Pathways to an Elite Education

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A highly publicized report on the admissions process at New York City’s elite public high schools offers new findings on why black, Latino, and low-income students are starkly underrepresented.  Education economists at New York University’s Research Alliance for New York City Schools say don’t blame the standardized test that is currently the sole criteria for admissions—it is not the main problem—and the rush to adopt alternatives to the exam could even backfire. After analyzing data from 2005 to 2013, the Research Alliance, a Corporation grantee, concluded that the lack of diversity reflects system-wide inequalities that begin at an early age and include practices such as the “tracking” of high achievers into gifted-and- talented classes.

 “The real take-away from this study is that the lack of diversity in the specialized schools is a much bigger problem than ‘to test or not to test’” said James Kemple, the Research Alliance’s executive director. “We need to think more broadly about how to reduce inequality in New York City’s schools—identifying strategies that create opportunities for traditionally disadvantaged students will be a primary focus of the Research Alliance’s work in coming years.”

The report Pathways to an Elite Education: Exploring Strategies to Diversify NYC’s Specialized High Schools was the subject of numerous media reports including a profile in The Atlantic.