money to sponsor or adopt each of the new schools.  I’m sure the teachers union would support it and that’s more than half the battle in NYC.

It’s not an instant solution.  It would take some time for the new schools to demonstrate that quality of their graduates match the old guard, so it will require patience by those directly involved.  Unfortunately our elected representatives don’t often push for solutions that don’t result in votes in their next election, but I think that it’s an approach that ought to be considered.

Ralph Di Palma

Boys High Class of 59’

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Ralph you are “spot on”!
    As you suggest, we need more schools with high standards, otherwise we devolve into many schools with low and lower standards. I think NYC teachers will support it, but their Union Leaders … very political … may oppose it. Max Eden wrote in the NY Post on 8/28/19 an article on de Blasio’s plans … “There are two ways to close the school achievement gap, lift up struggling students or push down those who are successful.”
    There are now 9 schools in NYC that require the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT. One, Staten Island Technical High School, was established in 1988, so we know we can build more schools. To fill specialized schools with more minorities, we need to significantly improve Primary Education in minority areas!
    “Larry Carry, president of Brooklyn Technical High School’s Alumni Foundation, told The New York Times, the decline in enrollment was more about a general lack of “high quality education” for Black and Hispanic students instead of a flaw in the admissions system.”

    He is right! Without a good primary education foundation, you can’t succeed in any high school, or college, or life. The “mental muscles” have to be developed in the young.
    I came from a very poor family with only one parent even getting an eighth-grade certificate. They had to work as children in the cotton mills of Fall River, MA. I was blessed that at the time I went to grammar school in NYC, the teaching and discipline was solid, uniform and superb across all boroughs. That enabled me to pass the TEST and get into Brooklyn Tech and that made all the difference in my life.
    Brooklyn Tech Class of 1957

  2. Correction to my posting. The NYC Board of Education lists 9 Specialized High Schools, but only eight take the SHSAT.

    “Students can apply to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts by submitting a portfolio and auditioning in a talent area for up to six different studios”

    From the NYC Department of Education website, the eight that require the SHSAT are:
    The Bronx High School of Science, The Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn Technical High School, High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College of New York, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical High School, Stuyvesant High School.

  3. Love your article about the specialized high schools. You’re right. Build some more schools and they shall come. But you have to upgrade the primary schools from kindergarten through eighth grade especially in minority neighborhoods. Great article I’m a tech alumni myself class of 1963

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