For almost a decade, the talk around New York City’s specialized high schools has been about access, opportunity and how money affects both. New Yorkers now have some numbers to confirm their beliefs.
According to a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, students in New York’s nine specialized high schools came from census tracts where the median household income averaged $62,457, with $46,392 for students in other public high schools (going by 2012 dollars).
“If we rank the census tracts by their median income and then divide the tracts into equal fifths (quintiles), we observe large differences between the share of students in specialized high schools and other high schools from each quintile,” read the report.
Over the years, the AmNews has chronicled the story of access to specialized high schools for working-class Blacks and Latinos and how access and preparation for the exam for the top three schools (Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech) affects admission numbers.
“Only 11 percent of specialized high school students came from the lowest income census tracts (those where the median household income is less than or equal to $33,862), whereas 30 percent of students in other high schools came from these neighborhoods,” read the report. “Twenty-six percent of specialized high school students reside in the top income quintile (the 22 percent of census tracts with median incomes over $81,650) compared with just 7 percent of those attending other high schools.”
The report also stated that overall, the share of students attending specialized high schools increases steadily and then drops marginally when students from census tracts with lower median household incomes move to census tracts with higher median incomes. When it comes to students attending other DOE high schools, the pattern was the opposite, with the share in students declining as median income increased.
Some of these numbers have affected the way students are able to access test prep courses, prep classes and even knowledge of the specialized high school exam’s schedule. But while some have clamored for a change the exam process in favor of a more holistic approach, a recent report from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools suggests that admissions rules based on criteria other than the exam would actually decrease the number of Black students. Examining the road students took from middle school to a specialized high school, the study simulated the effects of the admissions criteria (state test scores, grades and attendance) that activists want included as alternatives to exam.