School Chancellor Harvey B. Scribner announced last night that he would soon appoint a broad‐based committee to examine all the admission policies and procedures of the city’s four specialized academic high schools.
The high schools, all of which require a special entrance examination, are Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Technical and the Nigh School of Music and Art.
The tests, especially those for the three more technical schools, have been the subject of recent criticism that they discriminate culturally against blacks and Puerto Ricans.
A NYTimes overview of the test and experiences in 1998.
The Stuyvesant test is officially called the ”Examination for the Specialized Science High Schools” — Stuyvesant, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School. The same test is given for admission to all three, and students simply list their first, second and third choice. Since a majority of students list Stuyvesant first — 11,397 out of 18,524 eighth graders who took the most recent test — the cutoff for admission to Stuyvesant is higher.
This is one of the original New York Times articles reporting on the passage of the Hecht-Calandra law.
New York City Democrats split into emotionally charged camps to day as the Assembly passed a bill designed to limit the Board of Education’s power to alter the city’s four specialized high schools.
The measure passed, 107 to 35, and was sent to the Senate after minority‐group members led the opposition and accused white colleagues of seeking an exclusionary racial quota at the schools.
The mayor’s plan isn’t anti-Asian, it’s anti-racist. It would give working-class parents — including Asian-Americans — who can’t afford and shouldn’t have to find ways to afford expensive test prep programs a fairer chance that their child will be admitted into what’s known as a specialized high school. True, taking a test prep course doesn’t guarantee admission to such a school, but it does offer clear benefits and is widely understood to be essential to test-takers.
Nor is the plan a form of affirmative action.
Mr. Feinman had stumbled on a little-known facet of the test: because of the complex way it is graded, a student scoring extremely high on one part of the exam has a sharp advantage over a student with high but more balanced scores in each subject.
“As taxpayers and parents, we should know how the test is graded — not necessarily with an eye to changing it — but certainly as a matter of public knowledge,” said Mr. Feinman, who lives on the Upper East Side.
Follow the money they typically say.
Ronald S. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir, and Richard D. Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup, have for decades had their hands in New York City affairs. Mr. Lauder ran a failed bid for mayor and successfully led a campaign for term limits for local elected officials. Mr. Parsons has been a prominent adviser to two mayors.
Now, they are teaming up to try to influence one of the city’s most intractable and divisive debates: how to address the lack of black and Hispanic students at Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and the other elite public high schools that use a test to determine admission.
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.
SHSI focused on city schools in which students from low-income households, most of whom were Black and Latinx, were overrepresented.
It’s important to understand the political climate before the NY State legislature decided to pass Hecht-Calandra in 1971. The New York Times does a great job filing in that context.
In 2016, a proposal to send some Upper West Side children — who were zoned for a high-performing, mostly white,
wealthyelementary school near their homes — to a lower-performing school, attended mostly by low-income black and Hispanic students, about a ten-minute walk away, was met with vitriol.
A version of the plan — which ultimately impacted a relatively small number of schools — eventually passed after years of negotiations.
Nearly 900 students have been offered admission to one of New York City’s most elite public high schools. Only seven of those students are black.
New York Times podcast on the SHSAT issue. Audio program reviews SHSAT history to current politics.
Another NYTimes editorial opinion.
Many Asian-American New Yorkers have objected to eliminating the exam, arguing that the mayor’s plan would deny admission to hard-working and high-achieving children in their communities. Many alumni at Stuyvesant and other specialized high schools have argued that dropping the test would lead to the admission of students who could not handle the rigorous curriculum. But where’s the evidence?
An admissions policy that is demonstrably unfair shouldn’t be allowed to continue simply because it has worked for certain groups.