Like these other institutions, Brooklyn Tech, which sits in the haute brownstone neighborhood of Fort Greene, is regarded as a diamond in the city’s educational crown, along with the Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School.
The school boasts many advantages, as most students are well aware. Nearly all balked, however, at describing it as segregated, not least because the descriptor “Asian” encompasses disparate ethnicities, cultures, languages and skin colors.
Tausifa looks at the multihued sea of students pouring through the doors of Tech. She expressed puzzlement that a school where three-quarters of the students are nonwhite could be described as segregated. “I have classes with students of all demographics and skin colors, and friends who speak different languages,” she said. “To call this segregation does not make sense.”
To which Salma Mohamed, a child of immigrants from Alexandria, Egypt, and a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, added: “It’s very interesting to me that the word segregated is used in a school that is predominantly Asian. It connotes white and class privilege. That’s not us.”
The Debate Over an Entrance Exam
Critics of specialized high schools argue that these institutions are out of step with the zeitgeist and educational practice. Better to cast aside standardized tests and seek heterogenous classes in neighborhood high schools, they argue, than to cloister top students. Some studies, they say, show that struggling students gain from the presence of talented outliers. And the entrance exam, which includes no writing component, has fueled the growth of a private and inequitable tutoring industry.
What of the bright child who has a bad test day? Or a teenager who lacks the money to seek tutoring?
“Educationally, we don’t need these schools,” said David Bloomfield, a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College. “These students cannot be in a bubble. They need to be in a more diverse student body, where you could have advanced classes.”