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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:00 am

Proposal for NYC elite schools draws fire

Mayor calls for more diversity at 8 exam schools

Associated Press

NEW YORK – A plan to diversify New York City's most elite public high schools is drawing fire from the minority group that has come to dominate the schools in recent years: Asian-Americans.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last weekend that he wants to scrap the test that governs admission to eight specialized high schools including Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, calling the test “a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence.”

Fewer than 10 percent of students who score well enough to gain admission to the schools are black or Latino, despite the fact that those two groups make up two-thirds of the city's 1 million public school students.

“It's not fair. It's not inclusive. It's not open to all,” de Blasio said.

Opponents of the proposed change accused the mayor of pitting minority groups against each other.

“For many of these Asian-American families I represent, they're mostly new American families, new immigrants who came here,” Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, said. “They're just following the rules that were set. For the chancellor to imply they own the admissions test, I think it's completely uncalled for. They didn't create this system.”

Tough entrance standards, a rigorous curriculum and a reputation for graduating some of the world's top scholars have made the city's exam schools highly sought after among high-performing students. The Bronx High School of Science, alone, has graduated eight Nobel Prize winners. Stuyvesant High has had four.

In 2018, about 28,300 middle school students took the test to get into the eight specialized schools. About 5,000 were offered seats.

Asian students compromised the largest number of test-takers, about 8,800, and had the highest acceptance rate, with 29.7 percent of the students getting an offer compared with 3.6 percent of the 5,730 black students who took the test and 26.2 percent of white students.

Overhauling the specialized high school admissions process entirely would require action by the state legislature, which won't vote on the plan until 2019 at the earliest. As a stopgap measure, the mayor said he would expand a program to offer seats at the schools to low-income students who score just below the cutoff.

Some students at Stuyvesant, the school that requires the highest score on the admissions test, expressed doubts about even that modest adjustment. Senior Jessica Sun, a Chinese-American student, said students who missed the test cutoff might struggle at a high-pressure school like Stuyvesant.

“I don't think they would do too well since it's very hard and you need a lot of support from your family,” she said. Sun added that the specialized high school test is “very fair.”

“You study for it. You make the cutoff. You get in,” she said.