The State Assembly Education Committee's ratification to eliminate the SHSAT serves as a wake-up call for parents of high achieving students. To address the low number of enrolled Blacks and Hispanics, the Mayor and Chancellor have heavily promoted an ill-conceived plan to move from objective merit based admissions to highly subjective evaluation procedures, including setting aside 20% of seats for less qualified students.
In 1971, a state law was passed requiring a standardized test-only admission to these schools. This ruling was to remedy the disproportionate number of white students matriculated in these specialized institutions. The test eliminated the subjective aspects of the selection process and effectively increased the number of minority students. Today, within the minority sector, the disproportionate number of Blacks and Hispanics to other minorities does require an examination, but eliminating an unbiased standardized test is not the solution.
Rather than focusing on the lack of opportunity and robust programs available at the Grade and Intermediate school level, the Mayor has stealthy diverted from this issue by raising the race card once again. These actions are indicative of someone who wants to denigrate and deny a minority group who earned their admission through hard work and sacrifice from both students and parents. His proposal negatively impacts not just Asians students, but all students whether they are Black, Hispanic, White, or Asians.
Let us take race out of this equation and envision the impact of the Mayor's proposal on students not qualified or properly prepped to attend these highly competitive schools. Many will drop out or will be transferred due to failing grades. This not only demoralizes these students but also takes away seats from other qualified students, whether Black, Hispanic, White or Asian.
The Mayor's strategy to fix what he perceives as a problem propagated by the Asian population will not resolve this long-standing issue. In 2015, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU concluded that admissions rules based on criteria other than the SHSAT—including state test scores, grades and attendance—would have a de-Minimis impact on the demographic mix of specialized high schools.
The more strenuous, long term remedies would be to expand Gifted & Talented programs into every District, integrate specialized programs in intermediate schools and form parent informational workshops and seminars. These changes would lay the foundation to nurture and advance ANY child deemed to be a high achieving student.
These specialized schools are for the best and brightest. The Bronx High School of Science produced eight Nobel Laureates, the most of any secondary school in the world. If this school, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech were a country, they would rank #14, just behind Denmark, for the most Nobel Prize winners. One wonders why the Mayor and his cronies are fixated with dismantling what are inarguably some of the most successful schools in this City, State and Country (in either the private or public sector). As the Mayor continues to campaign for this change, we must remain resolute in our opposition as well as work to oust elected officials who support or fail to oppose the elimination of the Specialized High School Admissions Test.
Please visit keepshsat.org to join the fight against the mayor's bad plan for our specialized schools.
**The views expressed in this column represent only those of the author and not the board or membership of the Juniper Park Civic Association.