New York debates lack of diversity at specialized public schools
It’s long been a problem with no easy solution: New York City’s specialized high schools’ admissions process appears dismally out of whack with the city’s diverse population.
Seven black students were admitted to Stuyvesant this year; 18 black students were admitted to Bronx Science. Efforts to change this, over a period of decades, have had limited results.
The newest attempt at a legislative fix, a bill introduced in Albany by State Senator Simcha Felder and supported the United Federation of Teachers, would require the schools to use multiple measures, including G.P.A. and attendance records, in determining admissions. The idea is that taking into account more factors would provide less of an unfair advantage to wealthy middle schoolers whose parents can pay for extensive test prep for the exam the schools now rely on.
But the legislation has failed to gain much traction. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has promised to change the specialized schools admissions process, has not endorsed the bill.
Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said, “the D.O.E. is engaging with many stakeholders including principals, teachers, advocates and parents to consider innovative ways to make our top schools representative of the city’s diversity while retaining high standards.”
In all, 27,817 students took the exam last year, and 5,096 were admitted to one of the eight schools. The number of black students who took the exam was 6,566, representing 24 percent of the total number of test-takers. Only 246 of them, or 4 percent of the total number of admitted students, received an offer to one of the eight schools. By contrast, Asian students constituted 30 percent (8,226) of total test-takers last year, and 33 percent (2,725) of the total number of admitted students.
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