By Gina Martinez
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) have called for the continued expansion of Specialized High School Admissions Test preparation programs to help diversify the city’s specialized high schools.
The city Department of Education released data in March on citywide high school admissions, including specialized high schools. While nearly 400 more students took the SHSAT test this year, the number of offers to black and Latino students for seats in specialized schools was consistent with last year with just 527 black and Hispanic kids admitted compared to 524 last year. The report also revealed that only 4.1 percent of elite school offers went to black students and 6.3 percent to Hispanic kids, despite the fact that they make up almost 70 percent of the city’s student body.
In 2015 the Research Alliance for New York City schools issued a study which concluded that “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”. Studies by the city comptroller and the Independent Budget Office came to a similar conclusion.
This year, DOE expanded outreach efforts to reach eligible participants in the DREAM program – a free after-school program that prepares students for the SHSAT. In 2017, 670 students participated in the DREAM program, more than double the participation in 2016.
The DOE also announced it will expand the SHSAT School Day initiative to 50 middle schools, up from 15 this admissions cycle. The program offers the test during the school day and last year, the exam resulted in an increase in the number of students testing at those schools by more than 50 percent.
At a news conference Friday Stavisky said she wants the city to make a bigger commitment to diversifying specialized schools.
“Diversity is our city’s greatest asset, but unfortunately that diversity is not reflected in our specialized high schools,” she said. “However, I strongly believe abolishing the SHSAT is not a solution. Since its inception, the test remains the most objective way in admitting students to specialized high schools, but we must ensure students have greater access to the tools needed to excel at this exam.”
Koo said the best way to make sure specialized high school admissions reflect the diversity of the city is by ensuring every family, no matter what race, color or financial status, has the opportunity to prepare their child for an advanced education.
“Many parents invest significant time and energy to make sure their kids make the grade for Specialized High Schools, and the city should do everything in its power to encourage every child to maximize their academic potential.” he said.
Stavisky also proposed expanding the Gifted & Talented test for students in pre-K through second grade.
“It is unfair, both to the child and the parent, that Gifted & Talented offerings vary from school district to school district,” she said. “This mandate would ensure any child with the potential to excel in advanced classes, has access to them. It shouldn’t matter if you live in South Jamaica or the Upper West Side. Every child has the right to an exceptional education.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart