Testifying at a City Council hearing Wednesday, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said this year's acceptances to the city's eight elite public high schools highlight the opportunity gaps facing black and Latino students.
Black and Latino students make up 70 percent of the student population but received only 10 percent of the admission offers to the eight schools this week. Only 7 black and 33 Latino students received offers to Stuyvesant High School out of 900 offers overall.
"The issue I have is the test," Carranza said at the hearing. "Why are we using a single test as a sole criteria to identify an opportunity for students to go to one of these schools?"
Mayor Bill de Blasio proposes giving admissions offers to the top 7 percent of students at each middle school rather than basing acceptances on just the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).
"I think the best thing would be for Albany to simply defer to the city and let us come up with a policy that is more fair," the mayor said at a news conference.
In a radio interview, Gov. Andrew Cuomo voiced concern about the admissions process but said the mayor has the power to change it for all of the elite schools except Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech.
"The specialized schools pose a really obvious and obnoxious problem," the governor said on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show. "The recent numbers only reinforce it.”
But the chancellor rejected a piecemeal approach, saying the same admissions process must be in place at all eight schools.
The mayor's proposal would expand the number of black and Latino students attending the elite schools and lead to fewer white and Asian students admitted.
But Brooklyn Councilwoman Inez Barron denounced the current process as racist.
"It shouldn't be that there are a few feeder schools that feed into those elite schools," Barron said.
Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin called for reevaluating the admissions policy but said the city has an obligation to showcase other great high schools and improve lagging schools.
"We have to make sure all our high schools also have specialized programs in there that attract students. They'll stay in the neighborhood, don't have to travel a couple hours to go to a high school," Chin said.
Advocates of the chancellor's plan say changing the admissions policy for specialized high schools would also help diversify some city neighborhoods because families would want to give their children the best shot at being in the top percent of their eighth grade class.
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