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Schools chancellor stands by opposition to SHSAT

September 27, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza doubled down on his commitment to scrapping the controversial admissions test for the city’s elite high schools, just days after the mayor said he was open to the idea of keeping the exam in place.

Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio have long called for the elimination of the Specialized High School Admissions Test, which serves as the sole criteria for admission to most of the city’s nine specialized high schools.

“I’m not backing away from my belief that a single test is not the most effective way to give students that opportunity,” the schools chancellor said Friday at a roundtable for journalists, going on to say that the process should be as fair and transparent as possible.

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The pair has claimed that legislation to do away with the SHSAT — which is currently stalled in both the Senate and the Assembly — would increase racial diversity in the top high schools like Brooklyn Technical High School and Stuyvesant High School, which currently enroll disproportionately low numbers of black and Latino students. Meanwhile, some parents have argued that the administration’s plan is an attack on kids who already work hard to ace the SHSAT.

According to Chalkbeat, in 2019, white and Asian students were more likely to take the test — and to score high enough for admission.

De Blasio and Carranza — who have received both political and parental pushback on the proposal — maintain that their plan would provide greater opportunity to traditionally disadvantaged youth.

But Carranza said Friday that the issue isn’t about race.

“There are people in this city that have tried to make this issue about race, but this is not about race. Let me say it again for the people in the back — this is not about race,” he stressed.

“This is about education opportunity for all children — black, Asian, brown, white, LGBTQ, students with disabilities, students in temporary housing, students in foster care — this is about all students, and when people try to make this about race, it’s a political agenda, not an educational agenda.”

Carranza said that he refuses to believe the issue lays within the aptitude of city students. “It has to be the system,” he said. “There is no research, there is no evidence anywhere — you can check me on this — that shows a single test is the best way of identifying student [aptitude.]”

The New York Post reported on Wednesday that de Blasio told reporters at a similar roundtable that he might have to rethink scrapping the test, although he vowed to continue working toward his goal of increasing racial diversity in the city’s elite high schools.

“Some would argue that there’s a way to do it while keeping the test, and you have to have that dialogue, too,” de Blasio said, according to the Post.

Carranza echoed the mayor’s welcoming of ideas Friday, but minced no words when it came to his own opposition to the exam.

“I am meeting with communities and groups who have felt disenfranchised from this process — and I will continue to do that,” he told reporters. “But let me be very clear, as an educator, there is no reason — either in research, in practice or in practicality — that mandates a single test as the best way of measuring [student ability].”

As for new pathways, Carranza told reporters, “I’m open! What’s a better idea? I haven’t heard one yet. Give me a better idea.”

Correction (4:45 p.m.)A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Stuyvesant High School as Peter Stuyvesant High School.

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  1. My way or the highway Chancellor Carranza appears to be an ideologue with a strident & racist quota-based agenda. Unfortunately his plans aim to destroy some of the finest free public schools in the State, and perhaps the nation, all in the name of a false & divisive “diversity”. Hey Richard, should we likewise “diversify” the NBA with white players in proportion to their segment of the population? And while we’re at it, shall we also do away with testing the players for their qualifications, and give everyone the “equal opportunity” to play? Taking that dead-end road is the very definition of destruction not diversification, of quotas not qualifications, of prejudice and discrimination, not fairness & genuine equal opportunity for all who choose to compete.

    Despite the new and apparently less-than-knowledgeable Chancellor’s mistaken claims to the contrary, the SHSAT entrance exam has for many decades proven to be an efficient, effective & highly accurate method of selecting those applicants who can best survive and benefit the most from the rigorous learning environment, the strict discipline, and the unique & limited resources of these acclaimed specialized schools – a difficult environment where constant testing, the very same testing that Carranza abhors, is at the very core of a highly successful curriculum. In other words, if you can’t survive the entrance test, you won’t be able to survive four grueling years of testing in these schools. Period. The bottom line is that the SHSAT entrance test most certainly DOES measure an applicants ability to make the grade & thrive & graduate from these specialized schools, and it does that very well. However Carranza apparently wants entrance requirements to instead serve as some sort of tool for his social planning experiments & schemes. Sadly, he seeks to sacrifice the standards of these schools, as he abandons proven methods of predicting ability, success & competence for both applicants and students in this demanding & challemging environment.

    Asians are the majority in these schools, many of them coming from poor struggling immigrant families. They are shining examples of the immigrant experience, of the American Dream come to fruition, The American Dream — where if you work hard, you’ll have the chance to advance in society. Anybody can take the test, and it doesn’t matter how you look, where you live, or how you sound in an interview; You just have to work hard. Should we punish these successful Asian applicants for trying so hard to better themselves? Caucasians are a distinct minority in these specialized schools. Should they also demand more so-called diversity to ensure their greater numbers in these schools – or should these relatively privileged Caucasian applicants get off their duffs and try harder to pass the test?

    For there is no Southern Governor standing in the doorway of these schools. There is no racist Bull Connor blocking the entrance and enforcing deliberate school segregation for ANY group trying to enter these schools. Instead, only the hurdles of mathematics, of vocabulary, of logic, and reading & writing skills are “standing in the doorways” of these specialized schools. Only a color-blind test is the hurdle, a hurdle which says to ALL: “come, compete and try your best to make the cut”. What’s more American than that? What’s more fair than that? The call for so-called diversity and its implied corollary of discrimination is a false & deceptive scenario. It’s a siren song that deliberately divides & distracts us from tackling the real problems of our public school system. No matter the misleading rhetoric, open & color-blind testing, competition and selection is not discrimination, racial or otherwise. Instead, it is the essence & foundation of genuine equal opportunity.

    Carranza claims “I’m open! What’s a better idea? I haven’t heard one yet. Give me a better idea”. Heck, Carranza is about as “open”’ as Fort Knox. I suggest that he start listening, really listening, instead of closing his mind to opinions other than his own, as he tries to push his plans down the throats of everyone else. The real solution, to which Carranza is both deaf and blind, is to increase the number of specialized schools, for all students who can make the grade, as several of our legislators have suggested. And providing free assistance & preparation to all who wish to compete for the limited spaces available. Want more “ideas” Richard? Don’t scapegoat the test. Instead, try working towards creating quality public schools throughout the city, throughout the middle and lower grades, in terms of funding, infrastructure, resources and teachers – instead of clamoring for meaningless quotas. Divisive words are easy Richard. Destroying testing is easy. Lowering standards is easy. Demanding your way is easy. But achieving actual progress and improvements in our public schools is hard, and that’s exactly what you’re being paid to do. It’s time to start doing that Richard, way past time to earn your exorbatant salary.

    Our goal should be to lift everyone up, instead of watering down standards to the lowest common denominator. That will never prepare our students for the real world, for work, for life, and will ultimately fail them. In other words: raise the students instead of lowering the standards! Schools should mold the students – not the other way around. The Chancellor should unite this diverse city instead of further dividing us. Heal this city Chancellor, and help bring us together, instead of dividing us by shamefully pitting one group against another – just like a fun-house mirror image of Trump, our Divider-In-Chief.

    Competition is the American way, the fair & just way. No guarantees, just a path where if you work hard, you’ll have the opportunity to advance in society. It’s a tough road, but it’s a a road where anyone can take the SHSAT test, and it doesn’t matter how you look, where you live, or how you sound in an interview; You just need to work hard and try your best. Of course everyone can’t make the grade. If everyone were given a free pass to do so, it would be a meaningless, cruel and worthless scam. It would just be another fake Trump, errr Carranza, University. Just step right up, step right up, and get yer diplomas! Diplomas not worth the paper they’re printed on.

    Of course every parent wants the best for their children. But parents should realize that their children will be subjected to all sorts of legitimate testing and selection throughout their lives, and not just in school. Parents need to prepare their children for the real world, for the harsh world, if they want them to compete and succeed in life. Therefore all parents & students should support these schools, their high standards, and their rigorous admissions & testing. The alternative is to water down the standards of some of the best public high schools in the name of a false and ultimately destructive “diversity”.

    Instead of lowering the admission standards of these top-ranking high schools we need to raise the capabilities of the test-takers. We need solutions not destruction – real answers, not fake short-sighted “answers” that weaken these excellent schools. We need to preserve, defend and expand these schools instead. This is not an “us versus them” narrative. For everyone wins, all New Yorkers win, and all students win, when we preserve some of the best and most successful schools in our public educational system, when we preserve them for all to apply & compete – instead of undermining their admission standards, reputation & value.