New York City’s specialized high schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech, have been in the news of late as the city’s unpopular Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed changes to the admissions policies at these schools. And why? So the schools could better reflect the wonderful diversity of New York City. It seems an admirable goal on the surface — until of course one dissects his plan which would invariably lead to discrimination against one group in particular: Asian American applicants to these schools.
A Lack of African American and Latinx Representation at NYC’s Specialized Schools
As Eliza Shapiro and K.K. Rebecca Lai writes for The New York Times in a piece today entitled “How New York’s Elite Public Schools Lost Their Black and Hispanic Students,” “White enrollment has also fallen while Asian enrollment has ballooned. Among the most drastic shifts: Brooklyn Technical High School’s black population dropped to 6 percent in 2016 from 51 percent in 1982. The city has designated five additional test-in specialized high schools since 2002, bringing the total to eight, in an attempt to integrate the elite schools. But even those schools have seen a decline in black and Hispanic enrollment over the last decade, which undercuts the idea that simply adding more elite schools will shift demographics. Black and Hispanic students currently represent 70 percent of the school system, but make up just 10 percent of the enrollment in the specialized schools.”
The Cause for the Lack of Diversity at NYC’s Specialized Schools
And why the drastic shift in demographics at New York City’s specialized schools? Well, when admission is based solely on the results of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, it invariably favors strong test-takers or…you guessed it…students whose families can afford great test prep. Students from underserved communities in New York City often cannot afford great test prep and so they find themselves at a distinct disadvantage when seeking admission to some of the very best schools in New York City, schools that regularly send droves of their graduates to Ivy League and other highly selective colleges. Mayor de Blasio has proposed scrapping the exam in its entirety with a system that designates seats to top performing students from all city middle schools.
A Call to Increase Diversity at NYC’s Specialized Schools
Mayor de Blasio’s drastic proposal, of course, requires approval from the state legislature, which we don’t think will happen anytime soon. And while we understand his frustrations and echo his call for increased diversity at schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech, maybe there exists a middle ground. Maybe New York City’s Specialized High Schools Admissions Test doesn’t need to be scrapped entirely. Maybe other factors could be considered as well in the hope of reinvigorating the enrollment numbers of underrepresented minorities at these top secondary schools.
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