Expert critiques Buffalo school policies

May 28, 2015

Buffalo has some great schools and would have even more, under proposals from a UCLA education researcher presented to the school board Wednesday night.

The Buffalo school board heard from UCLA professor Gary Orfield Wednesday night.
Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Gary Orfield looked into what Washington claims are racially and economically discriminatory admissions practices in the criteria schools. Orfield says the entire system discriminates because parents get little admissions information, kids with weak grades but potential don't get in and kids with English language problems don't get in.

"Their test scores aren't quite at the level that you'd want to see from an American-born student," said Orfield. "You know those are the kind of people that do amazing things and they should not be screened out on the basis of the misuse of a stupid test."

Orfield says the goal of changing admissions and adding schools is to retain high standards while opening the best schools to students not allowed in now. He says the school system doesn't explain right now how the admissions process works, hurting those who can't navigate the complicated process while others from better backgrounds or neighborhoods can figure it out.

"There are many criteria that tap different kinds of talents and you've got a system right now that has all these cut points and rigidity and doesn't have exceptions for exceptional kids and we're talking about doing something that's much more like what the Ivy League does," he added.

Orfield's proposal calls for admitting students with high potential and weaker grades, as well as high potential students with weak English skills. He also wants to add three new high schools with high admission standards including another City Honors.