Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photography Office
Last week, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his administration’s plan to improve diversity at specialized public high schools.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie this week tabled a bill that would gradually eliminate the Specialized High Schools admissions exam, instead opting to take it up in the Lower Chamber during the next legislative session.
The Assembly Committee on Education last week voted 16-12 in favor of the Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) sponsored measure.
“This is a first step in addressing this issue, and I will be having conversations with Assembly members and various stakeholders to determine how to proceed in order to best serve New York City’s school children,” Heastie said. “The Assembly Majority will work deliberatively, speaking with all the affected communities, so that together we can find a resolution that benefits all of New York City’s students.”
Last week, the City announced a new two-part plan to make admissions to the eight testing Specialized High Schools—Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; The Bronx High School of Science; The Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; Staten Island Technical High School; and Stuyvesant High School—“fairer and improve diversity”:
• Eliminating the use of the single-admissions test over three years: The elimination of the Specialized High Schools test would require State legislation, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza noted. By the end of the elimination, the SHS would reserve seats for top performers at each city middle school. If the law is passed, the test would be phased out over a three-year period. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, 45 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently; 62 percent of offers would go to female students, compared to 44 percent currently; and four-times more offers would go to Bronx residents.
• Expanding Discovery program to help more disadvantage students receive an offer: The Discovery program is designed to increase enrollment of low-income students at Specialized High Schools. The Department of Education has pledged to immediately expand Discovery to 20 percent of seats at each SHS and adjust the eligibility criteria to target students attending high-poverty schools. It would be a two-year expansion, beginning with admissions for September 2019. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, an estimated 16 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently.
The controversial plan has reinvigorated long-dormant public education debates.
“The Assembly Education Committee’s vote that advances the mayor’s plan is disappointing,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), a Stuyvesant alum. “The mayor could have chosen to pursue the creation of additional specialized high schools to meet demand, he could have requested more resources from Albany for every single New York City elementary, middle, and high school, or he could have chosen to address the broader systemic segregation in our city. Instead of focusing on comprehensive reform in one effort, the mayor’s legislative push concerning how eight well-performing schools operate isn’t a serious policy proposal; it’s a headline.”