65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, segregation in public schools remains a major issue in cities across the country. New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the country, and some see the controversial Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as part of the problem. At a City Council Oversight Hearing on Segregation in the New York City School System, Students, Parents, Council members, and Department of Education talk education reform.
Equal access to educational opportunity and racially and economically integrated public schools are central goals of the SDAG and the larger civil-rights community. These goals cannot be achieved unless the New York City Department of Education eliminates competitive admissions to its elementary- and middle-school programs and schools.
In the elementary-school context, New York City provides separate Gifted & Talented (“G&T”) schools and in-school programs for young children who score above a certain level on what is known as the “G&T test.” The decision to have a child take the G&T test is made by the parents – rather than by educators – often before a child has entered the public school system.
City council members on Wednesday grilled education department officials on school segregation at a joint hearing of the Education Committee and Civil and Human Rights Committee.
The sharp questions and answer session took place just weeks before the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
The atmosphere was a stark departure from just five years ago, when council members questioned education department officials about diversity issues in a school system that remains among the most segregated in the country.
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.
Recently at the district 4 education townhall, Chancellor Carranza was asked a fairly complex question on Gifted and Talented programs.
Parents wanted to know what your vision for G&T education is? Can you commit that G&T education will always be a part of the DOE? What are your positions in terms of access to G&T education both at the kindergarten level, changing the entry points for that, and also possibly changing the SHSAT and the access to the specialized high schools?…
“We’re the only city in America that requires a single test for admission to a public school,” he said. “So I’m asking the question . . . ‘Is that OK?’ I’m asking the question, ‘Is that justice for our kids?’ ”
“You have brilliant black and Latino students . . . if they don’t do well on that test, given one day, for one time period, for one opportunity, if they do not do well they don’t get the opportunity,” said the chancellor, who derided the current system as “neither reliable or valid.”