Plan to di­ver­sify elite NY City schools draws fire from Asians

Manteca Bulletin - - Classifieds / Nation -

NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

But such a change might mean fewer seats for Asian-Amer­i­can stu­dents, who now make up 62 per­cent of the pupils.

“This pol­icy causes chaos in the Asian-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity and we’re here to re­ject this pol­icy,” John Chan, head of the Coali­tion of Asian-Amer­i­cans for Civil Rights, 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 to 3.6 per­cent of the 5,730 black stu­dents who took the test and 26.2 per­cent of white stu­dents.

City Coun­cil­woman Mar­garet Chin, a Bronx Science alumna and a Demo­crat whose dis­trict in­cludes Man­hat­tan’s Chi­na­town, wrote in a let­ter to de Bla­sio that Asian-Amer­i­cans have “a unique re­la­tion­ship” with the spe­cial­ized high schools.

“For many fam­i­lies, par­tic­u­larly low­in­come im­mi­grant fam­i­lies, the spe­cial­ized high schools are the only path­way to a world-class ed­u­ca­tion,” Chin as­serted.

Schools Chan­cel­lor Richard Car­ranza, who re­cently ap­pointed after serv­ing as su­per­in­ten­dent in Hous­ton, hit back in TV ap­pear­ances, telling Fox 5 New York, “I just don’t buy into the nar­ra­tive that any one eth­nic group owns ad­mis­sion to these schools.”

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.

Un­der the ex­panded ver­sion of what’s known as the Dis­cov­ery pro­gram, 20 per­cent of spe­cial­ized high school seats will be re­served for low-in­come stu­dents from high-poverty schools who just missed the cut­off.

Defin­ing the plan’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries by in­come skirts the le­gal is­sues that would be raised if the city tried to fa­vor any par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group.

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 high­pres­sure 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.

The three-hour, mul­ti­ple-choice test is of­fered to eighth-graders ev­ery fall. Many par­ents spend thou­sands of dol­lars on tu­tors to pre­pare their chil­dren for the exam.

The city has sought to di­ver­sify the spe­cial­ized high schools by of­fer­ing free test-prep classes to dis­ad­van­taged young­sters but those ef­forts have not yielded mea­sur­able re­sults.

De Bla­sio’s pro­posed over­haul would elim­i­nate the test en­tirely and of­fer spe­cial­ized high school slots to the top stu­dents at ev­ery mid­dle school in the city.

City of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that un­der the plan, sim­i­lar to the Univer­sity of Texas sys­tem, 45 per­cent of of­fers to spe­cial­ized schools would go to black and His­panic stu­dents.

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