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Meng Pans De Blasio’s Plan to Scrap High School Admissions Test

Grace Meng

June 7, 2018 By Tara Law

Congresswoman Grace Meng condemned the mayor for not taking input from the Asian community on a plan to admit more black, Latino, female and low-income students to New York City’s specialized high schools.

Meng, New York’s highest ranking Asian-American official, criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for failing to consult the Asian and Pacific Islander community— who make up the majority of students at specialized high schools— on the plan to phase out the single-admissions “SHSAT” test over three years.

Under the plan the mayor announced Saturday, seats to each specialized high school would go to top students at each middle school based on class rank and scores on statewide tests.

The city says its plan would see 45 percent of specialized high school offers going to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently. Blacks and Hispanics make up 70 percent of the city’s school population.

The plan requires a new state law. While the bill passed in the Assembly Education Committee yesterday, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said today that the bill would not be voted on this session, according to NY1 News. The announcement means the bill won’t be deliberated on until next year, as the legislative session ends on June 20.

Meng said in a statement Wednesday that she agreed many “students are being left behind,” but argued that the mayor should have consulted Asian American politicians.

Approximately 62 percent of students at the City’s specialized high schools are of Asian descent, including many from Meng’s district.

The mayor’s office also said that the plan would expand the number of offers to female students— from 44 percent of offers to 62 percent— and quadruple the number of offers to students from the Bronx.

“There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” de Blasio said. “We cannot let this injustice continue. By giving a wider, more diverse pool of our best students an equal shot at admissions, we will make these schools stronger and our City fairer.”

Meng contends that by attempting to be fairer to certain ethnic groups, the bill has actually excluded others— namely, the Asian community— from the discussion about school admissions.

“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 [Asian and Pacific Islander] elected officials, before they unveiled a proposal that seeks to dismantle how the City’s most successful high schools operate,” Meng said. “To exclude impacted communities from such discussions, or to pit them against one another, is not leadership.”

Meng also pointed to language by Carranza who appeared to directly target the Asian community.

She criticized Carranza for statements he made on Fox 5 News New York on Tuesday that described Asian Americans’ admissions success as evidence of a problem.

“I just don’t buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admission to these schools,” Carranza said to Fox 5.

Meng responded that Asian Americans should not be penalized for doing well academically.

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

Meng suggested that the plan should focus on creating more specialized school and requesting more resources from Albany.

“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,” Meng said.

The mayor also announced a plan to expand the City’s “Discovery” program, which is within the City’s power to implement immediately.

The changes will set aside 20 percent of specialized high schools seats for students from high poverty schools.

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Stephen Gambone

The injustice will not end under the Mayor’s plan because he missed the obvious. To get an offer of admission based on your SHSAT score you must first attend the test. And Latino and black students had unacceptably low SHSAT attendance numbers.
Only 15 Latino students per thousand enrolled Latino students sat for the 2018 SHSAT.
For black students the attendance number was only 19 per thousand black students.
32 white students per thousand attended.
52 Asian students per thousand attended.
64 students of other backgrounds per thousand attended.

Despite the Latino and black students being the majority of the enrolled students their attendance numbers were the lowest. When compared to the Asian students’ rate of attendance there were over 25,000 Latino and black no-shows for the 2018 SHSAT. That’s roughly three times as many Latino and black student no-shows than the 8,809 Asian test attendees.

The real diversity problem isn’t the test. It’s the lack of diversity in the test attendance.


The mayor said “There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city, We cannot let this injustice continue.”

And the Mayor wants top 7% students from ALL middle schools to go to Specialized HS. Isn’t that also injustice?

Why? You simply can NOT compare top middle schools such as I.S. 187 with a lowly ranked middle school. It’s almost like comparing students from an Ivy League to students from any community college. Now this is INJUSTICE to students from top middle schools.


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