Comparing SEHS Admission Systems in Chicago, NYC, and Boston

November 22, 2014 at 10:08 am 98 comments


Chart Source: Gotham Gazette, Map Source: Princeton University Press


This interesting article in the Gotham Gazette compared the selective enrollment entry systems of NYC, Boston, and Chicago and the resulting racial balance of students within those schools.

Of the three, NYC SEHSs are the least racial balanced to population due to their one-score entry process.  Chicago is considered the best balanced (only one to use the Tier system.)  The article also points out that we have the most SE highs schools (and the highest % of students enrolled in SEHSs.)  Boston has only 3 SEHSs and is pretty well balanced, despite the lack of using race/socio-economic status.  Perhaps having fewer schools impacts this in some way?

About NYC:

The city admit students to their selective high schools via a one-test-score system.  No Tiers, no grades, no standardized test.  It all comes down to how well you do that one day on that one test.

This article points out: “Tweaking the exam is about all the power that the City can exercise over the admissions policy to its specialized high schools. The test-only mandate for entry has been enshrined in state law since 1972. De Blasio, though, spoke about altering the admissions process to these schools as a mayoral candidate and has followed up similarly since taking office. He has expressed a belief that a single multiple choice test can not adequately measure a young person’s potential and a vision for more diverse student bodies at these elite schools.”

We’ve discussed Stuyvesant HS in NYC before, which has a very high percentage of Asian students (something like 70%?!?).  According to this chart, Asian students dominate the entire NYC selective high school system, comprising 60% of students vs. 15% of the population.  Impressive!  Conversely, Af-Am and Hispanic students are getting very few SEHS seats in NYC.   I’d be curious to see how racial makeup would look in Chicago if we just used the one admission test.

The article has a very good/simple/accurate description of the progress of the admission system in Chicago.  If you’ve ever wondered about that, check out the link.

Entry filed under: High school.

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98 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chicago School GPS  |  November 22, 2014 at 10:33 am

    San Francisco also has a pretty wacky system whereby no one is guaranteed their closest school so they don’t really have “neighborhood” schools. They cap the attendance at their “attendance area schools” so people are not even guaranteed their attendance area school if it is at capacity and are assigned to another school with openings.

    As for NYC, there are some more ‘holistic” aspects to the process, for instance at Hunter College, where they observe the kids in a school setting prior to selection. Also weird there is that they tell you the test they administer, but they disqualify you if there is evidence you prepped your child for the test. They also balance the class between boys and girls.

  • 2. peoplebelieveinfantasy  |  November 22, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Test results track IQs over populations. Of the populations described asians have the highest IQs, whites next, hispanics then african americans.

    Want the highest IQ kids in the school? Do not take race and socioeconomic status into account. This is the NYC system.

  • 3. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 10:44 am

    @people: source?

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  • 4. otdad  |  November 22, 2014 at 11:53 am

    To me, any use of race is racism. Skin colors and ethnicity should not count for anything. The whole purpose of SEHS is for best educating students with high academic potential (means less diversity in terms of academic capabilities). Inserting irrelevant factors such as race, gender, and ethnicity defeats the purpose. NYC system is the fairest.

  • 5. Chicago School GPS  |  November 22, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    To clarify my earlier post, I was thinking of the elementary grades where at least at Hunter they have a holistic component, but even their HS is exam only and entry for that is at 7th.

    It is very interesting to see the comparisons between the cities. Thanks for posting, CPSO!

  • 6. peoplebelieveinfantasy  |  November 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Cps: wikipedia article here.

    No one knows why these differences exist. They just do. The fact of the differences is entirely scientifically uncontroversial. The cause of the differences? Very controversial.

    IQ is not intelligence. A person can be intelligent and have an average IQ. And a high IQ person can be a fool. But these differences do exist over populations.

  • 7. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you, appreciate the link. Uh, you did notice this at the top of the page, right?

    This page has issues:

    This article’s factual accuracy is disputed. (October 2012)
    The neutrality of this article is disputed. (October 2012)
    This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (October 2012)

    I don’t disagree that different subgroups likely score differently on an actual IQ test for socio reasons.

  • 8. Pantherettie  |  November 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Interesting post and article CPSO.

  • 9. peoplebelieveinfantasy  |  November 22, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    CPS: the subject matter is touchy for political reasons. However the effect has been seen for ages and is about as certain of a thing as anything in psychiatry.

  • 10. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Mm, so there must be a ton of other sources then.

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  • 11. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I believe that IQ tests show variation. I think it’s commonly understood that socio-economic groups score differently on measured tests.
    The question is, as you state, if that’s not measuring real intelligence, then there is a testing bias that would be difficult to overcome, thus perpetuating class division indefinitely.
    Which is awesome if you’ve been part of the upper class for a few generations. Less so if you’ve been part of the lower class.

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  • 12. peoplebelieveinfantasy  |  November 22, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    CPS: You can have whatever beliefs you want and trying to discuss this subject matter in this format will inevitably lead to misunderstandings and create hurt.

    There are a host of studies out there. If you want to look them up, please do. Google scholar.

    I just don’t buy that socioeconomic status determines everything about your IQ. The Minnesota twin study, among others, implies that there is a strong genetic component. There may be a bit of chicken and egging going on there.

  • 13. Daniel Kay Hertz  |  November 22, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks for this link – this is fascinating. It’s interesting that SEHSs make up such a smaller percentage of schools in NYC. I wonder if all the elite private schools there sort of fill that niche?


    I’m sort of amazed whenever someone tries to use IQ tests to suggest anything about innate intelligence. Contemporary IQ tests, interpreted straightforwardly as measures of innate intelligence, suggest that the median person in the United States in 1932 was mentally retarded. Surely that’s not the case. The fact that scores have been rising consistently in developed countries over the last century suggests pretty overwhelmingly, I think, that something else is being measured here.

  • 14. pantherparent  |  November 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    I think the article shows that Chicago has done a pretty good job balancing the wants of one group (just take the smartest kids) with the wants of the other (SEHS racial make-up should match the general CPS population.)

    I found it interesting that New York had about the same number of students in SEHS despite having 3 times as many students overall. An indication that Chicago has figured out the balance between the number of SEHS and neighborhood high schools pretty well too.

  • 15. HS Mom  |  November 22, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    There still seems to be this debate, with Chicago having larger numbers of SE opportunities, as to whether the SE seats take away from the neighborhood. As more neighborhood schools grow and develop academically it becomes more of an issue.

    NY, for example, has truly select schools that might better fit the definition of “gifted” (term used loosely). In Chicago, it seems that all smart kids, elem & HS, want to be considered “gifted” so the system caters to that. We get the parental backlash, the alder-manic demands, racism accusations and Voila! a new SE school.

  • 16. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    “In Chicago, it seems that all smart kids, elem & HS, want to be considered “gifted” so the system caters to that. We get the parental backlash, the alder-manic demands, racism accusations and Voila! a new SE school.”

    Well said. As I’ve said before here, if the NYC Specialized High School system was put in place here Chicago with the same acceptance to enrollment ratio, there would be no change in the number of tier 4 applicants who attend. Those who don’t get in now, still would not get in.

    NYC has many elite private schools, but the one my wife went to for HS over Stuyvesant now charges $41,900 per year. To be clear, kindergarten costs that much.

  • 17. Ron J  |  November 23, 2014 at 9:18 am

    “score differently on an actual IQ test for socio reasons.”

    LOL, so a random poor asian kid will score the same as a random poor black kid? Plenty of the asian in NYC SEHS are at the low end of the socioeconomic scale. Nice try.

  • 18. LP Mom 2  |  November 23, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Are congrats in order for Chris Ball on the LP LSC election results? He is so charming and brilliant he had to be a shoe in.

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  November 23, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    @RonJ, correct, hence my use of the phrase “socio economic” and not “household income.”. Totally different social environments.

    To your point though, if poor immigrant asian families can crack the code to SEHS entry in NYC, why can’t other groups? (Hisp, afam, white?). Hell, I don’t think I’ve got what it take to get my kid that top score.

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  • 20. former nyc kid  |  November 23, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I used to live in NYC before moving to Chicago and I would just like to say that race shouldn’t ever be considered a point of whether you get into a school or not. No matter how you downplay it, when it’s all done and said, using race as a factor is racism. It isn’t about leveling the system or giving out equal opportunities, it’s pure racism when you favor one race over another. I know it because I’m asian, and my family immigrated here 7 years ago. I went to a school in Flushing and most of my friends were either living in small apartments or crammed in with other relatives. We’re not rich by any means and even now my family is still working hard to get by. My mom personally works a job cleaning hotel rooms and my dad works long hours at an restaurant. The place I used to live at was infested with bugs and I shared a small room with my siblings. Even now in Chicago, we’re still not that much better off. The reason why there are so many asians at the top schools in NYC is because they worked hard to get that spot. Even just an hour everyday helps. I know some of my older friends got into Bronx Science because they worked on some prep books for about an hour or so each day, they didn’t have the means to pay for any special tutoring or anything like that. Race doesn’t play a part in how intellectual you are, it’s the motivation that counts. If you take a poor asian kid and a poor african american kid that both worked hard to earn that top spot, then there shouldn’t be any difference at all.

  • 21. cpsobsessed  |  November 23, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    thanks @ former NYCkid: That’s very inspiring and make it sound doable, for sure! (although I’m sure my kid would complain about an hour a day…)
    To what extent did you parents help inspire/drive this process. I think one of the challenges is that many kids do not have parents who will make the effort to find the books, enforce the studying, etc. I wish more kids did.

  • 22. cpsobsessed  |  November 23, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I will say, these posts are inspiring the Tiger Mom in me….

  • 23. pantherettie  |  November 24, 2014 at 7:03 am

    There are so many parts of ‘formernyckid’s’ post that I agree with – especially the statement that if two poor kids earn the same top scores, then race should not be the determining factor for who gets the actual spot. Overall, I think that NYC has prevented some of the gamemanship that happens in Chicago with the manipulation of 5th and 7th grade grades, choosing which standardized test scores to use, ect. by just having admission based on one test score only. That said, I think that it is true that racism is experienced differently and has different consequences for different ethnic and racial groups . A previous CPSO blog post about significant concerns about access to top schools in NYC was really interesting. Personally, I found a compelling reason that some AA kids chose not to attend the schools was because of the lack of racial diversity made them assume that would not be welcomed nor would they thrive in the school’s environment. This is not to say that there isn’t a testing score achievement gap, it’s just that several AA and Hispanic kids in NYC don’t see these schools as reasonable social or academic options – possibly decreasing the actual pool of applicants in the first place? Anyway, it was an interesting post and very much connected to the info about NYC in this post.

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  November 24, 2014 at 7:43 am

    @Pantherettie, agreed that article was super interesting. I’ll find the link again.

    But to your point about the one-score admission, clearly test prep works (based on the article and nyc student”s post.). So the score for entry is very much reflecting committedness to preparing for the entry exam (of course a kid needs a good foundation of knowledge to get those good scores.). Which maybe is fine….I can’t decide how I feel about the test prep impact.

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  • 25. mom2  |  November 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    @15 HS Mom, You said, “There still seems to be this debate, with Chicago having larger numbers of SE opportunities, as to whether the SE seats take away from the neighborhood. As more neighborhood schools grow and develop academically it becomes more of an issue.
    NY, for example, has truly select schools that might better fit the definition of “gifted” (term used loosely). In Chicago, it seems that all smart kids, elem & HS, want to be considered “gifted” so the system caters to that. We get the parental backlash, the alder-manic demands, racism accusations and Voila! a new SE school.”

    Yes, I agree. That is why I keep pushing for “gifted” programs in the neighborhood high schools. Parents and kids can still say they are “gifted” but we stop taking away from the neighborhood high schools. Stop adding more SE schools. In fact, maybe reduce them (don’t kill me) in the areas where the neighborhood high schools have great potential. They are taking away from getting that suburban experience in the city.

  • 26. RL Julia  |  November 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    The fact remains that CPS – as well as apparently Boston and NYC and probably elsewhere’s public school systems are not good at developing talent in ALL children. Lots of bright but underprivileged kids arrive at Kindergarten where their potential is not fulfilled due to the presentation of multiple other barriers and they end up falling behind. I wish that CPS as a whole would look at that 85% free/reduced lunch subscription rate and -without lowering their academic standards and ideals develop curriculums that respond to the landscape of MOST kids entering kindergarten are underprepared and understanding that it is unlikely that the child’s home environment is going to change significantly over the course of that child’s CPS experience. I think this is done pretty well in the early grades in some schools- but around third grade, there is a shift and either you’ve made the grade or if you haven’t educational expectations start to be lowered which ultimately is academically fatal….

  • 27. Bob Foster's Boat Sale  |  November 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    The big difference is that IN NYC, there are decent non-selective enrollment high schools, some are acutally quite good, whereas in Chicago you have maybe one (Taft).

  • 28. HSObsessed  |  November 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    If admission based on one test score alone rewards kids who cram systematically for the test, I’m all for it. If a kid herself/himself is willing to study long and hard, that in itself shows that he/she is motivated enough to tackle difficult classes and do well in school. Effort is a big part of academic success. Unfortunately, that system then leads to overrepresentation of certain racial and economic classes, as reflected by the NYC data. So, it’s a matter of whether a city wants a test-in high school system that truly serves only the brightest and most motivated students, or one that is diverse and reflective of the city’s students in general. We’ve chosen the latter.

  • 29. fam  |  November 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    @27 There are more than one.

  • 30. mom2  |  November 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    @27 – The reason why NYC has decent non-selective enrollment and we only have a few is because we have so many selective enrollment schools that take the “better” students away from the non-selective schools. Catch 22.

  • 31. cpsobsessed  |  November 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I wonder what the private options are in nyc? I know non-parochial is insanely expensive which leaves people to rely on the neighborhood schools. Anyone know about parochial schools in nyc?

    I *think* there are other selective-ish high schools there like performing arts. Or maybe I’m just thinking of Glee….

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  • 32. klm  |  November 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    RE: NYC vs. Chicago

    We’ve been down this discussion several times.

    It’s interesting that if somebody described how a minority group with the highest poverty rate in NYC (which is true of Asians there), made up of mostly first and second generation kids from extremely modest backgrounds, but nonetheless excelled enough to get into some of the best SE HS’s by working hard and getting in fair and square, following the rules that generations of other kids have, etc., most people would normally be celebrating such a fact, etc., However, many have come to decry the results.

    Styvesant and Bronx Science have enough low-income students to qualify for Title I funding, but since people don’t like the KIND of low-income minority kids in those schools, there’s now a “problem.”

    If an immigrant kid from Bangladesh or some rural part of China scored higher than my kid, my first thought isn’t “Not fair! I don’t like the way THOSE people are taking up more than their share of places. I think I’ll file a lawsuit.”

    Now, of course all my kids have to do is study hard and try to use the same rules as those low-income minority kids that are getting high scores, but that would mean that I’d have to get all Tiger Mom on their a**es —cut back on TV watching, the XBOX, make them study harder, have to deal with whining, etc., so nah –|’ll just file a law suit because my kids are black and although we’re relatively affluent, I want more kids like them to replace kids from the WRONG minority group that I think is taking up too many places. Since I don’t like the percentages, it’d “discrimination” in one way or the other, so somebody better change things to make it easier for kids like mine and harder for other kids kids that are taking up too many spots at schools like Bronx Science and Styvesant..

    Yet, that’s what I see and hear, directly or indirectly when people bring up SE HS’s in NYC..

    There are unintended consequences to social engineering, especially when there are finite numbers of spaces at a SE school. If you take away to give to another, you’re not doing something without hurting somebody else negatively.

  • 33. cpsobsessed  |  November 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    @klm, there are lawsuits about this?

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  • 34. klm  |  November 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm



    It was filed in 2012 and apparently the Education Department is still “investigating.”

    Also, the new(ish) mayor has publicly said that he wants to change the SE admissions for NYC because he doesn’t like the racial makeup at schools like Styvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and Bronx Science.

    One can Google it and there are a plethera of articles, essays and opinion pieces (pro- and anti- current test-only system) about it. That’s where i got the stats about poverty, the low-income status of most Asian kids at these schools, the fact that most are 1st or 2nd generation, etc. (those are facts that people needs to consider, IMO).

  • 35. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 24, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    @33 It is a civil rights complaint, not a lawsuit per se. See

    There is a legitimate question over its predictive validity — that is, does the test actually select the people who are likely to perform well at the SHS. The same question can be asked about Chicago’s SEHS. The NY test scoring also is done such that a person with a high score in either verbal or math but a middle score in the the other is more likely to gain admission than person who has high scores in both but not as high as the hi-lo person’s high score. For some of these technical issues, see the material in the appendices to the complaint, particularly the Feinman paper.

    The test in NYC were introduced before WWII and were intended to avoid bias, especially against new immigrants (then). NY State legislated test-only admissions in 1971 after a push to allow principals to recommend students rather than use the admission test. African-American shares of enrollment has declined over time, so it is not that A-A students never held greater shares, but that they did and these numbers have diminished at the same time that the federal government focused on narrowing the black-white achievement gap.

  • 36. klm  |  November 24, 2014 at 9:54 pm


    I’m not sure I agree with you re: the Specialized High School Admissions Test’s validity. On some level, to me it seems the most objective way to admit students, since it’s the same test for all kids, rich, poor, black, white, Asian, immigrant, non-immigrant, etc.

    We’re not talking admissions at a liveral arts college, here, but a public school that is “selevtive.”

    I’ve read the background info, too. The situation comes up periodically and there are the usual NYT Education Section stories, editorials, etc.

    I don’t like the fact that so few black and Hispanic kids are doing well enough to be admitted to those schools, believe me. However, i think the answer is address the achievement gap and get them there, not come up with a mechanism that will take away opportunities from low-income Asian kids from Jackson Heights.

    Just because you may not like the results of the SHSAT because too many Asian kids are apparently doing too well and not enough non-Asian minority kids scoire high enough, I don’t think it mean that it’s not a “legitimate” test.

    The basis of the complaint is that a single-test policy is racially discriminatory. And yes, I’ve read it. I’m assuming since the Education Department has not yet made a finding, there’s not some glaring discriminatory basis, either. Different outcome by group does not mean automatically mean “discrimination,” which is the only basis for which the Education Department could intervene.

    Are my kids intellectually inferior because they’re black or something? Shouldn’t they be expected to do the same thing as low-income and working-class minority kids from the immigrant group with highest poverty rate in NYC and take the same test and be judged equally?

    I know that’s NOT NOT NOT what you’re in any way suggesting, but still the idea that just because an achievement test doesn’t have the same results accross all races, I don’t see how that test is ipso facto discriminatory or in any way “illegitimate.”

    As I said, there are quite a few articles and essays about the SHSAT and there are many, if not most, commentators and legal experts and opinions that conclude that while it’s lamentable that so many kids that are black and Hispanic aren’t scoring higher, a single, objective test that measures academic achievement (not knowledge about culture) in relevant areas (math, science, language arts) that are the basis of academic success is likely the most non-discriminatory and fair to all students, in terms of figuring out how to admit students.

    Also, I will say again, do you want to take away opportunities from more low-income Asian kids and give them to whom? Who gets to decide this? What test or selection process do you believe would be more “legitimate?”

    If I were a recent immigrant from Bangladesh or Vietnam working long hours for minimum wage, I’d have a really hard time understanfing how my son or daughter doing well on an achievement test for which they worked very, very hard in preparation work and which is the same one everybody else takes is suddenly “discriminatory” or not “valid.” Why? Because you don’t think kis from Bangladesh and Vietman are as deserving as the same opportunities as other kids?

    Who gets to decide if it’s valid? Discriminatory again whom? Black kids or white kids, too (since their numbers have also plummeted). If immigrant kids from Nigeria and Ghana were rocking the test and shoving out lower-scoring white kids, would that be “discriminatory” or somehow indicative of a test that’s not “valid?”

    I know i’m kinda’ going off the deep end here, but I honestly don’t get the arguments about fairness and validity here, especially in light of the fact that most of the kids that are doing the best on the test are ones that are minorites from low-income, recent immigrant families (the poorest group in the city, in fact) where the parents are non-native English speakers and are far, far removed from anything but the lowest rungs the power structure.

    If the test were so “invalid,” how could so many kids like that do so well?

  • 37. NY vs. Chicago  |  November 24, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    I wonder if in NY they used grades and the admissions tests would the results be the same? Supposedly, many colleges aren’t looking to the ACT score for successful outcomes. Now, they are saying grades are a better predictor of who will be more successful in college! Just food for thought…

    Also, what about children who have test anxiety, especially when it comes down to ONE test that you NEED to score well on to be admitted to a stellar school. If there aren’t any OTHER factors considered then I guess you are out of luck 😦

  • 38. cpsobsessed  |  November 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Interesting NYTimes article about Asian admission into Harvard.

    “A similar injustice is at work today, against Asian-Americans. To get into the top schools, they need SAT scores that are about 140 points higher than those of their white peers. In 2008, over half of all applicants to Harvard with exceptionally high SAT scores were Asian, yet they made up only 17 percent of the entering class (now 20 percent). Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in America, but their proportion of Harvard undergraduates has been flat for two decades.”

  • 39. North Side Parent  |  November 25, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    While I’m naturally inclined toward “pure merit” based policies, as most of the discussion has trended that way above, I’d like to push back a little bit for the sake of discussion.

    A city is trying to distribute a scare resource among its residents, that is an above average education.

    It’s not necessarily racist or unfair for those residents to want that resource to be relatively evenly distributed among its population.

    All votes count equally after all. If you didn’t want to use race and an income-based system was offering up skewed results you could just use some sort of block-by-block quota system to achieve the same effect.

    And while I empathize that it may be frustrating for low-income Asians to be held to a higher standard by their ultra-competitive peer group, I’m not necessarily convinced that the rest of the population need be required to bestow outsize benefits and resources to that group at the expense of all others because it is a naturally studious / hard working cohort (or otherwise be deemed racist).

  • 40. Chris  |  November 25, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    “Boston has only 3 SEHSs and is pretty well balanced, despite the lack of using race/socio-economic status. Perhaps having fewer schools impacts this in some way?”

    Having fewer schools, but a *much* higher percentage attending them would have an effect related to “fewer” … how?

    CPS would have to almost triple the SEHS enrollment to match Boston’s %age.

  • 41. Chris  |  November 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    CPSO: “I wonder what the private options are in nyc?”

    See, here, for some interesting data:

  • 42. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    @36 The predictive validity issue, which Feinman discusses in more detail, is this: Do SHSAT scores predict how well students do at the NYC SHS? For example, if, among admitted students, those with lower scores do better than those with higher scores once admitted, the predictive validity of the test is not very good. It raises the question of whether students with lower scores who were not admitted would also have done better than some who were admitted. According to Feinman, the SHSAT’s predictive validity has never been studied. Pearson does not issue a technical manual for the SHSAT, so we know very little about its properties or even its construction. At issue is whether the SHSAT is in fact measuring the “best” students for the school.

    Much of the racial or gender bias that commercial test-makers guard against is not the “squash:racket as cricket:_____”. Bias review panels catch that stuff. What is a problem are test items that have no obvious bias but produce different results for boys v. girls or whites v. blacks, even though the students both get other seemingly similar questions right. No one knows why this occurs — they have theories but no decisive experiment has been done to test them. Biased questions of this nature do appear on some standardized tests (though rarely severely biased ones). Because Pearson does release a technical manual for the ISAT, we know that it uses several biased items in almost every grade — and sometimes more than 10 items. They don’t have enough other questions to use. (See Table 1.2, p.12 of the most recent manual)

    Validity studies could very well show that there is no bias, and that the displacement of all groups by Asian-Americans is in fact due to the singular focus on gaining admission among a high portion of Asian students and their families.

    @37 The trouble with grades for admission purposes, especially HS admission purposes, is that we would not expect much variation in grades.Most of these children would have A’s in core subjects. Admission tests are designed to discriminate, in the positive sense, more finely among the candidates. The risk is that in doing so, they also discriminate, in the pejorative sense, as well, like with the types of items mentioned above.

    It is not clear that grades would help reduce the low-acceptance rates of concern in NYC. Unlike Chicago, any child can sit for the SHSAT. There are no pre-requisites. If a child got a B in one subject because of a teacher’s bias, then grades would only serve to reduce his or her enrollment chances, not enhance them. Even if the public schools systematically regulate grading, there is no way to do this for private school students seeking a slot.

    It is true that GPA better predicts 1st-year college performance than most admission tests, like the SAT or ACT do, but that is for HS students, who in many case are pursuing a more diverse range of classes. Middle school students are usually taking mostly the same classes.

  • 43. former nyc kid  |  November 25, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    I’ll just add some perspective here because its not something I usually see out there. My parents as I have said earlier are immigrants, and because of that they didn’t speak English very well at all. Ever since I was maybe 5 I had to translate stuff for them and I still do. We’ve had all sorts of trouble at stores and when filling out government forms, and even when they tried speaking English they had accents that people thought were funny and so they weren’t taken very seriously. Naturally this meant that I didn’t have what other kids usually had, parent support when doing stuff like homework. There was no way that they could help me with my school stuff when they didn’t even understand it in the first place. This had at times I admit made me frustrated and embarrassed, not to mention envious of other kids who had parents who could at least be understood (a.k.a Hispanics, or African Americans). In the way that I used to look at it, they were better off than I was because a lot of their parents were would you say more “involved” in their kids’ education? They could talk to their teachers at parent conferences and were more involved with the school than say mine. Just a personal voice to the people who say that we have a better family background or anything along those lines.

    I think the reason why there aren’t many hispanics or african americans at the specialized schools in NY is that the majority of them either one, don’t understand the importance of the test or did not know about it until the start of eighth grade, or two, they just don’t really care about school in general. I remember the atmosphere being more like “it would be nice if I got in, but if I don’t oh well”. Like they kinda wanted it but not like really really wanted it. Let’s just say they didn’t want it more than they wanted to play and have fun. Others wanted to stay with their friends or be that cool kid and goof around in class. The issue as many others reportedly stated isn’t the test or method itself. Changing the way you get into these schools isn’t going to suddenly make magic appear and fix everything. It’s the root of the issue that needs to be addressed, and thats to get kids interested in school. You can take the easy way out now by trying to change the admission in order to fix “racial discrimination” or you could take the time to fix the way material is being taught to the kids and over time the schools demographics can change.

    What I’ve noticed in Chicago is that the “SEHS” are really some of the only “good” schools in the city. NY has good schools that are not specialized and considered neighborhood (though a few are still selective by like GPA and teacher reco.) and so that makes the specialized HS in NYC well, a little bit more what they are. Specialized. They’re for the people who want to be the best out there. It isn’t about having equal racial representation or anything like that (but that would be nice, its just that changing the test isn’t the correct way to achieve it), it’s about offering the best opportunities to people who really want them, often in the subject the school best specializes in. You don’t have to study like a maniac to do well and you can play your XBOX or Playstation whenever you’ll like. You just have to know what are the appropriate times to do what.

  • 44. klm  |  November 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm


    While I understand the spirit of your statement, how is it OK to create a discriminatory system for one minority group when,,if you did the same for another, it would be an example of glaringly discriminatory behavior on the part of a public institution that would be ripe for immediate legal and social intervention –and one that would never, ever be tolerated?

    So, we should limit opportunities for high-achieving minority students if they’re the “wrong kind” of minority? Why? What moral or (more importantly) legal basis is there for a govermental body to purposely do so in K-12 education, when differentiating in or assigning enrollment in a public school K-12 school using race or ethnicity is blatently unconstitutional/illegal per the U. S. Supreme Court?

    So, we should reduce individuals to their racial and ethnic background (I always thought that’s what prejudiced people do, but maybe that’s juat me) for purposes of public education enrollment at a selective enrollment school, not merit (?), and then assign opportunities in publicly-funded schools in an accordingly discriminatory fashion (against the poorest minority goup in NYC, no less) because it more “fair”? How? For whom?

    And I say this as the parent of black kids. On one level, I’d love for my kids to have it easier to get into a SEHS, because, well, I want them to have opportunities and do well in life and if somebody’s going to give it to them, for whatever legally permissible reason, why not –I’m not strupid. But if they get a space handed to them from a kid with hgher scores , whose place are they taking? A less “deserving” kid? Who gets to decide that and why?

    It’s absurd to think that my kids (middle or even upper-middle-class by many/most peoples’ definition) should have an easier time getting into a public SE HS over a low-income kid living in a dump in Chinatown or Jackson Heights and with parents that are in no way fluent in English and confined to go-nowhere jobs at the bottom of the economic ladder. So these kinds of Asian kids should have to have “limitations” to their educational opportunities, since they’re part of a geography-based immigrant group that’s TOO damn successful, statistically-speaking? They need to move aside and make way for my upper-middle-class kids with lower scores because, well, mine are the RIGHT kind of racial group? How is that OK? Who gets to decide which is the “right” kind and the “wring” kind? It wasn’t all that long ago in Amercan history that my kids were the “wrong” kind, so maybe I’m a little sensitive. Who could blame Asian parents if suddenly NYC decide that their kids are now too often the “wrong kind?”

    Sorry for the diatribe.

  • 45. pantherettie  |  November 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    @42 point well taken about predictive validity of New York’s test. Why do you think Pearson (or NYC Public Schools) have not reported on it? It seems like it would really be in the best interest of both entities to say that test admission scores are strongly predictive of student success in the school. It would quiet critics who believe that the tests are biased and that the admission method keeps good students out.
    @43 – there may be other reasons AA and Hispanic kids don’t want to attend NYC’s select enrollment schools besides apathy or low motivation. As a parent, I would not encourage my AA daughter to attend a high school in which she would be one of less than 10 in 100.

  • 46. North Side Parent  |  November 26, 2014 at 3:10 am

    @44 I think you misunderstand my point. All I’m really trying to say is, why should this system be purely merit based at all? Obviously you need to demonstrate academic competence and that you’re not going to waste the opportunity, but why not share equally among all qualified applicants? What about a race and income blind random lottery for all students who apply and meet some minimum testing standard, say 75th or 90th percentile?

    Is the teaching / peer environment at these schools worth anything? Or are we merely grouping those with the most innate ability / work ethic together?

    Should the benefits of a Selective Enrollment education be based purely on merit? And specifically go to the “most elite” students? Or should the benefactors of the system look more like a sample of the overall applicant base?

    If my subgroup is paying into a system more than it is receiving (even if that is based on the meritocratic efforts of others), am I better off leaving to find another group entirely (aka move to the ‘burbs)? Am I racist for thinking so?

    I don’t have an ax to grind here, but I think to point to NYC’s system and say that it’s the only “true” system or that any system that incorporates race is by definition “racist” is a bit hyperbolic.

    The University of Texas is required to admit top performers from all Texas High Schools, and many other Universities would look favorably on applicants from far flung states in the name of geographic diversity. Is that unfairly holding down the masses from the more conventional / high achieving locales? You’ll find supporters on both sides of that debate.

  • 47. klm  |  November 26, 2014 at 10:33 am


    The thing is, legally, K-12 public education is proscribed from using race or ethnicity (which is why CPS’s legally race-neutral Tiers are designed not around income [as people are often complaining when their modest-income bungalow-belt neighborhood is Tier 4], but census-based characteristics that are more likely to be attached to particular groups, in order to increase diversity.

    The NYC HS’s in question have always been been based strictly on merit, admissions-wise. But, people want to change it now, why? The current enrollment is made up disproportionately of LOW-INCOME 1st and 2nd generation Asian kids. 70 years ago it was working-class Jewish kids that were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants from Eastern Europe. When kids like that were rocking it academically,getting high SATs, etc., Ivy League schools realized that the freshman classes were becoming “too Jewish,” so direcly or indirectly (to make room for more ‘well rounded’ [i.e., not Jewish] students) there were limits put on Jewish enrollment.

    The fact is, colleges still have lots of legal room to create “diverse” freshman class, but K-12 public schools DO NOT have the same legal discretion to base admissions around competetion within one’s own racial group, rather than within the overall applicant pool —that’s a big, big difference.

    Currently in NYC, it’s not upper-middle-class and upper class kids from the the Upper East Side and rich kids living in mansionesque brownstones in Brooklyn Heights that are benefitting from the current admissions, but low-income ones that work very, very hard in school. How is that a “problem.” So, we need to put limits on them, like Ivy League schools did in the past –it’s OK because it’s to create a more “well-rounded” student base?

    Yes, everybody pays taxes. But all students already have equal opportunities to get into the NYC SEHS’s –they just have to get high scores, which of course, is not easy. What they want or even can do to get the scores is up to them and their families and, yes, sometimes it’s not. Yes, it sucks when kids have parents that don’t care about school and kids go to schools that are lousy, academically –but it’s forever been that way. If we use race to guestimate chances in life, we’ll have to reduce individuasl to a cultureal stereotype that in any other situation would be considered “racial profiling” or worse.

    Equal opportunity does not mean equal results.

    An if NYC started considering a race-neutral input like family income as a factor, the same SEHSs that are now considered “too Asian” would possible become even more so, since Asians have the highest poverty rate of any group in NYC.

    I said this before, but can anybody imagine a situation where low-income immigrant kids from Ghana, Nigeria and the West Indies were rocking the SHSAT and filling up freshman class enrollment like crazy, relative to their overall numbers. (Can anybody imagine discussions about what these black kidss have done to the “atmosphere” of these schools and how much worse it is now, etc., like I have with read and heard about Asian kids?) That fact would be celebrated and civil rights groups would intervene if a decades-old admissions process were suddenly changed because too many low-income black kids like that were taking spots at what are perceived to be the “Best” public high schools — this even when they scored the highest on the same entrance exams that have been used for generations ffor admissions and they got there fair and square. But now there are “too many” of them, so we’ll for the FIRST TIME EVER now change chage how admissions is done to lower their overall numbers.

    That would never, ever happen (and for good reason, obviously).

    But with low-income Asian kids, it’s somehow acceptable to deride their success as some kind of anti-egaliarian, nerd-based glitch in an antiquated admissions system that hasn’t changed with the times, creating an imagination and creativity-free atmosphere that’s negative.

    Again, as i’m always and forever saying, I’m as upset as anybody over the lower number of black and Hispanic kids getting into these kinds of schools. But, it’s because they’re not scoring high enough on the entrance exam, not because of some nefarious system set up to limit their opportunities.

    So, OK, if we get more kids with the “right” racial backgrounds into Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science that would be great –but we need to get them there by having them achieve their way in, not suddenly using a system designed to take away opportunity from higher-scoring low-income kids 1st and 2nd generation kids from the “wrong” part of the world to make way for more middle and upper-middle-class (because those are the kinds of kids that would like benefit the most) kids from the “right” group?

    I’m sorry, but i still see all kinds of moral and (most relevant) legal issues when doing so.

    In K-12 public educatiion, when we give opportunities not by what kids have achieved and done, but by how they look or describe themselves ethnically, we’re going to have issues, including legal ones, given current law. When we suddenly change an admissions policy to lower the number of kids (i.e., target them directly or indirectly with a new policy purposely designed to lower their numbers) from certain minority groups, that will also be an issue, legally. And for me, a moral one, too.

    Maybe it’s just me, but when I look at all the stats about the low-income Asian immigrant kids doing so well, I’m impressed and feel like we need to examine what they’re doing to be so successful. I mean –Good for them! They’re achieving and getting admitted to SEHS’s through hard work and by following the rules that have been giving immigrant and other low-income and working-class kids an opportunity for a great education that their parents could not otherwise ever afford (with private NYC schools like Dalton, Spence and Trinity costing $40k+).

    Why is this such a “problem” and where does all the questions about “atmosphere” and “climate” at these schools come from? Would the same people asking these questions be asking about the the “negative” atmosphere and climate at a SEHS where most of the kids are black and/or Hispanic? No –because that would obviously be wrong. So, what’s wrong with Asian kids that makes their presence “negative” to a school’s social and academic climate, so much in fact that something needs to be done to limit their opportunites in order to create schools with fewer of them being allowed to enroll.

  • 48. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 26, 2014 at 11:24 am

    @45 It may be that it does not predict well, and they don’t want to call attention to it. The reason Pearson and other commercial test-makers don’t issues technical manuals (NWEA does not make their manual available to the public either) is that the flaws and limits will be clear.

  • 49. pantherettie  |  November 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

    @48 – It’s an interesting point, especially given how data driven we are now as a society. My hunch is that it’s not made available to the public because there has not been an overwhelming push from the parents for it. It takes a grassroots style push for transparency from a group of educated and motivated parents to really ask – is this test really predictive of success?
    @klm – your points are interesting and you clearly have a lot to say on the subject of race. I think you may be referring to my comments about how some kids feel isolated when attending schools that don’t reflect their racial or cultural backgrounds. Perhaps you should read the CPSO post from 10/12 referenced earlier in this conversation to learn about the perspective of a kid who described his feelings of isolation. This isn’t to take anything away from the hardworking kids and families who attend the schools, it’s just a real life experience that has credibility and *may* be a legitimate reason that some kids don’t see the schools as real options for them.

  • 50. HS Mom  |  November 26, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    @46 “many other Universities would look favorably on applicants from far flung states in the name of geographic diversity”

    They also look favorably on the fact that out of state and foreign tuition is much higher than in-state. If in this quest they happen to get a little “geographic diversity”, it’s only a marketable byproduct.

    “Is that unfairly holding down the masses from the more conventional / high achieving locales? You’ll find supporters on both sides of that debate.”

    At any given college you will find kids from close to 50 states. There’s a trade off between states as more and more kids apply and find opportunity out of their home state. The debate is really centered on foreign students. Is it ethical to provide an education at some of the most selective colleges in the US to the highest paying wealthy foreigners when they are likely to just take that knowledge back to their own country – in lieu of giving a lower paying US student an opportunity.

    This debate is very different from a high school admissions policy based upon scores or socioeconomics.

  • 51. otdad  |  November 28, 2014 at 10:25 am

    “there may be other reasons AA and Hispanic kids don’t want to attend NYC’s select enrollment schools besides apathy or low motivation. As a parent, I would not encourage my AA daughter to attend a high school in which she would be one of less than 10 in 100.”

    Would you explain your reason? As a parent, I will encourage my kids to try their best and get the best education possible. Other people’s skin color/ethnicity seems irrelevant here.

    The reason AA and Hispanics kids can’t get into or don’t want to attend NYC’s SEHS probably is: years apathy or low motivation on their parent’s part in their education. It’s has little to do with income or intelligence, it’s purely effort of their parents.

  • 52. otdad  |  November 28, 2014 at 10:42 am

    @49 pantherettie:
    “… is this test really predictive of success?”
    As long as the test requires determination, hard work and intelligence to do well, it’s a very good indicator of future academic success. What’s in the test is not as important as what are needed in order to do well.

  • 53. pantherettie  |  November 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    OTDad – Have you ever been in a position where you were the only person who looked like you everyday? Have you ever had people touch your hair and ask you, “how does it stay like that”? Have you ever had people assume that you can’t do math or science or refuse to be your lab partner based on your race and gender? Do people ask you where the other minority person is all the time as if you know where he/she is because you’re both “the same” I’ve had all of that happen to me – at summer debate camp as a kid, at my highly selective top rated college and at my job as an adult. My daughter will experience things when she goes to college, possibly grad school and maybe at her job. She doesn’t have to go through that stuff everyday for high school – that’s why I would not encourage her to go to a school where she’s less than 10 of 100. If you’ve had an experience in which you’re an ethnic, racial or gender minority maybe you could understand or maybe you just think that my experiences don’t really mean anything and I’m a lazy parent because I want my kid to have an experience.

  • 54. walker  |  November 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    @53 Actually I was in your shoes and many times. I remember my first “test/contest” outside of my neighborhood school. At that time kids of my ethnicity (perceived as “rural” and “less educated”) took tests in a separate room because of different language. I still remember the face of the science teacher who was a proctor. He said to us “a winner is always from the other ethnicity group, please do your best! I really wish it will be different this time”.

    Over time, I turned my “minority” label into a strength. When people don’t expect you to perform well, there is actually no pressure. What can you lose if nobody expects you to win? Nothing, right? I have no choice as to work harder than others and it helped me to overcome a lot of hurtles. Luckily, there were no tiers or quotas (purely merit bases) and when somebody won or got into SE school, everyone knew that she earned it and not just free rode on her minority.

    I’m a bit surprise why so many people seriously focus on test validity, race mix, etc and don’t really notice the big pink elephant that some parents just don’t value education. If Asians perform better, then maybe we all need to learn something from them rather than “punish” them for hard work? Don’t you think?

  • 55. pantherettie  |  November 29, 2014 at 8:51 am

    @Walker – I appreciate your example. I’m curious if you were comparing your experience to my example because you also, as a 14-18 year old, experienced what it felt like *every day* to be the only person that looked like you or had similar cultural experiences?

    I pointed out other possible reasons that AA kids may not choose to apply or attend some NYC selects is because the tone of the discussion was *completely* focused on the idea that the low number of AA or H enrollment was based on negative factors – such as apathy or ignorance. There was an article – posted in 10/12 on this blog – that discussed the challenges faced by AA kids who actually attend NYC selects. This doesn’t take anything away from the hardworking kids who attend the school. Why should it? Pointing out the fact that there is isolation experienced when you are a minority is a fact not an indictment of an entire racial or ethic group. The kid in the article didn’t call anyone racist, nor did he say that there needs to be some type of social engineering to change the admission policy. I’m not saying that either. I’m just pointing out that many of the AA kids who are most likely to score well enough to attend the schools, who have highly motives parents, who value education,ect *may not even be applying*. A school that doesn’t meet a kid’s social, emotional and academic needs is not the “best” for him/her. Smart parents get that and guide and steer their kids to places where they will strive. To me, the NYC selection issue is a “chicken vs egg” problem. If the school isn’t seen as an option, certain kids don’t apply, population skews, and the school isn’t seen as an option and the cycle continues. Just putting out there another opinion that is not based on negative assumptions.

  • 56. walker  |  November 29, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    @pantherettie can you please give me the link to the article you mentioned? Sorry, I can’t find it.

    I was in some pretty harsh 1-to-many situations. Although I saw a lot of my friends and classmates being in such situations too with all related social issues including bulling. It could be ethnicity, race, hair color, height, weight, neighborhood, parents word/origin, accent, character traits, social status, gender, sport, disabilities, etc. What I noticed that no matter what the reason was, it always led (if it led) to the same/similar social issues. Do you think race is somehow different from all other reasons? I believe all schools should pay more attention to all those social issues and help/guide kids. When I was a kid, all those “issues” everyone solved on his/her own with a different degree of success and schools pretended that nothing happened.

  • 57. walker  |  December 2, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve found this article about NYC SEHS:

  • 58. motive cosmetics  |  December 4, 2014 at 5:44 am

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  • 59. HSObsessed  |  December 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    The Atlantic just published an article covering this exact same topic. Nothing really new that I saw, but a good overall read.

  • 60. otdad  |  December 5, 2014 at 11:15 am

    The real complaint in NYC is “the schools are too Asian”, but the article phrased like “one of modern-day segregation, in which poor kids of color are getting left behind.”. That’s categorically false! The NYC complaint is actually racially motivated effort to discriminate against Asian.

    It ignored the fact that Asian is the poorest racial group in NYC (yes, higher poverty rate than Black and Hispanics), and they are considered as people of color. Most students of NYC SEHSes are indeed poor kids of color, just not the kind certain racist want to see.

    What needs to be done is: look into why Asians are doing better and follow the suit.

  • 61. cpsobsessed  |  December 5, 2014 at 11:33 am

    @agreed, OTdad – what drives the asian success rate?
    The problem is, if it’s “a family and community culture that puts education first and foremost” — how do we duplicate that? I don’t think I’m even doing that enough with my own son (or he’d be on the computer a whole lot less.)

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 62. Chris  |  December 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    “look into why Asians are doing better and follow the suit.”

    On a personal level: No thanks. I have known many of the “doing better” “Asians” through my life, and that is not what I want for me or for my kids.

    On a societal level, perhaps, but I don’t know what we could do to achieve a more (eg) “Korean” (or Finnish or whatever) educational system, when there is a world-class freakout on-going about the concept of having national standards (*yes* I do realize that the complaining about CC *here* is not that, but nationally, much of it is).

  • 63. walker  |  December 6, 2014 at 10:32 am

    @62 “On a personal level: No thanks. I have known many of the “doing better” “Asians” through my life, and that is not what I want for me or for my kids.”

    I’m not an Asian but if poor Asians in NYC can achieve high academic advantage, then I don’t see any reason not to learn something (not everything) from them. Extra practice 1h a day doesn’t sound terrible to me.

  • […] CPS Application Deadline for Magnets, Top High Schools Looms Friday DNA Info:Parents seeking to get their children into kindergarten in a magnet school or into a gifted program in the fall, as well as eighth-graders applying to one of the city's 11 selective-enrollment high schools, all face a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Friday to get in their applications. Selective-enrollment elementary schools and high-school military and International Baccalaureate programs also have the same deadline. See also CPS Obsessed. […]

  • 65. otdad  |  December 16, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    @61. cpsobsessed:
    what drives the asian success rate?
    There is definitely a cultural component in this. Academic elitism is deeply rooted in some Asian cultures, such as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Because Asian immigration to America only took off from the 60s, those traditional values are still well kept. On the outside, all basically comes down to this: Parents expect/want academic excellence from their kids. The kids work a little harder to gain parental approval.

    What NYC example tells us is: higher expectation and higher standards results in higher performance. It has little to do with race or income level, but a lot to do with parenting. I won’t be surprised that 100% of NYC SEHS students (white, Asian, black, Hispanic….) have similar type of parents.

    “how do we duplicate that?”
    Most readers of this blog are probably no different from a typical Asian parent. I think 99% of Chicago’s SEHS students (regardless of race) have education minded parents. The outcome may largely related to parental expectations. If we set the bar higher (e.g. nothing short of 99% is acceptable), likely our children will have higher achievement.

    To replicate that among AA and Hispanic group is quite a challenge. The problem is really not lack of resource, funding, or poverty, it’s the years of influence from their parents. Our politicians are not helping the matter by introducing racial balancing policies, which implicitly tell AA and Hispanic students that they are not smart enough to compete.

  • 66. IB Obsessed  |  December 18, 2014 at 11:15 am

    @65″The problem is really not lack of resource, funding, or poverty, it’s the years of influence from their parents. ”

    AAs and Hispanics have a completely different history/experience in this country than do Asians, and this should not be discounted.

    Lack of resources, funding, poverty, and low societal expectations of what these races deserve and are capable of (going back HUNDREDS OF YEARS) have certainly shaped any cultural differences Hispanic and AA parental expectations have regarding academic achevement of their children.

    Don’t oversimplify. WHY are there different parental expectations/demands? How has the history of AAs and Hispanics in this country typically resulted in low parental expectations? Is Asian culture just inherently superior in this way? Doubt it.
    BTW, Asian students tend to outperform in math and science. There are other fields of study….

  • 67. other fields of study  |  December 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm


    If you don’t mind, please mention some fields of study in which Asians tend to under-perform, compared to AAs and Hispanics. I suppose you were talking about academic fields, so the intensive athletic or performative use of one’s own body wouldn’t count — unless you disagree.

  • 68. cpsobsessed  |  December 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I didn’t read it as “under performing compared to others” as much as just less asian-dominated than other subjects.

    I have no idea if that’s true or not, but that’s how I interpretted the comment. For instance if math/science skew high on share of asian kids, potentially something else must skew lower.

    Or maybe they dominate everything from drama and arts to marketing to literature studies to women’s studies to whoknows what else.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 69. other fields of study  |  December 18, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    There is little if any scientific consensus about Asians being innately good at math/science. The habitual characterization of Asians being good at math/science is more a lazy, irresponsible, and self-comforting excuse for any other ethnicity to not make its youngsters work hard on academics.

  • 70. cpsobsessed  |  December 18, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Nobody said inately good. Just prefered fields of study (and I’m not sure if that’s true or a generalization.)

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 71. otdad  |  December 18, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    ” Just prefered fields of study (and I’m not sure if that’s true or a generalization.)”.

    It’s true and not true. Academic ‘success’ of a student is seen as a source of pride and honor for the East Asian family. Probably math/science/technology are among the fields in which ‘success’ can be more objectively measured and known to be achieved through hard work. If politics, arts, literature,….etc fields had similar characteristics, we might see more Asian parents steer their children to those fields too.

  • 72. otdad  |  December 19, 2014 at 1:30 am

    “Is Asian culture just inherently superior in this way? Doubt it.”

    Of course not. We all wish our children do better than us. Just that Asian culture stress on academics, parents wanttheir children to be good at it by pushing them working a little harder. I think there are some differences between wish and want. The NYC example probably just shows Asian parents want a bit more.

    A few days ago, my wife was talking to my daughter’s piano teacher and learned that another of her students practices 2+ hours daily and is pretty good. If we want our daughter to improve faster, we may have to increase practicing time from currently 2 hours/week. We do wish her to be good at piano, but don’t want to stress her out after school. There it goes, I don’t think she can compete with him in the near future. The correlation between parental expectation and achievement seems pretty strong here too.

  • 73. cpsobsessed  |  December 19, 2014 at 8:07 am

    @otdad: I haven’t read the Tigermom book, just lots of articles on it.
    It is also a matter of priorities. If that child is practising music 2 hours a day, that means something else isn’t happening (sports, other lessons, computer time, relaxing.). Tigermom’s child wasn’t allowed to do a lot of fun/social stuff that many of us would consider a priority for our child’s happiness. But Tigermom’s kid is at harvard and most of our kids won’t be. Their priorities determined their outcome.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 74. North Center Mom  |  December 19, 2014 at 11:23 am

    @72 I think that your anecdote is spot on. Whatever our children are spending time on is where they will excel. And to extend on that idea, it’s easier for us to focus their energies when their friends are doing the same thing.

    On this blog, parents are looking for ways to get their children into the best possible elementary and high schools. What we really want is to find a school community that will support our educational values. Whether we want our kids to perform academically at the highest level or participate in sports or the arts, it’s a lot easier as a parent to enforce those standards when our child’s classmates are receiving the same message at home.

    From my experience, when assessing elementary schools, parents should not focus on the kindergarten but should ask where last year’s 8th graders are going to high school. When assessing high schools, we need to know where last year’s seniors are going to college. Unfortunately, the SEHSs all print long lists of colleges and universities where their alumni have been accepted. But these lists are an accumulation over years and years. To be useful information, I want to know how it went LAST YEAR.

  • 75. eqw  |  December 19, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    I found an interesting article about diversity in NYC schools.
    I found it interesting that a school is considered “diverse” when it has a majority of black students? And now it’s suddenly not diverse because the new majority is comprised of white students? Now, I would love for NYC to have more diverse schools but shouldn’t that mean about near equal amounts of each race in one school? And the whole discrimination thing about the high school system. We all know that if the majority of the students in those specialized schools were black or hispanic, then nobody would ever call it unjust and unfair and discriminating would they? Instead I bet they would receive numerous praises from all around. And yet, it is now considered discrimination when Asians are the top majority in these schools? I don’t know about you but the whole “discrimination” argument seems like discrimination to me. I live on the South Side on Chicago and while I know a lot of hard working parents who encourage their kids, I have seen an equally amount of parents who just don’t care. They let their kids do whatever they want and don’t really steer them into the right direction. What we need in education reform isn’t to change the system, but to change the mindsets and environments that families live in. More dedicated parents would encourage their kids to try their best rather than slack off, which would then earn them spots in top high schools and colleges.

  • 76. SoLoMo  |  December 19, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Happy holidays, folks. Love this board, but this thread is particularly tiring for me. I feel like I’ve gone back in time to the 1980s. I know people like to rehearse the “Asian success” riff ad nauseam in this culture, in a way that inevitably seems to turn into moral hectoring of Black students and/or parents (whether intentional or not). But consider the following three scholarly works relevant to this thread which challenge this narrative and “frame.”

    1) First up, check out Claude Steele, social psychologist at Stanford, who sought to explain the achievement gap through his studies and concluded African American students often under-perform on perceived high-stakes tests due to “stereotype threat.” See,

    2) Second up, evolving out of Steele’s work, check out the flip-side by University of California sociologists Jennifer Lee (Irvine) and Min Zhou (Los Angeles) for their work on “stereotype promise” that suggests Asian American students are buffered by positive reinforcement to help explain their academic success in their forthcoming 2015 book, Asian American Achievement Paradox.

    In an interview with Lee, she states, “I bridge the research in culture and social psychology in a useful way to provide the flip-side explanation; I illustrate how the success frame is validated and reinscribed in institutional contexts, such as schools, by those who presume that Asians are smart, disciplined, and high-achieving. While Claude Steele and his colleagues have found that African American students can suffer from “stereotype threat” (which depresses performance), I find that Asian American students can benefit from what I call a “stereotype promise”—the promise of being viewed through the lens of a positive stereotype, which can boost performance. These social psychological processes can result in what sociologist Robert K. Merton coined a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. Consequently, Asian American students—regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, and generational status—gain an advantage over their non-Asian peers in gateway institutions like schools.

    For a discussion of Lee & Zhou’s work, see,

    3) Well, this post is far longer than I intended, so I’ll stop at two for now.

    I know we come to the board because maybe we are all armchair sociologists (guilty as charged!). But can we please put to bed the barely warmed over “model minority” narratives from 1980’s and beyond? NYC’s elite system in unconscionable for its disparate impact on Black and Latino students, and I welcome the NAACP’s/PRLDEF’s actions. I am so glad Chicago Public Schools, for all its warts, did not go that route.

  • 77. IBobsessed  |  December 20, 2014 at 2:23 am

    @74 Finding an elementary school with a culture that makes kids like school and learning, beginning in Kindergarten, is critical to their future, HS and beyond. I wouldn’t discount the importance of good early childhood education. Incidentally, Matt Damon’s mother is an education professor and she thinks, “Naming the letter B and saying it goes “buh” is not really relevant to what good education is. It’s good to know; it’s not that you shouldn’t know any letters. It’s just that building an understanding of literacy is much, much more than that. There’s a tremendous relationship between oral language and reading, so good early childhood education involves creating experiences that are going to foster social interaction and fantasy play. … What we’re seeing instead is a lot of little kids sitting in chairs getting drilled on the letter B.

    Read more:

  • 78. otdad  |  December 23, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    @73. cpso:
    ” Their priorities determined their outcome.”
    Exactly! Priorities + work ethic determines achievement. A ‘tigermom’ is a constant reminder of those priorities to their kids. 19 years of nagging could make a difference :-).

    Another thing worth mentioning is: I found that Asian moms believe less about things like IQ or innate abilities. They tend think their kids are smart enough to be the best, only if they put in enough effort. That, IMO, is what drives a ‘tigermom’.

  • 79. otdad  |  December 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    @76 SoLoMo:
    “NYC’s elite system in unconscionable for its disparate impact on Black and Latino students, and I welcome the NAACP’s/PRLDEF’s actions. I am so glad Chicago Public Schools, for all its warts, did not go that route.”

    If there is a way to keep track on how many hours each student spent on academics since childhood, we might be able to find the true reason. NAACP’s/PRLDEF’s are racist organizations, playing race card when race is a non-factor. Skin color has nothing to do with achievement, it’s all about effort.

  • 80. pantherettie  |  December 24, 2014 at 6:54 am

    @otdad – by calling the NAACP a ‘racist organization’ you’ve pretty much negated, at least in my mind, any possibility that you’re willing to have a discussion about anything regarding race that is not based on an extremely narrow view of the world. I can understand disagreeing with the positions that the NAACP takes on a variety of issues. I can also hear the perspective that the NAACP is ‘out of date’ when I comes to the methods it deploys to call attention to problems. But I can tell you one thing for sure – if it wasn’t for the NAACP my kid wouldn’t have the option to go to an ‘integrated’ SEES or an ‘integrated’ SEHS. All of our kids have benefited from the legal challenges the NAACP raised in regards to education reform. l know that a lot of people let things slide on the Internet and look the other way but I’m going to call bull on your last comment otdad calling the NAACP a racist organization. Anyone who cares enough to obsess about their kid’s (or all kids’) education should have a better grasp on the history – at least education policy wise – on the organization.

  • 81. walker  |  December 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    @pantherettie – Out of curiosity… what do you thing about the race diversity of NBA? Should we as society to be concerned about it? If yes, would it be fair, let’s say, to assign different points depending on a player’s race and ethnicity? We can call it “tier” or any other neutral word. It sounds like a good idea if our ultimate goal is to get “better” race diversity… Well, it would punish hard-working AA players but is it the same what NAACP wants to do with hard-working Asian students in NYC SEHS?

  • 82. SoLoMo  |  December 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Question back to walker “out of curiosity”: Do you believe NBA teams who draft players are using criteria that are both unrelated to the job and disadvantageous to some non-Black group? Not every under-representation is concerning to a fair-minded society. Your question presumes a false equivalency between the NBA and New York’s entrance exam-only high school admissions system re: the definition of merit and its relationship to the “job” in question.

    NYC’s entrance-exam only testing is a big opaque box of unknowns that HAS NEVER BEEN VALIDATED AS PERFORMANCE- OR MERIT-BASED AND has an extremely racially disproportionate result. There is a reason the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has launched an investigation into this set of practices that produces a result of admitting only 5% African American and 7% Latino students at the three most competitive specialized high schools in NYC. As the NAACP lawsuit states, “federal law prohibits admissions policies that inappropriately utilize scores on tests, like the SHSAT, that have not been properly validated as a fair predictor of student performance. In the absence of any attempt by the NYCDOE [New York City Department of Education] to validate the SHSAT and because there are equally effective, less discriminatory alternatives available, the NYCDOE should not be permitted to use the SHSAT as the sole criterion….” for admission to a Specialized High School.”

    Those sticking up for this extremely narrow admissions scheme (one high-stakes entrance exam as the SOLE CRITERION) that has a known disparate impact on African American and Latino children, are you moved to sue Chicago Public Schools for its broader set of criteria (grades, 7th grade standardized tests, and entrance exam) used to admit a much more diverse group of students to our SEHS schools? If not, why not? Using your own analogy, walker, are you so confident in your analogy that you are prepared to sue (or would support suing) the NBA for its set of hiring practices that you presumably believe are using criteria unrelated to playing basketball that have a disproportionate impact upon a protected group? And if that protected group is the class of white players who might otherwise be playing in the NBA were it not for these allegedly discriminatory practices, are you able to show that the NBA is composed of owners and employers who represent that unique category of the unusual employer who discriminates against members of the majority group–i.e. whites?

  • 83. other fields of study  |  December 24, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    “this extremely narrow admissions scheme (one high-stakes entrance exam as the SOLE CRITERION) that has a known disparate impact on African American and Latino children”

    Really? On what bases can any race or ethnicity claim that it deserves a demographically proportionate share in a few purely merit-based and scholastically-oriented schools within a giant school system?

    Whether one wants to or is able to win a race-centric litigation depends very much on politics; more precisely, various social groups’ capabilities to disrupt the society’s normal functioning, i.e., the status quo. Some people may have such a capability but choose not to use it because they can gain little from the disruption. Some people don’t mind disrupting the society, but their capabilities/causes may very well turn out to be inadequate in litigations. Could the civil rights movement have been successful without winning a fundamental moral argument outside courtrooms and fostering sympathy in the general population?

  • 84. SoLoMo  |  December 24, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    “this extremely narrow admissions scheme (one high-stakes entrance exam as the SOLE CRITERION) that has a known disparate impact on African American and Latino children”

    Really? On what bases can any race or ethnicity claim that it deserves a demographically proportionate share in a few purely merit-based and scholastically-oriented schools within a giant school system?

    @83: First, setting aside your “straw man” argument above re: “demographically proportionate share” (an argument, standing alone, that was not made in my post #82 that you quoted), note that it is federal civil rights law that provides the basis to prohibit the deployment of arbitrary criteria that bears no relation to performance and lacks substantial legitimate justification for its use where it imposes a disproportionate impact upon a protected group.

    Second, you are assuming facts not in evidence when you describe the NY SHSAT as a “purely merit-based” test. The fact that NYDOE has NEVER validated the SHSAT seriously undercuts any such contention. Surely, the foibles of various testing instruments, be it ISAT, PARCC, Common Core, etc. discussed in detail on this board reveal the fallacy of meritocracy when it comes to such blunt instruments, esp. when used for high-stakes admissions decisions.

    In case you are unfamiliar with some of the particulars of Title VI (which also draws upon employment discrimination statutes under Title VII), see generally,

    Sec. VIII.B. What Constitutes Discriminatory Conduct: Disparate Impact/Effects

    The second primary theory for proving a Title VI violation is based on Title VI regulations and is known as the discriminatory “effects” or disparate impact theory. . . .

    Under the disparate impact theory, a recipient, in violation of agency regulations, uses a neutral procedure or practice that has a disparate impact on protected individuals, and such practice lacks a substantial legitimate justification. The elements of a Title VI disparate impact claim derive from the analysis of cases decided under Title VII disparate impact law. New York Urban League, 71 F.3d at 1036.

    . . .

    To establish discrimination under a disparate impact scheme, the investigating agency must first ascertain whether the recipient utilized a facially neutral practice that had a disproportionate impact on a group protected by Title VI. (42) Larry P. v. Riles, 793 F.2d 969, 982; Elston, 997 F.2d at 1407 (citing Georgia State Conference of Branches of NAACP v. Georgia, 775 F.2d 1403, 1417 (11th Cir. 1985)). The agency must show a causal connection between the facially neutral policy and the disproportionate and adverse impact on a protected Title VI group.

    . . .

    In evaluating a potential disparate impact claim under Title VI, it is important to examine whether there is a substantial legitimate justification for the challenged practice and whether there exists an alternative practice that is comparably effective with less of a disparate impact.
    . . .

  • 85. other fields of study  |  December 24, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    ” setting aside your “straw man” argument above re: “demographically proportionate share” (an argument, standing alone, that was not made in my post #82 that you quoted) ”

    Without a tacit assumption of statistically proportionate shares, how could any “protected group” be considered disproportionately impacted in a given situation, whether adversely or not? For public education or a popular national pursuit (e.g., the NBA), the statistics is pretty much demographics. Single-digit percentages of African-American and Latino students in the few NYC schools would probably have been a non-issue, if the city’s demographic composition had not been taken into account by those who disapprove the admission practice there.

  • 86. walker  |  December 24, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    @SoLoMo – Inverse examples like NBA are good to test the true intention: whether it’s indeed race diversity or a “hidden” push in favor of only some race groups.

    @SoLoMo “Those sticking up for this extremely narrow admissions scheme (one high-stakes entrance exam as the SOLE CRITERION) that has a known disparate impact on African American and Latino children, are you moved to sue Chicago Public Schools for its broader set of criteria (grades, 7th grade standardized tests, and entrance exam) used to admit a much more diverse group of students to our SEHS schools?”

    If you don’t know, there are also the tier-system that does all “magic”. Yes, it’s more race diverse (not the same as “diverse”) in expense of academic proficiency. You can find a lot of long arguments on how wealth is a direct effect of education… Unfortunately for tier-system proponents poor Asians in NYC seriously undermine that causality.

    You might be surprised by how relatively easy someone can test math proficiency in a single test. It’s whether a student knows how to solve 2+2 ( or x^2 + x + 1 = 0 etc) or not. I can’t even think of any possible example of how math can discriminate by race….. well…. if NYC SEHS test were written in an Asian language….but it’s too extreme.

    At the same time, nothing is perfect. Mixing NWEA and SEHS test is a smart idea… maybe allowing students to take the test up to 2-3 times and use the highest score would be reasonable too… making some sample tests available for public couldn’t hurt.

  • 87. SoLoMo  |  December 24, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    @85: Your speculation about how disparate impact is necessarily based upon a “tacit assumption of statistically proportionate shares” is just that–sheer speculation and assumption. The NAACP’s complaint currently pursued by federal investigators identifies the disparate impact by establishing the protected groups (here, African American and Latinos) as having significantly lower offer rates to specialized high schools than the highest scoring group (here, Asian Americans) based on non-meritorious, untested screening devices. Thus, the NAACP’s complaint is not based on “pretty much demographics” as you claim without support through your straw argument-type allusions to the operation of quotas. The allegedly neutral device is the SHSAT. Its use is illegal if there is a) adverse impact (established by the significantly lower offer rates); and either b) inability of the user (here, NY state and NYC specialized schools) to validate that the allegedly neutral device has a “substantial legitimate justification” (next to impossible since the test was never validated); or c) there exist less discriminatory alternatives to the challenged device producing the disparity (see Chicago SEHS admissions).

    Please read the actual complaint of the NAACP before making assumptions about what it says. I think this board offers tremendous potential if difficult conversations are based on an informed exchange of ideas and reasoned debate that avoids logical fallacies.

    There is another theory of discrimination under federal law that more closely aligns with your comments–it is systemic disparate treatment. Basically, if the expected numbers based on the qualified and relevant labor market do not reflect the actual numbers at a workplace by two standard deviations or more, then there is a “prima facie” showing of systemic disparate treatment using this statistically-based mode of proof. Federal law supports claims of discrimination under this theory as well. Do I interpret correctly based on your statements inveighing against “statistically proportionate shares” that you also oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s (Title VII in particular) systemic disparate treatment causes of action?

  • 88. SoLoMo  |  December 24, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    @86: Your NY specialized high school admissions analogy to hiring in the NBA, combined with your failure to respond to my questions in @82 reveal the false equivalency you have drawn between the NY SHSAT-based admissions and NBA hiring practices. One is currently under legal scrutiny from federal authorities and will not survive in its current form, and the other is not. You can try to pretend that your analogy reveals more (through resort to straw man argumentation suggesting implicit quotas or anti-Asian racism), but it does not.

    Please reread this para and rephrase: “If you don’t know, there are also the tier-system that does all “magic”. Yes, it’s more race diverse (not the same as “diverse”) in expense of academic proficiency. You can find a lot of long arguments on how wealth is a direct effect of education… Unfortunately for tier-system proponents poor Asians in NYC seriously undermine that causality.”

    What do you mean by “academic proficiency”? To what “long arguments” are you referring when you say “wealth is a direct effect of education. . .” And what do you mean by “poor Asians in NYC seriously undermine that causality”? What causality? Very unclear.

    Wishing all a great holiday season. Signing out until after xmas.

  • 89. other fields of study  |  December 24, 2014 at 11:32 pm


    ” The NAACP’s complaint currently pursued by federal investigators identifies the disparate impact by establishing the protected groups (here, African American and Latinos) as having significantly lower offer rates to specialized high schools than the highest scoring group (here, Asian Americans) ”

    The complaint is premised on deviations from a hypothetical equal representation — identical admission rates — among the ethnicities. It’s the same logic that, if the ideal equal rate of success obtains, NYC’s demographic composition would present itself in those few schools. Conversely, as the demographics doesn’t show up because of disparate rates of success, the admission process must be categorically wrong and then attributable to testing practices that result in the difference. The test-takers themselves, presumably, have done nothing wrong, whether they choose to study three hours or thirty minutes a day at home.

    As for existing laws, it seems few clauses’ vitality is immune to ongoing and future litigations, and this forum is probably not the best place to argue about their authority.

  • 90. otdad  |  December 27, 2014 at 9:32 am

    @80. pantherettie:
    Racist = one has “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement.”

    NAACP seems to think AA and Latino students have inherent disadvantages, while Asians have inherent advantages in NYC SEHS test, which is a test based on materials everyone was taught in school, with the same books, same teachers, and in the same language.

    I’m fully aware of the huge contribution made by the civil rights movement in history. Insisting racial differences in everything seems in the opposite direction.

    Students who got in NYC’s SEHSes, they are good, not just “black good”, “Latino good”, “tier x good”. To use some kind of racial quota is very shortsighted. It teaches 14-15 year-olds a life lesson: skin color matters, what your parents do matters, not just your talent and effort. It basically teaches racial stereotyping.

  • 91. pantherettie  |  December 27, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Otdad – I’m not sure how to respond to a person that makes a blanket statement that the NAACP is a racist organization. You overlooked my comments that I can understand that you disagree with their position on SEHS enrollment and admission. I don’t share your thoughts on this but I respect it. What I don’t respect is your statement that the NAACP is a racist organization. Mentioning that you understand the civil rights movement and calling the NAACP a racist organization is bizarre.

  • 92. otdad  |  December 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    @91. pantherettie:
    That’s probably due to our difference in defining what is a racist.
    To me, there is a thin line between fighting against racial discrimination and fighting for racial favoritism. If an organization crosses that line, it’s a racist organization.

  • 93. walker  |  December 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I read NAACP initiatives in Education and some of them are indeed right to the point. For example, “NAACP Reads” stresses importance of early reading proficiency, summer education, parenting etc ( and looks like a great idea in the right direction. So, it’s probably their position on NYC SEHS is rather questionable than the organization itself. It seems NAACP is also at odds with NYCED over other much broader issues.

  • 94. pantherettie  |  December 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    otdad – I guess that the NAACP should have ceased to exist now that racism doesn’t exist and we live in a race neutral society.

  • 95. cpsobsessed  |  December 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I believe “inherent” means “in-born,” no? The NAACP is acknowledging societal disadvantages that take some effort to overcome. I am assuming we can agree that these exist in america for certain racial groups?
    Acknowledging that this exists doesn’t constitute an “inherent” difference.

    Otdad, do you also feel that feminists are sexist? By definition I think it would be the same, no?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 96. otdad  |  December 29, 2014 at 8:18 am

    @94. pantherettie:
    Racism in the form of racial profiling on a personal level probably will be with us for a very long time. The election of president Obama does show that most people are ready for a race neutral society. The current events did show that some people are not.

    By arguing “….my race is under represented…., my race deserves special treatment….”, the organizations, leaders, politicians failed to realize that they themselves are racist.

  • 97. otdad  |  December 29, 2014 at 9:34 am

    @95. cpsobsessed:
    “I am assuming we can agree that these exist in america for certain racial groups?”
    Yes. The problem in the NYC case is the who takes large percentage of SEHS seats. Asian has the highest poverty rate, the least political clout, but manage to take most of the seats. That makes all other “disadvantages” irrelevant, the only “disadvantage” or difference left is skin color, an inherent difference.

    NAACP challenge seems to think AA and Latino just can’t compete with Asian in academic test. That’s why I call them a racist organization.

    “Otdad, do you also feel that feminists are sexist? By definition I think it would be the same, no?”
    No, not the same. But if a person thinks one sex has inherent disadvantage in an academic test, that person is a sexist.

  • 98. cpsobsessed  |  December 29, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I think I’m still hung up on you’re use of the word “inherent” which is different from “societal” — but I recognize your argument as I know it’s not an uncommon one to use in race discussions.

    From my end, I will agree to disagree as I doubt either of us will make the one brilliantly worded statement to sway the other.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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