Education bill levels playing field for Black and Latino students in specialized high schools

ASSEMBLYMAN CHARLES BARRON 60th District, Brooklyn | 6/14/2018, 11:22 a.m.
New York City’s current education system is in dire need of a radical overhaul.
Charles Barron Bill Moore photo

New York City’s current education system is in dire need of a radical overhaul. One of the issues that has continued to limit the ability and potential of Black and Latino students is the difficulty in being accepted into one of the eight specialized high schools. My bill (A10427-A) aims to fix that by phasing out the specialized high school admission test that students must take to gain admission. New York City is the only city in the country that uses a single specialized test for entrance to a specialized high school. My bill, as it is done for Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown University, will use multiple measures for entrance.

Currently, 67 percent of New York City students that attend the Department of Education’s schools are Black and Latino students, and yet, they only account for 9 percent of the total student population in the city’s specialized high schools. In contrast, Asian students account for 62 percent and white students account for 24 percent of the total student population in the specialized high schools. Recognizing this disparity, the new legislation aims to increase Black and Latino enrollment in all eight specialized high schools.

My legislation, along with the amended recommendations by the mayor, aims to achieve this goal by phasing out the use of the SHSAT over three years. The bill will require new admission criteria based on factors such as grade-point average and test scores in the seventh grade. During the first year, students who are in the top 3 percent of their eighth grade class will be offered admission. During the second year, the top 5 percent will be offered admissions, and in the third year, the top 5 to 7 percent will be offered admissions through random selection. The top students of the nearly 600 middle schools will be equitably selected for specialized high schools.

This new admissions process promises to increase the number of Black and Latino students to 45 percent in specialized high schools. This equal access process is the first step leading to the leveling of the playing field in specialized high schools.

The passage of this bill out of the Assembly’s Education Committee, with the support of the chairperson, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, marks a historic moment in the Assembly’s history because it remained in committee for three years. We were able to secure the votes necessary to get it out of the committee.

We anticipate the bill will be debated on by the Assembly next year. Although this bill represents a measure of progress for Black and Latino students, we should always recognize that education should be for the liberation of all students and against the very elitism that specialized high schools represent. All students are special! All schools should be made special with the proper resources! We should continue to strive for a culturally relevant curriculum and to make sure all our students have the necessary resources to prepare themselves for a 21st century global economy.