Don’t dare mess with Bronx Science


“Don’t dare mess with Bronx science on

There they go again: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a complaint with the federal Education Department claiming that the admissions test for the city’s specialized high schools bar black and Latino students. The LDF is off-base on this one: The test is race neutral. Of course I’m annoyed that the percentage of black students at my alma mater,Bronx Science,is much lower than in 1976. But I favor keeping the admissions test in place for the Big Three (Science, Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant) and Staten Island Tech to enshrine merit-based selection,as intended in state law. For solutions,we need to look elsewhere. On one level, the city’s been trying hard to increase black and Hispanic admission rates to the “elite” high schools. Chancellor Dennis Walcott spearheaded initiatives to diversify these schools by identifying, recruiting and better preparing black and Hispanic students for the test. (And, these initiatives are now race-neutral –open to all.) In part as a result, more black and Hispanic students this year were offered seats at a specialized high school than in the previous two years. But the level is still low, because the city has had trouble recruiting black and Hispanic middle-school candidates. Fewer than half of those who participate in Walcott’s program eventually take the test — and the pass rate for those who do is abysmally low.

Sadly, the problems start much earlier. Local NAACP chapters know this — because they themselves have great difficulty recruiting student participants for ACT-SO, their science and technology competition. Too many of us have come to have low expectations –which translate into lowered self-esteem and fear of failure. The soft bigotry of low expectations taints parents,teachers and administrators. It greatly undermines our children. Some critics of the admissions test propose offering admission to the top students at every middle school. But the academic quality at city middle schools is, to put it politely, uneven. Far too many of them barely prepare students for regular high school,much less an “elite” one. But this is at least getting closer to the real problem: Our miserable middle schools have become breeding grounds for high-school dropouts and teen pregnancy. We must fix our middle schools, lengthen the school year and provide accelerated academic tracks for bright kids.

Some others have to step up, too: Black and Hispanic parents must have higher expectations, demand more of their children and their teachers and reject their fear of failure. Schools like Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant should be lifelines for promising black students trying to stay afloat in a system that’s a morass of chaos and low expectations.

Read the rest  – “Don’t dare mess with Bronx science” on

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About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email FOMB08@GMAIL.COM.
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4 Responses to Don’t dare mess with Bronx Science

  1. Geoffrey L. Garfield says:

    As a Technite I agree, keep the test, but prepare the kids better. I was the beneficiary of the best public school education one could have. I, and my friends, were identified early, in kindergarten or first grade via the standardized Iowa test and an inquisitive mind; apparently without Headstart, my parents taught me to read before kindergarten. We then were assigned to IGC (Intellectually Gifted Children), then SP (Special Progress), and tracked to take the entrance exams. Most of my friends who tracked with me, even the ones who did two-year SP and hit high school as sophomores, chose the neighborhood high school (Flushing, Bryant, Newtown), while a group of us targeted the Big Three. Personally, I was more motivated to play football at Tech, did no special preparation, and got in anyway. The key is parents, mine continually encouraged me to “live up to your potential”, and a community of friends who regarded us as “the smart ones” and reinforced our specialness. Kids are in it for the ride, it is up to adults to steer and whip into shape kids who show promise, and those that show discipline, to stay on track. We were not nerds in the classic sense, as athletics was important, too, but doing your homework is vital, and parents checking it and participating is invaluable. My Dad docked me from a Pop Warner football game (I was the starting running back) for doing badly in a class in 6th grade, he knew what was important to me, and I was crushed to disappoint my teammates and coaches. This is what is necessary. And for those kids whose parents are just clueless, or intimidated or have no interest in upward mobility, then it is up to neighbors and teachers to take up that slack.


    • I hope parents read what you wrote regarding their responsibility to motivate, to guide, and to hold their children accountable. The foundation lies with the parents from peri-natal care through early childhood into adolescence.


  2. Dale Benjamin Drakeford says:

    I am inclined to concur with your position. The stats are sad, but the reasons far more complicated than a lawsuit as solution.


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