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No home for Blacks and Latinos at top NY high schools

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 4:46 p.m.

A newly released report by the New York City Board of Education shows a huge shortage of Black and Latino students at specialized high schools in New York City.

Through a series of articles in the AmNews, this student shortage has been chronicled for many months, beginning last year, while the New York Times reported the disparities in an article last week.

The report shows that out of the seven specialized high schools in the five boroughs, only 4 percent of the students admitted were Black, 6 percent were Latino, 13 percent were Native American/Alaskan, while 35 percent were Asian and 30 percent were white (Editor's note: The DOE total does not add up to 100 percent). More than 70 percent of the New York City student population is either Black or Latino.

Since the mid-1990s, the percentage of Black and Latino students at the marquee public schools--the Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Technical High School--has been steady declining.

In an earlier AmNews story, it was reported that the Bronx High School of Science's current ethnicity breakdown is 61 percent Asian, 25 percent white, 8 percent Latino and 3 percent Black. Stuyvesant's breakdown is 69 percent Asian, 26 percent white, 3 percent Latino and 2 percent Black. And Brooklyn Tech's breakdown is 59 percent Asian, 21 percent white, 12 percent Black and 8 percent Latino.

The other top high schools around the city labeled as specialized include the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College, the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Staten Island Technical High School, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, the Brooklyn Latin School and the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

Only 12 Black students were admitted to Stuyvesant for the freshmen class of 2011. Stuyvesant is famous for placing large numbers of students in the Ivy League (including schools such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Brown and Cornell) and other prestigious public and private universities. Last year, only seven Blacks were admitted to Stuyvesant, whose freshmen classes have several hundred students each year.

The stubbornly low numbers of Black and Hispanic students has been a problem that the city has been aware of for many years. Students are admitted to many of the programs, including Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, solely on the basis of a single test--student grades or teacher recommendations are not considered.

To improve the situation, the Department of Education has begun a preparation program to help with the admissions process. An earlier AmNews article chronicled the lack of information and publicity for these test preparation programs available to Black and Latino students as they entered the seventh and eighth grade. The story reported on the plight of a Black student who went to a specialized high school and his family from Staten Island (whose names were changed at their request).

According to the father, James, it was all about knowing when the specialized high school test was coming up and how soon you found out. "I know through the grapevine, you hear that there are a limited number of seats, and it's on a first come, first served basis," he told the AmNews. "Which means you either have to be in the PTA or in the network to get the information right away so you can act on it. And after a while, all the seats fill up and you realize the situation. They tell you that there are no more seats available or they'll have to find a prep course on their own or do some studying outside of the classroom [for the exam]."

However, prep courses take money, and the economic gap between Blacks, Latinos and whites is well-chronicled. It was suggested by James that minority parents form an alliance across the city to keep each other up to date on educational matters. He feels that the Department of Education will never do right by them, so they have to do right by themselves.

The city admitted on Friday that despite its so-called attempts through preparation programs, it hasn't done enough to reach out to Black and Latino students.