Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: The test is not the problem with specialized high schools

June 14, 2018 By Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis For the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photo courtesy of Malliotakis’ office
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Six months into his second term, Mayor Bill de Blasio seems intent on once again creating an issue that will pit one group of New Yorkers against another.

Last summer, New Yorkers witnessed his politically correct plan to remove statues of Christopher Columbus and other historic figures from their pedestals around our city. Thankfully, after much uproar and creation of a monument review commission, common sense prevailed and Columbus still holds his perch at Broadway and West 59th Street in Manhattan and President Teddy Roosevelt remains in front of the American Museum of Natural History.

Sadly, this year’s ill conceived plan isn’t aimed at those who died centuries ago. It has to with the education of young New Yorkers and perceived racial and economic inequities within the selection process for the Department of Education’s eight specialized high schools.

Mayor de Blasio wants to do away with the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) which for decades has served as the key to admissions to these schools. He is alarmed that only 10 percent of this year’s incoming freshman class of roughly 5,000 students will be black or Hispanic compared to city’s overall public school enrollment where these group account for 67 percent of the student body. Fifty two percent of those 5,000 spots will be filled by Asian-Americans and 27 percent by whites.

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While the disparity between the groups is obvious, Mayor de Blasio’s solution won’t solve the underlying problem; a school system that is failing New York City’s children. His approach will merely devalue a diploma from schools like Bronx Science, Stuyvesant High, Brooklyn Tech and Staten Island Tech, and possibly snuff out one of the bright lights of our public school system.    

Mayor de Blasio seems unable to comprehend that the testing methods employed by the Department of Education are in fact color blind. They do not know whether the student taking them is white, black, Asian or Hispanic. Nor, do they take into account a student’s religious, family or socio-economic background.

The test’s only purpose is to see if the student has what it takes to succeed in these eight schools whose tough standards and curriculums have, over the years, produced 14 future Nobel Laureates, dozens of Westinghouse/Intel Science Scholarships winners and thousands of others graduates that have become leaders in their professions and productive members of society.

The solution to this problem won’t be found by lowering standards in eight specialized high schools. The real solution lies in improving the quality of the education in all our public schools.

Remember, we’re only talking 5,000 seats per year in a system that educates upwards of one million students on an annual basis.

The mayor shouldn’t be penalizing the hard work of Asian American students; he should be penalizing the bureaucrats he employs to run our city’s Department of Education which spends more than $22,000 per pupil per year (more than double the national average) to educate our children.

Ultimately, the authority to change the entrance requirements for specialized high schools rests with the state legislature, not the mayor.  Until a solution can be derived that benefits all children without lowering the standards in the specialized schools, I will vote NO on any legislation that attempts to implement the de Blasio plan.

Nicole Malliotakis represents the 64th A.D. in Brooklyn and Staten Island.


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