The New York Times's War On High School Exams is Misguided [Preview]

Neither the exams nor selective high schools are driving "segregation."

This week the New York Times published the latest entry into their long seriesof articles critical of the SHSAT, New York City’s Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, which governs admissions into most of the city’s coveted specialized high schools. It highlighted the racial demographics of Stuyvesant High School, one of the elite schools in question:

The headline itself does not mention SHSAT, but the body of the text leaves little question as to what the purpose of the article is:

After a year in which the pandemic shined a harsh spotlight on the stark inequities in New York City’s school system, the city announced Thursday that, once again, only tiny numbers of Black and Latino students had been admitted into top public high schools. The numbers represent the latest signal that efforts to desegregate those schools while maintaining an admissions examare failing. […] Though Black and white students made up the same percentage of test takers — about 18 percent each — less than 4 percent of Black students received offers, compared with nearly 28 percent of white students, a clear sign that having large numbers of Black students take the exam is not leading to more equitable outcomes. […] The disappointing results released on Thursday show just how profoundly segregated the nation’s largest school system still is and will no doubt lead to fresh calls for the state, which controls entry into some of the schools, to get rid of the entrance exam.

Notice the sentences that I bolded. In each section, the weight of the words fall upon the exam itself. When the Times says that these numbers will “lead to fresh calls…to get rid of the entrance exam,” it is being a bit too sly. The Times itself wants schools to get rid of the SHSAT — it isn’t neutral in this debate. You can also see this in the follow up Tweets from Eliza Shapiro, the reporter who penned the piece:

The implication from the Times’s coverage of this issue over the past few years is that, absent the SHSAT, these schools would have more African American and Latino students. Once those students are admitted to these schools, they will be on the path to much better lives. Therefore, getting more African American and Latino students into these schools is necessary to battle racial inequality, and if the SHSAT is standing in the way of that, then axing it is obviously the solution.

There are five problems with this narrative, none of which were identified by the Times.

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