Sunday, June 3, 2018


Plan will increase enrollment of disadvantaged students, eliminate single admission test through new legislation

10 percent of specialized high school students are Black or Latino, compared to nearly 70 percent citywide

  Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today joined parents, educators, advocates, students and community leaders and announced a new plan to make admissions to New York City’s eight testing Specialized High Schools fairer and improve diversity. Only 10 percent of specialized high school students are Black or Latino, despite making up 70 percent of the City’s overall student population. The two-part plan includes:

·         Expanding Discovery program to help more disadvantage students receive an offer: The Discovery program is designed to increase enrollment of low-income students at Specialized High Schools. We will immediately expand the program to 20 percent of seats at each SHS and adjust the eligibility criteria to target students attending high-poverty schools. This would be a two-year expansion, beginning with admissions for September 2019. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, an estimated 16 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently.

·         Eliminating the use of the single-admissions test over three years: The elimination of the Specialized High Schools Admissions test would require State legislation. By the end of the elimination, the SHS would reserve seats for top performers at each New York City middle school. When the law is passed, the test would be phased out over a three-year period. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, 45 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently; 62 percent of offers would go to female students, compared to 44 percent currently; and four times more offers would go to Bronx residents.

There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We cannot let this injustice continue. By giving a wider, more diverse pool of our best students an equal shot at admissions, we will make these schools stronger and our City fairer.”

“As a lifelong educator, a man of color, and a parent of children of color, I’m proud to work with our Mayor to foster true equity and excellence at our specialized high schools,” said Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “With the partnership of the State Legislature, we’re going to live up to what our public schools and what New York City are truly about – opportunity for all. This is what’s right for our kids, our families, and our City.”

Currently, the student population at the eight SHS is not representative of the New York City high school population. Black and Latino students comprise 9 percent of SHS offers, but 68 percent of all New York City high school students. Female students comprise 44 percent of SHS offers, but 48 percent of all New York City high school students. In 2016, 21 middle schools – or 4 percent of all New York City middle schools – comprised about 50 percent of SHS offers. The incoming freshman class at Stuyvesant High School only has 10 African-American students in a class of more than 900.

"New York State has one of the most segregated school systems in the nation. Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza have put forth a bold plan to address segregation and support greater equity at New York City's specialized high schools," said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. "The top priority for the Board of Regents is to increase equity for all of New York’s children. By breaking down barriers to entry for black and Latino students and enhancing the Discovery Program to further support students, we are showing our confidence in them and providing a better education for all students."

"Students learn from each other's diverse experiences," said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. "I am confident that this plan will have a positive educational impact for talented students across New York City, and help them on the path to a brighter future. I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza as they roll out this plan and fight for its success in Albany."

More information on the two-part plan is below:

1) Expanding the Discovery program for disadvantaged students who just miss the SHSAT score required to receive an offer to an SHS.
While eliminating the SHSAT requires changes to State law, the City will immediately move to expand the Discovery program over a two-year period.

In addition to expanding the program to 20 percent of seats at each SHS, we will adjust the eligibility criteria so only students in high-poverty schools – at or above 60% on the City’s Economic Need Index – will receive offers through Discovery. Currently, disadvantaged students at all schools across the City are eligible for Discovery; this change will support greater geographic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity at the SHS.

The Discovery program exists as part of the Hecht-Calandra Act and is only necessary so long as the SHSAT remains the sole method of admissions to the SHS. It will be eliminated when the SHSAT is fully eliminated.

The expanded Discovery program will cost approximately $550,000 annually.  

2) Eliminate the use of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the sole criterion for admissions.
The elimination of the SHSAT requires State legislative approval. The City worked with Assembly Member Charles Barron, who has sponsored legislation, A.10427-A, to abolish the test.

Under the plan, students would be designated top performers using a composite score based on their 7th grade English, math, social studies, and science course grades, as well as their 7th grade State math and ELA exam performance. Many New York City middle and high schools currently use an admissions method in which students are ranked based on such a composite score.  

In each year of the three-year elimination, a greater percentage of offers would go to the top students from each middle school, and fewer seats would be determined based on the SHSAT.

In Year 1, the top 3 percent of students from all New York City middle schools would receive offers to an SHS; based on modeling of current offer patterns, they would account for an estimated 25-30 percent of all offers to the SHS, and remaining seats will be filled through the SHSAT. 20 percent of the SHSAT seats would be filled through the Discovery program.

In Year 2, the top 5 percent of students from each middle school would receive offers to the SHS; based on modeling of current offer patterns, they would account for 45-50 percent of all offers to the SHS, and remaining seats would be filled through the SHSAT. 20 percent of the SHSAT seats would be filled through the Discovery program.

By Year 3, we would completely eliminate the SHSAT and reserve 90 to 95 percent of seats for the top 7 percent of students from each middle school. We would maintain the remaining 5 to 10 percent of seats for students in non-public schools, students new to New York City, and New York City public school students with a minimum grade point average who are not in the top 7 percent pool. These students may participate in a lottery for the remaining offers.

In addition to the projected racial, gender, and geographic changes in offer demographics, every middle school would now send students to SHS – compared to about half of New York City middle schools currently. 

The new two-part plan will build on a set of existing initiatives to increase diversity at SHS, including expanding the DREAM afterschool program that prepares students for the SHSAT, introducing new outreach efforts to inform families in underrepresented areas about the SHS and SHSAT, and offering the SHSAT during the school day at 50 middle schools across the City.

The eight SHS that base their admissions solely on SHSAT scores are: The Bronx High School of Science; The Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; Staten Island Technical High School; and Stuyvesant High School. A ninth SHS, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, does not use the SHSAT and will not be impacted by these changes.

The “top performers” admissions model has been used at the University of Texas dating back to 1997. Research has shown that black and Latino enrollees who received automatic admission to University of Texas schools as a result of performing in the top 10 percent of their high school class performed as well or better than white peers admitted outside of the top performers policy in grades, first year persistence, and likelihood of graduating in four years. Research has also shown that this model was more effective in supporting racial and economic diversity compared to a solely race-based admissions policy.

The SHS plan aligns to the Mayor and Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda, building on efforts to create more diverse and inclusive classrooms through Diversity in New York City Public Schools, the City’s school diversity plan. 

Together, the Equity and Excellence for All initiatives are building a pathway to success in college and careers for all students. Our schools are starting earlier – free, full-day, high-quality education for three-year-olds and four-year-olds through 3-K for All and Pre-K for All. They are strengthening foundational skills and instruction earlier – Universal Literacy so that every student is reading on grade level by the end of 2nd grade; and Algebra for All to improve elementary- and middle-school math instruction and ensure that all 8th graders have access to algebra. They are offering students more challenging, hands-on, college and career-aligned coursework – Computer Science for All brings 21st-century computer science instruction to every school, and AP for All will give all high school students access to at least five Advanced Placement courses. Along the way, they are giving students and families additional support through College Access for All, Single Shepherd, and investment in Community Schools. Efforts to create more diverse and inclusive classrooms are central to this pathway. 


While we agree with the mayor and chancellor on Item # 1 expanding the Discovery Program, we disagree with them on Item # 2 eliminating the entrance testing to the Specialized High Schools. 

Chancellor Carranza visited a Bronx charter school last week where the students are almost two grades ahead of the area public schools. The charter school also mentioned that several of its students are admitted to the specialized high schools while others attend schools other charter high schools than the local public high schools. 

I mentioned the reason the charter school has a wait list of almost one thousand children is because almost all of the local public schools were under performing, and most public schools are still behind state standards set up fifteen years ago. The chancellor answered that he is new, he and the mayor know that Bronx public schools are not performing as they should, and to give him some time. I replied to him those were the same exact words Chancellor Joel Klein said fifteen years ago so nothing has changed since then. 

The mayor and chancellor have to bring up the performance of all students so all students will have an equal opportunity. If not they are not doing their jobs.

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