City’s Elite High Schools Need Revamped Admissions Process, Pols Say

City’s Elite High Schools Need Revamped Admissions Process, Pols Say

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the admissions process for the city's top high schools needs to be overhauled so there it does not solely rely solely on standardized testing.  Photo courtesy William Alatriste/NYC Council

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the admissions process for the city’s top high schools needs to be overhauled so there it does not solely rely solely on standardized testing. Photo courtesy William Alatriste/NYC Council

Citing a lack of diversity at the city’s most prestigious public high schools, lawmakers and education officials this week introduced legislation that aims to reform the admissions process for some of the most selective educational institutions by decreasing its reliance on a single standardized test.

The proposed legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn), would mandate the use of multiple academic measures to evaluate student applicants, rather than the single multiple-choice test that now governs admissions to the much sought-after Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech high schools, as well as Queens High School for the Sciences at York and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, among others.

Minority students have not fared well under the current system, with black and Hispanic pupils landing just 12 percent of the offers for the city’s top eight high schools last September. Officials noted that this statistic is in stark contrast to the fact that black and Hispanic students make up close to three-quarters of the city’s entire public student population.

The newly introduced bills also calls for the city Department of Education to expand the number of applicants and revive a summer program to help students who score just short of admission.

“The nation’s elite colleges, from Harvard and Princeton to Columbia and New York University, use multiple measures to evaluate students as part of their admission process,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. “But New York City continues to rely on a single, outmoded multiple-choice test for admission to its top academic high schools.

“Under the current admission system, black and Hispanic students, who represent 70 percent of our student body, make up a tiny and declining proportion of the students in the three traditional ‘exam’ schools,” Mulgrew continued. “No one with real experience in New York City schools believes that out of roughly 52,000 black and Hispanic eighth graders, only 28 are worthy this year of a Stuyvesant education.”

Felder, chairman of the New York City Education Subcommittee, stressed that he has long shared other parents’ concerns about the admission policies.

“I wholeheartedly believe that other factors, such as a student’s extracurricular activities, community service, and personal interview, should also be considered in making an offer of admission,” Felder said. “Testing and assessments alone are insufficient, and cheats our youth of the best educational opportunities to which they are entitled.”

According to the city DOE, the standardized test for the top city high schools was taken by 27,817 students for the 2014-15 school year, and some 5,096 won admission to the eight schools based on their ranked scores.

Of the eight schools, Brooklyn Tech offered admission to 127 black and 130 Latino students for the coming year, Bronx Science to 18 black and 50 Latino students, and Stuyvesant to seven black and 21 Latino students.

The average percentage of black and Hispanic students in Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech now hover around 11 percent – down from 14 percent in 2007.

By Anna Gustafson

 

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