As the start of the academic year draws closer, education has dominated news headlines.
A lawsuit claims that Harvard’s current policies discriminate against Asian-American students’ applications to the elite university, but this week, GW and 15 other universities joined together to back Harvard and affirmative action policies.
Meanwhile, D.C. public schools will start ranking each school on a five-star point system. The system has good intentions, but it may do more harm than good.
Here’s the best and worst from this week’s headlines:
GW joined 15 other universities and filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Harvard and its affirmative action policies. Harvard and the universities supporting the Ivy League school argue that the policies create a more diverse and better student body.
While colleges and universities are not allowed to use racial quotas, highly selective institutions can look at race in a holistic review of a class of applicants. But Harvard came under fire in 2014 when a group, Students for Fair Admissions, alleged that the institution discriminated against Asian-American students during the admission process using the policy.
Affirmative action is not a perfect system. Opponents of the policy believe that race shouldn’t be considered a factor in college admissions. But others say that affirmative action is fair because it isn’t enough to fully offer equal opportunity to secondary education for minority students.
In Harvard’s case, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans did not find intentional bias in the school’s data on its Asian-American applicants.
Bias can occur, but it is difficult to track on an individual level. However, scrapping affirmative action altogether is not the answer because it is necessary to attempt to level a very uneven playing field.
The District’s public schools have the worst dropout rates in the country, according to a report released this week. According to the report, approximately 40 percent of low-income students are dropping out of high school, but the District is trying to curb that trend.
Attempting to improve public schools is a positive, but the new system of ranking schools on a five-star scale falls flat.
The rating method will start in December with hopes of holding administrators and parents accountable for the success or failure of their students. But this system isn’t flawless. The ranking will only help to put successful schools on a pedestal while others are highlighted as bad.
While well-intentioned, the system will inevitably lead to a gap between schools with wealthy students and those with students from low-income families. The schools that end up on the lower side of the scale will be given more resources and aid to bring up their rating. But even with those resources, it’s difficult to convince families that their children should stay at a one-star school instead of attempting to go to a four- or five-star school. A decrease in enrollment may lead to one-star schools becoming less and less financed, even though those schools may need money the most.
While it may seem helpful to families to rank schools, this system will only drive a larger wedge between the best and worst public schools around the District.
Renee Pineda, a senior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.
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