Stumpy Wagers was perched on a stool at Denny’s Pub watching the annual NCAA basketball tournament known as March Madness when the subject of entrance into academically specialized public high schools came up in conversation.

    “The city should give seats like the NCAA does in picking the 64 teams for March Madness so it includes a good number of Cinderella students,” said Stumpy.

    “Cinderella students?”

    “Poor kids that are self motivated and graduate at the top or near the top of their class in middle school.”

    I took a swig of my beer. “Prey tell. Explain yourself, Stumps.”

    “Well, entrance into the city’s eight specialized high schools is based solely on tests, right?”

    “That is correct.”

    “But this results in the Pacific Asian culture getting the vast majority of the seats because they generally put more emphasis on having their children study and do well on these tests. Whites also get a fair share, but the problem is blacks and Latinos are underrepresented. They only get about 10 percent of these seats, but make up 67 percent of the city’s student population. So the answer is to delegate seats like the NCAA basketball tournament.”

    “Education is not basketball,” I replied. “Some Chinese parents have their kids taking these tests at an early age and gear up their entire education for these tests. There are plenty of smart black and Latino kids that given a chance can compete academically with anyone”

    “Exactly. The Chinese students are like the Atlantic Coast or Big Ten Conference. These conferences typically get four, five and six teams into the big dance. So the test takers should automatically get the lions share of seats, but they shouldn’t get them all and that’s where the mid-majors come in.”

    “The mid-majors?”

    “Yes conferences like the Missouri Valley Conference and the Horizon Conference. The team that wins the conference gets an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, and sometimes another team or two from the conference. These are where the Cinderella teams come from, and every so often, like Butler University did a few years ago, they go all the way to the finals and occasionally win the whole tournament.”

    “So who are the mid-major students that should get into specialized schools.”

    “These are the top three students¬†from each school in neighborhoods that are below the poverty line. These kids usually don’t have the resources to bone up on the entrance exams, but they are self-motivated. They deserve a shot at the specialized schools.”

    “And you think these kids can compete against the smartest from other neighborhoods?”

    “I’d bet on it,” Wagers said. “You give Cinderella students a chance to compete, against the best and they will undoubtedly rise to the occasion.”

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