Challengers of Affirmative Action Have a New Target: New York City’s Elite High Schools


This week, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative, libertarian-leaning law firm that has a history of challenging affirmative action policies, filed the first lawsuit against his admissions reform proposal, which he announced this summer.


But the suit does not take on the part of Mr. de Blasio’s proposal that has provoked the most controversy: a plan that would entirely eliminate the exam that is currently the sole means of admission into the city’s elite specialized high schools. The mayor wants to replace the test with a system that guarantees seats to top performers at each of the city’s middle schools, which would guarantee that the schools accept many more black and Hispanic students.

NAACP 2012 Case: New York City Specialized High School Complaint

In school districts across the nation, talented African Americans and other students of color are denied a fair opportunity to gain access to the life-changing educational experiences provided by specialized schools for high-achieving students and gifted/talented education programs.  As a result, elite public schools and programs, which provide key pathways to college and then to leadership locally, regionally, and nationally, are among the most segregated.

In too many school districts, these racial disparities result in large part from admissions policies that rely too heavily or even exclusively on standardized tests, even though the three leading organizations in the area of educational test measurement—the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education—have concluded that a high-stakes decision with a major impact on a student’s educational opportunities, such as admission to a specialized or gifted/talented program, should not turn on the results of a single test. 

Parents Mull Suit Over City Plan to Boost Diversity at Elite Schools

Vito LaBella, president of the Christa McAuliffe Parent Teacher Organization, said that if parents decide to forge ahead, the federal suit would challenge this set-aside plan. “It’s discriminatory,” he said. “I do believe our children would no longer be allowed to partake in Discovery.”

Currently the small Discovery program is available to disadvantaged applicants citywide. The mayor says he can make this change because the 1971 law on admissions at these high schools allows for a Discovery program of some sort.

A10427: An act to amend the education law, in relation to admission to the specialized high schools in the city of New York

                                10427--A

                          I N  A S S E M B L Y

                             April 20, 2018
                               ___________

Introduced  by  M. of A. BARRON, BLAKE, DAVILA, MONTESANO, PERRY, SIMON,
  STECK, PICHARDO, COOK, HOOPER, TAYLOR,  RIVERA,  PRETLOW,  DE LA ROSA,
  TITUS,  DICKENS,  WRIGHT,  VANEL,  BICHOTTE,  JOYNER, SOLAGES, ARROYO,
  WOERNER, THIELE, FERNANDEZ, ERRIGO, ESPINAL, WEPRIN, MOSLEY, GOTTFRIED
  -- read once and referred to the Committee on Education  --  committee
  discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted
  to said committee

AN  ACT  to  amend  the  education  law, in relation to admission to the
  specialized high schools in the city of New York

  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section  1.

Questions of Bias Are Raised About a Teachers’ Exam in New York

The earlier test that Judge Wood ruled was discriminatory, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, was used until 2004. She said that because the minority candidates were failing that test in greater numbers, the burden was on public officials to prove the test served a valid purpose. In similar rulings, judges around the country have thrown out written exams for firefighters and police officers, ruling they were not relevant to the tasks they would perform.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/nyregion/questions-of-bias-are-raised-about-a-teachers-exam-in-new-york.html

https://gothamist.com/news/city-pay-largest-ever-settlement-nyc-teachers-affected-discriminatory-certification-tests

Charges of Bias in Admission Test Policy at Eight Elite Public High Schools

A coalition of educational and civil rights groups filed a federal complaint on Thursday saying that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from New York City’s most selective high schools because of a single-test admittance policy they say is racially discriminatory.

The complaint, filed with the United States Education Department, seeks to have the policy found in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to change admissions procedures “to something that is nondiscriminatory and fair to all students,” said Damon T.

Brooklyn: Action Filed Over School Admissions

The first legal challenge against Hecht-Calandra was launched in 1974. Only 3 years after the law was passed. Since then there’s been a number of legal actions.

Here’s one from 2007.

A public-interest law firm in Washington filed a class-action lawsuit against the New York City Education Department yesterday, charging that a program created to increase the number of black and Hispanic students in the city’s elite specialized high schools violates the Constitution by excluding whites and Asians. The law firm, the Center for Individual Rights, filed the suit in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on behalf of three Chinese-American parents whose children were denied admission to the Specialized High School Institute, which prepares students for the test determining admission to schools like Stuyvesant and the Bronx High School of Science.