Racial quotas lifted at Twain

By Michèle De Meglio

The Mark Twain School for the Gifted and Talented is now free of racial quotas. A federal judge has eliminated a quota system holding minorities to higher standards than white students seeking admission to the magnet school. “Admission to Mark Twain and other District 21 middle school magnet programs will now be race neutral,” said Debra Wexler, a spokesperson for the city Department of Education (DOE), which recently sought to eliminate the quota system. “I am pleased with Judge Weinstein’s decision,” said Rep. Vito Fossella. “It pleases me to know that students…will now have a fair shot at admission based solely on their educational merit.” The quota system was created under a 1974 court order meant to desegregate the school. It mandated that 60 percent of I.S. 239’s students be white and the other 40 percent be minorities. To ensure those demographics, it’s been difficult for minorities to gain entrance to the specialized middle school – they must score at least 84.4 on an admissions test, while white students need to earn a mark of 77. That criterion kept a Bay Ridge resident out of the school. Nikita Rau earned a score of 79 – higher than the standard for white students but lower than the standard for minorities. Outraged by the differing requirements, her father filed a lawsuit against the city last month, which he believes motivated the DOE to seek the elimination of racial quotas at Mark Twain. But the DOE says it always intended to challenge the 1974 court order. According to a department source, “This is inaccurate. We had already been working on our motion to vacate the court order well before the lawsuit was filed.”

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