Proving the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time, the NY Post ran an editorial last week that wasn’t complete trash.
The article is titled Race, the UFT & NYC’s Top Schools and the author, Mark Schulte, is a retired NYC public school teacher. Schulte criticizes the UFT for voting to support the NAACP’s lawsuit, which aims to scrap the specialized high school exam, against the NYC Department of Education.
New York City has three specialized high schools (what other districts might deem “magnet schools”) with a long tradition of serving some of NYC’s brightest teenagers. Over the past 10 years, 5 more specialized high schools have been added to the group. The sole basis of admission to any one of these schools is an exam.
The NAACP contends that the exam discriminates against minority students. Black and Hispanic enrollment in the original “big three” specialized high schools has fallen off since the 1990s. However, according to Schulte, the problem is not the exam itself but rather the lack of preparation many bright minority students receive. Instead of scrapping the exam, the city should provide extra tutoring for students to help them prepare.
Schulte’s article got me thinking, but not because I agree with what he says. While he might have a point about providing extra support to bright students who just need that extra little nudge, certain areas of his thesis border on the reformy “no excuses” mantra.
As a graduate of one of the “big three” high schools, I really do not know what the solution is to the problem of declining minority enrollment. Should acceptance to these schools be based on one exam? Probably not. Should minority students receive extra support to help prepare them to apply to these schools? Probably so.
The thing about this that got me thinking is the UFT’s position on the matter. They are adamantly opposed to standardized testing as the sole ticket into one of NYC’s prestigious schools. On the other hand, they are perfectly fine with allowing testing be the measure of teacher effectiveness.
If the standardized high school exams are so discriminatory against minority students that they must be scrapped, what makes the UFT think that standardized exams as a way to judge teachers is perfectly fair? This is compounded by the fact that most of the students of most the teachers who stand to be judged by these exams are Black and Hispanic.
I don’t know. It seems, how should I say, inconsistent of the UFT to take a stand against testing in one instance and totally embrace it in another.
If the NAACP files another lawsuit claiming the these “value added” exams students around the city promise to take in 2013 are discriminatory, will the UFT support that lawsuit as well? That would mean the UFT would oppose something to which it helped birth.
This is the problem with Unity’s defenders who claim that the current environment of education reform makes it difficult for the union to defend teacher rights and public education. That might be so, but that still doesn’t mean the UFT has to rush to embrace so many pieces of the ed reform movement.
At the end of the day, this is my biggest problem with Unity. While their support for the NAACP’s lawsuit might be the correct decision, it is completely out of step with their past support for reformy things like standardized testing.
Why is testing an acceptable measure of teacher effectiveness but not an effective measure of admission to one of NYC’s “big three”?