What would happen if high-stakes exam was eliminated for NYC specialized high schools?
IBO simulation shows many more black, Hispanic kids would get in, far fewer Asian kids
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza proposed last June that the grueling, high-stakes test for admission to the city’s top eight high schools, including Brooklyn Tech and Brooklyn Latin School, be eliminated.
Using one test as the sole criterion for admissions has been called unfair and discriminatory, especially to kids of color with access to fewer educational resources.
Under the proposed plan, admissions would instead be based on factors such as students’ ranking in the top 7 percent of their middle school and top 25 percent citywide (using grades and scores on the state’s assessment tests). The proposal would require legislation in Albany to amend the State Education Law.
What if these new criteria had been in place for school year 2017-2018?
The Independent Budget Office (IBO) released a simulation on Friday showing what the incoming 9th grade class in 2017-2018 would have looked like. Among their findings:
- About 19 percent of admissions offers would have gone to black students, compared to the less than 4 percent who actually attended specialized high schools in 2017-2018.
- Hispanic students would have received about 27 percent of admission offers, compared to the 6 percent of Hispanic 9th graders who attended the schools last year.
- The number of Asian students receiving admissions offers would have fallen by about half, to just over 31 percent.
- The same number of white students would receive offers.
- More female students would have received offers to attend the specialized high schools, up to 66 percent compared to the 41 percent of female ninth graders who actually attended last school year.
- Students in poverty would have made up 63 percent students offered admission, compared to the roughly 50 percent last year.
- Students offered admissions would have had slightly higher grades on average, but lower scores on the state’s English Language Arts and especially math tests.
Some studies have found that grades provide a better predictor of future student success compared with performance on standardized tests. But opponents of the mayor’s plan say that some students admitted under the new criteria would not be able to handle the high level of coursework provided at the specialized high schools. They also say that basing admission on rank in middle school is flawed because some middle schools are more competitive than others.
Traditionally, the majority of eighth-graders admitted to the city’s specialized high schools are Asian (52 percent), followed by white students (27 percent). Latinos make up roughly 6 percent, and black students roughly 4 percent.
After the mayor announced his plan, Asian families protested the change.
“We feel you cannot punish the people who work hard and then they get in. Specialized high schools [are] trying to get the people who work harder, and they can help the future of the country,” Jerry Lo, who attended a protest in Cadman Plaza Park, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Surveys show that Asian children spend more hours doing schoolwork than members of other ethnic groups in New York City.
“Chinese students study very hard because we are all immigrants and we are looking for a better life here,” Lo said.
At a meeting in Park Slope earlier this month, according to Patch, parents told Department of Education officials that the plan wouldn’t work in their district, where many families choose to opt out of the state tests.
The specialized schools include Brooklyn Technical High School, Brooklyn Latin School, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School, High School for American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for Sciences at York College and Staten Island Technical High School.
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