David Rubel is an independent public policy consultant with a focus on New York City. For over 30 years, he has conducted research on a range of policy issues including community needs and resources, housing court evictions, workforce development and most recently public and nonpublic school education. Equity is a primary concern of his work.
Anyone who wants to attack these schools should understand they might be hurting the students they’re trying to help.
Last July, the findings and recommendations in my 2015 NYC-DOE Screened High Schools Equity Discussion Paper and 2017 Update were thoroughly covered in an in-depth article by New York Post reporter Susan Edelman. A few weeks later, the Manhattan Institute’s “The Beat” followed up with its own story on screened high schools. The coverage should help a broader audience learn about the importance of creating more screened schools for academically strong students just like the schools we already have. Hopefully we can close the gap between stakeholder perception and reality when it comes to screened high schools and diversity.
New York City must do more to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the public school system. On June 2, the diversity policy discussion took a big leap forward with Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that he has a plan to dismantle the eight specialized high schools in favor of a new admissions system based on test scores and grades. While much of the public conversation has focused on the eight SHSAT exam schools, the top ranked screened high schools are also receiving criticism- for their supposed lack of diversity. From a New York Times editorial:
Mr. de Blasio could also consider applying the plan, or something similar, to the city’s other competitive high schools, many of which are also failing to admit significant numbers of black and Latino students.
Screened high schools are being accused of lacking racial and ethnic diversity. In fact, Chancellor Richard Carranza made several comments to this effect last May in an interview with ChalkbeatNY.
Chalkbeat: “The system lives and dies by screening. That’s how these elite schools all work.”
Carranza: “Well what do I know? I just got here. But I can tell you this, that public schools are public schools and my conversations with the mayor, the mayor and I are very much aligned in wanting to create as many opportunities, cast as wide as a net as possible. He said on many occasions he wants New York City to be the fairest large city in America. I agree with that so I think we need to look at how screening works….. Because I will tell you that kids that look like me probably don’t get into those schools. Kids that are African-American, black, don’t get into those schools.”
I have some very good news for Chancellor Carranza, Mayor de Blasio and the New York Times. My 2017 Screened High Schools Equity and Diversity Discussion Paper shows that the criticisms directed at the top screened high schools are not based in fact. According to NYC-DOE data, the top ranked 31 screened high schools are already, as a group, very close to the Mayor’s diversity goal of a school having at least 50 percent Black and Hispanic enrollment. The strong college prep programs at the top-ranked screened high schools are very popular with all ethnic and racial groups that send their children to the public schools. Every single one of these schools gets a rave review on the Inside Schools website.
Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza should be applauded for making racial and ethnic diversity a top priority. I encourage them to give serious consideration to my recommendations in the 2015 Screened High Schools Equity Discussion Paper and 2017 update:
While the NYC-DOE has been making significant progress, it must devote more resources to creating new high schools for academically strong students in the outer boroughs. The formula for change and improvement is already well known, easily available and does not require approval from Albany. The NYC-DOE has a strong track record of creating excellent new screened high schools for academically strong students. However, the last time a screened high school got launched was seven years ago (Brooklyn Millennium High School in Park Slope). The Mayor and Chancellor Carranza can start expanding the number of seats for academically strong students today. The new schools should be placed in the most underserved parts of the City, starting with the Bronx.