The System Fails Black Students

By Gabe Pressman
|  Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010  |  Updated 7:45 PM EDT
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The System Fails Black Students

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There’s been a 10 percent drop in the number of black students going to New York City’s elite high schools since City Hall took over the educational system seven years ago.

According to the Daily News, the number of black students at all but one of the eight schools that require an admissions test has declined.

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the board of regents, told me that the figure cited is "very disturbing" and she intends to investigate it further.

A spokesman for the city’s Education Department says that graduation rates and test scores for black students have risen in the last eight years. And education officials claim that African-American students are making gains. They cite a number of newly created small schools that are enrolling many black students.

But the stance by educational officials makes one wonder: are they playing a game of smoke and mirrors? Is real progress being made or is the system not treating black students fairly?

Ms. Tisch points out basic educational needs involve more emphasis on access, security and opportunity. "It’s a little incongruous," she says, "to hear, if we’re doing a better job, that there are fewer black students in the penultimate college preparatory programs of the public school system." She was referring to schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.

Carol Boyd, a parent member of the Coalition for Education Justice, accuses the Education Department of being "very nebulous" on this matter. "We’re still not graduating students ready to take college level work," she says. "Most students who get to college need remedial work before they can start classes.

"How are we making great strides if a child graduates high school and still needs remediation? The whole thing is a travesty."

Boyd points out that only 7 tenths of one percent of the students entering Stuyvesant High School, just 7 out of 798, are African-American. "There’s something inherently wrong here. We are failing children, failing to produce children ready to pursue a career."

It depends how you frame the issue. Some would say black students are failing. But, more to the point, the system is failing black students.

If the kids are failing, then City Hall, the administrators, teachers, politicians who run the system should be graded F too. 

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