From OurTownNY by Megan Finnegan and Stephon Johnson:
Last week, Our Town, West Side Spirit and The Amsterdam News reported on the lack of diversity at two of the city’s top specialized high schools, Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, and a program called Discovery, designed to help increase minority enrollment but which has fallen into disuse over the past decade at these schools. While he did not respond to repeated requests for comment before press time, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott responded to the article when questioned by NY1, stating the program is “not race-based” and that its reinstatement would do nothing to help increase the extremely low numbers of minority students at these schools.

We asked elected officials and education experts to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say about the role of the Discovery Program in specialized high schools.

Bronx City Council Member Oliver Koppell, member of the State Assembly when the Hecht-Calandra bill, establishing the Discovery Program, passed in 1971:

“Certainly there was a sense that in these schools, the minority population was relatively low and that the Discovery Program would benefit the minority students who didn’t on average do as well. It was worded as ‘culturally deprived’ and ‘educationally less experienced.’

“I was very surprised to learn that the Discovery Program was terminated. We have to do a better job in the lower grades to get all kids up to snuff. Given these numbers, we should be doing more to encourage minority enrollment.”

East Side City Council Member Jessica Lappin (Stuyvesant Alumnus):

“While the huge range of racial disparity at the schools is pretty shocking, the underlying situation is sadly unsurprising. There is a racial achievement gap in this country and in our city. In New York, we see it among young kids when 4-year-olds take the gifted and talented test and we’re seeing it at the high school level, as well. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. The Discovery Program is one proven way to start tackling the issue and it’s a tool that absolutely should be used. But we also need to look deeper than that. We need to improve early childhood education, health care and nutrition in our city if we want to really get at the root of this problem.”

East Side City Council Member Dan Garodnick:

“The makeup of our specialized high schools does not match the overall population of public school students or the talent that we know is out there, and that’s a problem. But this problem doesn’t just start during the high school admissions season. The Department of Education needs to be more aggressive in preparing students of diverse backgrounds for our most rigorous curricula, starting when they first enter the school system.”

West Side City Council Member Gale Brewer:

“The problem at Stuyvesant runs deep; I know African-American students who have been accepted to Stuy but turned it down to go elsewhere because the culture is uncomfortable with so few black and Latino students. The DOE must respond to the need to restart the Discovery Program.”

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Part 1 of this story: Who Killed the Discovery Program at Stuyvesant and Bronx Science?