The civil rights office of the federal Department of Education has rightly decided to investigate a complaint filed in September by civil rights groups over the admissions policies of eight highly competitive “specialized” high schools in New York City, among which are Stuyvesant, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School.
The investigation into a possible violation of civil rights law is just beginning. The city could be required to revise the admissions policies and could potentially be threatened with the loss of federal education funds if it refuses. The city and state should revisit the admissions process before things get to that point.
The complaint, filed by a coalition of organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, charges the city with illegally screening out qualified black and Latino middle-school students by basing admissions on a single poorly designed test. Supported by influential groups like the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the complaint offers a devastating analysis of the two-and-a-half-hour multiple-choice test, which, among other flaws, fails to reflect the curriculum taught at many middle schools. The test also heavily favors those who can afford extensive tutoring and has not been shown to be a good predictor of student performance in high school.