URBAN AGENDA: Mayor Takes Aim at Segregated Elite High Schools

David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York | 6/14/2018, midnight
On Sunday, June 3, 2018, a couple hundred of us gathered in the gymnasium of a middle school in East ...
David R. Jones Contributed

In the first year, the plan would apply to students in the top three percent of their schools; in the second year it would apply to the top five percent; and in the third year, it would grow and top out at the top seven percent of middle school students. Specialized high schools would then reflect the top achieves from middle schools across the city, and by the mayor's estimation, would be about 45 percent black or Latino. Now, that's starting to look like the city I know and love.

There's already been pushback to the Mayor's plan. Communities that have succeeded under the current policy don't want to let go of the existing system. But the SHSAT system isn't educating them either; those students can spend their time more constructively. And I'm confident that they will succeed in a range of environments.

Replacing the SHSAT will not be easy, and actually requires overturning a state law. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently announced that proposed legislation to change the law that keeps the SHSAT in place for the oldest three Specialized High Schools will not be considered this legislative session. So, change may not happen this year, but it will happen eventually, because we aren't going away.

And while we will stand by the Mayor as he develops and leads the effort to reform the admissions process for these elite schools, we also hope he considers enacting his proposed percentage plan at the five newest specialized high schools, which he could do by re-designating them, in advance of any changes that would affect Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. Documenting that the sky doesn’t fall at those schools when they are no longer using the SHSAT will help us make the case for change at the other three schools.

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.