A light drizzle started as parents began shouting ‘save the test!’ on a dark street in front of P.S. 7 in Elmhurst on Oct. 23 as Community Education Council 24 and two representatives from the Department of Education came together to discuss Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to phase out the city’s Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).
“Where was the mayor when his son was in school?” asked Charlie Varuska, an Elmhurst parent, who views de Blasio’s proposal to end the test as an insincere political move that will perpetuate racial inequality instead of mitigating it.
According to the DOE representatives present at the meeting, the city is proposing that top 7 percent of students from each middle school be offered admission to a specialized high school.
Parents inside of the auditorium shouted over DOE representatives repeatedly in protest of the proposed change and had to be asked by committee members to compose themselves four times.
Parents were worried that with out the SHSAT the quality of specialized high school classes might go down since the definition of a top student at each middle school might be different.
New York City 8th and 9th grade students take the three hour exam if they want to enter into one of city’s eight specialized high schools, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn Technical High School, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, High School for American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical High School, and Stuyvesant High School.
The exam tests students potential to perform well in a specialized high school based off of their English and math skills and is the only determining factor in admission.
Students who take the SHSAT are ranked from highest to lowest composite score. Students are then assigned in order to their first-choice specialized high school until all seats are filled.
The majority of protesting parents outside of P.S. 7 and inside of its auditorium during the meeting were Asian American who believed that the proposal disproportionately hurt them since the vast majority of top scoring SHSAT takers are Asian students followed by white students. The proposal is an attempt to include more Latino and black students in specialized high schools since the vast majority of admission is offered to white and Asian test takers. In 2018, only 4.1 percent of the students that were offered admission to a New York City specialized high school were black and only 6.3 percent were Hispanic.
“This is the progress of eugenics and we need to stop it,” said Varuska.