They're called the crown jewels of the city school system, but the specialized high schools are less diverse than ever. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Despite outreach on behalf of the Department of Education, outrage on behalf of some alumni and promises of reform by the mayor, the number of black and Hispanic students offered seats at the city's specialized high schools dropped again this year.
At Stuyvesant High School, long considered the city's most elite, only nine black students and 14 Hispanic students were offered places for this coming September. One hundred and seventy-eight white students and 682 Asian students were accepted.
"New York is supposed to be a very diverse place, but Stuyvesant's not, and that confuses me," said Brian Lul, a student at Stuyvesant High School.
There are eight city high schools that accept students based on the results of a single exam, the Specialized High School Admissions Test, or SHSAT. And though black and Hispanic students make up 70 percent of the overall school system, their representation within the specialized schools has decreased dramatically in recent years.
The city has been trying to encourage more students to take the test, but 500 fewer black and Hispanic students sat for the exam this year compared to last year. And despite modest investments in free preparation programs, only 3.6 percent of black students and 5.3 percent of Hispanic students who took the test received an offer to any of the eight schools, compared to 34 percent of Asian students and 29 percent of white students.
As a candidate for mayor, Bill de Blasio had pledged to change the admissions process to include factors like middle-school grades, interviews and annual state test scores, but he has yet to take any action. On Friday, his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said, "We continue to review a variety of strategies to foster diversity at these schools."
Among students and alumni at the specialized schools, some fiercely defend test-based admissions, while others say unequal access to expensive test prep should not determine who gets in.
"People just go to SHSAT prep, and that's usually what gets them into school, and I don't feel that's fair at all," said Wajeah Raja, a student at Stuyvesant High School.