According to a recent piece in the New York Times, exam schools such as the Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School benefit working-class students. This assertion wouldn’t come as a surprise to New York attorney Theodore H. Friedman. Friedman, whose mother worked as a union organizer in New York’s garment district, attended the Bronx High School of Science in the 1940s.
Friedman then worked his way through an undergraduate program at the University of Michigan and through law school at Harvard. Now a successful New York attorney, his experience is not unique. Most exam-school students come from middle- or working-class homes, and minorities and immigrants are overrepresented among their classes. For many, exam schools are the only possible escape from failing neighborhood schools.
In general, these schools accept only the top 1 percent of U.S. students. Many applicants fail to make it through the screening process, as space is limited. The article in the New York Times argues that this should encourage us to open more of these schools. A common counter-argument is that bright children will succeed wherever they are, but are these children really succeeding if they’re not allowed to reach their full academic potential? Or could New York see more success stories like Theodore H. Friedman?