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School & District Management

What Color Are the Gifted?

By Rachel Narrow — August 09, 2010 1 min read

Teachers at Hunter College High School, a New York City public school for the intellectually gifted, believe the school’s rigorous admissions process--which is by invitation and test-based--discriminates against students of color, the New York Times reports. Frustrated with Hunter College’s administration, which is a division of the City University of New York and oversees the high school, the faculty recently took a stand on the issue.

Although the school does not have a valedictorian, the faculty invites students to write and submit graduation speeches. This year the faculty chose Justin Hudson, an African-American and Hispanic student, as the graduation speaker. Hudson had submitted a speech condemning his school for its lack of diversity.

On graduation day, Hudson told his audience that Hunter High’s students “had been labeled ‘gifted,’ based on a test they passed ‘due to luck and circumstance,’” and that they were “disproportionately from middle-class Asian and white neighborhoods known for good schools and the prevalence of tutoring.” According to the Times, this past year Hunter High’s 7th grade class was 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic; the public school system as a whole is 70 percent black and Hispanic.

The entire faculty and about half the students gave Hudson a standing ovation, and Hunter’s well-liked principal publically praised him. In the midst of the diversity debate, however, she is resigning, citing a “culture of fear” from the higher administration. She is the third principal to leave the school in five years.

Teachers promptly delivered a notice of no confidence in Hunter College’s president, and they plan to take the matter to the chancellor of the City University of New York.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.