Dear Commons Community,
The New York City Department of Education announced yesterday that only 12 percent of the new freshmen class for Fall 2015 at New York City specialized high schools will be black or Latino students. This is practically the same percentage as last year. As reported in the New York Times:
“Of the 5,103 students offered placement in eight specialized high schools, 5 percent were black and 7 percent were Hispanic, the same as last year, while 52 percent were Asian and 28 percent were white, the city said as more than 70,000 eighth-graders learned about their high school acceptances. At Stuyvesant High School, historically the hardest to get into, black students earned 10 of the 953 seats.
In the public school system in recent years, just shy of 30 percent of students have been black and about 40 percent have been Hispanic, and there is widespread agreement that the low numbers of these students in specialized schools is a problem. How to fix it is another matter.
In 2012, a group of education and civil rights organizations filed a complaint with the federal Education Department that said the city’s admission process, which is based on the results of a single test, was a violation of the Civil Rights Act. The department said on Thursday that the case was under investigation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose son is a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School, the largest specialized school, said the schools should more closely resemble the population of the city.
In a statement on Thursday, the city’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said, “It’s critical that our city’s specialized high schools reflect the diversity of our city.”
“We continue to review a variety of ideas to increase diversity at our specialized high schools,” she added, like trying to increase access to the test, and “offering expanded free test prep”
Only the State Legislature has the power to change that criterion, however, and a bill introduced last year that would have mandated multiple determining measures has stalled.
On Thursday, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools released a report that said admitting students on more varied measures would do little to address the lack of diversity in these schools, and could make the problem even worse. The authors simulated different admissions rules and found that some alternate criteria reduced the proportion of black students admitted to specialized schools.
The only method its authors found that would significantly change the diversity of the schools was to guarantee admission to the highest-performing students in every middle school. But that approach, they warned, would come “at the cost of reducing the average achievement of incoming students”
A solution to this sad state of affairs would be better resolved by the Mayor and the Schools Chancellor than by the officials in Albany.