Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Tempers flared over the SHSAT at a recent Community Education Council 24 meeting in Elmhurst.
By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Parents began shouting ‘Save the test!’ on a dark street Oct. 23 in front of PS 7 in Elmhurst as Community Education Council 24 and representatives from the Department of Education came together to discuss Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to phase out of the city’s Specialized High School Admissions Test.

“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.

The majority of protesting parents outside of the PS 7 and inside of its auditorium during the meeting were Asian-American, but all protesting the proposed ban believe that the proposal disproportionately hurts them.

“This is the progress of eugenics and we need to stop it,” said Varuska.

New York City 8th and 9th grade students take the 180-minute exam if they want to enter 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. In 2018, only 4.1 percent of the students who were offered admission to a New York City specialized high school were black and only 6.3 percent were Hispanic. The vast majority of those offered admission were white or Asian.

According to the DOE representatives present at the meeting, the city is proposing a new plan on how to still use the SHSAT while also increasing diversity in New York City specialized high schools. Instead of taking the top scoring applicants across the city, now 7 percent of each high schools highest scoring students will be allowed admission to a specialized high school.

The idea was not well received by the parents in attendance at the meeting. Neither was the 11-person committee.

Many asked why the city was planning to punish hard working kids. Other parents were worried about worsening of the overall education at specialized high schools by bringing up that 7 percent at one school may look very different at another.

Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at adomenech@qns.com or by phone at (718) 224-5863 ext. 226.

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