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Elite NYC Public Schools' Diversity Problem

Hunter College High School has a lot of famous alumni, from Pulitzer Prize-winners to New York Times journalists to university presidents to actors to hip-hop stars, like Immortal Technique and Young MC. This week, it added Supreme Court Justice to its roles, as the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan, a member of HCHS's class of '77, to join the bench. What it doesn't have these days is a whole lot of diversity.

As noted yesterday, by Amanda, that point was brought to the forefront this June when one of the school's graduation speakers, a half-black, half-Hispanic student named Justin Hudson proclaimed that he felt "guilty" about his education at the high school for gifted students.

As with several other New York City public schools for gifted students, in order to get into HCHS, which teaches children in grade 7 through 12, one must pass a teacher-written exam that is known for it's difficulty. In the wake of Hudson's speech—which the faculty selected to be read at the ceremony—Principal Eileen Coppola resigned, citing the school's lack of diversity as on of her qualms.

According to New York magazine's Daily Intel blog, prospective students could really find out about applying to HCHS if someone at their current school bothered to identify them as a viable candidate and mentioned it to them. Now, however, HCHS will be sending out a mailing to all fifth grade students who receive scores in the top 10 percent in reading and math on the state proficiency exam.

It remains to be seen if that makes for more diverse classes in the future at HCHS. The Times reports that one quarter of the students who qualified to take the school's test were either black or Hispanic. But, even if the pool of students taking the test expands, with recent reports on test scores showing that an achievement gap still persists in New York City public schools, can they still get to a diverse class without adding something like quotas?

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