Don't scrap the test, help black kids ace it

One approach is to more effectively spread the word in New York’s black communities about the free test-preparation classes. Many immigrant kids do several test practices. There is no evidence that doing this is impossible for a critical mass of black American students in New York. Notably, I am aware of no reports that black students did ample test prep and yet still failed to be admitted to any of New York’s eight selective public schools. Rather, we hear simply of the admissions disparities, and—as mentioned above— the fact that black families often do not know the test exists, or how to learn to prepare for it.

Second, rather than assuming that this problem will only be solved by something as elusive and even quixotic as overhauling as vast and troubled a public-school system as New York’s into one where every student gets a top-quality education any time soon, we can focus on a narrower problem: The lack of gifted and talented classrooms for minority students. The “anti-tracking” movement in the early 1990s — born of the philosophy that mixing children of different abilities is more effective and equitable — led to the gradual elimination of these classrooms in heavily black public schools. Today, 10 New York districts where 9 in 10 students are black or Latino have either one or no gifted and talented program in the public elementary schools.

The decline in gifted programs may well have something to do with the dearth of black students at elite high schools. And if talented black students were once again regularly tracked into these programs, more would likely qualify for schools like Stuyvesant. In fact, in an interview with the Times, minority students now at Stuyvesant offered that prescription.

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