NYC schools chancellor calls for end to elite school test

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Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter called for an end to the specialized high school entrance exam Thursday while fuming about new admissions data that showed Asians dominating the controversial test once again.

Citing the minimal number of offers to black and Hispanic students, Ross-Porter called the current single-test entry format “unacceptable.”

Asians comprised 53.7 percent of those admitted, whites 27.9, Hispanics 5.4, and African-Americans 3.6.

“I know from my 21 years as an educator that far more students could thrive in our Specialized High Schools, if only given the chance,” she said in a statement accompanying the results. “Instead, the continued use of the Specialized High School Admissions Test will produce the same unacceptable results over and over again, and it’s far past the time for our students to be fairly represented in these schools.”

But backers of the existing format — especially those representing Asian city groups — blasted Ross-Porter’s characterization.

“What is unacceptable is the targeting of one particular group,” said activist Wai Wah Chin. “Especially with what we see happening on the streets of this city. What is unacceptable is telling Asians that they don’t belong in these schools despite their hard work.”

Critics of the exam call it a narrow measure of student potential and argue that additional metrics should be introduced into the admissions process.

Activist Wai Wah Chin disagreed with Meisha Ross-Porter's stance on the specialized high school entrance exam.
Activist Wai Wah Chin disagreed with Meisha Ross-Porter’s stance on the specialized high school entrance exam.
Stefan Jeremiah

They also contend that the single-test system benefits families of means with superior exam preparation resources.

Ross-Porter’s predecessor, Richard Carranza, unsuccessfully pushed to overhaul the current format along with Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2019.

While 70 percent of all city student are black and Hispanic, they only accounted for 9.4 percent of specialized high school acceptances for next year.

Kaliris Salas-Ramirez of Community Education Council 4 said the exam should be scrapped, asserting that it promoted an outdated reliance on standardized tests to measure talent.

She also argued that most Asian applicants do not gain admittance through the test and that the format “perpetuates a system that disenfranchises the Asian community.”

Test backers assert that it’s a colorblind measure that has forged some of the most academically renowned schools in the country.

Former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza tried to change the specialized high school entrance exam format two years ago.
Former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza tried to change the specialized high school entrance exam format two years ago.
AP

Others also note that many of the immigrant Asian groups that predominate at the eight schools come from low-income backgrounds rather than privilege.

At Stuyvesant High School, considered the city’s premier academic bastion, Asians made up 65 percent of new offers. Whites were second at 20 percent and Hispanics 2.7 percent.

Only 8 of 749 offers — or one percent — went to Black students, according to DOE data.

Ross-Porter asserted that Albany should rescind the law that mandates the test.

“The State law that requires the City to administer the exam must be repealed so we can partner with our communities to find a more equitable way forward, and do right by all of our children,” she said.

More than half of students at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan are Asian.
More than half of students at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan are Asian.
Mary Altaffer/AP

Some have called for the outright abolition of the exam while others have suggested combining it with other measures.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education said a glitch made it impossible for some parents to open up admissions emails Thursday and that they were working to fix the issue.

“This has been tortuous enough,” said one applicant’s mom. “It never ends. You would think they could at least get the email right.”

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