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Students Say Pricey Test Prep Gives Admissions Advantage

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The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a Civil Rights Complaint this week, challenging the method for admitting students to the city's elite schools. Mayor Bloomberg came out as a big defender of the policy and repeated that defense on Friday. But NY1's Lindsey Christ found that many of the students who actually attend those schools disagree.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city's eight specialized high schools are for the best and the brightest and he thinks the best way to find those students is the way it's been done for decades, using only the results of one 2.5-hour test.

"I think that Stuyvesant and these other schools are as fair as fair can be," he said Wednesday. "There's nothing subjective about this. You pass the test with the higher score, you get into the school, no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background."

But the results are that students of certain ethnicities and more privileged economic backgrounds get in at much higher rates.

At Stuyvesant, 1.2 percent of students are black, compared to 30 percent citywide. 2.4 percent are Hispanic, compared to 40 percent citywide. 30 percent qualify for free lunch based on their family's income, compared to 70 percent citywide.

The mayor said the results aren't the point.

"We're not here about equal results," he said. "We're here about equal opportunity."

But when NY1 asked Stuyvesant students whether everyone has an equal chance of getting in, almost all of them said no. Are they the best and brightest? They said probably not. Many say they had a pricey leg up.

"It's very common to take a prep class," said one.

"It definitely helps," said another.

"My mother wanted to take the safe route, get me to some kind of prep course," said a third.

"At least 90 percent, 95 percent, did," said a fourth.

"Some people just didn't take prep courses," said a fifth. "Maybe they had private tutors."

The mayor agrees that test prep is a factor but not a problem.

"Life isn't always fair," he said. "I don't know how you'd take away the right to get tutoring."

Nationwide, it's extremely unusual to use just one test for admissions. NY1 found that at Stuyvesant, many students who aced the test think it's a bad policy.

"Some people who may be naturally intelligent may not have the opportunity to get into Stuyvesant," said one.

"This is sort of the most realistic way to admit kids but there are much better ways to do it," said another.

In fact, the most selective colleges and universities all consider multiple factors besides test scores. Out of 165 selective high schools, the Fordham Institute found the city's were the only ones that didn't.

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