Hiba Hanoune

There I was, the salutatorian, matched to the zoned program because I was poor.
— Hiba

September of 2014. There I was, the salutatorian of my graduating eighth grade class, preparing myself for admission to my dream school, Stuyvesant High School. Stuyvesant was that dream school, that one school that was going to help support me and set a springboard for my future endeavors. My family wasn’t well off financially. Often times, we struggled and there was constant worry over whether we had food in the fridge or we had school supplies. I wasn’t expecting to enroll in a Kaplan or a Princeton review course like my fellow affluent classmates. Nevertheless, I persisted. I sought out a free course/program that's funded by the DOE called DREAM. Upon hearing the name of the program, I knew this was my chance to really meet my goal. I was one step closer to Stuyvesant. Every Saturday morning, I would take a two hour train ride trip to the site where the program was held. My excitement and eagerness faded upon finding out that my course was set in a dilapidated building and my so-called instructor wasn’t there for the purpose of instructing but rather for the paycheck. I was only one of 6 students that showed up. We were given a workbook and told to start on page 2. I distinctly remember inquiring to my instructor about a problem in the workbook and as a response my book was thrown back at me and I was told to figure it out myself. So there I was, figuring it out myself. October rolls in. I show up to the test with two crisp sharpened #2 pencils and almost little to no knowledge or practice for the test thanks to my so called course at DREAM.

November, December, January, February, March.

Results day. I opened my letter to find out my score amounted to nothing in comparison to my classmates. As classmates shouted that they’d been accepted to Staten Island Tech, or Bronx Science, my letter revealed that I was matched to my zoned high school. There I was, the salutatorian, matched to the zoned program because I was poor.

The specialized high school exam tests material that would not have been known to your average eighth grader unless a prep course was taken. Yes, the specialized high school test is race blind. Yes, the special high school test is bias blind. But we can not forget that only ten percent of students who make up these schools are black or latino. THE DICHOTOMY SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. SOMETHING MUST BE WRONG. We can not forget that this barricades a financially disadvantaged student’s opportunity to attend an elite high school. Claiming that the test is not biased is an absolutely valid justification for keeping it in place. It subjugated thousands of overqualified students simply because of their lack of resources and for reasons beyond their control. One test is not and should not be the determining factor of one’s success. My story is only one of countless others that fell into the trap of the wretched mess that we call an education system.