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J. Mark Ramseyer & Yoshitaka Fukui, Democracy and “Elite” Education: Lessons From Another Corner of the World, 14 Notre Dame J. Int'l & Compar. L. 1 (2024).

Abstract: Adjacent to the recent (and ongoing) legal disputes over admissions to elite university programs, parallel disputes over admission to the most selective high schools continue. New York City operates the best known of these high schools and chooses its students through blindly graded exams. Critics--including prominent scholars like Stanford's Richard Banks and Yale's Daniel Markovitz--argue that the exams favor the wealthy. The Obama administration urged the high schools to replace their blind exams with a random selection mechanism for all applicants who met a minimum competency standard. For decades, the Tokyo Board of Education had similarly maintained an elite high school and had similarly selected its students through a blind exam. Under similar egalitarian pressure, it replaced the exam with what would in time become the Obama administration template: the combination of a minimum competency exam with random selection. Almost immediately, the most promising students abandoned public high schools entirely. They shifted to what had previously been inferior private schools. The best of these private schools raised their standards in response, and public education in Tokyo never recovered. Students learn best when taught at their level. The brightest students learn best when taught at a level that challenges them, and with which other students could never keep up. Bright Tokyo students wanted that challenge. When the public schools denied it to them, they left the public schools en masse.