Equity is Bad Policy


By Hessie Harris

Some Virginia High School Asian students were not informed that they had the distinction of scoring in the top 3% of the nation on the  PSAT, the college entrance exam.  Such accomplishment enhanced their chances of early acceptance into elite colleges and receiving other significant scholastic perks. The reason given by the schools for the delay/failure was to prevent other students, who did not score as highly. “from feeling bad” or “having hurt feelings. 

The question is, What is a respectable score on the exam? Clearly if not only the top 3% got into college, but higher education could not be sustained. 

What occurred in Virginia represents discrimination against high achieving Asian students and the bigotry of low expectations against the rest to maintain the illusion of equity.

Were the schools really concerned about an expected huge gap, they could have informed the students of the self-help available to them. The information is on the internet. Performance is improved by awareness and preparation. Informing all students would avoid an allegation of stigmatization.

On-line, there are free articles that give tips, advice and instruction on taking the entrance exam.  Also, there are reasonably priced “How-To” manuals listed that include more such information AND practice exams.  Those manuals are also available in local bookstores.  In addition, there are mini prep courses available for students who will be taking the exam.  They are of various prices.  However, surely Fairfax County ‘s budget could include funds to pay for or subsidize the cost if need be.

That contrast, with times gone by when such resources  were not available to Black students who, by law or policy, attended segregated schools  and lived in segregated  neighborhoods where there were no bookstores   Black students  were not welcome in areas where they did exist.

Black students were not told of prep resources, and neither were their teachers or school administrators.  All that was known was that “there was this test” that had to taken  to get into college.  However, they could not “study” for it as it was a reflection of all they had learned to date.

One student, of working-class parents, simply could not accept that there was a test that could not be prepared for. After walking nearly a mile over unpaved ground to the “local library”, the very tired student asked at the Information Desk if there were ANY BOOKS on test taking.

The employee smiled brightly and pointed to a shelf of large leather bound books. But a comparatively small white brand-new paperback book titled “How To Take Standardized Tests” was incongruously at the front of the shelf.

The student sat down and read it for several hours.   The first section was titled “Number Series”.   The reason that was so memorable was because that was also the first section of the entrance exam.  After the exam, students congregated outside the exam room.  Most were shaken and upset   They were not ignorant but just had never been exposed to the concept of number series.   The student, also an avid reader, scored over 250 points higher than peers. No, the score was not in the top 3% but respectable enough for college admission.  That student was yours truly.


Hessie  L. Harris is a Member of the Maryland Republican Central Committee from Montgomery County


Montgomery County Republican Party