New York City has over 400 starkly segregated high schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio is obsessed with eight of them.
Well, technically only three. Because these three of the city’s Specialized High Schools —Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech (all majority Asian, with many of those students classified as Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) recipients) — would require an alteration in state law to change admissions from the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), to grades, state test scores, and a quota system which would accept the top 7% of students from every NYC middle traditional public and charter school. (Parochial and private school students would, basically, no longer be welcome, while kids in high-performing Gifted & Talented programs and charter schools would be penalized for their achievement.)
Mayor de Blasio could change admission to the other five SHSAT schools, Staten Island Tech, Brooklyn Latin, American Studies, York, and The High School For Math, Science and Engineering, at his discretion. And yet, despite all of his and School Chancellor Richard Carranza’s bluster and virtue-signaling, they have not.
They could also change admission to the even whiter and wealthier screened high schools whenever they want to. They haven’t done that, either.
Because, well, that demographic is… whiter and wealthier. And these families have the means, if they don’t like what the city is forcing them to take – and be grateful for — to go somewhere else.
Here’s what the Department of Education has done, though:
They’ve expanded the SHSAT Discovery Program. (I’ve already explained my feelings about last minute summer prep programs here.) And they’ve recruited a handful of high schools to their Diversity in Admissions initiative.
As of this writing, the following schools have committed to taking part in the initiative for 2018-2019, in addition to those who participated during 2017-2018:
- Academy for Software Engineering | Priority given to students who are eligible for FRL for up to 69% of seats.
- NYC iSchool | Priority given to students who are eligible for FRL for up to 60% of seats.
- Urban Assembly New York Harbor School | Priority given to students who are eligible for FRL for up to 69% of seats.
- Urban Assembly Maker Academy | Priority given to students who are eligible for FL for up to 63% of seats.
- Manhattan / Hunter Science High School | Priority given to students who are eligible for FRL for up to 69% of seats.
- Park East High School | Priority given to District 4 residents who are eligible for FRL for up to 26% of seats.
- The Heritage School | Priority given to District 4 residents who are eligible for FRL for up to 43% of seats.
- Urban Assembly High School of Music and Art | Priority to students who are eligible for FRL for up to 69% of seats.
- Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women | Priority given to ELLs for up to 15 seats: first to continuing 8th grade students and then to New York City residents.
- Williamsburg Preparatory School | Priority given to students who are eligible for FL for up to 63% of seats.
- Millennium Brooklyn High School | Priority given to students who are eligible for FRL for up to 50% of seats: first to Brooklyn students or residents, and then to New York City residents.
- Academy for Software Engineering is ALREADY 69% FRL
- Urban Assembly Maker Academy is ALREADY 74% FRL (63% would make it LESS)
- Park East High-School is ALREADY 84% FRL (26% would make it MUCH LESS)
The same applies, in one form or another, to The Heritage School, Music and Art, Math and Science for Young Women, and Williamsburg Prep. (I suppose the plan for these could be to fill the school with more students who are not FRL, because proximity raises test scores… or so the mythology goes. But, in that case, they will actually be keeping out poor students who want to be there, and forcibly assigning middle-class ones who don’t. And, as indicated above, the latter have other options. This could, conceivably, lead to the schools being undersubscribed, which means underfunded. And who, exactly, then, will that benefit?)
In the end, only iSchool, Harbor School, Millennium Brooklyn, and Manhattan/Hunter would, theoretically, accept more FRL students than are currently attending. That’s some low-hanging fruit there, Department of Ed.
(Fun fact: Mayor de Blasio has made it clear that his true goal is to send more Black and Hispanic students to highly sought-after schools, not more poor ones, because if that were the case, he’d have no problem with the low-income Asian teens who currently dominate the SHSAT and top screened schools. He and Carranza stress that a school that uses multiple criteria to select students is more favorable to minority candidates. Mike Mascetti of the Science School Initiative, which works with low-income, minority kids disagrees – and so does actual data. On a personal note, last year, my African-American son did not get into Manhattan/Hunter, which looks at grades, test-scores, and a personal essay based on their prompt. But he did get into Stuyvesant, based solely on his SHSAT score.)
So, once again, my favorite question whenever any new government edict is announced: Cui bono (who benefits)?
As far as I can see, admitting more or less the same number of FRL kids to a handful of slightly selective institutions does absolutely nothing for the majority of children stuck in terrible K-8 public schools, whose subpar educations make them not even remotely competitive for admissions to any of NYC’s top high schools, even with extra accommodations. (There’s a Pre-K, Kindergarten, Middle School, and Gifted & Talented Diversity Initiative, as well. Their numbers and goals are pretty similar to the High School one.)
Does make a nice press release, though…..