The city's elite public high schools, like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, are largely Asian and white, even though black and Hispanic students make up most of the school system.
A new study by the city's Independent Budget Office says the elite schools would change under Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial plan to overhaul the admissions process.
The numbers of black and Hispanic students increase dramatically, and many more girls, charter school students, and students living in poverty also would be accepted.
"Girls are among the group least likely to sit for the specialized high school exam. So by shifting gears to look at grades and standardized test scores that all students take, I think that is really driving why girls would get more offers," said Sarita Subramanian of the New York City Independent Budget Office.
The mayor has proposed ending the test, known as the SHSAT, which is now the sole basis for admission to the eight schools. He wants the top 7 percent of students from every middle school admitted instead.
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The study says the percentage of black students accepted would jump from 4 percent to 19 percent and the percentage of Hispanics would more than quadruple, from 6 percent to 27 percent.
The percentage of Asian students would drop in half, from 62 percent to 31 percent. The number of white students would remain about the same.
A group of families is suing to stop the mayor's plan. The group's lawyer says the study is more proof the plan unfairly targets Asian students.
"We've lived through a sordid history of racial discrimination in this country and whenever the government takes actions because of individuals' race and tries to get preferred racial outcomes, it raises serious constitutional concerns, and Mayor de Blasio has been upfront that the reason he is undertaking these changes is to affect the racial balance of the schools," said Joshua Thompson of the Pacific Legal Foundation.
But a group of high school students fighting for more racial balance says having so few black and Hispanic students at the elite high schools makes younger students of color doubt themselves.
"When you see a big test like the SHSAT and then you see that, 'Hey, a lot of kids like me aren't getting in,' you start to internalize ideas like, 'Hey, groups like me aren't smart,' which is not true at all. So the system is just really messed up," said Lennox Thomas of Teens Take Charge.
The mayor's plan requires state lawmakers' approval, which seems unlikely in the near future.