Questions about the specialized high school admissions process from a specialized high school teacher. Part 4 “Is Stuyvesant too rigorous?”

Of course Stuyvesant is hard. Like climbing Mount Everest is hard. Like training to be an Olympic gymnast is hard.

Back when I started there 20 years ago nobody questioned if Stuyvesant had to be this demanding. The old principal, Stanley Tietel, used to tell the incoming freshman class “Sleep, grades, and social life. You can’t have all three, you have to pick two.”

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion about this among the teachers, the guidance counselors, the administration, the parents, and the students. The old principal’s ‘joke’ about picking two out of three is no longer something we tell incoming freshmen. But Stuyvesant struggles to find the balance between pushing students to the next level without crushing them.

There are some things that the school has put in place to reduce some of the pressure like, for example, there is a testing day for each department so there is no chance that a student will have to prepare for five tests on the same day. But we are always talking about what more can we do. The goal is to balance the ‘rigor’ that everyone is expecting of us with the need to be supportive of students social emotional needs. It isn’t easy.

One problem is that we have this ten period day and while it would be best for students to have two or three ‘free periods’ each day, some students want to take as many classes as they can. Maybe they are pressured by their parents and maybe they are pressured to keep up with each other like in a nuclear arms race, but it is common for students to take nine classes and I’ve even heard of some taking ten classes where they eat lunch during one class. There are students who take something like 10 AP classes before they graduate.

In math almost all the students come in having already taken the 9th grade Algebra course. So our goal in the math department is to get as many students as possible into an AP Calculus course by 12th grade and to get a 5 (out of 5) on the AP test. Other departments have similarly ambitious goals. In the literature classes I think they read a book every two weeks. In one of my first years at Stuyvesant I sat in on the ‘great books’ course and I had to read about 50 pages a night with for me was a challenge (note: I’m not saying that every English class assigns 50 pages of reading a night, just that the senior level ‘great books’ course that I sat in on did). Stuyvesant students must be fast readers. The other subjects are demanding as well. They do a lot of writing in their social studies classes. For the foreign languages there are advanced courses in all the languages. I try to give a reasonable amount of homework, maybe 30 minutes a night. But if everyone gives 30 minutes a night, a student could have four or five hours of homework. Plus when they have a test, which in some classes is every other week, they have to study for as long as they think they need, which could be several hours. Maybe the thing that students who are successful at Stuyvesant have in common is that they have the ability to do five hours of homework in just three hours.

There are about 800 students in each grade at Stuyvesant. The SHSAT test determines which 800 students come to Stuyvesant and the fact that those students can handle the workload is something worth analyzing. In the last post I said that there is a correlation between SHSAT and success at a specialized school. How is it that this multiple choice test based on math and reading can get us 800 students who can also master social studies, science, and all the other subjects? I think the correlation comes from the fact that success on the SHSAT is related to not just the three hours when they are taking the test but all the time it took to prepare for the test. I’ll cover test prep in a future post, but for now I just want to say that a student that is able to spend so much time preparing for a test, whatever has enabled them to do the long term planning to prepare for the test, well that same thing helps them throughout their time at Stuyvesant.

It’s not a total coincidence that the students we have are successful at Stuyvesant. Over the years there has been a feedback loop where the students have, in a sense, trained the teachers to offer the type of course that is compatible with their skill sets. So the SHSAT requires reading quickly and maybe long ago they would read 15 books a year (note: this number of books a year number is just hypothetical) but the students were finding it too easy — everyone was getting a 100 average. So the next year the teacher covers 16 books and in doing so we get to an equilibrium. They don’t try to teach 30 books a year, it’s too much. So in a sense it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy that the students we have do well with the curriculum we have. It has been incrementally tailored to them and their strengths over the years.

But are the 800 students who get admitted to the 9th grade class each year the only 800 students who could do well at Stuyvesant? No. Surely there are others. Maybe there are 800 completely different students who could be successful. Maybe there are thousands. Keep in mind there are about 100,000 8th graders and 5,000 do well enough on the SHSAT to get into some specialized school. There are 75,000 students who don’t even take the SHSAT, maybe some of them would do well at Stuyvesant.

If the admissions policy were changed significantly so that none of the 800 students from the currently policy made it in under the new policy, an important, though controversial, question that would need to get asked and answered is: Would Stuyvesant need to reduce its ‘rigor’ for this other group of students? Because I’ve read so many people arguing either side of this I really want to explore this question here.

As a teacher you have a limited amount of time. In a regular year there are 180 days and periods are about 45 minutes long. No matter how much content you cover, you could always have covered more if you went a little faster. But as a teacher you try to teach at a speed that is not too fast or too slow. A teacher might have an ambitious plan and then find out that he or she is trying to teach too fast and the students are struggling with the speed. When this happens the responsible thing for the teacher to do is to slow down. Maybe someone who isn’t a teacher will read this and think “Slow down? That’s lazy. Why not just teach better?” To me this gets to the essence of what the job of a teacher is. The teacher’s job is to make learning a fulfilling experience. It isn’t a race to cover every topic in the textbook. So if you have the choice between covering 35 topics well or 40 topics poorly the competent teacher should choose to do the 35 topics well. I know that that’s what I would want the teachers of my own children to do.

When Stuyvesant switched to full remote teaching for the 2020-2021 school year we created a block schedule where classes met every other day but instead of 41 minute periods we had 55 minute periods. Since 41*180 is a lot greater than 55*90, this meant the precalculus teacher team I’m on had to make a decision. Should we try to cram the entire curriculum into the shorter time frame or should we strategically eliminate some topics from the course so we can teach the remaining topics in a meaningful way. We chose to eliminate some topics. I did not see this as us somehow lowering our standards. Given the new constraints on time (the block schedule was implemented mainly as a way to reduce student stress during this pandemic year) this was what we determined to be the best plan.

In the math department our current goal of getting students to get a 5 on the AP Calculus test by the end of their senior year definitely depends on the students coming in having already taken ninth grade math. And for some other subject like English where maybe they currently read maybe 20 books in a year (note: again, hypothetical based on a senior literature class I sat in on for a month. 9th grade English classes have more writing projects and less reading, but the books per year is just a metric that I’m using to make it easier to quantify the ‘rigor’ level), it depends on how quickly the incoming students can read and comprehend.

If a new admissions policy creates an incoming class where the students had not already taken 9th grade Algebra, well, then we would have to decide to either 1) teach everyone five years of math in the four year time span so they can take the AP Calculus test in 12th grade or 2) teach everyone four years of math, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus. Maybe some students would be able to take two courses simultaneously, but that would also then require hiring a lot more math teachers and even if we could, would that be a good idea? Why is it so bad if students only make it to precalculus as long as they get a meaningful experience in their four years of math.

You still might be thinking “What a cop out. So if you have less advanced students, you would lower your standard?”

The way I see it, my job is to work as hard as I can to get my students to progress as much as is possible in the time constraint that I am working in. So if I have very advanced students I will work really hard to get them to the next level. And if I have less advanced students I would work just as hard to get them to the next level. It’s not that I have advanced students so I can be lazy because they are already good at math and now that I have less advanced students there’s no way I can get them to the same place I could get those advanced students to because I’m not willing to work hard to get them there. Again, I’m going to work just as hard with whatever group of students I have.

And this is true for teachers all over the city. Staffs at other schools that don’t get the students who aren’t a year ahead already are not thought of as lazy because they are not getting their students through AP Calculus in four years. Yet I feel like when I say, which you can see that I’m getting to, that most likely Stuyvesant would have to reduce its rigor if the admissions policy were to change significantly, that I’m going to be accused of being a lazy teacher who only wants to teach the easy to teach kids but I’m going to lower my standards because it is too much work for me to get a group of kids that aren’t a year ahead to the same place.

I know I buried that in a big paragraph so let me say it more clearly: Stuyvesant would, most likely, have to reduce their rigor if the admissions policy changed significantly.

But before you get angry at me for saying this, let me say this next thing:

I don’t think this means that we should not change the admissions policy.

If we had a different group of students with different strengths and different weaknesses than the group that we have with the current admissions policy, there would be an evolution where if we needed to adjust the curriculum so our students can be successful and have a meaningful experience, we would make adjustments. Over a period of a few years, we would become the kind of school where the students under the new admissions policy can thrive.

Some people might think that the rigor of Stuyvesant should be preserved at all costs. They worry that changing the admissions policy runs the risk of needing to reduce the rigor and if that rigor for them is the defining feature of Stuyvesant then for them this reduced rigor would mean that Stuyvesant was somehow destroyed.

While I believe that a new admissions policy could lead to the reduced rigor, I don’t think that it would destroy Stuyvesant. Maybe the new Stuyvesant would be even better. What we could lose in rigor might be more than balanced out by the strengths that the students under the new admissions policy would bring.

Of course this would all depend on what the new admissions policy is and that is something I’ll leave for another post.

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28 Responses to Questions about the specialized high school admissions process from a specialized high school teacher. Part 4 “Is Stuyvesant too rigorous?”

  1. peter kleinbard says:



  2. Chris Moth says:

    It is fascinating that no score-segregated public school test score have ever been bench-marked against students in college-prep tracks at our integrated schools. I suspect that is because our School Boards do not want to face the reality that the score-segregated schools, beloved by “winning parents”, are accomplishing nothing good for our school districts. Learning that might involve making changes to districts. And our School Boards, before all else, loathe anything that might cause a single parent to mutter.

    Schools like Stuyvesant in NYC, and Hume Fogg in Nashville, may have been originally setup to foster racial diversity. But over the years, as race-based lotteries were dropped, as their neghborhoods gentrified, these schools have evolved into elitist destinations for more affluent students, with no measurable improvement in academic outcome for all the test score screens.

    Today, Stuyvesant is directly comparable to ultra-$-segregated Scarsdale High in Westchester County. How did we allow that to happen?

    Asked a different way, which requires a thought experiment: What is it about allowing a course to run for kids in the second quartile of test scores, that damages the experiences the top-quartile kids in AP Calculus? Why are we so glued to the idea that “education” must equal screening of children from entering the front door (formerly by race, increasingly by zip code, and now by test score)? Are those screens really so different in their effect (creating large pools of losers fleeing to surrounding suburbs without lottery games) at end of day?

    The reform movement has shown us for the 232nd time, that reading and math scores correlate beautifully to household income, (and first gen immigrants of course have a bit lower incomes – and are a different statistic) Why is is so critical to exclude 3/4 or 90%, or some other percentage of kids from the front door of a school to call the school “rigorous”?

    Until we in the traditional public school community realize our own hypocrisy’s on segregation, “lottery losing” parents naturally are going to naturally clamor for segregation in the form of charter schools and vouchers.

    Why do we cling so tightly to our “you lose the lottery letters”, our “rah rah Stuyvesand and Hume Fogg” and simultaneously deride those lottery losers who ask the natural question “What about my kid, and the bad luck letter you sent home with them?”

  3. NYC public school parent says:

    “Would Stuyvesant need to reduce its ‘rigor’ for this other group of students?”

    I would guess that most people unfamiliar with the specialized high schools and especially Stuyvesant might be surprised that in some ways, Stuyvesant’s “rigor” is similar to what students in honors tracks at most good high schools experience.

    For example, this is how the Stuyvesant math curriculum is described:
    “our goal in the math department is to get as many students as possible into an AP Calculus course by 12th grade”

    In other words, many current students fully meet the “rigorous” math standards at Stuyvesant by taking – their senior year – AP Calculus AB. Gary, are seniors who meet the the rigorous Stuy math curriculum by taking AP Calculus AB even required to take the AP Exam (especially as scores aren’t released until they are already admitted to college, during the summer before their first year of college)?

    And the Stuy math department goal is to get “as many students as possible” of the current students – admitted via the SHSAT – to take AP Calc by their senior year, which leaves open the possibility that some current Stuy students don’t even take any AP Calculus in high school.

    What makes Stuyvesant unusual is that there is an unusually rigorous math curriculum with high level math courses for students with astonishingly high math abilities, and what makes Stuyvesant unusual is that there is an astonishingly high number of students who want and are capable of taking those advanced math classes. But while there are likely a lot more students like that at Stuy than at any other American high school, are those incredibly gifted math students the majority of the Stuyvesant student body? Or are they a relatively small percentage of the 900 students? The majority of students at Stuy are considered to be fully meeting the “rigor” of Stuy by taking AP Calculus AB their senior year in high school.

    Gary, I think it would be incredibly helpful to this discussion if you break down the percentage of students in the various math tracks because if the majority of Stuyvesant students are fully meeting the rigor of Stuyvesant by taking AP Calculus AB their senior year in high school, that isn’t really any different than most good high schools and I think it is incorrect for people to argue that Stuy would “lose rigor” by expanding admissions criteria instead of simply having SHSAT-only admissions.

    For example, is this a typical Stuy student math breakdown?

    20% of Stuy seniors graduate having taken Math class beyond AP Calculus BC
    40% of Stuy seniors graduate having taken AP Calculus BC as their highest level math class
    30% of Stuy seniors graduate having taken AP Calculus AB as their highest level math class
    10% of Stuy seniors graduate without having taken AP Calculus AB. (Presumably they took precalculus, or a non-AP Calculus class or perhaps AP Statistics as a 4th year math class).

    That hypothetical breakdown seems like I may have overestimated how far advanced in math most Stuyvesant students get. If even 50% of the seniors graduate having taken Math at level AP Calculus BC or higher at Stuyvesant, that is certainly an impressive accomplishment.

    But I think it is important for readers to understand that there are currently a fair number – is it the majority? – of Stuy students admitted via the SHSAT who are considered to be meeting the full “rigor” of Stuy by only getting as far in Math as AP Calculus AB their senior year. What percentage is that? And what percentage of Stuy students don’t even meet that standard of rigor despite the Stuyvesant Math department working toward the admirable goal of having all students complete an AP Calculus course before graduating?

    There is no doubt that for the students who want it, Stuyvesant offers some of the most advanced math classes in any high school in America. But how can we have this discussion without knowing how many students at Stuyvesant that is? We know that currently, via the SHSAT, Stuyvesant admits other students (possibly the majority of students?) who aren’t aspiring to taking high school math beyond AP Calculus AB their senior year at Stuy. So why would Stuyvesant have to reduce their rigor if they admitted other students – without regard to their SHSAT score – who demonstrated an interest and affinity for math in middle school? They may not be the geniuses that some of the students at Stuy taking those incredibly advanced math classes surely are. But they will likely be like all the other Stuy students who aren’t taking those incredibly advanced math classes.

    • garyrubinstein says:

      It’s not the official goal of the math department to get the students to take Calculus, but it does seem that way sometimes. So most schools maybe have an AB AP Calc class and probably no BC AP Calc class. Stuyvesant has about 8 BC classes and I think 12 AB classes. It is common for students to get 5 on the AP test, I don’t think there are many 3s. The ‘rigor’ means that we really go deeply into the content with proofs and things like that while it is also possible to to AB calc in a purely algorithmic way just to pass the test.

      I think there are about 70 students who take Precalc and BC and the same time their Junior year and then they can take those advanced electives their senior year. There are also probably another 30 kids who come in having already taken Geometry so those students also can take one of those electives senior year. So maybe about 10% to 15% take one of those advanced courses. Of course there is more than just math so there are students who instead take an advanced elective in some other course instead.

      • NYC public school parent says:

        Thank you, this is very helpful.

        So perhaps 100 Stuy students — which would be an unbelievably high number in most schools – take those super advanced math classes. But 85% of the Stuyvesant students don’t take those super advanced math classes. The highest level class that 85% of the students take is Calculus, and the majority of students aren’t even taking Calculus BC, they take Calculus AB. And some percentage of current students don’t take any AP Calculus at all.

        Gary, you said “It is common for students to get 5 on the AP test, I don’t think there are many 3s.” Are Stuyvesant seniors required to take AP Exams? Because after I posted, I
        I realized that the NYSED data website now posts “AP/IB Reports” for each high school. (Only for last 2 years). It has number of students who are enrolled in AP classes and number who take the AP Exam (and % of students who get a 3 and above).

        I looked at the Stuyvesant data for 2018-19, which was pre-pandemic:

        The NYSED lists each high school’s AP Course participation by grade. Assuming it is accurate, in 2018-19, a total of 452 seniors (out of 823 seniors) were enrolled in either Calculus AB or BC. That’s 55% of them taking AP Calculus, but most of those in Calc AB. Even if another 100 seniors had already taken Calculus junior year or earlier, that still only totals 552 seniors in a graduating class of 823. What about the other 271 seniors who graduated in 2019? Did they not take Calculus?

        Stuyvesant students who took the AP Calculus exams did extraordinarily well on it, with 92% and 93% getting a 3 or higher. (The NYSED doesn’t break down the numbers of 3s, 4s, and 5s.) But only 387 seniors of the 452 enrolled in an AP Calculus class took one of the AP Calc exams that year. And of those 387 seniors who took one of the AP Calc exams, only 360 got a 3 or higher. That’s still a very impressive number of students by any measurement, but since there were 823 seniors, that also means that taking any math beyond AP Calc AB at Stuy is not what the majority of current Stuy students do, and some already choose not to take any AP Calc at all. I suspect that would surprise some readers.

        Isn’t it important to dispel the myth that the expected “rigor” is beyond what most strong and motivated students could ever hope to achieve? If 1/4 or more of the 2019 seniors didn’t take AP Calculus and that is perfectly acceptable, why is discussion about admitting strong students with somewhat lower SHSAT scores always infused with “couldn’t handle the work” or “would cause Stuy classes to to lower their rigor”?

        At worse, it seems that there might be fewer AP Calculus classes and more of the 4th year math classes that (presumably) 1/4 of the 2019 seniors took. It would have no affect on the rigor of the higher level math classes for the students who want those.

        Those 55% of Stuy seniors in 2019 who only took AP Calc AB or no calculus at all didn’t affect the rigor of the more advanced math classes that other Stuy students take, did they?

        All of big 3 specialized high schools have advanced math classes and advanced humanities classes. No doubt the overall percentage of students who take those advanced classes at Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech may be lower than at Stuyvesant. But that has no affect on the rigor of the class for the students who are in those classes, does it?

        Stuyvesant offers the most rigorous curriculum to students who want it, but Stuyvesant does not expect students who don’t want that rigorous curriculum to take it. The “rigor” expectation at Stuyvesant is much lower than what many outsiders understand, because they assume all students are similar to the most advanced students. But in fact, Stuyvesant students currently are not expected nor required to take any math beyond Calculus AB (and not even that is required) and not required to take any AP or honors humanities courses. Their choice not to take those classes doesn’t affect the students who do. It does not require a lower level of “rigor”.

        (FYI, the NYSED website does have that Stuy AP data for 2019-2020, but I did not want to make assumptions from an outlier year. In 2019-20, 712 out of 842 Stuy seniors were enrolled in AP Calc classes — but almost 2/3 of those AP Calc seniors were in Calc AB and not BC. And only 540 seniors took one of the AP Calc exams, with only 505 getting a 3 or higher, which is understandable given the pandemic and was why I didn’t want to use that year as reference.)

        My main point is that Stuyvesant already offers classes with different levels of rigor, and in fact, students are discouraged from taking too many of the most rigorous classes. Some still do, but many don’t. The ones who don’t have no affect on the rigor of the classes for those who do. I doubt anyone would think it was a good idea for all students at Stuyvesant to take all AP classes. And there should be nothing wrong with students to choose to take no AP classes. It shouldn’t be mischaracterized as “reducing rigor”, which insinuates that the current students would suffer if there were more students who didn’t take the most rigorous classes. Why not think of it as leaving Stuyvesant’s “rigor” exactly the same — except there might be fewer students who took advantaged of the most rigorous classes that have never been for the majority of Stuyvesant students anyway?

  4. NYC public school parent says:

    One additional comment about what I see as an incorrect definition of “rigor” and my question about what “reduced rigor” even means – but with regard to humanities courses and not Math.

    From the post above:
    “So the SHSAT requires reading quickly and maybe long ago they would read 15 books a year (note: this number of books a year number is just hypothetical) but the students were finding it too easy — everyone was getting a 100 average. ”

    What does being able to quickly read and comprehend books have to do with getting 100 average? Doesn’t the English curriculum include writing about books, not just reading them? Unless the teachers back then were either giving multiple choice tests or giving grades of 100 to all the students in the class for their essays, I don’t really understand how this could be.

    Literature isn’t about reading lots of books quickly. Just like in Math, Stuyvesant has higher level literature and Social Studies classes for the students who want that. But not all students do, and Stuyvesant already has classes for students who want more or less “rigor”. I think it is somewhat insulting to assume that just because a student got a lower SHSAT score, they would be unable to meet the same standard of “rigor” that Stuy students currently meet when they don’t choose one of the more advanced Humanities classes. Of course there are students at Stuyvesant that go well beyond that standard, but there are also many students who are fine meeting the basic standard of “rigor” that Stuy expects but not going beyond that.

    • garyrubinstein says:

      I oversimplified what goes on in the English department when I said the 20 books thing. I sat in on a course once for a month and they read 2 books, but that was a literature class. The freshmen don’t read 20 books, they do a lot of writing and also reading shorter things like poetry. But what I was trying to get at is that the Stuy students could read 20 books a year if you asked them to and I don’t know that there are thousands of more students who can do that if a new policy replaces all the would-be Stuy students with other students. Then again, maybe there are.

  5. mjpledger says:

    I still want to know what Stuyvesant thinks are the things it wants to give it’s students. The quote “Sleep, grades, and social life. You can’t have all three, you have to pick two.” implies that it’s not about the kids’ health or their growth into well-adjusted adjusted adults. It seems like a competition to nowhere.

    • garyrubinstein says:

      That principal who used to say that was forced to resign about 10 years ago amidst a cheating scandal. We do not say anything like that to the students anymore. There are a lot of initiatives and discussions about not putting too much pressure on the students.

      • mjpledger says:

        But what is your goal for your students? What’s your mission? Reading 16 books instead of 15 might be “right” in terms of how hard the course is – the point, it seems, is that it makes is easier to determine who is “best”. But is it the right thing to make the students better educated, better learners and better people?

        I think it would be really interesting to survey your graduates at 30 and see what they thought of their high school education.

  6. Chris Moth says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments.

    Though, I’m shocked that no one else is questioning whether Stuyvesant should exist as a public school. I am sure it should not exist. And, I am yearning to hear the argument that shows me wrong.

    Instead of asking the larger question, we talk about “rigor”, as if we are presenting the next Great Hearts Charter school expansion city plan.

    We should be discussing “rigor” of course, but only in the context of AP Calculus courses at EVERY high school in this country. Until Stuyvesant is dismantled, we should at least demand those data that tell us AP Calculus takers at Stuyvesant “do better” than AP Calculus takers at normal public schools schools that do not screen out the bottom 90% of students fundamentally.

    How can we all scream so loudly against charter schools, against “choice”, against standardized testing and simultaneously be silent about the existence of Stuyvesant, with its test score screens, and Great-Hearts-ish internal debate about “rigor”?

    Could it be that the right-wingers have had a point all along, and that our diatribes against choice and testing are simply us hypocritically protecting our teacher unions? Surely not. But…. Stuyvesant? Really? Why again is it allowed to exist? What possible purpose does the existence of Stuyvesant serve in 2021?

    • NYC public school parent says:

      Chris Moth,
      You are conflating two separate discussions. The first – which is the point of Gary’s post – is about “rigor” as regards to Stuyvesant. I happen to think that there are thousands of well-qualified students who don’t get one of the top 4,300 SHSAT scores who could handle the “rigor” at Stuyvesant and other specialized high schools, but because of SHSAT-only admissions, and the arms race for students to outscore the other 20,000+ students taking the SHSAT, those students are MIA and erroneously considered to all be unable to handle the rigor, for absolutely no reason except a nonsensical belief that “no students who did not get one of the top 4,300 SHSAT scores can handle the rigor”. There is no proof of this (and plenty of evidence that isn’t the case), and that erroneous belief has led to a test prep arms race, because the more some kids prep, the more other kids have to prep, which means the other kids have to prep more, which means the other kids have to prep even more, and so on, to get one of the 4,300 highest scores.)

      But the discussion you want to have is important, too. “How can we all scream so loudly against charter schools, against “choice”, against standardized testing and simultaneously be silent about the existence of Stuyvesant, with its test score screens, and Great-Hearts-ish internal debate about “rigor”?

      First of all, NYC has had high school “choice” for many, many years — having “choice” is separate from the question you imply, which is “does that choice include a privately operated charter school that the DOE is ordered by Cuomo appointees to fund but that the Cuomo appointees alone have oversight over?” It’s no different from the question of whether “choice” should include vouchers. I support public school choice, but not vouchers and what are voucher equivalents for charters. I support choice for public schools overseen by the public school system. That choice should not include any school that is not operated and overseen by the public school system, period.

      Surely you understand that NYC being forced by Cuomo-appointed non-educator charter supporters to fund and find space for privately operated charters over which they have no control is not a debate about “choice”. It is a debate about privatization, oversight, protecting children, and who gets to decide how taxpayer funds are spent.

      Furthermore, I oppose charter schools because they are dishonest and that dishonesty has not just benefited the greedy folks running charters, but it has directly harmed public schools. Stuyvesant does not hold itself out as a miracle-worker demanding more resources. Stuyvesant excludes students. It is up front about that. Many “choice” public high schools exclude students and they are up front about that. Those “choice” public high schools existed long before charters and everyone knew exactly what they were because they do not pretend to be something they are not to destroy other public schools that don’t choose students.

      Charters have staked their existence on dishonesty. The “successful” ones take resources and funding directly from public schools by reducing their budgets, but what is worse is that they also get tens of millions of dollars in private donations from people who oppose public schools, because they push the false narrative that they aren’t simply magnet public schools that pick and choose students, but they have discovered some secret sauce that “failing” public schools refuse to use due to the ineptitude and/or laziness of teachers and administrators.

      You may think that education reporters would have to be totally stupid to accept without question a “top performing” charter school that only manages to keep a fraction of its students. And charters in non-urban areas have not had the success that urban charters do — most likely because if they shed disproportionately high percentages of middle class white students and graduated a fraction of the students who began there, no education reporter would believe the false narrative that middle class white parents voluntarily pulled their children from the highest performing charter in the state because they just preferred that their kid be less educated in a failing, underfunded public school instead. (It’s why BASIS Charters in Arizona could never push that false narrative). But education reporters seem to accept that false narrative for urban charter schools because the students who disappear are disproportionately non-white and poor — clearly there is a lot of implicit racism in how education reporters accept the false narrative of “bad parents” and “bad kids” that urban charters put out. If those “bad parents” and “bad kids” were white, education reporters would likely ask a lot more questions about why so many disappeared, instead of dutifully reporting on what a miracle education the charter provided, turning the same students who are failing in public schools into high performing scholars.

      There is also a lot of implicit racism in education reporters’ incredulous acceptance that charter schools aren’t cherry picking because they all accept the false narrative that it would be impossible to find so many students who are African American or Latino who can perform well academically. That relates a bit to SHSAT-only admissions, because while proficiency rates for African American and Latinx students are lower than for white and Latinx students, the proficiency rates are not zero or 1%. They aren’t 10%. The proficiency rates for the student population who are MIA from specialized high schools are 35% – 40%. And since that MIA population comprises 67% of the NYC school system, it means that the number of proficient NYC public school students who are African American and Latino is very close to the number of proficient NYC public school students who are white and Asian. How many people understand that in 3rd – 8th grade alone (the state testing years) there were nearly 90,000 African American and Latino students who were proficient or higher on the state ELA exam? In 2019, there were 12,500 African American and Latino 7th graders in NYC public schools who were proficient or higher on their state ELA exam. (No doubt there were hundreds or even thousands more in charter schools). Over 3,400 of those public school 7th graders tested at level 4 (with an additional number in charter schools) – which is the most advanced proficiency level. And yet the next year, SHSAT-only admissions resulted in only around 500 students who are African American or Latino getting offers. To me, that is what this discussion is about. It is why discussing “rigor” is meaningful because it seems that there is a belief that the 500 African American and Latino students who score among the top 4,300 on the SHSAT are the only ones who could handle the rigor of a specialized high school, but there is no evidence that is true.

      But I don’t understand why are you bringing privately operated charters — an entirely different matter — into a discussion of magnet schools?

      What you seem to want to discuss is whether or not to support the existence of magnet schools. Some magnet schools are selective, like Stuyvesant. Some magnet schools are lottery-based – like a myriad of NON-CHARTER public schools – which accept any student who wins the lottery. But non-charter public schools that admit via a lottery are overseen by the public school system and cannot cherry pick students by abusing them so their obligation to educate that student ends.

      I don’t oppose having more public magnet schools that admit by lottery, like charters. Someone who supports charters for their freedom to weed out lottery winners who they don’t want to teach could make a decent argument that we need more public magnet schools that accept by lottery but are given total freedom to dump any students who they just find too much bother to teach (for a variety of reasons) just like charters do. And that is an important discussion to have, in my opinion, although it has nothing to do with Gary’s posts about Stuyvesant. Do you think public school systems should be creating a lot more public magnet schools that are exactly like charters — students are chosen during a random lottery and while any can enroll, the magnet school has the power to ruthlessly cull any of the students they decide are not worth teaching? I think that is a discussion to have. We could also have the discussion about whether it is good public policy to hand over the right to establish and use taxpayer money to fund privately operated magnet schools that ruthless cull their student population that have no oversight except a charter board that supports having more privately operated schools of that type. I happen to think it is absurd to privatize the part of public education that is easiest (and cheapest) and socialize the part that is most difficult and most expensive. No one would support it if charters were honest — but they might support having the public school system itself establishing more magnet schools that ruthlessly cull lottery winners the way so-called “successful” charters do.

      But that’s an entirely different discussion. This discussion is about whether – in a school system of over 1 million students – high school students very motivated to learn should be placed into honors and AP classes in larger schools that have students with a range of abilities, or whether it is good or bad that high school students very motivated to learn can be in a large selective high school that excludes students who aren’t motivated to learn or excludes students who don’t already demonstrate an above average proficiency in math and ELA. And this discussion is about how students are chosen to attend those public schools for high school students very motivated to learn and whether the selection process — specifically a single exam taken by 8th graders — is a good idea.

      Regardless of how you feel about whether having public schools for more motivated or accelerated students is good or bad, I think we all agree that it is a bad idea to let a privately operator run such schools.

      One question I have for you: Say we do as you want and abolish all specialized high schools and all selective public high schools. And instead a group of outsiders is empowered to open the equivalent of BASIS Charter Schools or Great Hart Charters, which end up in practice excluding all but the highest performing students. That group of outsiders gets taxpayer dollars to keep expanding to establish more BASIS Charter Schools – with no oversight except for a distant board of political appointed lawyers who support charters. So instead of Stuyvesant and other specialized high schools, we have outsourced the education of the most motivated students and families to privately operated charters who “accept any student” but make it clear even before the lottery that the expectations for students will be extremely high and excludes a high percentage of students.

      Why is that better? If there are going to be public schools that exclude students who aren’t already high performing — and in the history of NYC public education there have been schools like that for 75 or more years — those schools should be part of the system. You can’t talk about shutting down the publicly operated choice schools like that without addressing the fact that would simply empower privately operated charters to establish the equivalent of those schools instead. The only people who benefit from moving that part of education to privately operated charters is privately operated charters and those who want to undermine public education.

      I don’t think that the SHSAT-only admissions is working. But the issue of whether to have public high schools for students more motivated to learn or just separate accelerated or honors classes in regular high schools is far more complicated and I can appreciate the various arguments on both sides.

      • Chris Moth says:

        Thanks for taking the time for the fresh and detailed perspective. It is a _terrible_ idea to let a private operator run any “public” school.

        We can’t have a meaningful discussion on “rigor at Stuyvesant” until we widely agree on _why_ the school exists in the first place. Yes, its been here in various forms, over a century. What was the school trying to accomplish when those screens were set? Why does it exist today, with the high entrance screen? that “why” must inform the “rigor” debate…..

        Filling in some gaps a big…

        I was sad to learn that Gary Rubinstein teaches at Stuyvesant, though this is entirely understandable. In Nashville, we also tend to see passionate teachers percolating to our most segregated public schools. (In Nashville, integrated public schools are more challenged with high teacher burnout and turnover, unfilled positions, and other woes. At test-segregated public schools, we hear teachers say routinely “I would not teach anywhere else”)

        I had the pleasure of visiting some high schools in Westchester County a few years ago. There, segregation is performed with razor-sharp precision, by affluence bands.

        At Scarsdale, Edgemont, and Eastchester, you can dial your average SAT score with your house price. It is striking that affluence segregation is sufficient to accomplish the same output observable test scores as Stuyvesant. To this thread’s discussion on “rigor,” note that for a time, Scarsdale ditched AP altogether, and the SAT score outputs were doubtless unmoved:

        All to say, as to how “I feel about…”… It is not “a feeling.” Affluent suburbs tend to have ZERO choice. And parents flock to those choice-free systems to escape the stresses of integrated schools. In NYC, in Nashville, across the country.

        When we (on team public school) embrace un-defined terms like “rigor”, and “highly motivated students”, “unmotivated students” , “high expectations”, “excellence” and “quality”, we are directly playing into the privatizers’ hands. When selling their charter schools the charlatans put these meaningless terms all over their marketing literature. All these words are merely code-words for our inner subconscious search for racial and economic segregation. At end of day, “School Choice” is about nothing but a search for the comforts of segregation and exclusion. And after affluence, test score screens deliver that comfort spectacularly.

        In this thread about rigor, we must first ask if Stuyvesant is accomplishing ANYTHING for the students who attend it. Stuyvesant is creaming the top 1% of New York high school students. Yet

        notes “As of 2018, Stuyvesant students’ average SAT score was 1490 of 1600 points.” Data become harder to analyze at ends of bell curves. But, it is likely the case that these output scores are nothing more than a direct reflection of the admission test score screen. And if that all these high scores are, why again does this school exist? (I am amazed that our urban school systems never take a moment to ask whether the test segregation is helping either the Stuyvesant- attending kids, or district as a whole. Yet our systems cling to score-segregation with an iron fist.)

        To your question, YES – I definitely want to abolish all selective public schools. In an equitable system, we’d see at every high school an ACT average score of 20, an average SAT of around 1,000, and standard deviations around those scores that would give us confidence every child’s needs are being met. 25% of the graduates would be off to college, 1% to Ivy Leagues, 5% to jail (though maybe less if our school systems did not cluster our poorest together through offering us so many flight-by-choice options)

        I hear your fear that ending school choice and replacing it with Finland-esque focus to educate every child will open opportunities for the charter charlatans. I agree we are definitely in a cart-and-horse situation with segregation and choice in our urban public school systems. Parents at the segregated schools will say “Fix your school before you change ours”. But when pressed, “OK, should we segregate all our schools with a test like yours?” the answer is a resounding “no”. Parents in the “in” group don’t want to expand the club.

        Until we in this country can wrap our heads around the natural variability of student math and reading scores, and stop fearing that, then we are all doomed to believe Newsweek when it tells us the test-screened schools are hands-down “the very best of the best”. And we’ll be stay doomed to keep asking ourselves how “rigorous” AP calculus courses should be at a school that 99% of kids can’t step into.

        We need to think bigger. If we public school advocates are unwilling to set aside our myopic debates, unwilling to stand up to the “best of the best” nonsense of Newsweek, we are being complicit in fragmentation by “choice”. No one except for us, in this country, is remotely informed or skilled enough to call out Stuyvesant for what it is: a fraud.

        I enjoyed this in your note, “Charters have staked their existence on dishonesty. The “successful” ones take resources and funding directly from public schools by reducing their budgets.”

        Are you sure that the AP course offerings at the integrated high schools in NYC have not been reduced as the required critical mass of “motivated students has been creamed off to Newsweek’s Top 10? Are you sure Stuyvesant is being “honest”, when it claims excellence, skill, and wisdom (in Latin no less) on its home page?.

        Why again does Stuyvesant exist in 2021? Answer that, and the answer to the calculus rigor question will be obvious 🙂

      • Chris Moth says:

        Thanks all. Ignorant I definitely am, absolutely – but you have all helped a little to improve that problem. Thanks.

        Elsewhere, I am going to keep after my annoying “whys” – which just eat at me to my core…

        – Why do ultra-score segregated schools emerge in urban areas almost exclusively?
        – Why do they (or their screens) arise primarily in the 1970s. Is that not coincidental with court-ordered busing?
        – Why are the academic and social impacts of score-segregated schools never followed through, never studied with anything approaching statistical rigor, after their creation.
        – Why do we tolerate wait lists for public schools? Or equivalently….
        – Why is score/affluence/etc-segregation not assured to every family that might like it?

        I had a delightful chat with an African American lady at a church in Scarsdale Sunday morning a few years back. “How do you like living here?” “Well, we loved the city – living in Harlem – but when the kids did not get into their choice of academic public schools, we knew we did not want to attend a charter. We love it here. We never have to worry what school the kids go to”.

        One conversation does not make for an analysis. But it eats at me. And the charters keep waving the “Come to us – and you can stop worrying” flag. I just so wish our urban public schools would wave that flag. Instead, they say “Here are the options to leave – and good luck!”

        I’m sure I’ll eventually figure out the “whys”.

        Best to NYC. Where you lead, we’ll arrive in another 15 years – so get the rigor in AP Calculus figured out please!

        Again, thanks all!

      • NYC public school parent says:

        Chris Moth,
        Good questions. And I did not intend to use “ignorant” to insult you, but to mean that you had a lack of knowledge of some of the specifics in NYC. I should have used a better word, however, so I apologize.

        “Why do ultra-score segregated schools emerge in urban areas almost exclusively?”

        Size. Small school districts often have honors classes within the schools, however. There aren’t enough students to have an entirely test score segregated school.

        Scarsdale school system K – 8 is 4,800 students. That’s about 380 students per grade. NYC has over one million students! Nearly 80,000 students per grade. If the entire 8th grade class in Scarsdale went to Stuyvesant, they’d only fill up half the 9th grade seats (and Stuyvesant is only one of 9 specialized high schools). NYC can have specialized high schools and still have many other public high schools that attract students with a range of academic strengths, and those public high schools have honors and AP classes, too.

        NYC could do what Westchester County does and have school segregation by zip code – a family can move to the right neighborhood like Scarsdale and not just be guaranteed a seat in their excellent public school, but also be guaranteed that no child who doesn’t live in that right neighborhood will be in class with their child. Is that better? There are school systems in Westchester that are primarily poor, but no one seems to care very much about helping them, nor about allowing them to attend other affluent (and mostly white) public schools in Westchester.

        There was a time 20 years ago when many NYC parents would move to the suburbs when their kids were of school age. Sometimes they would use the NYC public elementary schools and move for middle school (or choose private schools). Sometimes they would move to the suburbs for high school or perhaps choose a private school if their kid didn’t get into Stuyvesant. But that flight from the city lessened, and it had nothing to do with the specialized high schools. There are overcrowded, primarily affluent neighborhood public schools that 10 or 15 years ago were primarily poor. The school boundaries didn’t change, but the number of parents who lived within those boundaries and sent their kids to the public schools did.

        Screened public schools are not coincidental with court-ordered busing in NYC, as far as I can tell. They are probably coincidental with Mayor Bloomberg’s having high school choice. But you would probably be surprised at how many large NYC public schools get the most applications from 8th graders when they rank their high school choices. Midwood High School, Frances Lewis High School, Murrow High School, Maspeth High School, Forest Hills High School, Bayside High School, and James Madison High School. (Side note: James Madison is where Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went. It is 75% economically disadvantaged, but offers AP classes to students – albeit just a small percentage of students are in them. Those schools may screen somewhat, but they all serve a wide range of learners.)

        You are correct that NYC can be a stressful place for parents and students navigating the very complicated public school system. On the other hand, families that move to the suburbs to avoid it often end up in far more economically segregated schools that are not nearly as diverse as they would have experienced in public high schools in NYC.

      • Chris Moth says:

        Thanks much. This fundamental appeal to “size” is most interesting to reflect on. I’m going to think about that more.

        It was wrong of me to conflate those challenges in Nashville with the structure of NYC. Thanks for helping me see below the surface-impressions that were misplaced.

        It’s frustrating that we can’t have a system where there is no reason to run from public school X to public school Z. Someday. Maybe someday 🙂 Though, perhaps never in NYC, for the reasons you’ve all well and patiently outlined.

        nyteacher is absolutely right on “Getting rid of a part of an ecosystem before you understand it can be disastrous” Indeed, when court-ordered busing arrived in Nashville in 1970, within a few years, the school system cratered from 90,000 kids to 52,000. Though, that could have happened because the courts actually understood the ecosystem all too well.

        [Like Buttons] all round,


    • nyteacher says:

      From my experience as a teacher and student at NYC.

      1) The purpose of Stuyvesant or gifted programs or any specialized school or programs is to keep parents (middle class +) invested in the public school system. Without them, you basically have everyone that “can” will either enroll their kids in charter, private or catholic schools. This is already happening with them so without them, it will accelerate further weakening the public school system in NY. Unless you want a system in which the rich and middle class go for private or catholic and the poor have either “weaker” public schools or if they are lucky charters. I believe that is a worse system than the current one. Unless you can force everyone to go to public schools, there will always will be “segregation” as you put it. Getting everyone in the public school system will never happen because of “freedom”. I don’t think the current system is great but alternatives I seen or heard are much worse or not attractive to those that have “skin” in the system.

      2) I am not against charters because I know why parents or people want them. If you are in a district and all the local schools are failing (recent example : , and you can’t afford to put your child in catholic school, your child is basically trap in “failing” public schools and this is not an issue that schools don’t have money, it is mismanagement or corruption. (At least in failing charters, they will be eliminated eventually, failing public are not but prop up by tax payers money). Charters provide these parents “hope” and option to escape that, so it is not about ” search for the comforts of segregation and exclusion.” They want the same options as middle class or rich parents and I don’t blame them. No one (if they can) will send their kids to failing public schools, not even you. The ones that do, have no choice and that is usually the people in poverty. In all the public schools, I worked in, even though they are not necessary failing, almost all the teachers, school workers and admins send their kids to either catholic, private, charters, specialized/gifted or suburban schools. Heck even the politicians and activists that advocate public schools send their kids not to their local public schools. Im not advocating for charters but the hypocrisy is nauseating.

      3) In my personal opinion, I do think most the “anti charter” talk is fundamentally because of teacher union. There could be other reasons of course but the main reason is teacher union don’t like them because it challenges their money and power. Teacher unions get money (dues) from teachers (us) and use it to advocate for democrat or progressive party (NY teacher union donates a ton of money to Georgia senate races for example). The democrat party in turn give teachers favorable contracts or money for schools that will eventually circulate back to union. Corruption 101. Right now, NYC schools are going to get full money from fair funding as well from state or federal relief. So technically, NYC schools can have smaller class sizes. which was the goal of increasing funding. My bet is nothing is fundamentally will change because of corruption in doe or union or govt, etc.Class sizes wont change much if at all.

      4) In my opinion, getting rid of stuyvesant wont fix the system or issue (it might make it worse as i pointed out). Stuyvesant has like 3000 students. There is like 1 million+ students in the NYC system (assuming Covid haven’t drastically lowered numbers) so like 0.3% students. There is a large of amount of students that are falling through the cracks in the public school system which is ignored by media or activists or bloggers etc. People make a big deal about stuyvesant as a distraction because actually solving the “real” problem of poorly managed schools whether public or charter takes real work. If you want to blame someone, blame the govt, mayor, doe. (people with the actual power). Going after certain schools or programs is just a distraction.

      • Chris Moth says:

        myteacher, Your voice resonates strong with what I hear from teachers at score-segregated magnets in Nashville.

        My tired rebuttal 🙂 goes like this:

        1) If the purpose of Stuyvesant is “to keep parents (middle class +) invested in the public school system”, and that purpose is noble, then what purpose does it serve to not test-exclude the next 25%? What purpose does it serve to tell only a few families with $100K+ incomes “We’ve a few test-segregated schools for you. Good luck!” Surely this purpose, middle+ class retention, would be better served by allocating school admission based on income bands, as is done in Westchester County. I.e…. “Show us your tax return. OK, here is your school – no screen required”.

        That the test screens arrived in 1972 tell me that they are a myopic invention of a distant state Assembly in response to the national cross town busing court order, and that parents were screaming at the legislature to get away from the stresses of integration. That’s sort of how these screens emerged elsewhere. In Nashville, the score-segregated schools were court-ordered in 1981, ostensibly to boost integration. They started with two lotteries – black kids and white – to fix a 1:2 ratio. I’m not seeing that kind of thing in the history of Stuyvesant. Those ratios were dispensed with by our board in 1999, when the courts let go… and the score-segregated Hume Fogg looks like a suburban school. Just as surely as pictures of kids from Stuyvesant are directly comparable to Scarsdale.

        It is amazing that for 50 years the same Assembly never once bothered to mandate some analysis on whether Stuyvesant has done anything to help the students who attend it, in test score terms.

        My hypothesis is that in 2020 America is at a much more interesting place racially than in 1970 – more balanced – less violent. And, I am sure that newer generations of parents are not so hungry to run. And so I believe the pain of Stuyvesan’ts screaming “You lose you lose you lose” to 100,000s of kids who are excluded, coupled with the likely objective mathematical reality that Stuyvesant accomplishes nothing academically for students who attend it. It’s time for the experiment of Finland. Instead of meeting the needs of a very few families 98%, we need to redidciate to meet the needs of all families 92%

        2) There is zero evidence of school failure anywhere, at least not in a test score sense. Half the kids will hit our standards, give or take, half won’t. Output ACT and SAT scores have always correlated to household incomes – and nothing will change that. Those data are repeatable and observable facts. We err greatly to label any of it “failure”.

        Failure cannot possibly be found in a test score. Failure is about crumbling buildings. It is about unfilled teacher positions. It is high schools which are abandoned and AP course offerings dwindle. It is about over-stuffed classrooms where kids get lost. When we extract our best professionals to teach at test-segregated schools, this fuels that fallout. That is strike #2 for me, for Stuyvesant and Nashville’s Hume Fogg.

        We must stop it with the “failure” rhetoric. That is simply false (to wit, it is published in the NY Post 🙂 ), and it fuels the underlying disease infinitely more than the fraud of Stuyvesant cools the fire.

        3) Sadly, I am forced to agree with you on the point that the teacher fight against charters is not noble, and is just about “my job”. If our teachers would stand up for integrated schools, we could all more easily accept their anti-charter rhetoric. But I have been to a Network for Public Education conference – few years back – and asked the furious teachers, “What about test-screened magnets?” after they had spent the day (rightly) deriding charters and onerous work conditions. At the end of the day, sadly, we all want segregation, and cling to it with an iron fist. And I am sure that teacher failure to stand up to test-segregation at Stuyvesant is greatly undermining any chance teachers might have to rail against test-score accountability and segregation by charter. The hypocrisy is stunning. And so, sadly, I agree with your position. (Though I totally support better work conditions for teachers, and I detest charters independently of that – of course).

        4) Your voice here exactly echoes the voices of parents at score-segregated schools in Nashville. They all say “We’re such a small part of the system. Fix everything else – but don’t touch my school.” They just don’t (or refuse to) see how creating a private school, with no discipline problems, with elite teachers, at public expense, fuels distrust of the system by the next 1,000,000 who get the “Sorry – you did not make it” letters.

        Thanks so much for thinking about it all!

        I have tried to follow developments in score-segregation in NYC from afar – and lost track a bit with the pandemic. I thought a number of pro-integration families had rallied the Board(s) to dismantle some of it…… But from this thread, I have to conclude that all flopped. I need to get caught up.

      • NYC public school parent says:

        Chris Moth, your rebuttal isn’t “tired”, but it is ignorant.

        “If the purpose of Stuyvesant is “to keep parents (middle class +) invested in the public school system”, and that purpose is noble, then what purpose does it serve to not test-exclude the next 25%? What purpose does it serve to tell only a few families with $100K+ incomes “We’ve a few test-segregated schools for you. Good luck!”

        Stuyvesant is 45% economically disadvantaged. Brooklyn Tech, an even bigger specialized high school, is 59% economically disadvantaged. Comparing a specialized high school to a suburb like Scarsdale — where the number of poverty stricken families is apparently too low to be listed on the NYSED data site — is disingenuous.

        Furthermore, there are many other NYC public schools — high schools that don’t “test exclude” but do select stronger and more motivated students — and all of them are also far more diverse and also serve both middle class students and economically disadvantaged ones.

        You describe an imaginary place where “you lose” if you can’t attend Stuyvesant or another specialized high school, when there are many, many middle class families in other NYC public high schools. So your point isn’t even supported by the reality.

        “There is zero evidence of school failure anywhere, at least not in a test score sense. Half the kids will hit our standards, give or take, half won’t. Output ACT and SAT scores have always correlated to household incomes – and nothing will change that. Those data are repeatable and observable facts. We err greatly to label any of it “failure”.”

        Yes! That is absolutely true. The ed reform movement that wants to privatize the teaching of students who would otherwise be in Stuyvesant or doing well at other high schools that do and do not have screens are the ones who label the other schools “failures.”

        No one in the specialized high schools calls other schools “failures”. The only people who use that label are those in the ed reform pro-charter industry who spend a lot of PR money to convince motivated parents to go to charters that screen kids but lie to the public and say they don’t because the ed reform movement is more concerned with pleasing the billionaires who believe many kids deserve to rot in those failing public schools, but they should be admired and celebrated for “donating” to educate the chosen few they decide are worthy — as long as those chosen few and their families agree to keep up the charade that they owe their entire success to the charters and the generous billionaires who support it because without their charter, their kids would be utter and complete failures in their public schools. No one has ever said that about Stuyvesant.

        “I have been to a Network for Public Education conference – few years back – and asked the furious teachers, “What about test-screened magnets?” after they had spent the day (rightly) deriding charters and onerous work conditions.”

        Why are you once again pushing that ridiculous normalization of charters? I gave you a comprehensive answer and you ignored it. Test-screened magnets are part of the public school system and overseen by the public school system and they are up front about what they do. I was actually shocked above that you resorted to citing a Latin motto that no one knows to push your false narrative that Stuyvesant lies about providing a miracle education that turns mediocre students into high performing ones, just like charters do.

        Given that you ignored my answer, I would not be surprised if many people at the NPE conference also answered that question but you ignored it as it didn’t fit the false narrative you were pushing. Is honesty important at all in this discussion?

        Maybe you are projecting the situation that exists in Nashville onto NYC, and that’s why you keep discussing issues without regard to the reality in NYC. But you aren’t describing NYC at all.

        “At the end of the day, sadly, we all want segregation, and cling to it with an iron fist.” Maybe that is the situation in Nashville. Again, you are projecting.

        ” And I am sure that teacher failure to stand up to test-segregation at Stuyvesant is greatly undermining any chance teachers might have to rail against test-score accountability and segregation by charter. The hypocrisy is stunning.”

        Since those two things have nothing to do with one another, your hypocrisy is stunning.
        Are you now railing against teachers who don’t rail against having advanced classes in high school? Any teacher who doesn’t fight for every 9th grade student to be in the same math classes, randomly assigned, is a hypocrite and supports segregation?

        We should be able to have a fact-based discussion. There are certainly problems with SHSAT-only admissions at Stuyvesant since there are almost no African-American or Latino students. But whether or not parents believe in magnet high schools for students with high academic achievement or they believe in having honors classes or honors tracks for students with high academic achievement within public schools or if they demand that all honors and AP classes be abolished and high school students be randomly assigned to all their classes throughout the 4 years — none of that has anything to do with whether it is a good thing for a privately operated charter to receive public money to teach the students they want to teach with no oversight from the school system. I have no idea why you keep conflating the two.

      • NYC public school parent says:

        nyteacher says:

        “I am not against charters because I know why parents or people want them. If you are in a district and all the local schools are failing ….this is not an issue that schools don’t have money, it is mismanagement or corruption.”

        If it was “management or corruption”, then charters would welcome every student. They do not. The charters that most ruthlessly shed students are the highest performing. The charters that are for a wider range of students just exclude the most disadvantaged, poverty-stricken at-risk families who don’t have the time or knowledge to seek out a charter or whose kids have special needs that charters won’t accommodate.

        “Charters provide these parents “hope” and option to escape that, so it is not about ”search for the comforts of segregation and exclusion.” They want the same options as middle class or rich parents and I don’t blame them. No one (if they can) will send their kids to failing public schools, not even you. The ones that do, have no choice and that is usually the people in poverty.”

        This is true. But the ones who “can’t escape” aren’t welcome in charters if their kids do not confirm to the expectations of charters. So the solution to that problem is to have lottery based magnets that are real public schools, but that are given the same freedom as charters to counsel out students who don’t fit. There could be enough of those magnets to teach a large population of the NYC public school system.

        But that still leaves open the question of what happens to the rest. The ed reform industry seems to be run by people who would rather have those kids charters don’t want to teach rot than be truthful about their cherry picking and thus endanger their overpaid positions that are subsidized by billionaires who expect them to keep up their false narrative that the way to solve the problems of public educaition is to cut public school budgets, fire lazy union teachers and replace them with “better” inexperienced teachers and subject all those students to the no-excuses discipline that turns all students in failing schools into high performing scholars (but is supposedly not necessary to have in affluent suburbs.)

        What bothers me the most about those charter-driven false narratives that low income students who aren’t white need aggressive discipline is that is sounds very like the police who say “we aren’t racist, we just recognize the folks who need aggressive policing and treat them the way they need to be treated for their own good and the good of others.

        This is off track from the discussion of the admissions policies of specialized high schools and whether such high schools should exist, or whether students who want more advanced high school classes should them in their own high schools, apart from other students, or whether all students from 9th grade shoujld be in the very same classes, regardless of their affinity for that subject or motivation to learn more.

        I don’t know why people keep bringing up charters – they could simply be talking about lottery admission public schools that are overseen by the public school system, which already exists. Maybe we need a lot more of those schools for the most motivated parents who don’t want to be in those “failing” public schools. But it has nothing to do with whether the franchise and funding to run schools for the least expensive to teach students should be handed to a private organization with no oversight from the public school system. Those types of schools that exclude – as charters do – could be run by the public school system and people who believe they are needed should be advocating for them, not for privatizing the public school system.

    • nyteacher says:

      Mr. Moth (im assuming you are a teacher or educator), you dont seem to know or familiar with Stuyvesant or NYC public school system (well duh, you not in NYC), but it seems “NYC public school parent” address most of it. NYC public schools system is very complex and not easy to navigate. It is the largest public school system in the nation after all. So if you want to understand why Stuyvesant exists or its place in the system, you would need to have a better understanding of NYC public school system and what happens in these schools. There is a lot of complexity and nuance. As “NYC public school parent” pointed out, the most of the student body at specialized hs are from poverty backgrounds. I think they are from asian poor immigrant households in which none of the parents speak english and work menial low pay jobs in the city. Asians can be quite diverse with different cultures, languages, subgroups and dialects so it is not a monolith group of students attending these schools. Asian culture (or almost any culture outside of USA) value education and teachers. Since they are immigrants, they are more likely to have their previous country culture than ours. It is not like most of the students at these schools are from rich or privileged backgrounds, which is a common misconception. Comparing them with suburban schools in wealthy districts is the wrong idea. Hopefully, Mr. Rubinstein can go over the student body information and background to better understand Stuyvesant hs. (I don’t know if he did). I don’t think Finland model will work in NYC. Finland is mostly white homogeneous society while NYC is diverse culturally. In addition, other cultures or nations value education and respect teachers. Here not so much. I think Stuyvesant is more closely related to Asian schools (maybe Singapore). I heard (from parents and teachers) for a long time, Stuyvesant is a “pressure cooker” school, probably still is. Students spend 5-8 hours on hw each night and sleep very late while taking 7-10 classes with a chunk being AP and advance. Maybe Mr. Rubinstein can write about Stuyvesant school culture. I heard it is unique in NYC school system. So if you are middle school student that is not very interested in academics, want a school social life and parents are not pushing, why would you even apply to get in Stuyvesant? I am more interested to learn how many transfer out of Stuyvesant and the mental health.

      I know this blog post is focus on Specialized HS (sorry if I mention charters, I was merely answering Mr. Moth’s inquiries). Im not all too supportive of charters networks and I agree with “NYC public school parent” of what is said about them. From my experience in dealing with them and talking to the people at the ground, POC communities have a more favorable opinion of charters than others. Because their public schools have “failed” their child. I don’t like using the word “failed” either but that is what happening. You always have to somehow objectively assess students to check if they are honestly learning and thriving in those schools. Currently the way is state tests and/or project based assessment or school surveys. If most the students don’t pass those and have negative outlook about the school on surveys then those schools are doing poorly and it needs a turn around. Just ignoring or pretending it does not exists hurts the students and their community. Most of the time, the reason is corruption and mismanagement. Even if charters disappear tomorrow, there is still a major issue in mismanaged schools and students failing through the gap. The charters networks and ed reform are merely taking advantage of the situation like opportunistic scavengers. Get rid the root of the problem (wound) and the scavengers will flee.

      I bring up my point#4 not to “protect” stuyvesant or gifted programs. My motive is not the same as parents in the wealthy districts in TN. I wanted to shine light on the blight or “cancer” of the system which is rarely talked about (you can still talk about Stuyvesant!). If this is addressed and fixed, charters and ed reform don’t have a leg to stand on in NYC. Plus if you want to understand Stuyvesant and its place, you would need to understand the entire system and how its operate (that why I brought it up). Talking about Stuvyesant in a vacuum leads to misconceptions and not fruitful discussion. I want all students to have a good education in NYC that is cater to their needs and it pains me when they do not because of mismanagement / corruption. You can’t have all schools be the same thing. NYC has a lot of different students with different needs and interests so there must be schools with different cultures and academics that caters to that. I agree that school choice within the public system is best option at the moment. Some schools are screened, some lottery, some audition or some with special unique programs (that exists are no where else), etc. I believe that what makes NYC public schools great. Stuvyesant fulfill its niche as a school with “high intense academics or testing” (other schools focus on other niches). Not all students in NYC want that because they are unique and want/need different things.

      I understand that they are groups of students that want “high intense academics or testing” but unable to get into Stuyvsant. There could a lot of reasons (nuance) why that is the case. Maybe more students nowadays want schools like stuyveant then before and the NYC student pop. has been growing over the years. So making more schools with a culture like Stuyvesant makes more sense than just getting rid of it. Since the system is so complex and large, many parents and students are not familiar or don’t know how to apply or take the test (many are poor or immigrant with no english skills in the system). Also not all Middle schools prepare or encourage students to apply. I heard from students that their middle school teachers or counselor told them not apply or try the test because they wont be able to handle it (I think this is wrong approach). Also high performing (poor or immigrant or POC) middle school students are recruited and enticed by private or charter to attend their hs. Not all specialized high schools required the test by law. I believe only 3 out of 8 (or 9) need it. The mayor currently can designate the others to not required the test. But he choses not to. I think he is a hypocrite, says one thing does another (maybe because his child was in these schools). Solving or addressing issues in NYC public schools is not easy due to its complexity and size. I not saying I have all the answers (I doubt I do). Approaching this with an open mind and willingness to understand different pov is the best way to go. I hope Mr. Rubinstein maybe address how school system work in NYC in case there are people that are not in NYC reading the blog. Its hard to answer the question why Stuyvesant should or should not exists by talking about it in a vacuum (sorry if he did, Im a first time reader that came across this blog by accident). Perhaps go over the history of Stuyvesant and its relation with other schools and how it gained the reputation it has now and rose to be perceived as one of the best public schools in NYC (i don’t think this was the initial founders’ goal). This did not happen overnight. I would be interested in learning more about that. Stuyvesant is merely a “shiny” fish in a big ocean. So to study the health or environment of the ocean, ones need to understand a large part of it and how it works together and not just focus on a “shiny” fish. Its similar to an ecosystem and getting rid of things (before you try understand them) can be detrimental or disastrous to the system itself.

  7. jd2718 says:

    When Stuyvesant started getting many students whose first language was not English, perhaps whose English needed much more development to be “on grade level” (whatever that means) – the school adjusted. Of course kids can be brought up to speed. In English, apparently. But not in math, apparently. Different filter for different subjects for different kids.

    “Rigor” – defined anywhere? Or is it a modern filter to keep the school segregated?

    You wrote this: “In the last post I said that there is a correlation between SHSAT and success at a specialized school.” Yet I think the evidence doesn’t hold, and contrary evidence is strong.

    I am very curious to read this series of posts, but disappointed so far to see so many arguments that accept the status quo, or argue for tinkering around the edges while keeping the overall system.


    • garyrubinstein says:

      Hi Jonathan, My goal is to present the different sides in a detailed way and maybe add some nuance to the conversation and to clear up things and shed light on things that people seem to disagree on. I’m just one person and my insider status does not make my opinions more valid than someone else’s. I like to tinker around the edges and see what works rather than make drastic changes where if they fail you have no idea what changes had the most impact. I do support adding some more measures to the admissions policy which would mean changing that 1972 law so I hope I’m not a complete ‘status quo’ defender.

  8. jd2718 says:

    There’s also a math teacher question here:

    What’s the rush?

    Getting as far as possible as fast as possible is a pretty common target for suburban schools, and urban schools (unless the target is whatever minimum the state has set). It is a completely ordinary target. It is widely accepted. Of course everyone gets as far as possible, as fast as possible. We’ve always done it that way…

    Yet, some might argue, and I do argue, that the rush is a mistake. It means lost opportunities for depth, for exploration. It means errors go uncorrected, or corrected by rote, not by understanding.

    Danny Jaye told me years ago that for political reasons Stuy could not give any of its students algebra, but that if they could, it would be much better for the students and the school.

    I think he was right.

    That “rush” needs to be examined closely. I think it will eventually seen to have been a mistake.


    • garyrubinstein says:

      There are about 60 9th graders each year who did not take Algebra in 8th grade. They generally take a ‘double period’ of math that first year where they do both Algebra and Geometry. I would have no problem if some just took Algebra and were not in a rush to get to Calculus. Math is about the journey not the destination.

      • Chris Moth says:

        “Math is about the journey not the destination.” is beautiful.

        When a young person’s brain finally grasps the concept of limit, when they can close your eyes and see that (y1-y0)/(x1-x0) arrives at 2x when y=x*x… Then Integration… When you see Euler’s formula relate the exponential function relate to trigonometry.

        These really are transformative moments, even if one, like me, is doomed to live outside the top 0.1%, always having to look up the double and half angle formulas 🙂

        I took Calculus at college level through 2 semester of advanced (lots of proofs) and Ordinary and Partial Differential equations courses. Then applied things – Math Physics, and Nonlinear optimization.

        If I had known what lay ahead, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to think about epsilon and delta in high school.

        Obviously, you are under no small pressure for your kids to nail the AP test. But giving your student those little glimpses of what to look forward to… Maybe that would be an even greater gift, even as there is no test anywhere that will show that gift to have been bestowed…. And, I can only imagine you are already doing this, of course.

      • jd2718 says:

        When I teach outside of the algebra/geometry/trig/algebra 2/precalculus/calculus/(more calculus)/(some more calc, maybe 3d, and cool theorems)/(ODE)/(PDE) sequence that is designed so that no potential engineer will have not gone along the “useful” path in math – when I teach outside that sequence, it is possible to slow down, to explore, to have the kids find joy in the work.

        It is a very different conceit. No rush at all. Math is about the journey. Indeed! Well put.


  9. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: What You Need to Know about Admissions to Specialized High Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

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