How to diversify elite public schools?

by Lauren

The process for entry into the best academic public high schools in NYC has not changed in the time since I graduated from a NYC public high school in the 1980s. The problem is that the demographics of the city changed during the last 30 years, and many people would like the high schools to be a better reflection of the diverse group of children in the city. There is no question that even though certain minority groups are under represented, the kids that do gain entry actually are a reflection of the economic diversity in the city.

What do you think? Do you think it should continue to be just an entrance exam similar to the SAT, or should other factors be considered to gain entrance to these schools?

Proposals To Diversify NYC’s Top High Schools Would Do Little To Help, Study Finds

Advertisements

135 thoughts on “How to diversify elite public schools?

  1. In Chicago, racial quotas used to be the method to respond to this issue. That was abandoned awhile back (maybe 10 years ago?) for socioeconomic quotas. Your address is put in one of 4 Tiers based on your census tract (an area of a few blocks). Then the population of each school is split between these tiers. Poorer tiers tend to have lower entry exam cut offs, but the difference was actually less than I would have imagined, and the kids from the lower tiers do well. The tiers aren’t perfect – our particular tier is lower than it probably should be because of a large grad student-focused housing complex within the tract. But it seems like the best of the imperfect solutions to me.

    The population at one of our best schools is quite diverse and fairly reflective of the overall city under this model.
    http://www.greatschools.org/illinois/chicago/1039-Young-Magnet-High-School/details/

    I don’t think that each school in a major urban school system will ever match the diversity of the overall city. I’m not sure if that is even a worthy goal.

  2. We have the application to “magnet”/”specialty” schools here. They are not as diverse as the school district as a whole. I don’t think they ever will be. My private high school was more diverse than many – economic and ethnic/racial. For those who were not UMC and white

  3. were self motivated enough to have applied, figured out transportation, and how to overcome every other obstacle without parental help. They were some of the most sucessful students and that continued into college and work world.

  4. To fix the problem, you have to target and support (via mentors as well as accelerated classes, and free test prep) promising Black and Latino kids in elementary and middle school.

  5. I agree with Houston but why does NYC only have a few top schools? Couldn’t they pour more resources into the ones that are in the middle so there are more slots?

    Atlanta has zoned schools by neighborhoods which make the ones in the affluent areas pretty good and the rest pretty mediocre. They rezone from time to time in an effort to make the schools more diverse and it has worked. I remember before we moved into our current neighborhood, DD’s school was 95% Caucasian and now it’s probably 75%. The wealthy schools have their own foundations that go to fund extras and things like playgrounds because Atlanta Public Schools do not fund playgrounds (which is really irritating). So the parents step in if there is any sort of unmet need but not exactly fair to the schools in the poorer areas.

  6. I think there should be more elite/magnet schools in NYC and a tougher test. One of the issues is that there are so many kids who pass the test in the 99th percentile and not enough slots for even a sliver of them. NYC has underinvested in this segment of the school age population.

  7. NYC did add six high schools to the Specialized HS group. There were three specialized schools when I was eligible for admission in the 80s, and there are now nine high schools that are student needs to take the test for entry.

  8. Why not have more of them, so that more kids could benefit? There are so many smart kids who get shut out.

    One of my colleagues is already aiming his 8 year old at the exam schools. He says all his friends (he is Chinese) send their kids to prep courses, and he is considering the same.

  9. Given the hugeness of the school population in NYC, 9 exam schools is not enough. The other problem is that quality falls off so fast once you are outside the exam schools.

  10. I’m with ATM: more exam schools.

    If you ever get off the subway on Main Street in Flushing – a mixed but heavily Asian neighborhood – count the number of cram schools per block with advertising in English and Chinese, Japanese and/or Korean.

    I’ve seen four in a city block, but every block has at least one.

    These parents, despite their relative poverty and lack of English fluency in many cases, are devoting a lot of time and money to getting their kids to study. Why penalize them?

  11. I confess I am having a hard time following this conversation. Amazing how varied/regional education is.

  12. There are 496 public high schools in New York, and 9 exam schools. That seems like they should be able to serve the majority of the top two percent. Perhaps we need to renorm what 99th percentile means.

  13. Ada- thus my comment about making the exam tougher. There’s been a lot of criticism in the past few years that the tests have been ‘dumbed down’.

    Plus – the distance that some of these kids travel each day to go to these schools is staggering – 2 hours commute per day is not unheard of.

  14. I think Stuyvesant is one of these exam schools, correct? Could someone name the rest for those of us in flyover country who have no idea about this whole concept?

  15. Here, we don’t have exam schools but the way the district has tried to offer a better education is via magnets and charters. Admission in lower grades is by lottery, in higher grades combination of test and lottery. However, who gets into these and on a better track is dependent on whether their parents sign them up and the door to these gradually shuts. There has been a realization that neighborhood schools must be strengthed so that there is not a vast gap between the magnets/charters and the neighborhood schools. We don’t have the intense competition for a tiny number of spots as in a big city. My neighborhood kids got in, some off the wait list. Others decided to continue with the designated middle school. My DD wanted to test for the IB magnet – but I don’t think she’ll want to give up her current set of friends for IB academics.

  16. The Bronx High School of Science
    The Brooklyn Latin School
    Brooklyn Technical High School
    High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the 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
    Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

    I’d only heard of Bronx Science and Stuyvesant before living here.

    This is a very NY-y topic, but I’d guess other large cities have comparable issues.

  17. Could someone name the rest for those of us in flyover country who have no idea about this whole concept?

    There is Bonx Science and its eight Nobel Prize winning graduates:

    If Bronx Science were a country, it would be tied at 14th with Norway for number of Nobel laureates (as of July 2013).

  18. TJ, Fairfax County’s magnet science/math school, has been struggling for years to increase the black enrollment, but has had little success. Admissions is heavily exam-based, with some “holistic” considerations. From last year’s admission results:

    “The class of 2019 includes 346 Asian, 102 white, 12 Hispanic and eight black students. A total of 2,841 teens applied, and 493 were granted admission, for an overall acceptance rate of 17 percent. Of the 1,448 Asians who applied — 51 percent of the total seeking admission — 24 percent were accepted. The acceptance rate for black students was 4 percent, while the rate for Hispanic students was 6 percent and white students was 12 percent. Among low-income students, the acceptance rate was 3 percent.”

    My sense is that “holistic” admissions policies tend to favor the UMC and driven immigrants who will figure out and game any admissions system. In that respect, exam-based admissions are much more fair: brilliant kids whose parents can’t or won’t arrange for volunteer work or other indicia of “passion” will still get in. Adding more elite magnet schools would help, but so long as the existing schools are regarded as the best, they will still have the most competitive admissions. Parents really want that school sticker on their car.

  19. Texas has an odd to most set up with more than 1000 school districts in the state. Within the county I live in all of the 14 following school districts are contained with in or have boundaries overalping the county boundaries – Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock, Eanes, Manor, Elgin, Coupland, Lake Travis, Dripping Springs, Marble Falls, Johnson City, Lago Vista, Del Valle and Leander. The more urban districts with specialized schools are Austin, Round Rock and Leander. Eanes has historically been where the wealthiest families lived and went to school. The private schools and charter schools are generally concentrated in these four districts as well, though a few are more spread out.

    All districts allow some level of transfers within the district. In addition, some districts allow out-of-district transfers into their specialized programs, some allow out-of-district transfers in general, and others do not allow any out-of-district transfers. For the most part, when you transfer, you pick up the cost and responsibility for transportation.

    Educating yourself about the options and which ones you can apply to vs which ones you must live in the correct zone to attend is a challenge. Plus, districts policies change. My DD#2 is going to a public school next year that was not an option for DD#1 two years ago. But, the district’s student population has shrunk (housing costs have gone up pushing many to suburbs) and now they are interested in filling those spots.

  20. The High School of the Performing Arts is the school upon which the movie and TV show Fame was based. I had a friend who went there in the Fame era. He used to get royalties because he performed on a lot of the music.

  21. It isn’t just NYC. Boston has similar issues with Boston Latin. and a friend of mine in Chicago filled me in recently on the horrors of getting kids into the specialized schools in Chicago. I think the issues are the same in all these cities – too few slots at the exam schools, exacerbated by a rapid, I mean really rapid, dropoff in quality at the next tier down.

  22. I had to go to extra tutorial classes for state exams. I don’t like that whole intense testing atmosphere at all. In my opinion a lot of students get burned out.

  23. “Educating yourself about the options and which ones you can apply to vs which ones you must live in the correct zone to attend is a challenge.”

    Austin – as someone who grew up in a town with one high school, 1 middle school, and 3 grade schools who now lives in a town with 2 high schools fed by where the student lives, your situation astounds me.

    Do the middle schools give you a list of schools that you can attend (either by application or zoning)? How many high schools are there per zone? If more than one, can you choose, or are you dictated by something else?

    Did either of your daughters have to take an entrance exam to get into their high schools?

  24. This reminds of of the Atlantic article I saw on stratification in the Chicago public schools a couple days ago. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/reviving-a-hollowed-out-high-school/477354/

    Basically, when you eliminate tracking within a high school and have a sufficiently large city, tracking recurs between high schools. I’m a fan of tracking so this doesn’t bother me. Offering more review to children who need more review and new material to children who need new material seems like an excellent way to run a school. Not all people learn at the same rate, and Common Core seems to assume that’s the case.

    I wish the people seeking “diversity” would look at this data in other ways that reflect advantage, including whether children admitted have two parents at home and the age of the parents.

    We don’t have anything like this in my area (my children’s elementary school district covers several square miles to have two classes/grade) but it seems like adding schools for which high test scores are required, similar to what Chicago has done, would help match the academic level of the school with the academic level of its students. I’m unconvinced that standardized testing can distinguish well between 99% and 99.9%, especially when some children will be tutored for the test and some children will be taking the test without preparation. I’d be interested in data for whether scoring at the 97th vs. 99th vs. 99.9th percentile affects school performance, if possible controlling for test prep and home environment.

    I also suspect that being in the 99th percentile nationally for academic achievement does not put you in the 99th percentile for NYC, due to the preponderance of bright, wealthy people there.

  25. Thanks for the list. I guess I’d heard of Bronx Science and “the Fame school” before.

    Rhett – that Nobel bit is amazing.

    My 16yo lay facedown on the kitchen floor last night for about 30 minutes, with both dogs on top of her because she was jet lagged and “it seemed like a good place to take a nap.” If we lived in NCY, I’m not sure I’d have had to sweat much about finding rides for her to/from an exam school… haha

  26. “My 16yo lay facedown on the kitchen floor last night for about 30 minutes”

    good to know I have at least 15 more years of that crap… My 1yo did that yesterday because we wouldn’t let him climb the stairs. Periodically he’d let out a scream just to remind us he was still mad and we were still horrible.

  27. WCE,
    I agree that at some point in the distribution — maybe even lower than 97% — the difference in test scores is statistically insignificant as an indicator of innate ability. If I were in charge, I would figure out that number, and then choose students from among that group by lottery.

  28. “WCE,
    I agree that at some point in the distribution — maybe even lower than 97% — the difference in test scores is statistically insignificant as an indicator of innate ability. If I were in charge, I would figure out that number, and then choose students from among that group by lottery.”

    If I were in charge, I would figure out that number and then expand the slots available to be that number plus some margin of error.

  29. “f I were in charge, I would figure out that number, and then choose students from among that group by lottery.”

    WHy not just have enought slots for frickin ALL of them??? And why even 97%? Really, for the 8th grade population taking that test, I doubt there is much distinction between the top 10% of them. I have several friends who went to either Stuyvesant or Bronx Science – they are smart, motivated people, but they aren’t geniuses. They need slots for all of the bright, motivated kids. And then, they need to abolish the stupid theme schools that have proliferated across the city, and start worrying about getting the next 25% down ready for college – because those kids DO go to college.

  30. “Periodically he’d let out a scream just to remind us he was still mad and we were still horrible.”

    Rhode – that’s hilarious. Yes, yes, easy for me to say, since I wasn’t there.

  31. From the Atlantic article:

    “The cream of the crop is together at selective enrollment schools. The second tier, with involved families, is at charters and magnets. Then the ‘rejects’ end up in neighborhood high schools.”

    This is undeniably true. It’s been good for a large number of students, not just the ones in the “cream of the crop” schools. But it’s been much worse for the kids at the bottom. It’s a tough choice for large urban public school systems – do you disband the most successful schools at the top to try to force better scoring kids back into the bottom? Anyone with means will go private or move. It’s impossible to raise ALL of the schools at once.

    Atlanta – we have the same phenomenon where the schools with affluent parents subsidize all kinds of programs from playground to extra teachers to whole programs (e.g., foreign languages and engineering).

  32. Rhode – not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that my DD wasn’t mad. Just tired and lazy and completely uninterested in the difference in cleanliness level between the floor and her sheets. Your DS might have been angry, but at least he still has a shot at an exam school, whereas my child … ;)

  33. One of the issues is that there are so many kids who pass the test in the 99th percentile and not enough slots for even a sliver of them.

    By definition, only 1% of kids can pass in the 99th percentile, so as Ada said, there should be plenty of room for all of them in the selective high schools.

    According to the official numbers http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/data/stats/default.htm there are 230,000 students in NYC high schools. Even taking the top 2% would be 4,600 kids. Stuyvesant and Bronx Science both have enrollments over 3,000. I didn’t look up the other 7, but even if they are 2,000 each, that’s 20,000 spots, room for about the top 9%. So how is there not room for everyone at the 99th percentile?

  34. The problem is the huge gulf between the exam schools, and the second tier – the ones that the Atlantic article says go to charters and magnets. Those are the stupid theme schools I referred to in my earlier post. We get kids from these schools all the time. We will see kids who went to a supposed theme school for science and technology, where there are no AP classes in math or science, and no computer science of any kind. Or kids who went to schools called things like Academy for Global Empowerment (I made that up, but based on the kinds of schools I see). Interestingly, I don’t think I have seen any KIPP or Success Academy grads – maybe they haven’t been around long enough?

    I was chatting with a bunch of my students recently about Regents science courses, which in NY are these horrible over-bureaucratized affairs in which students have to complete some large numbe of labs which are then filed in a special folder that supposedly can be audited by the state at any time and the kids can’t take the Regents exam unless they have completed enought of them. The teachers in my kids school go bats**t about these labs, requiring them to be filled out just so and filed just so, and gleefully giving out 0’s for any that aren’t filed right even if they turn up later. My college students were completely amazed by this. They told me that in their schools, again, second tier school (and low level Catholic) , no one ever made them complete all the labs. The teachers didn’t care and they took the Regents test no matter how many were missing. A completely different experience for these kids.

  35. Denver – I have no idea how NYC determines the percentiles. It doesn’t seem to be limited to the cohort of NYC students taking the test. For example, for elementary schools, the G&T citywide schools (any elem.student in the city can take a test and apply for a slot) in recent years have only been accepting students from the 99th percentile and yet do not have enough slots for these kids.

    My kids missed the cutoff in K, so went to a local school G&T program. The kids re-tested the next year, did very well, but at that point there were no slots open. Some slots are filled by sibling preference. E.g. Older sib gets 99%ile and gets a slot. Younger brother gets at least 99%ile (and sometimes lower) and therefore gets preference over another kid without a sibling that scored the same.

    Plus, I am not crazy and did not want to send my kids to a school way out in Queens or the Bronx at age 4 or 5, so we only looked at the schools we reasonably had a shot at actually getting to logistically speaking. Some of those still would have involved an up to 45 min commute for the kid, plus an extra 30-45 min for the parent to get to work, or an even longer bus ride for the kid.

  36. Mooshi, I’m sure there’s a big dropoff, which is why the competition to get into the exam schools is so fierce. i was responding to ATM’s post that there isn’t enough room in the exam schools for “even a sliver” of the top 1%, when clearly there is plenty of room for all of the top 1% and then some.

    Yes, there should be better options after those schools.

  37. Thinking about the percentiles more – the citywide elementary schools supposedly have a cut off of 97th%, but in speaking with the admissions persons at 3 of them, only kids scoring 99th% have been accepted in recent years. So even 97% isn’t good enough.

  38. But how are they defining the “99th percentile”? Is it actually the top 1% scorers, or is it some predetermined score that is set as the 99th percentile regardless of what percentage of kids actually obtain that score? These are two very different things.

  39. his all just seems like a crazy amount of pressure to put on kids and the logistics of getting them there also seems crazy. I’m not a fan of the specialized schools. I think K-12 should be a broad based education and then you can major in what you’d like in college.

  40. “is it some predetermined score that is set as the 99th percentile regardless of what percentage of kids actually obtain that score”

    Probably this, and/or it’s based on a population outside of NYC test takers.

  41. ATM – what is the challenge you face at the next big step. I am assuming this is entrance to middle school ?

  42. @DD – But how are they defining the “99th percentile”? Is it actually the top 1% scorers, or is it some predetermined score that is set as the 99th percentile regardless of what percentage of kids actually obtain that score? These are two very different things.

    For ours – it is the latter.

    The thing is – people say that it is “impossible” to get into these schools even if you are at the 99th percentile. But that’s not really true overall. The most convenient for the Tier 4 households (aka highest $$) are harder to get into than the less convenient schools. For us, you have to rank the schools when you apply, and that is a whole other game to figure out within the schools what the test cut offs may be. DS, for example, did not get into his top choice G&T school for ES, but he got into other programs further down our rankings. One of these was as far away from us as you can get & still be within the city limits. It is a very good school, but it was even outside of the busing zone (1.5 – 6 miles). We chose not to pursue that option (as I think everyone knows). It’s more transparent for HS than ES where the test score cut offs are actually published for each year after the fact.

  43. Risley – of course he’s going to make one of specialized schools… he has those geeky blocks! And yes, his tantrum was funny. We just kept stepping over/around him until he got bored. Then he went to go play with his plastic gears.

    OT – I’m with DD on this one. I don’t understand what metric they are using. Even ATM’s figure doesn’t help… Unless there are less than 11k slots for K-3 all entrance exam schools in the city. But if that’s the case, the city should expand to accommodate.

  44. Milo, that’s my guess as well, which means they are basically pulling percentiles out of their a$$es.

  45. “his all just seems like a crazy amount of pressure to put on kids and the logistics of getting them there also seems crazy. ”

    Yeah, it can be. As I mentioned, CPS will bus kids who live between 1.5 and 6 miles from school, but some of those routes are very long in duration & most schools start at 8am. So it can be a long trip. I think the logistics are easier for HS as most of the schools are close to public transit. The school I linked above is centrally located. A good chunk of kids take the L to school.

  46. I find the geographic variation in schools fascinating! We have one G&T program here that is open by testing, but talking to parents here who have their children enrolled in it, I’m not sure it’s an advantage for the kids that qualify because it doesn’t seem to be a really big improvement over some of the programs at our regular schools.

    I spent 20 min on the floor last night. I got onto the floor to do something with my kids, and then the cat decided she wanted to curl up on my back. I opted to hang out and not disrupt her.

  47. The “99th percentile” on a test is probably set by testing a random group of untutored 5 year olds, and a group of tutored 5 year olds will probably score very differently. I would expect 10x as many NYC five year olds to score at the “top” level of a test after being tutored.

    I agree with whoever said the cutoff could be lower than 97th percentile, but then we’re back to the usual arguments about tracking in schools.

    Responding to the original post, who is upset about the lack of diversity in NYC elite high schools? I am reminded of Philip Greenspun’s quote on the lack of women in science and engineering.

    “From me (responding to someone who asked how I would change the
    incentives so that more women would be attracted to science): What’s my
    idea for changing the incentives? I don’t have any. I’m not one of the
    people who complains that there aren’t enough women working as
    professors, janitors, or whatever. For whatever reason we’ve decided that
    science in America should be done by low-paid immigrants. They seem
    to be doing a good job. They are cheap. They are mostly guys, like other
    immigrant populations. If smart American women choose to go to
    medical, business, and law school instead of doing science, and have
    fabulous careers, I certainly am not going to discourage them

  48. The gifted & talented program here is the same test system wide and rather than a separate program, they pull the kids out for one day per week. I actually really like this approach in elementary school. I’ve heard they’re going to raise the bar for the test going forward because the G&T programs at the affluent schools comprise about 50% of the student population and there’s too many kids from those schools going into the larger middle schools that are in AP/Honors or whatever it’s called. Right now you can get in if your IQ test is 97th%+ or if you score above a 90% on the other three tests (so a lot of kids, including mine, get in by the latter metric). There is a good portion of parents who will send their kids onto the public middle school because their kids are in the program so it will be interesting to see what happens once they tighten up the requirements.

  49. Middle school is very similar to elementary school. The process starts all over. And then again at high school.

    My kids district has 2 really good middle schools, 1 middling one and a bunch of crappy ones. My kids could also apply to the citywide G&T or other select schools and can apply outside of my district (but in-district kids are given priority, if all else is equal). Or go private or to charters. (This is why there is crazy pressure on 4th grade test scores, the only ones available at the time your kids are applying to MS.)

    The two good middle schools are attached to the elementary schools and give preference to their elementary school’s kids. The middling MS is attached to my kids’ elementary school and is improving but is not great. Only 40% of the elementary school kids attached to this middle school continue on to this middle school. (This weirdly means that kids outside my district often get into this middle school because it is a better option for them than the schools in their district.)

    Throw in an IEP and the fact that I have twins and would strongly prefer that my kids attend the same school (when applying they’re treated independently and not as siblings because they are applying at the same time for the same grade – there was talk of fixing this) and oila! A total mess.

  50. We don’t have exam schools here. There are charter schools, of which the most highly regarded are a couple of the conversion schools (regular public schools that converted to charter schools) including the University Lab School (used by the U’s School of Ed to try out new curriculum, supposed to have demographics reflective of the state as a whole, in fact skew heavily toward University-connected people due to location). Most of the charter schools are . . . underwhelming, from what I’ve seen, although the appeal of some of the specialized ones like the Hawaiian immersion school is obvious if the specialty is appealing. Due to student body size, the few that have a high school level don’t have the resources to offer the AP selection / orchestra / sports / etc. that the ‘real’ high schools do.

    We don’t officially have magnet schools, but unofficially there is some amount of specialization across the urban schools, e.g. one is noted for its theater program, another is the strongest math school (feeder middle school just won the state math championship again! but Finn’s kids’ school and its chief rival will pick off a couple of them going into high school), another has the best music program. It’s not hard to get a geographic exemption at the high school level.

  51. In thinking back on it more, the G&T citywide elementary school tests are IQ/aptitude based tests. They’re linked to what an average [age of child] would score, as WCE mentioned, and is not a true curve based on NYC kids only.

  52. of course, out here in Westchester, it is completely different. No G&T programs, and very few magnet schools. Most of the districts are too small to support any specialized programs.

  53. Interpreting the chart: In 2013-14, for Kindergarten, 13, 629 kids tested, 2771 tested at 97th%ile or higher (20% of the kids), making them eligible to apply to NYC’s citywide G&T schools. I’d guestimate 150-250 students per grade at these schools based on tours I’ve attended. Erring on the lower side (30 per class, 5 classes), would mean there are spaces for only about 1/4 of those who qualified.

  54. Yup, no G&T programs here. When my oldest was in school they had “enrichment for all”, which was basically a weekly pull-out where they did some sort of arts and crafts, usually tied to saving the earth. The superintendent believed that tracking of any kind for young students scarred them for life. That’s almost a direct quote. I suspect that the easy, boring curriculum in his early years had the effect of de-motivating my oldest and diminishing his interest in working hard. So he may have been scarred for life.

  55. Our city school district covers a large geographic area. IMO, there is really no true city like, larger cities just an older core of surburbs and a vast area of new surburbs. There is one school superintendent. There have been much hyped search processes, selecting a new person, followed by a sudden departure three years later. Entirely predictable. Things run smoother with interim superintendents. It is such a farce or entertainment, depending on your view.
    The towns at the edges of the city are constantly apprehensive that they will be annexed.

  56. In 2013-14, for Kindergarten, 13, 629 kids tested, 2771 tested at 97th%ile or higher (20% of the kids)

    So they are making the percentiles up.

    would mean there are spaces for only about 1/4 of those who qualified.

    So that’s about the top 5% that get in. Much different than “a sliver” of the 99th percentile.

    I’m not saying it’s a good system, just that people are grossly overstating the selectivity.

  57. I wish I could show you my HS yearbook photos from the 80s because my graduating class was a better reflection of the diversity in the city. Some of the alums from the 70s and 80s are involved in this discussion about changing the admissions process because the drop in the number of Hispanic and African American students is alarming to them. I’m not sure how the make up of the schools have changed so much because there were prep/cram classes in the 80s. I think my mother sent me to the free one offered by my JHS, and she found the money for a private class on the weekends. The schools always had a wide range of kids from all socio economic backgrounds, and that continues to be true today.

  58. I’m reminded that Andy Grove went to CCNY for his chemical engineering degree after escaping from communist Hungary. Are immigrant kids overrepresented among the kids at selective high schools or do the tests rely on English language fluency such that they are underrepresented? New York City seems like it has been a welcoming place for immigrants for a long time.

  59. Evil twin, it is the same in the Westchester burbs. I think the superintendents are scared that their offices will be over run with parents trying to get their snowflakes into the G & T programs in elementary or MS.

  60. “We don’t officially have magnet schools, but unofficially there is some amount of specialization across the urban schools”

    So they’re unofficial? I’ve been under the impression that, e.g., the Hawaiian immersion public schools were magnet schools.

    A guy I know started his kids on violin lessons in elementary school because a certain highly rated MS he targeted for his kids is one of the very few MS with an orchestra program.

  61. ” Finn’s kids’ school and its chief rival will pick off a couple of them going into high school)”

    My understanding is that for some of the kids that achieve at a high level in MS (and/or their parents), that achievement is seen as a likely ticket into the top local private HSs (I initially wrote, “ticket into the top local privates,” but that could be taken in the wrong way).

    The achievement is also frequently athletic.

  62. 1/4 of those testing in the 97th -99th%ile get in.

    Yes, and you posted that 20% of the kids test in the 97th percentile or higher:

    in 2013-14, for Kindergarten, 13, 629 kids tested, 2771 tested at 97th%ile or higher (20% of the kids)”

    So 1/4 * 20% = 5%.

  63. “I also suspect that being in the 99th percentile nationally for academic achievement does not put you in the 99th percentile for NYC, due to the preponderance of bright, wealthy people there.”

    This could well be the case if a national test is used.

    Historical NMSF cutoffs, which vary from state to state, suggest this could be the case, and also suggest such a phenomenon might be even more pronounced in the DC area, or in Boston if such exam schools existed there.

  64. “difference in cleanliness level between the floor and her sheets”

    I’m going to guess that you don’t take off your shoes in your house.

  65. The Hawaiian immersion schools are charter schools, not regular public schools. But from the perspective of a prospective student, that may be a distinction without a difference.

  66. Denver – gotcha.

    I think the question of why diversity is needed boils down to fairness or the perception of fairness. Testing in and not getting a slot – unfair. Under-representation of [name your criteria] – unfair.

    In NYC there are efforts to make access more equitable, in (IMHO) an attempt to address unfairness. I’d prefer to see more options that are better, not (just) fairer access to limited options.

  67. There are no exam-required schools in my district. They all offer AP and what they consider college prep courses, which have the added benefit of being weighted. But that neighbor I know graduated having take the majority of classes as college prep, but still could not score the 1070 SAT or 24 ACT to get to take non-remedial classes at the community college, nor could he pass the CC placement test after three tries. I was told by a former boss that those college prep courses serve as de facto segregation tool in his kids’ high school (and unashamedly phrased it like its a good thing). So I am not confident that everything they are labeling as college prep actually is.

    My son attends a charter that has a lottery admission rather than exam. However, when we put our names on the list, the principal invited us in to meet him and us bring his latest state testing scores, and he made it through the lottery. The school is considerably less rigorous than the Catholic school my daughter attended. She had orders of magnitude more homework, and was graded much less generously. I believe they do that at the charter to support the demographic that attends. Some have no internet at home, and quite a few have parents whose English is not great. They provide extra after school tutorials and a college prep program that requires the students selected for it to do extra work on weekends. They have had two weekend AP prep camps at a campground. Tomorrow they have SAT School Day which allows students to take the SAT at school. And the week before school starts next year, they have mandatory college application sessions for incoming seniors where they will help with the process. I think this is a great attempt to try to help kids who might otherwise not know how to navigate the system. I had planned all along tide do him to the school my daughter went to, but he is really happy there, has friends, and really didn’t want to start over somewhere new. Given that the prior anxiety problems are much more of the limiting factor for him than academics, we kept it at this school even though they are not pushing him to his potential. We are fine with that.

    And Finn- I misspoke when I said my son had not done practice SAT tests. They have been doing them at school, which I should have figured out. (Big on metrics). He had me go over what he was missing in math, and he did get the extra time accommodation. So, we’ll see how tomorrow goes.

  68. In 2013-14, for Kindergarten, 13, 629 kids tested, 2771 tested at 97th%ile or higher (20% of the kids)

    So they are making the percentiles up.

    Unless the test isn’t compulsory and only motivated parents who think their kid has a chance bother to take it.

  69. And on diversity for diversity sake, I think applying different admissions standards for different subgroups is wrong, and can end fostering resentment by the groups who are achieving the highest scores but are being denied admission. I think that across most things that have entrance requirements. Women in the military and as firefighters should have to meet the same physical requirements for competitive positions that men do. It cheapens the accomplishment when you get in by clearing a lower bar.

  70. Completely agree with Rhett. The national “Run, Punt, Pass” competition draws the kids who are already interested in running, punting and passing, which is not a representative sample of elementary school children.

  71. I agree with MBT that “And on diversity for diversity sake, I think applying different admissions standards for different subgroups is wrong, and can end fostering resentment by the groups who are achieving the highest scores but are being denied admission.”

    The problem is that if any group is overrepresented, some other group is going to be underrepresented, and the only solution to that problem (mathematically) is quotas by group. The problem reminds me of my ongoing complaint against the people who favor both green space and affordable housing.

    My preferred option would be to expand the population of schools with challenging curricula and sort students by readiness.

  72. Unless the test isn’t compulsory and only motivated parents who think their kid has a chance bother to take it.,

    How do you include scores for kids who don’t take the test in determining the percentiles? “That kid is pretty dumb, so he probably would have gotten a 43. This one’s fairly bright, I think he’d get an 85.”

  73. Completely agree with Rhett. The national “Run, Punt, Pass” competition draws the kids who are already interested in running, punting and passing, which is not a representative sample of elementary school children.

    What does that have to do with anything? The SAT only draws high school students who want to college. The county orchestra tryouts only draw kids who already play musical instruments. What’s your point?

  74. DD, you norm the test based on having tried it out prior to release on a statistically representative sample of kids (or you purchase an assessment product that the vendor has normed for you).

  75. How do you include scores for kids who don’t take the test in determining the percentiles?

    The percentiles are out of the set of all people, not out of those who take the test. Let’s say you wanted elite schools for those kids who are in the top 1% of aptitude. You’d give a test with a cutoff of say an IQ of 135. If you only test those who think they have a shot, you’re going to find that far more than 1% of those tested have an IQ above 135.

  76. ” The SAT only draws high school students who want to college. ”

    If that’s still true now, it’s going to change. Some states are going to use the SAT to measure all their HS students, just as some states now use the ACT.

  77. “How do you include scores for kids who don’t take the test in determining the percentiles?”

    I’m not sure how they do it, but I think the College Board is doing that with the PSAT, apparently to make those who do take the test (or their parents) feel better about themselves.

  78. “The problem is that if any group is overrepresented, some other group is going to be underrepresented, and the only solution to that problem (mathematically) is quotas by group.”

    I think that depends on how you define both the problem and the solution, but there are other ways to address the problem, one of which could well be to continue basing admittance on the exam.

  79. Great NY Times article, Lauren. Vanderbilt has an excellent program in studying what works for gifted students.

    I think part of why the Broward County program was so successful is that the testing is nonverbal. I think current testing approaches reward people with verbal ability, and the emphasis of common core math is such that people with high math/low verbal profiles won’t have their math aptitude recognized. Nonverbal tests also may better identify kids whose parents’ first language is not English.

    Spatial/mechanical aptitude is important for success in many areas but is largely untaught and untested. Kids who have those gifts tend to be ignored. I suspect that a nonverbal aptitude test is one way to find them. I’m thinking of my BIL the pipefitter, who fairly often finds errors in drawings as he builds HVAC systems in public buildings. He is not a reader and would not be identified as “gifted” by a verbal test, but he was the top student in his apprenticeship program.

  80. Huh, interesting, I didn’t know that. Having dug a little into the websites, it looks like it’s a program within the school for many of them, but still, I didn’t know any of the regular public schools were even doing that much. And Anuenue appears to be doing full-school immersion.

    I’m not actually wild about pushing immersion programs into the regular schools (as opposed to the culture-and-a-little-language Hawaiian classes they usually do at the elementary level). My concern is that the more those programs are what’s the standard fare at your zoned public, especially in rural areas where there aren’t nearby options, the more likely you are to hold back kids who are already facing challenges in pursuing higher education. It’s like telling kids that because you’re on Molokai your destiny is to learn the language and culture so you can be culturally authentic when you’re working at the hotel later in life, too bad so sad if your interests would have pointed in another direction.

  81. Spatial/mechanical aptitude is important for success in many areas but is largely untaught and untested.

    WCE – Engineering ?

  82. Well, I just sat through an admitted students day with DS. And the dean of admissions said this about why diversity in education is important: if you only listen to the smartest people in the room, you get a statistically proven worse result than if you listen to diverse voices. So we need to have those voices.
    Right out of law school, I clerked for a very well known liberal federal judge. He was known for hiring conservative clerks, because as he said, if you want the best result you have to listen to the people who disagree with you. Again, diversity.
    So diversity doesn’t just benefit the underrepresented.

  83. WCE, I agree with you. The standard tests for “gifted” are narrow, and a similar version of these fill in the circle tests continue for many years in school. For example, the PSAT is just another version of the test that is used to gain entry to some of these elite middle or high school programs.

  84. BL, I don’t disagree that we all benefit from diversity. I just think the focas solely or primarily on race doesn’t address the problem. As we’ve discussed on here a lot, racial diversity does not equal SES diversity, so important voices are still being mixed. It is not really relevant to NYC schools, but you get a richer understanding of issues with rural inputs in addition to urban voices. Your example of liberal and conservative inputs is one of the things I value so much on this site. But once you start putting in exceptions to the standards, there will be a rush of consultants teaching people how to game the system and get in through that pathway, defeating the original intent. I absolutely see the value both to the school and under-represented students. I just don’t know that there can be an objective way to implement the goal without unintended negative effects.

  85. While the many suggestions to create more elite, entry by exam HSs make sense, I wonder how much that would address the primary issue brought up in the OP, that certain minority groups are underrepresented at such schools.

    If,the number of such schools, and the number of students they can enroll is increased, would the next tier of students admitted as a result have a higher percentage of the URM?

    I’ve mentioned recently in a college discussion that some HSS are increasing their enrollment. My expectation is that those schools will tend to see their URM %age either drop, or they will have to further drop their standards for those URM to maintain the same %age, because they are all having a hard time finding enough URM to meet their standards, as evidenced by the Costco essay, and pretty much all the ‘I got accepted by all the Ivies’ articles featuring URM.

    However, the HSS’ use of ‘holistic’ admissions is a factor in this. The purely exam-based selection of the NYC schools makes it less likely that the URM %age will go down, but I’m skeptical as to whether they’d go up appreciably.

    OTOH, perhaps %age URM is not as important and total number of URM, which one would fully expect to go up if more such schools were created.

  86. BL, I’m interested in as much as you’re willing to share about admitted students day. Was it worth the time, especially if it meant your DS missing school? Any thoughts on maximizing the benefit of such a day?

  87. No one will be surprised that I think race is overemphasized as an area of importance for diverse views. Race is likely a proxy for many other variables that affect life outcomes.

    A mother’s median age at first birth is 25. How many students admitted to highly selective schools were born to a mother under 25? I’ll bet it’s way less than half.

  88. WCE – I agree with you in principle, but since you’re using median age at *first* birth, I think your metric should also account for younger siblings of children born to mothers under the age of 25, i.e., yours truly.

  89. The percentiles are out of the set of all people, not out of those who take the test.

    And again, how do you know what the people who don’t take the test would actually score?

  90. The holistic admissions criteria as described seems to me a collection of objective data points. Scores on state exams, attendance plus the existing test. The lawmakers don’t seem to want to go to a system like colleges use with essays and other information that would introduce a chance for bias. Perhaps wary of the lawsuits that would follow introduction of holistic admissions.

  91. “And the dean of admissions said this about why diversity in education is important: if you only listen to the smartest people in the room, you get a statistically proven worse result than if you listen to diverse voices. So we need to have those voices.”

    Did the dean provide a citation for that claim? It seems unlikely that a transplant surgeon, for example, would have better patient outcomes if she went out to the waiting room and asked random lay people for input on a difficult case than if she consulted her fellow surgeons. It’s one thing to hire (extremely smart) law clerks who don’t share your political views; quite another to hire from the bottom of the class.

  92. Scarlett – he may be alluding to something I read from Gladwell about the wisdom of crowds, or something like that. If you survey people to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar, or how many pounds a steer weighs at market, you get a more accurate answer by taking the median of a larger sample than the median of a smaller group, even when that smaller group consists of experts

  93. But how often does a teacher need her students to engage in those exercises?
    And this is not an original observation by any means, but the faculty (and top administrators) at most selective universities is one of the least diverse groups of people on the planet. It’s not clear why it’s so important that the kids sitting in the classrooms have to be more “diverse” than their instructors.

  94. And again, how do you know what the people who don’t take the test would actually score?

    Based on the tests everyone has to take.

  95. It’s not clear why it’s so important that the kids sitting in the classrooms have to be more “diverse” than their instructors.

    Is it really not clear? Why did the Ivy Leauge have quotas limiting the number of Jews? Why do they now have quotas limiting the number of Asian girls? It’s a business decision. If your brand becomes too associated with a certain ethnic group, it loses some of its cache.

  96. Finn, WCE, Rhett, and others are always interested in battery technology. I’m eyeing one of these tiny little Li ion power pack jump starters as an emergency backup for the boat. They’ve come a long way from the lead-acid suitcases of just a few years ago, and they even charge with only a USB connection.

    http://www.carbatterychargerscentral.com/car-starter-top-7-compact-battery-jump-starters/

    But search some boat forums, and all you see is guys saying “much better to get a second battery installed with a switch.” This is the traditional boat setup: two, or even three batteries (for twin engines) next to each other with a manual selector switch. But I can’t figure out why that’s somehow better than this, unless they’re just a bunch of Luddites.

  97. From what I understand about NMSF (and am too lazy to look up), the denominator is the number of graduating high school students, including those that did not take the test. So, if Wyoming has 10,000 high school seniors, of which 2,000 take the SAT, the top 100 will be in the 99th percentile for the state, even though they are only 95th percentile compared to all test takers. This is what leads to the various cutoff scores.

  98. I think I have mentioned this before, but two kids out of DDs kinder class least year testing into the pull-out school for GT. I was surprised because neither of them spoke English at home, and spoke very poor English at school. Both of them had college professor fathers and stay at home mothers, for a country across the ocean. What I found shocking was that the tst really did not seem to rely much in language ability. From what I could gather from my snowflake (who tested in to the school but does not attend), the tests were a lot of visual analogy questions, rotating objects and such. So, that famous spatial reasoning.

  99. Scarlett–yes, actually, he did mention cites. I didn’t write them down, but it wasn’t the “Journal of Cr*p”.
    And we won’t get diverse faculty until we get diverse student bodies.

  100. Milo,

    How do you charge the Li-ion? Is the backup charged as the engine runs? I think the issue would be that you have a lead acid that is charged whenever the boat is running vs. a li-ion that is only charged when you remember to charge it.

  101. I think the problem in NYC is self-classification. I would add a “multiracial” category, contract with 23ANDME to sequence all admitted students and then see how many of them could be considered “multiracial.”

  102. “I think the problem in NYC is self-classification.”

    Whether or not there is a problem depends on what the goal is for the elite schools.

  103. Rhett – they say you could charge it only once a year, and you’re good. It’s only for an emergency jump start. But theoretically, you could also plug your USB car phone charger into the outlet on the boat (or in your car) and charge it when the engine is running.

  104. Milo, why the need for the backup? Is the concern that you’ll be out in the middle of a lake, or in open ocean, and not able to start the engine(s)?

    I’m thinking a second battery (or battery of batteries) with a switch won’t necessarily be kept charged under normal operation, if the switch just swaps one battery (or battery of batteries) for the other.

    OTOH, if the battery charging occurs as the engine is running, my concern would be if the boat is not used frequently, and thus the charge isn’t maintained.

    In either case, I’d think the Li-ion would have an advantage IF you always charged it before you took out the boat (e.g., plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter jack while driving to the boat).

  105. The reason that few university professors contribute to Republican candidates is not the dearth of Republicans among the student population. It’s a combination of self-selection and outright bias in favor of people who hold acceptable progressive views.

  106. Does anyone have any idea why “attendance” would be considered an important metric for getting into an advanced school? Attendance requirements seem like they would discriminate most against kids with physical disabilities, cancer or chronic health issues like asthma.

  107. I’m pretty sure most of those have to exclude medical absences– those are generally excused under state law. Schools are usually more worried about kids who are constantly late or out, or kids whose parents regularly pull them out for a week or two at a time. Those are unexcused absences, and they lose funding.

  108. Perhaps attendance is viewed as one easily quantifiable measure of commitment and motivation.

    At these elite HSs, just as at elite colleges, the peer groups uniquely available there are likely a big part of what makes them so special. Else they could just offer MOOCs at the same level.

  109. Poor attendance by an elementary school child usually reflects either medical issues over which he has little control, or parental issues/dysfunction over which he has no control. If the school system needs to include a non-academic metric, disciplinary records would make more sense.

  110. When Twin 1 was diagnosed with “asthma-like symptoms”, one of my tasks was to use the nebulizer with maintenance medicine twice/day so that fast-acting medicine would be needed less often. I was told that children whose parents are consistent with the maintenance medicine are more likely to outgrow their asthma-like symptoms and to never be diagnosed with asthma. There were many days when I held Twin 1 for medicine, then nursed him to calm him while his brothers spent half-an-hour wandering/fussing/playing in the “safe” room where I did the treatments.

    I began to suspect that “parental compliance with treatment protocols” was probably a significant factor in asthma severity. (which is a statistical observation, not a blanket statement about all children with severe asthma)

  111. So, I think attendance is a pretty good proxy for “school hygiene” (my own made-up term). I mean all the compliance parts of school – sitting nicely in class, being on time, turning in homework, showing up with appropriate supplies.

    If we seen these exam schools (or other schools reserved for high-achieving students) as a special reward for the kids who are willing to work very hard, then weighing “school hygiene” in the admission decision makes sense.

    On the other hand, if you want to have schools for the students who are highly capable, who may have learning needs which are different that students in the other 98%, relying on tests of compliance doesn’t really seem right or fair.

    I think schools have an obligation to provide for students on the extreme end of the curve; 2nd percentile as well as 98th percentile. There is not (not universally accepted) concept of “Gifted At-Risk”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gifted_At-Risk

  112. “I was told that children whose parents are consistent with the maintenance medicine are more likely to outgrow their asthma-like symptoms and to never be diagnosed with asthma. ”

    Interesting aspect of why certain populations may be more at risk for asthma. (I too had one of those nebulizer pre-asthmatic babies who never developed full blown asthma, at least not yet.)

    NYC overall has the most segregated schools in the country, btw. This includes charter schools, since many of the best (and probably worst) ones were created specifically to serve children living in areas with a high minority population.

  113. @ Milo -we have a portable battery jumper. Not sure what brand – it wasn’t on your link, but it’s pretty small and easy to carry, has a built in handle. During boating season we plug it in the garage to be sure it is charged up, and then we load it up and take it with us along with the cooler, bag of towels, etc. It’s one more thing to carry, but not a big deal. We have been out anchored and then when ready to go home had a dead battery.

  114. Schools here lose funding with too many absences so that could be part of it. They get more money for each student who has less than 6 absences. DD has been sick for 3 days all year and I got a warning letter about it a few months ago.

    The G&T test here has four separate tests – one is an IQ test, the 2nd is the Iowa tests that I took as a kid, some sort of creativity test and a “motivation test”. However, your teacher or your parent has to “refer” you so if you’re a smart kid whose parents don’t take the time to fill out the form you won’t get a chance to take the test.

  115. I am stupidly addicted to getting badges and praise from Khan Academy math problems. I wish this had been around when I was a kid.

  116. And, like, if you get the first two in a row correct, you don’t have to do all five problems. That cuts down on careless errors, which are my bête noire.

    And it never looks at you in irritation because you’re taking too long, or shakes its head sadly because you’re such a disappointment to the family.

  117. RMS – it takes a lot more than that for my kids to do anything extra. I guess they are used to getting virtual rewards. They are full cookie kids and will scoff at the half cookie.

    I am enjoying watching The Goldbergs. The daughter is on the cusp of getting a good enough SAT score to go to Stanford but the mother wants her to choose good hometown U, so she tries to sabotage her. Pretty funny.

  118. “And, like, if you get the first two in a row correct, you don’t have to do all five problems.”

    My kids love and hate this feature. One mistake and bam, extra problems.

  119. “The daughter is on the cusp of getting a good enough SAT score to go to Stanford ”

    Stanford has recently rejected 69% of its applicants with 2400s on SATs.

  120. “I’m unconvinced that standardized testing can distinguish well between 99% and 99.9%, especially when some children will be tutored for the test and some children will be taking the test without preparation.”

    E.g., I’ve pointed out how histograms for individual SAT tests have bumps at 800, consistent with distributions that are truncated and not capable of differentiating the top scorers.

  121. Getting an 800 vs. a 790 on the SAT-M is a better measure of attention to detail than math aptitude. Perhaps someday there will be an interactive test where the math gets harder and harder and you can choose a calculus path, a statistics path or an abstract algebra path.

    Consistent with Ada’s comment, there is a view in the education world that the people who follow “the process” best are those who are the most talented or will go farthest in the world. People who write out all their steps on Common Core math and put units on their answer are ranked above people who are bored stiff and simply write the correct answer.

    When you look at the backgrounds of people who are extremely successful, many of them are NOT all that good at following processes and/or social norms such as suffering fools gladly.

  122. “Getting an 800 vs. a 790 on the SAT-M is a better measure of attention to detail than math aptitude.”

    Possibly.

    My thought is that someone who takes multiple SATs and sometimes gets a 790 and sometimes gets an 800 is likely to have his or her math ability quantified by the test at a 790 to 800 level.

    OTOH, someone who repeatedly takes SATs and consistently gets 800s likely has an ability significantly above 800, but beyond the capability of the SAT to quantify.

    Sort of like trying to measure WCE’s math ability with a series of Algebra I tests.

  123. “NOT all that good at following processes and/or social norms such as suffering fools gladly.”

    Steve Jobs?

  124. People who write out all their steps on Common Core math and put units on their answer are ranked above people who are bored stiff and simply write the correct answer.

    When my kids miss points because of forgetting to put units in the answer I tell them the edifying story of the Mars Climate Orbiter.

  125. Even Columbus had conversion problems. He miscalculated the circumference of the earth when he used Roman miles instead of nautical miles, which is part of the reason he unexpectedly ended up in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, and assumed he had hit Asia. Whoops

Comments are closed.