Opinion

AOC Gives Ammo To School-Choice And Standardized Test Advocates

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Posted: Mar 23, 2019 10:20 AM
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AOC Gives Ammo To School-Choice And Standardized Test Advocates

Source: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez starred in a Jackson Heights town hall meeting on Saturday. While it was formally organized by Jackson Heights People for Public Schools, AOC was the highlight and the reason most attendees showed up. As expected, many radical progressive proposals were presented, e.g., stop suspensions, eliminate standardized testing, remove white teachers, but for the most part, they were not proposed by Ocasio-Cortez.

At the meeting, speaking about her own education, Ocasio-Cortez recounted that when she was about to start school at the age of five, her family decided the schools in her Bronx neighborhood were bad and they did not want to send her to them. Her family pooled their money so they could buy a house in Westchester, where she could attend better schools. In the 1960s and 70s, many New York City families did the same thing as the Ocasio-Cortezes and it was dubbed “White Flight.” 

Hearing this story amidst all these progressive education advocates begs a question: Why is it that when Ocasio-Cortez’s family felt the schools in their neighborhood were bad and they fled to the suburbs, that's okay, but when Asian immigrants who do not have the means to do what Ocasio-Cortez’s family did instead have their children work hard to gain admission to a Specialized High School, progressives want to deny them this opportunity?

Ocasio-Cortez discussed her experiences attending school in Westchester. She said at her school she was the only student who “looked like her." She explained that because of this, she was subject to discrimination by the teachers and administration of the school. The school wanted to label her learning disabled, but fortunately, she was saved because she was given a standardized test on which she scored in the 99th percentile. Again, another question arises: Why, while Ocasio-Cortez’s personal experiences are that objective standardized testing saved her from educational discrimination, the progressives who idolize her want to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and replace it with admissions criteria which are much more subjective and vulnerable to bias? 

Later at the town hall, several speakers criticized the SHSAT. These criticisms elicited raucous protests from a group of vocal Asians parents. These Asians parents held up signs which read “Anti-SHSAT = Anti-Asian," “Equity! A Code Word for Anti-Asian” and “Stop Progressive Asian Racism."  In response to these protests, Ocasio-Cortez got up and spoke about her father’s experiences attending Brooklyn Tech.

Although Ocasio-Cortez’s father was Hispanic and grew up in what Ocasio-Cortez called a bad neighborhood in the Bronx, he worked hard, took the SHSAT and was admitted to Brooklyn Tech. She spoke about how her father had to wake up at 5 a.m. and take the subway from the Bronx to Brooklyn. She also stated that in the 1970s, when her father was in high school, the subways were dangerous (without making the connection to which political policies made the subways dangerous and which policies made them safe again). 

By Ocasio-Cortez’s account, her father received a great education. Mr. Ocasio should be commended for his hard work and dedication to education. Once more question comes to mind: Why is it that progressives want to deny hard working children the same opportunity to attend a great Specialized High School that Ocasio-Cortez’s father had?

While the town hall was a chock full of the type of destructive education proposals I expected to hear, it was surprising to hear otherwise from the progressive media star. Ocasio-Cortez, through describing her own life experiences, made excellent arguments for keeping the SHSAT as the sole admissions criteria for the Specialized High Schools. Thank you, AOC.

Charles Vavruska is a New York City-based parent activist and evangelist for the local Specialized High School Admissions Test. The Queens Village Republican Club will honor Vavruska with its Education Advocate of the Year award at its upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner.