Posted on December 6, 2018

Angry Parents Lash Out at DOE Official over Diversification Plan

Selim Algar, New York Post, December 4, 2018

A mutinous crowd of more than 350 Manhattan parents repeatedly jeered a top Department of Education official Monday night over a proposed admissions overhaul at the city’s elite high schools.

For the first time, the DOE dispatched a senior official — Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack — to one of its citywide presentations on a plan that aims to increase black and Latino enrollment at the primarily Asian and white schools by scrapping a single-test-score admission system.

Speaking at a meeting of Community Education Council 2, a parental advisory group in one of the city’s top-performing districts, Wallack characterized the single test as a needless educational barricade.


He stressed that 50 percent of kids admitted to the city’s specialized high schools currently come from just 4 percent of middle schools — and that additional selection measures would detect a far wider spectrum of talented candidates.


More than 30 parents lined up to denounce the DOE’s proposal as racist, deluded, divisive and ultimately fueled by political rather than pedagogical calculations.

“It’s a political bill that’s being sold on dishonest, false and even racist messaging,” said a parent of two Stuyvesant HS students. “Our school is not segregated. It’s a loaded and racist term that they use. Shame on the mayor, the chancellor, and anyone at the DOE and any politician that engages in this kid of rhetoric.”

Several Asian speakers highlighted the outsized toll the new plan would exact on their community.

Asian kids — including Chinese, Korean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students — make up roughly 60 percent of the population at the city’s eight specialized high schools.


Other speakers from District 2 — which extends from the Upper East Side to Tribeca — speculated that if instituted, the changes would foment classroom discord.


He argued that black and Latino students admitted through modified entrance requirements would inevitably become stigmatized – and suffer for it.

Other parents pushed back on City Hall’s framing of the dispute as a confrontation between wealthy parents who can afford test-preparation classes and less affluent demographics.

“My parents were immigrants,” said one speaker. “They were poor. They were illiterate. So the advantages we had were no advantages. We knew how to work, how to study. And through studying, we achieved.”


But Wallack did find at least one ally in the crowd, a parent who voiced her support for the plan and demanded silence from several hecklers.

{snip} “{snip} For all of us who have been thinking about what’s good for my kid, we need to start thinking about what good for our kids and our community as a whole.”

Wallack echoed those thoughts, asserting that kids who finished in the top tier of their class at all city middle schools were deserving — and qualified — for admission to top high schools.


The new metrics — including class rank and state test scores — would “give us the best picture of the talent that is out there in the city and that can succeed at the specialized high schools.”


“Now a question for this administration,” he said. “What are you planning to do in the face of this overwhelming rejection of your proposal?”