By Alina Adams
On December 11, 2014, the New York City Council spent almost 9 hours debating the issue of racial segregation in city schools.
There are 1,700 elementary, middle and high-schools in NYC. Roughly half of them are at least 90 percent black and Hispanic, making New York the most segregated state in the nation, according to the Civil Right Project at UCLA.
And yet, the majority of the City Council’s time was spent discussing just eight schools, the Specialized High Schools, headlined by historical stalwarts like Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, as well as five other, smaller, newly created high-schools.
These high-schools require a single test for admission, the SHSAT. Nothing else, not grades, not attendance, not volunteer work. The Mayor Of NYC, Bill de Blasio, has decided it’s unacceptable that the schools have so few minority students. By which he means Black and Hispanic students. The fact that the schools are primarily Asian, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants, and that they are 50% Free Lunch is of no interest to him. He still believes these schools are populated by the elite, who buy their way in.
Bill de Blasio wants to change the admissions criteria for high-school. One test, after all, shouldn’t determine a child’s entire future.
Meanwhile, acceptance to the city’s K-5 Gifted & Talented programs is also determined by one test. Given to a four year old. By a total stranger. And even under those trying circumstances, over 1000 kids qualify for what is about 300 seats in five citywide, accelerated programs.
The majority of the children offered seats in G&T programs, citywide and district, are white and middle-class. Some neighborhoods in the Bronx don’t even have a single G&T class, much less an entire school.
The mayor has no problem with that.
Well, he does. He’d like to change the G&T test for four-year-olds to make it more fair and accessible to all. Like the previous administration did, several times. Only to see the new test skew even more white and middle-class.
But despite putting out a call for proposals back in October, this administration has yet to pick a new vendor, despite having promised to do so at several Educational Policy meetings in the past, then pulling it off the agenda at the last minute.
The fact is, it’s highly unlikely that students will do well on the SHSAT, if they haven’t had an excellent K-8 education up to that point. But since fixing that is hard, it’s easier to blame the test and spend nine hours talking about eight schools, while ignoring the other 1,692(-ish).
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