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Hunter school renews outreach efforts to children of color

Stephon Johnson | 10/17/2013, 11:41 a.m.

If you were told that there was a school that could provide your child with the best education possible and it was free and open to the public, in New York City, would you believe it?

You should, because for Manhattan residents, Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School are a godsend if their child can get in. They’re independent, they’re free and they’re challenging, while not beholden to the Department of Education’s testing-oriented curriculum.

Over the years, the schools did a masterful job of having student bodies that represented the city they called home, but about half a decade ago, some administrators at the schools started to notice the increasingly homogenous makeup of the kids. While there were many reasons to explain the situation, the schools decided simply to rededicate their efforts to diversity. Back on course, Hunter College Schools’ Director of Admissions and Outreach Kyla Kupferstein Torres spoke with the AmNews about the schools’ commitment to diversity and the type of education the schools provide.

The Head Start [programs] that we work with are all over the city,” said Torres when asked about how the schools get the word out to predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in Manhattan. “We work with the Children Aid’s Society and the Education Alliance. We’re working through nonprofits that are active in serving these kinds of families and seeing children from the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Washington Heights and Inwood [YMCA] come to this school.”

Hunter elementary and high school alums are represented at some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And just like those schools, Hunter’s schools require good scores on tests to get in, but for the elementary school and high school (which goes from grades seven through 12 instead of nine through 12), the tests are different.

The elementary school tests go through two rounds in order to whittle down the number of kids that the school would invite to attend—25 boys and 25 girls out of over 2,000 applicants. The first round requires that the parent take the child to an approved tester who is trained to give an intellectual reasoning assessment using a modified Stanford-Binet V exam created specifically for Hunter College Elementary School admissions standards. Admissions officials then choose who goes on to the next round based off of scores given by the tester.

The second round requires children to meet in groups of nine, where trained consultants observe their behaviors in individual and group tasks and their interaction with teachers and peers in order to simulate a preschool classroom atmosphere.

With the high school, seventh grade is the only entry year, so unlike the admission process for the specialized public high schools, you can’t retake the exam a year later if you didn’t make the required score the first time. And unlike the process for entry in the elementary school, the test is open to all New York City residents and not just Manhattanites. Torres told the AmNews that the high school’s entrance exam requires excellent fifth-grade statewide test scores just to have a seat at the table. The website states that they’re looking for a 343 math score and a 346 English/language arts score on the statewide tests.