To the editor:
(re: “Dinowitz disses mayor’s plan for specialized high school,” June 21)
What makes a high school special? This is the pertinent question we must ask when discussing specialized high schools like Bronx Science and American Studies.
As an alumnus of Bronx Science, and a current public school teacher, I believe that the most significant factor is the students. Currently, the students at specialized high schools are selected based on the results of a single exam: the SHSAT.
Some people want to change this admission standard, but by changing the selection criteria, we run the risk of changing what makes these schools special in the first place.
For more than a decade, as a special education teacher, I have watched my students display their intelligence in a multitude of ways. Some students may excel in musical performances, or with a portfolio of artwork. Others may stand out when presenting their writing or poetry. Still more display their talent conversationally through classroom discussion or debate.
And while a single high-stakes exam should not determine whether a student is able to be promoted to the next grade or to graduate, tests are often an unbiased and simple way in which some students can best display their abilities.
Proponents of changing the admission standard to specialized high schools state they seek to expand opportunities for underrepresented students across the city. However, all of the current proposals to change the entrance criteria actually serve to take opportunities away from these same students.
The proposed policies avoid an underlying cause of academic and demographic disparity: Disincentive for students to demonstrate the depth and diversity of their skills and talents in primary and middle school.
We should expand opportunities for students who demonstrate intelligence in other forms besides an exam, such as through art, writing or classroom discussion.
The education department should open new programs in large high schools designed for students who present an art or work portfolio from middle school, thus encouraging students whose strength is in the quality and depth of their work product to continue pursuing their passions and skills.
The DOE also should open additional specialized high schools, some of which can select from students whose GPA is in the top 5 percent of their middle school. These students may also complete a face-to-face interview.
These solutions would allow students of various intelligences and abilities to get the education that best fits their skill and interest.
We can all agree that all students should be given every opportunity to succeed. I prefer to see the expansion of opportunities of every kind rather than restrictions of those opportunities.
The author is the son of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.