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. 

Admission Test’s Scoring Quirk Throws Balance Into Question

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.

PUTTING DREAMS TO THE TEST: A special report; Elite High School Is a Grueling Exam Away

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.

Testing Time, and Anxiety Is High

Since early December the pace has increased, with nearly 18,000 eighth- and ninth-grade students taking the admission test for the city’s three specialized “science” high schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Technical; more than 3,300 would-be art, drama, music and dance students auditioning at Fiorello La Guardia, and hundreds of others taking admissions exams for the city’s private nursery, elementary and high schools.

A few tests and auditions remain, but for most city parents and students, this is a time of waiting for results, most of which are made known in February.

First High School Test: Getting In

If the air was fraught with some apprehension, perhaps some was called for. The one-and-a-half-hour multiple-choice test, which includes vocabulary, reading comprehension, logical reasoning and mathematics, is the sole determining factor for admission to the city’s three specialized science high schools — Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School.

[…]

Board of Education officials expect from 17,000 to 18,000 applicants for the ninth and 10th grade classes at the three science schools next fall. About 5,000 will be accepted, and officials expect about 4,000 of those to enroll.

Special Classes Help Gifted in Ghettos

OUTSIDE, there is a burned‐out tenement, a symbol of a devastated inner‐city neighborhood. Inside, a teacher is working on algebra problems with a class of gifted children, preparing them for entrance to specialized high schools.

Of the 16,800 pupils in District 7, 400 are in special progress classes. The district is about 68 percent Hispanic, 31 percent black and 1 percent “other,” meaning white and Oriental.

Madeline Golia, the coordinator of the district’s program for gifted and talented pups, said that admission to the special progress classes is based on several “flexible” standards.

Grouping by Ability Of Students Upheld For New York City

The Federal Government said yesterday that New York City public schools could continue grouping Youngsters by ability even if it led to racially imbalanced classes.

And in a related action, it withdrew a charge that the city’s three academically elite high schools discriminated against black and female students.

The Government actions, contained in an agreement with the Board of Education, resolve a complaint intitated by the Federal Office for Civil Rights in early 1977.The board is expected to make the agreement public today.

New York City’s Discriminating Schools

n a city where residential patterns have made the student bodies of nearly half the public schools predominantly nonwhite, the effective integration of the special schools, and the maintenance of their high academic standards, should be cause for celebration, not condemnation. The Office of Civil Rights may not realize that, racial issues aside, the special schools have been under recurrent attack from those who abhor Jefferson’s “aristocracy of talent” as an affront to egalitarianism. They are dangerously wrong. New York’s special schools are not an aberration but the guiding beacons of public education.

2 Ideals at Issue

Many teachers and principals are convinced that there should be ability grouping for the good of the most able and the least able students. But often these same educators are uneasy over the racial isolation that often results. This has put some programs for bright students on shaky ground.

Classes for gifted children are being abolished, for example, at P.S. 152, down the block from Brooklyn College, because even though the school’s enrollment is becoming increasingly black and Puerto Rican, the gifted classes are disproportionately white.