Keep special schools special


To the editor:

(re: “Dinowitz disses mayor’s plan for specialized high schools,” June 21)

With regard to the entrance exam for specialized high schools, much has been said about not relying on one test to determine a student’s abilities, that some aren’t good test-takers. While this may be true, those students who do well on the entrance exam do so based on their knowledge of the subject matter, not on their test-taking ability.

If, somehow, the “poor” test takers were accepted into the specialized high schools, how would they subsequently fare on tests given for each academic subject which, undoubtedly, would have a harder curriculum than in standard high schools? Those students could end up struggling throughout their four years (or more) of high school, if they don’t drop out altogether.

Being accepted into the school is no guarantee of success, nor would entering necessarily be doing them any favor. They might very well be more successful in a standard high school with a less difficult curriculum. It’s known that there are students attending “regular” high schools who either drop out or take longer than four years to graduate. This scenario would be exacerbated in a specialized high school.

If blacks and Latinos haven’t been accepted into the specialized high schools, it’s due to not scoring high enough on the admissions exam. Making it easier to be accepted would do a disservice to those who do score high. Asians and whites and even the few minorities who do well should not be faulted for their scholarly abilities. There may even be high scorers who do not get accepted simply because there are many others who have scored even higher, and the school has a cutoff on how many students they can accepts.

This maintains the school’s reputation for being elite.

Competition is high. For those students seeking academic assistance in preparation for the exam, any additional knowledge acquired will be temporary. Those students had eight years of schooling to retain enough knowledge to prepare for the test. Last-minute cramming doesn’t guarantee a high enough score to be accepted.

Suggestions and advice on how to achieve a high score on the entrance exam may possibly get them into the school, but it doesn’t increase their academic knowledge to help them succeed once they enter.

It’s common knowledge that the exam focuses on math and English. In general, courses are based on accumulated knowledge from previous grades. 

If a student is accepted into the school without enough previous knowledge, he or she may not be able to keep up.

There’s a reason some high schools are called “special” and “prestigious.” They’re interested in accepting the highest achievers. Changing legislation to allow more minority students who may not be academically qualified, entry into specialized high schools, will no longer make the special schools special.

If legislation does pass, kudos to Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who was right on point when he was quoted as saying, in part, “there will certainly be a perception that they’ve lowered the standard, and therefore the school will be less desirable.”

My sentiments exactly.

Judy Noy

Judy Noy