Schools chancellor stands by opposition to SHSAT

September 30, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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BOROUGHWIDE — 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.”

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