Meng Decries Plan To Change Admissions Process To Specialized Schools

Young african american boy was photographed as he was eating a f
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng
Mayor BIll de Blasio

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) yesterday decried Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s plan to change the admissions process for New York City’s specialized high schools (DHS), the elite academic public high schools.

Under de Blasio’s plan, among other things, is the elimination of the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT), the qualification exam necessary to get into one of these schools. The major change would have to take place on the state level, including approval from Hizzoner foe, Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Yesterday, the assembly’s Education Committee voted to advance the plan, which Meng called disappointing.

“As the graduate of a New York City specialized high school (Stuyvesant High School), I was disappointed by the drastic changes the mayor proposed to specialized high school admissions.

“Far too many of our City’s elementary and middle school students are being left behind. As the mother of two young children who attend New York City public schools, I have witnessed these problems firsthand. The mayor’s decision to distract from the harsh realities of the New York City school system by proposing these changes is not only wrong, it is shortsighted,” said Meng.

The eight SHS that require passage of the admissions test for entrance as per state law are The Bronx High School of Science; The Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; Staten Island Technical High School; and Stuyvesant High School.

These schools enroll 15,540 students. Of these students half are low-income, 62% are Asian, 24% are white, 6% are Latino, and 4% are black, according to city data. In the public system overall, 68% of high school students are Latino or black. Roughly 12 percent of the city is Asian, according to the 2010 census.

Meng was quick to note the lack of community input into the proposed change, including that of the Asian population, who makes up the majority of SHS students.

“As an elected official, I am also disappointed that the mayor and chancellor failed to convene a meeting of all relevant stakeholders, including the City’s AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] elected officials, before they unveiled a proposal that seeks to dismantle how the City’s most successful high schools operate. To exclude impacted communities from such discussions, or to pit them against one another, is not leadership,” added Meng.

Though Asians make up the majority, Meng doesn’t believe her community to have a monopoly over the elite school seats.

“I also take issue with reported comments made by the chancellor about one ethnic group owning admission to specialized high schools. I am insulted, and these comments are false. Asian Americans aren’t trying to own admission to these schools.

“I agree with the mayor that diversity at the City’s specialized high schools needs to improve. But community leaders and elected officials from ALL backgrounds must have their voices heard. I call on the mayor and the chancellor to engage the AAPI community in any future effort to overhaul specialized high school admissions processes, and I call on the Assembly to do what is right and block A. 10427a from passage. Keeping the AAPI community completely left out of the discussion is disrespectful and wrong.”

According to information accessed through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by a former Community Education Council member, Stanley Ng, Asians score the highest in SHSAT tests with a 424.5 average and have the highest admit number, 2,554, compared to black students with the average SCSHAT score of 349.9 and admit number of 221.

Ng also noted that according to the NYC Government Poverty Measure 2016 report, the Asian population has the highest poverty rate in the city at 24.1 percent compared to 13.4 percent for white, 19.2 percent for black, and 23.9 percent for Hispanic.

“The mayor could have chosen to pursue the creation of additional specialized high schools to meet demand, he could have requested more resources from Albany for every single New York City elementary, middle, and high school, or he could have chosen to address the broader systemic segregation in our City. Instead of focusing on comprehensive reform in one effort, the mayor’s legislative push concerning how eight well-performing schools operate isn’t a serious policy proposal; it’s a headline,” concluded Meng.