Part of the reason for this disparity is that many kids don’t find out about specialized high schools and the SHSAT early enough, if at all. “In my middle school, my class didn’t know there was an SHSAT. We were considered the dumb class because we didn’t test well in elementary,” says Angie, currently a senior at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists. She is black and Latina. “However, the higher performing class got to take it as well as the prep they needed.”
Below is an open letter to Chancellor Richard A. Carranza from the Stuyvesant High School Black Alumni Diversity Initiative (SHSBADI). SHSBADI was formed in 2010 to address the declining enrollment of Black and Latinx students at Stuyvesant and the city’s other specialized high schools.
The letter below outlines SHSBADI’s recommendations for ways to increase the number of Black and Latinx students at Specialized High Schools along with their thoughts on the pending State Legislation (S7983, A10427 and S8503) to address this issue.
Now that I mention it, I don’t think I was all that good at the test questions at the beginning. But my mother, a math teacher, had a blue shoulder bag of “manipulables”: toys, essentially, that she used to explain concepts in geometry and probability. The blue bag was always in the foyer, as if she might need it at the last minute while escaping a fire or running late for work.
My father, who taught English, discussed the books I was reading, even (despite his love of realism) the Star Wars spin-offs.
Principal Eric Contreras is stepping down, but is in favor of using multiple criteria for measuring merit, as opposed to the single roughly 100 math and English multiple-choice SHSAT.
That makes both the principal and valedictorian of Stuyvesant pro-reform.
Though Contreras told the Journal he is in favor of “mixed metrics” to be used in admissions, his letter does not directly address the current debate engulfing his school community. But he highlighted some diversity initiatives under his tenure, such as a tutoring and mentoring program for students at middle schools that are underrepresented at Stuyvesant and the relaunch of Discovery, a program that offers admission to students who just missed the exam cutoff and who complete summer work.
Student argument against the SHSAT
Defenders of the current system, hailing the test as establishing a level playing field, argue that if more black and Latino students truly wanted to attend specialized high schools, they could just study harder. I have repeatedly heard my classmates champion this mindset, implying that black and Latino students are not as hardworking, and, even more disturbingly, not as smart as their Asian counterparts.
The SHSAT, however, does not measure work ethic or intelligence, but a student’s ability to answer over 100 tedious multiple choice questions in under three hours.
Yet alumni have struggled to raise an endowment like those at other top U.S. schools. The closest was an effort begun in 1999, called Campaign for Stuyvesant, that over the years managed to raise about $4.5 million, on its way to a $12 million goal.
It never made it. Today, all that’s left is about $330,000. Alumni, including members of a group called Concerned Stuyvesant Alumni, want to know where it went.