Instead of allowing the pandemic to worsen longstanding inequities, New York could seize on the disruption to fix its broken high school admissions practices at all its schools. Several promising proposals have emerged in recent years. Instead of a single exam, Albany could allow the city to use state test scores, class rank and other measures. These important reforms would require the State Legislature to overturn Hecht-Calandra, the 1971 law that explicitly requires three of the specialized high schools — Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School — to use an exam as the only point of entry.
Changing admissions policies to allow talented Black and Latino students — indeed, all students — a fair shot at attending the city’s top high schools should be the easy part. The far harder challenge facing the city in the coming years is how to prevent millions of children who were already vulnerable before the pandemic from falling far further behind.