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Process for Getting Into Specialized High Schools Could Change Next Year

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This week, nearly 28,000 students will find out whether they scored high enough on a test to earn a spot at one of the city's eight specialized high schools, but this year's eighth graders could be the last to go through that process. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

In honor of high school admissions week, here's a numbers problem. Make that a problem with the numbers.

There are 77,000 eighth graders. Five thousand scored well enough on an exam to get into one of the city's specialized high schools.

Stuyvesant High School has always required the highest scores. This year, 952 students got in. Just 21 of them are Hispanic. Seven are black.

"These schools are the jewels in the crown for our public school system," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "They produce extraordinary leaders."

The student demographics at the specialized schools, however, have been increasingly out of line with the rest of the school system. Seventy percent of city students are black or Hispanic. This year, they got 12 percent of the offers.

As a candidate, de Blasio pledged to make admissions based on more than just a single test. On Tuesday, he said he's committed to making that change.

"This is a city blessed with such diversity. Our schools, particularly exceptional schools, need to reflect that diversity," he said.

Admissions requirements are set in state law for the three oldest, and traditionally most prestigious, specialized high schools, so for Stuyvesant, Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech, the mayor would have to go to Albany. For five other specialized high schools, however, the mayor can change the test-based admissions process.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating a complaint filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which claims that admission by test score alone is discriminatory because many black and Hispanic students have less access to expensive test prep courses.

"So what you see is that students who are able to afford or access that test prep are able to gain access into the schools," said Monique Lin-Luse of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

What they've suggested, and the mayor has embraced, is a process similar to what most prestigious universities use for admissions. That means seventh graders gearing up for a summer of test prep might need to focus on essays, interviews and their report card grades as well.

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