Bowl of Cocoa Puffs

On Stuyvesant High School and Having One Cocoa Puff In A Bowl of Milk [Why We Write]

Jose 21 Comments

Bowl of Cocoa Puffs

Bowl of Cocoa Puffs

In high school, my family used to get assorted flavors of high-sugar cereals. Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, and Corn Pops frequented the top of my fridge, and every morning, my brother and I would have a huge bowl of them just because. We’d pour so much milk into our bowls that we bought a gallon of milk every week (I later learned this wasn’t considered normal). When we found the magical crunch of chocolate cocoa puffs, we dug in. We’d have a bowl for breakfast, and a bowl on Friday and Saturday nights, just to hold us over during our midnight video game marathons.

One morning, as I started eating my puffs, I started to reflect on my experience in high school with serious doubt after an incident that made me keenly aware of my skin color and social caste in the school. The teacher at the time, revered by all, made it obvious that he didn’t think I belonged in the honors class. The looks on the other students in the class (all white) signaled to me that perhaps complaining about the incident would be like barking up the wrong tree. Some laughed uncomfortably while others stood silent, hoping it would go away.

Once I snapped out, I noticed a little chocolate puff floating in this big bowl of milk, bobbing up and down as it sailed around the inner rim. My first real understanding of W.E.B. DuBois’ double consciousness.

Currently, a group of concerned advocacy groups including the NAACP, Latino Justice PRLDEF, and the Center for Law and Justice at Medgar Evers College, filed a complaint against Stuyvesant High School’s (and New York City Department of Education’s) use of a specialized high school exam as the sole determinant for entry into their school. I’m inclined to disagree with Mike Bloomberg’s contention that having a test is the same as basing a student’s entry on merit. As with any standardized test, institutions should take into account the sheer volume of preparation some parents undertake in order to make sure their student succeeds on those, and lots of that can be predicted economically.

In spaces where one measure coincidentally attracted only a couple of groups towards a place of prestige, we need to make sure all kids get a fair look.

More importantly, once schools like Stuyvesant address the diversity in their admissions process, then they’ll have to address what happens once the few who make it do get in there. Other such schools that require multiple measures, like interviews, grades, and teacher recommendation letters, at least give a shot to those who freeze up for those two hours of the special admissions test. Despite whatever impressions my friends and family had about my experience in high school, make no mistake: it was hard. Academically, I handled school rather well my first two years there, then proceeded to dip my junior and senior years as my teachers demanded more. Socially, I joined as many non-athletic clubs as I could and volunteered at my middle school just to keep me grounded.

But, the more “H”s and “AP”s I saw next to my class schedules, the less I saw less of “me”s.

In order to adopt, I had to assimilate to some of the traditions and linguistics my friends had. My r’s became flatter, my s’ sharper, my t’s enunciated. Frankly, without my friends who moved up with me to this school, I might have completely lost touch with the very community I represented. Thus, people like me, unbeknownst to us develop two identities, one that can shift their faces amongst the hoods and the baggy jeans, and the other with shaven face and proper collar.

What becomes of these unique intelligent ones once they go into predominantly White classrooms?

I do get it, too. My high school prepared me for the rigors of Syracuse University, where Dave Chappelle once joked “When I looked down [from the plane], all I saw was White … and then there was the snow.” At this stage of the game, going to a truly academically rigorous school often means going to a place with very little cultural diversity, a sad state indeed. Few schools have a good, balanced student body and high academic standards that consistently challenge students … with a staff that knows how to handle it appropriately. Even then, sometimes the groups just stick in their racial and cultural groups with a few tokens on either side.

As I stared at the bowl with the floating puff, I noticed that the bowl of milk had also gotten a chocolate flavor as a result of the puffs that once floated there. Once we dedicate ourselves to adding more puffs, we leave an indelible mark on each other. We might work well in isolation, but we work much better when we complement each other as a whole.

Jose, who switched to Special K and Honey Nut Cheerios a long time ago …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonOn Stuyvesant High School and Having One Cocoa Puff In A Bowl of Milk [Why We Write]

Comments 21

  1. Eric

    The NAACP complaint is anti-Asian. 72% of Stuyvesant students are Asian. The NAACP tries to disguise its anti-Asian goal with the straw-man argument that rich white families are gaming the system with exclusive, expensive test prep courses that box out hopelessly disadvantaged minorities, when in fact, the typical Stuyvesant student is not a scion of white privilege, but rather from a lower-income immigrant Asian family without the benefit of wealth, white privilege, or affirmative action.

    Asian students work hard to get into Stuyvesant. Asian parents sacrifice, scrimp, and save to pay for their kids’ test prep, a course of action that is equally available to black and Latino parents. As well, low-cost and no-cost test prep are readily available, much of it targeted at black and Latino students. Stuyvesant alumni are actively involved in those efforts.

    The SHSAT-based admissions process guarantees a level playing field with a fair, color-blind, straightforward transparent standard. No disparate treatment. No suspicious subjectiveness. No white privilege. No affirmative action. No Asian-suppressive quota. No favoritism for wealth, friends, siblings, or legacy. Every Stuyvesant student from any background is qualified strictly according to objective merit on the same standard. No exceptions. It is the fairest and least discriminatory admissions process possible.

    A subjective admissions process that intentionally favors black and Latino students over Asian students, which is what the NAACP is requesting, would be racially discriminatory disparate treatment, which is illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    1. Post

      Eric, since you’ve been making the rounds about this (Google Alerts are awesome, aren’t they?), let me make one thing clear: being pro-one group does not necessitate being anti-another group. Standardized testing does not by any study in the last century show any fairness or demand real equity. It just distinguishes between those with the resources to prepare for such a test and those who don’t. Now, I don’t see how having a few more measures for entry (like interviews looking at student work / portfolio, etc.) would disadvantage students who already qualify. I don’t know what your personal hangup is with NAACP et. al, but please understand: having multiple measures towards admission into Stuyvesant won’t turn the “Asian”‘s bottom line. It just means more Black or Latino students get to be a part of the experience, and that’s what we’re striving for here.

  2. Eric


    Somebody has to. The AALDEF and CACF sure as heck ain’t doing it.

    I only have a personal hang-up with the NAACP when they’re being anti-Asian. The NAACP has clearly stated their intent of replacing an objective race-neutral admissions process, the SHSAT, with a subjective admissions process and the goal of favoring specific racial groups in admissions. Asians aren’t one of their favored racial groups. The SHSAT does not favor Asians students in any way. The point is the SHSAT is not biased against or for any group, including Asians. And that’s all we ask for: a level playing field.

    Moreover, the NAACP complaint prominently cites the admissions process of elite universities as an admissions model. There is compelling evidence, and widespread perception, of bias against Asians in the admissions process of top universities. It’s bad enough that Asian students are forced to burn out overachieving in HS to compete for seats in top universities due to racial bias. Now we’re going to force Asian students to overachieve in JHS to compete against racial quotas for seats at Stuy and other specialized schools, too?

    Asian families aren’t given any more resources to prepare their children for the SHSAT than black and Latino families. There is a finite number of seats at Stuy, which means giving to some requires taking from others, and at Stuy, that means taking from Asian students. I have no issue with more blacks, Latinos, whites, Native Americans, or whomever testing into Stuy, as long as they do it by the same objective, fair, color-blind, straightforward transparent standard that qualifies current Stuy students. The notion that the Stuy exam isn’t validated is a good legal gambit. But real-world common sense and common knowledge, and even strongly implicit in the NAACP complaint, we know the Stuy test has worked effectively to identify top public school students in NYC for a very long time. The school’s demographics have changed over time. For most of its history, Stuy wasn’t majority Asian. Someday, enough students from another group like blacks or Latinos may score high enough on the SHSAT to become the majority at Stuy. There’s nothing built into the SHSAT that disadvantages members of any ethnic group. If Asians can do well on the test, certainly students from other minority groups can, too.

  3. Post

    The problem is: it’s not a race-neutral process, or else we’d see more diversity. The bias isn’t just in the process, but the result.

    But again, without groups like the NAACP assuring equity, colleges and universities wouldn’t have anyone of color. When biased incidents happened at the Denny’s in Syracuse against Asians, please believe it wasn’t just Asians who fought against them. I’m not sure why you’re angling towards separation. I’m sure there will still be enough seats for everyone, and those “finite” seats can probably fluctuate.

    With all that said, I’m not sure what your vision for our society is, but we are most certainly at odds.

  4. Eric


    A transparent objective admissions standard accessible to all and free of favoritism of any kind has been a major win for minorities and civil rights. The NAACP isn’t contesting the neutrality of the exam. As you say, their claim is based on the result. The problem is the NAACP’s solution calls for race-based disparate treatment, which is a worse civil rights violation than disparate impact.

    I’m not angling towards separation. I’m calling out the NAACP for separating Asians. I agree that we should be able to trust the NAACP to guard the interests of Asian children – not ‘other’ and sacrifice Asians in order to favor other minority groups.

    You know what’s insulting? Read the NAACP complaint and see how it marginalizes Asians with the rhetorical trick of grouping together “either whites or Asian Americans”. Even your post’s metaphorical premise of a brown cocoa puff in white milk evinced the same utter disregard for Asians in this issue. Distinct from the issue at the hand, the NAACP’s decision to ‘other’ Asians in their case is troubling: it is a statement by the NAACP of how and where they view Asians in their heirarchy of minority interests.

    Hypothetical. Keep the same verbiage, arguments, and proposed solution to the ‘injustice’ of a 72% Asian majority at Stuy. Now substitute a white advocacy group for the NAACP and portray white children as victims of disparate impact. How does that look to you? From an Asian standpoint, it looks the same, a stronger group using its political muscle to impose biased structural changes to set quotas and take from weaker Asians.

    Look, I’m not looking to codify an Asian super-majority at Stuy. I would welcome more diversity at Stuy, but not at the cost of Stuy’s historical equal opportunity and the integrity of the institution. The proper solution is to identify early on the upper-tier black and Latino students with sufficient potential and prepare them for the fundamental academic skills tested on the SHSAT, which is what Stuy parents have been doing on their own. Stuy alums are working on that. The free NYCDOE-provided SHSI-Dream program is working on that. There are no mysteries in the Asian success story at Stuy. I have faith that black and Latino kids can achieve what Asian kids from lower-income, immigrant, often English-poor families have achieved – I don’t understand why you don’t have the same faith.

    Finally, I doubt the compelling need for the NAACP’s campaign. Stuy has added more seats since moving to Tribeca from the original old cramped building on the LES – 2000 seats when I attended; 3300 now. I don’t know whether the other specialized schools have expanded since I was in HS. As is, Stuy’s resources are spread thin. There are no magic doorways to Harvard at Stuy (quite the opposite, actually) – it’s always been the quality of the students that made the school special. And, as the NAACP notes in their own complaint, Stuy and indeed the whole group of NYC’s exam schools aren’t the only specialized HSs in NYC. First, several private schools (that typically don’t give Asians scholarships and Asians can’t afford) siphon off upper-tier white, black, and Latino students. Other NYCDOE specialized schools already use multi-measure (eg, Townsend Harris) or alternative (eg, Laguardia) admissions processes. That Stuy continues to be regarded as the crown jewel among NYC specialized public schools that use varied admissions processes only speaks to the real-world-tested validity of the SHSAT.

    Given that everything the NAACP is demanding is already practiced somewhere else in the school system, I wonder what their complaint targeting Stuy and the other exam schools is really about?

  5. Eric

    Add: Something you said has been nagging at me and I think I finally put my finger on it …

    Jose: “Standardized testing does not by any study in the last century show any fairness or demand real equity. It just distinguishes between those with the resources to prepare for such a test and those who don’t.”

    You’re restating the NAACP contention that the math-and-language fundamentals-based SHSAT that has qualified Stuyvesant (and Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech) students for many decades lacks in actuality any predictive value that’s applicable to the requirements and demands placed on Stuy students. To wit, you claim the SHSAT “just distinguishes between those with the resources to prepare for such a test and those who don’t.”

    The first logical inference of your contention is that the generations of Stuy students, myself included, who have passed the SHSAT have not actually been academically qualified for Stuyvesant. Which is to claim that for many decades, the SHSAT-based selection of Stuy students has been as equally predictive as a random selection of NYC 8th graders. Or alternatively, for many decades, Stuy students have been admitted based on a sole criterion (“those with the resources to prepare for such a test”) that has low-to-no correlative value with subsequent academic achievement at Stuyvesant.

    The second logical inference, if the SHSAT is not a valid predictor and therefore has not actually selected qualified students for the exam schools, is we would expect to find that the histories of student achievement at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech are no better than the academic histories of typical non-specialized public high schools. But that’s simply not the case. Stuy students and students from the other exam schools have collectively accrued exceptional records of academic achievement that exceed the academic records of the non-specialized public high schools.

    The third logical inference, given Stuy students consistently produce superior academic achievement despite the assumption that Stuy students are effectively randomly selected or selected based solely on a criterion (again, “those with the resources to prepare for such a test”) that is invalid as an academic predictor, is we need to look outside the unqualified Stuy students for an explanation of their long record of exceptional academic achievement.

    This is where the NAACP and others have followed this logical inferential train to a myth version of Stuyvesant. They have convinced themselves that since “white or Asian American” Stuy students aren’t responsible for their own success, then Stuyvesant must be privy to a secret educational alchemy that has for many decades consistently transformed unremarkable students into exceptional students. Reality check: if you believe Stuy has some secretly hoarded academic elixir, there isn’t any. Based on my experience, especially at the old Stuy on 15th street where the majority of Stuy’s history took place, the school’s infrastructure, administration, faculty, and educational resources aren’t different in kind than any typical NYC public school. Stuyvesant isn’t Hogwarts on the Hudson. There’s no magic water coming out of the water fountains, no magic cafeteria food, no magic science labs, no magic library, no magic textbooks. No magic teachers either (at least no more magical than teachers at any other NYC school; I had a few egregiously bad teachers at Stuy). The essential difference between Stuyvesant and non-specialized schools is the SHSAT selection device.

    Based on my experience, Stuy students aren’t given more or better resources than students at other public schools; Stuy students simply maximize the resources they do get. I’ve heard that the expansion from 2000 to 3300 students since I graduated has stretched Stuy’s resources and carrying capacity very thin. But the students continue to do their best with their own ability and what they’re given.

    As I said, it has always been the quality of the students that made Stuy special, and that speaks to the time-honored, time-tested validity of the SHSAT as a selection device. The SHSAT works. It’s worked for a very long time. Trust it. Any black or Latino student who earns his or her seat on the SHSAT will deserve – more importantly, be qualified – to be a Stuy student. Shoehorning unqualified students of any race into Stuy at the expense of qualified students won’t help anyone.

  6. Well intentioned neighbour

    Oh boy, Eric the Asian needs some correcting.

    Where do we start?

    “I only have a personal hang-up with the NAACP when they’re being anti-Asian.”

    Ah, thanks for letting us know that you don’t care about anyone else being discriminated against except Asians. We know where we have you.


    “The typical Stuyvesant student is not a scion of white privilege, but rather from a lower-income immigrant Asian family without the benefit of wealth, white privilege, or affirmative action.”


    Let’s look at all the elite schools, not just Stuyvesant or Bronx(there are not that many of them, slightly over a dozen).

    The acceptance rate of Whites are about 31%, for Asians it is 34%.

    Now, as in the SAT testing population nationally, Asians are overrepresented by a factor of 2x.
    Let me tell you something, there are a lot of Indian kids going to these schools, and I’ll use them as an example for further discussion.

    70 % of all Indian-Americans have a bachelors degree, only 8% of their countrymen back home do.
    These people are not undereducated, poor people. They are the intellectual 1%, and financially much better off than almost all Indians back home and most Americans.

    So of course they can afford to give a lot of support/help to their children. Their children, who get better genes than most of their peers because their parents are overwhelmingly part of the top 1% of India’s intellectual pyramid.

    For other Asians, it’s a similar pattern(but not as strong as for Indians). Many of them may not be rich, but they often come from an educated background, and all research points that an academic background gives a much, much better chance of finding a job with a stable income.
    It also means that they are, again, above-average in intelligence and have a habit of academics.

    The amount of poor Asians whose parents have not even begun any kind of post-high school education(either here or from the country which they immigrated from) is much lower than the average Asian propagandist claims.

    To finish off on what I begun; Indian-Americans.
    The latest PISA test that we have the results of was not the 2009, but actually the 2009+, a modified version of the last test with a few new entrants.

    One of them was India, which only allowed two regions to participate out of more than 20. Their best regions.

    How did these Indian students score?
    Below Kazakhstan.

    So think about that when you talk about ‘poor Asian immigrants’.

    No, America is getting the elite of Asia’s intellectual class.
    All of them may not be wealthy(but btw, how many academics get to be superrich anyway?), but they are not poor in the traditional sense and most of them have an academic background, which helps their children a lot.

    Also, high-skill immigration is by its nature self-selecting for the brightest people in their respective nations. So their offspring is not the average Asian kid either, as evidenced by India’s dismal performance(yes, its schools are not great, but when your two best regions are being beaten by Kazakhstan, something’s up) in the PISA 2009+ test(from which they’ve since withdrawn) compared with the offspring of Indian-American parents who grow up in academic homes with above-average income.

    But the same is true for Chinese people too.
    Go down the list.

    Now, I actually favour a race-blind admissions test. The best of the best should get a slot.

    But don’t try to fool people, or yourself, but sprouting up a bunch of non-consequential talking points which little to no grounding in reality and trying to portray Asians as this poor, uneducated group who are all coming from a non-academic background trying to ‘beat the odds’.

    Please. The statistics are raping you.
    And I enjoy doing it too.

  7. Tony

    Not surprising the comment thread ended here. Jose is smart enough to know when he’s been bested. The NAACP should be ashamed with this lawsuit but I don’t think they’re capable of shame.


  8. carol

    But, the more “H”s and “AP”s I saw next to my class schedules, the less I saw less of “me”s.

    What is that supposed to mean? Maybe “you” weren’t even “you” yet, and needed to discover that “you” in the process of your education.

  9. Post

    Tony, no. It’s just that I know when it’s time to let disagreements be disagreements. I also have a life outside of the Internet, so maybe getting back to a comment within 48 hours isn’t a priority. I mean, my contention is simple. Eric has his point of view, too. I respect it, but I disagree with the root generally. I’m not afraid of disagreement, which is why I left it up ;-). I’ve had my disagreements with the NAACP, but this is not one of them.

    Carol, you’re right. But now that I look back, that me has the same objections this me does. The more honors and advanced placement classes I went up to, the less people of color (Asians included!) that I saw.

    Finally, Eric, much of your essay is based on your experience and not on actual research, which is why you whiffed when I mentioned a fact about standardized testing. After a good conversation with a few friends who also went to Stuyvesant (and other specialized high schools), I also realize that I was more addressing what happens if / when we do see increased diversity in these places. You mentioned NYCDOE’s program to assure B&L sixth graders a chance to go for Stuyvesant and the like. That’s a positive step and a recognition of a problem, but it’s obviously not enough. Your “anti-Asian” contention is absurd, and, naturally, the “winners” of the test would say that. (Excluding those of us who passed it and moved towards other schools.)

    Otherwise, we can just disagree, and not agree on that either. Thank you.

  10. Jose Goldstein

    Hey, the test is neutral. Look elsewhere to explain the discrepancies. That is absurd in the extreme to suggest that a math test is favorable to Asians, a bit to whites, tough for Hispanics, and downright unfair to Blacks.

  11. Svigor

    That’s a positive step and a recognition of a problem, but it’s obviously not enough. Your “anti-Asian” contention is absurd, and, naturally, the “winners” of the test would say that. (Excluding those of us who passed it and moved towards other schools.)

    Otherwise, we can just disagree, and not agree on that either. Thank you.

    No, Eric has you pegged. You wrote:

    The problem is: it’s not a race-neutral process, or else we’d see more diversity. The bias isn’t just in the process, but the result.

    Same goes for you, Tony. If yours was a race-neutral process, it would result in more diversity. Instead, you come up with criticisms that only target whites and yellows. Thus, yours is a racist process. The bias isn’t just in the process, but the result: whites and yellows bad, whites and yellows receiving more than their share, whites and yellows must change, whites and yellows must receive less.

    Clean up your act and drop the racism, Tony.

  12. YKIR

    East Asians are great test takers. You can’t take that away from them. But America is more than producing grinds, it’s about actually producing talent.

  13. Eric


    You’re right: I do place stock in my personal experience as a Stuyvesant student. My personal experience is my schoolmates, selected exclusively by their rank order on the SHSAT, were high-ability students, regardless of their race. Are you really contending that “actual research” has disproven my experience? Or, setting aside my experience, are you really contending “actual research” proves the venerated and consistent historical record of academic achievement by SHSAT-selected students is an anomaly or a mere coincidence of impossible magnitude that somehow has been repeated annually for decades?

    As a teacher, you’re closer today to high school students than I am. Does your position really tell you that that there is no significant academic difference between the thousands of Stuyvesant and other present-day SHSAT-selected students and the NYC students who fell below them on their respective SHSAT rank orders?

    Obviously, I don’t dispute that research matters, but not all research is proof. When your research tells you to disbelieve both your lying eyes that apples fall from trees and generations of memories of falling apples, perhaps more doubt should be cast on the research.

    The SHSAT is race neutral and so the demographics at the exam schools have changed over the years. The demographics can just as easily change again without corrupting the admissions process: there is no race-based regulating mechanism in the SHSAT that bars black, Latino or any other group of students improving and becoming, as you say, winners on the test. If there was such a regulating mechanism built into the SHSAT, Asian students would have been barred.

    Unfortunately and misguidedly, the NAACP is trying to inject race-based regulating mechanisms into an admissions process that is race neutral. They’re inviting unintended consequences. The SHSAT should be protected in fact and, just as importantly, in principle as a race-neutral selection device.

    The Asian success story in NYC’s specialized public high schools is a success story for all minorities. In the past, Asians have benefited from the progress made by other-minority pioneers. This time, on the SHSAT, Asians are the minority pioneers – if Asian kids can do it, so can black and Latino kids. Asian progress on the SHSAT provides a proven model that can be emulated by other minorities. What the NAACP is trying to do isn’t progress for anyone.

    What academic message and life lesson do you think the high-profile NAACP campaign is projecting to impressionable young students of all races? To the young kids who work their butts off to master the academic fundamentals of the SHSAT … AND to the young kids being told that meeting the basic math/reading/logic standards of the SHSAT – again, the intrinsic neutrality of which the NAACP is not contesting – in order to merit a seat at a specialized high school is hopelessly out of reach due to the immutable fact of their skin color? As adults, we know the world is too often cynical, greedy, and selfish, but in this case, the SHSAT is a preciously rare genuine level playing field. I like to hope that we – you especially as a teacher – would try to teach our children, at least in school, that earning what they deserve is a better way of life than taking what they covet.

  14. Eric



    Your comment, “Your “anti-Asian” contention is absurd, and, naturally, the “winners” of the test would say that.”, got me to thinking.

    (I’ll let go of your blustering non-response to my explanation of why the NAACP campaign against the SHSAT is anti-Asian, except for one observation: Do you see any irony in a non-Asian like you peremptorily deciding for an Asian like me what is not anti-Asian racism? Absurd indeed.)

    Your “winners” comment inspired my response to Carolyn Edgar’s post on the subject at Dominions of New York:

    Regarding equal opportunity, I believe the difference is our understanding of the SHSAT’s context. The whole process of the SHSAT can be understood as equal opportunity in the context of competition, not in the context with which we normally understand public education as a matter of right. Students must compete for the finite number of seats available at the specialized public high schools. The SHSAT is the arena of competition from which the winners and losers emerge.

    The SHSAT provides the equal opportunity of a level playing field. But similar to PSAL competitions, the inequality of the SHSAT stems not from the sport, gym, or the officials, but from the competitors themselves with their unequal levels of natural potential (talent) and preparation (training and practice). When PSAL athletes compete, the opportunity provided to them by the PSAL is equal, although their athletic abilities vary by a lot.

    We expect our best PSAL athletes to be naturally talented and to have trained with coaches, intensely practiced on their own, and competed outside of school teams, often starting years before high school. Yet when our best PSAL athletes overpower their competition resulting in disparate impact, we accept the merit of their achievements as a result of fairly won competition. Is it fair then for the NAACP LDF to accuse and degrade the achievements of talented, trained, practiced, and therefore able, public school students on the SHSAT, rather than accept their ranked scores as fairly won in competition?

    1. Post

      Naturally talented? Sounds like eugenics, Eric.

      Experiences have their place, but real and valid research strives for the neutrality you say the SHSAT seeks. We can go on for days on end. Unfortunately, we won’t see eye to eye on this.

      I wouldn’t call it a non-response if I responded, Eric. I don’t like reiterating points I’ve made too often. It dilutes its effect.

      I don’t see irony in calling out “non-racism” at all since you came to the conclusion that an Asian like you already claimed anti-Asian racism against the NAACP. (BTW, in the context of race theory, your definition of racism is misplaced, at best.)

      Again, I wish you well.

  15. Eric


    Repeating ‘Nuh uh’ does dilute its effect. I believe your only substantive suggestion for curing the harmful effect of taking seats from Asian students is that Stuyvesant could add seats, and you denied the reality that there is a finite number of seats at Stuyvesant. The NAACP’s goal is what it is: race-based redistribution from a less-favored minority to more-favored minorities.

    Again, the NAACP has stipulated the neutrality of the SHSAT. The NAACP is not arguing for neutrality in specialized high school admissions. The NAACP needs to prove the SHSAT is ineffective in its intended purpose for Stuyvesant, which is belied by the SHSAT’s proven track record selecting superior students for Stuy, and that the alternative is more effective for Stuyvesant’s purpose and less discriminatory (however that’s defined) than the race-neutral SHSAT.

    The question is, what is Stuyvesant’s purpose for using admission by rank-order placement on the SHSAT? NYC’s specialized public high schools, while public, aren’t governed by (all) the same rules as non-specialized public education. Their point of view is from the ceiling, not the floor (in the sense of minimum requirements by law). By design, admission to Stuyvesant via the SHSAT is competitive, meritocratic, and demands extraordinary academic preparation, which accurately reflects the student experience at the school.

    You really don’t believe in natural talent? I guess you’ve never played sports. From an early age, I’ve been outrun, outquicked, and outjumped by a lot of people who were gifted with more physical talent, and did more than I did to hone their physical gifts. Trying to ball as a kid in open runs in NYC playgrounds was a humbling experience – I was no Jeremy Lin. You’re smart. You obviously have superior natural mental talent, if not physical talent. I assume you were born smart, and you’ve worked hard to hone your natural talents with training and practice into superior academic abilities. The SHSAT is an academic competition where the prize is a seat in one of 8! specialized public high schools. What do you think the kids who outcompete their peers for seats at Stuyvesant put themselves through in order to win the prize? The best competitive athletes are naturally talented and they train and work hard for their prize; so are and do competitive students. If your kids happen to be born smarter than average, which I expect is the case, and you want to call that eugenics, that’s up to you. But your kids will still have to train their smarts to develop superior academic abilities, same as you have, same as Stuy kids do for the SHSAT.

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  17. Gretel

    The SHSAT, for what it’s worth, is really a terrible test. And I don’t mean that because of its disparate effect on Black and Latino students (although that certainly is reason enough to discard it). I mean it’s a terrible test from the point of view of an educator who wants to be able to assess kids. When’s the last time any of you looked at a copy of the test? It’s terrible.

    Jose, thanks for this entry. We all benefit from more diverse classrooms. (The milk even gets to be a little chocolatier!)

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  19. Sybil

    Here’s a big secret none of the test prep companies will talk about: In my experience as a former educator at rigorous high schools and middle schools, nearly 1/3 of students (of different ethnicities) who score high enough, get into these schools are barely able to hang on during their first year. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of tutoring for these students to be able to pass.

    Don’t believe me? Just look at the graduation rate, year over year: Stuy had a 97% graduation rate in 2007. The reason: by the 1st marking period senior year I knew who would not be able to graduate becuase their badly patched academic foundation could no longer give them a safety net to fall on. It was so sad to see and as teacher it angered me that parents/middle schools and the DOE would let these kids think that scoring a seat at a specialized school meant that they had arrived.

    In fact, the opposite is true. All the SHSAT tests for is knowledge. It simply tells administrators that you have the basic accumulated knowledge or level starting point needed to be on equal footing with others coming in as freshman. It DOES NOT measure intelligence. or reasoning or the ability to mangage your time or even if you know how to approach the material and master it through study and critical thinking – all which is far more important than the test.

    Those that spend money on test prep would do far better by hiring a tutor to ensure their kids get a solid educational foundation, because if they average an 80 in English, Science or Math at Stuyvesant, then they are still unprepared for Regents and for the top universities in the US.

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