New York City’s Elite High Schools to Benefit from Diversity Push

(Photo: Matthew McDermott, NY Post)

(Photo: Matthew McDermott, NY Post)

The New York City Department of Education announced a series of reforms meant to expand minority enrollment at elite high schools in NYC to be implemented throughout the summer months.

Officials say that although black and Hispanic students account for 68% of city school students, they only make up 11% of the student body at specialized high schools.  There is also a large difference in the number of black and Latino students that take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, SHSAT.  In total, 22% of black and Latino eighth-graders took the exam last fall in comparison to 52% of their Asian and white peers.

In total, six new initiatives were announced by City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña late last week that seek to increase access and diversity at the eight specialized high schools in the city, including the nationally-ranked Staten Island Technical High School.

Staten Island Tech did not accept a single black student for its fall 2016 freshmen class.  A total of 346 students received admissions offers to the school in March, which did include eight Hispanic students.  In all, just 1% of the 1,100 students enrolled at the school are black.

Initiatives include an outreach team that will meet with individual black and Hispanic students who perform highly at the junior high school level to push them to apply to the elite schools throughout the city.  Team members will also offer tutoring for minority students to help them with the SHSAT entrance exams in order to increase their chances of being admitted through the DREAM program available to sixth and seventh-grade students, writes Selim Algar for The New York Post.  In all, five outreach specialists will be hired by the DOE.

The SHSAT will also be administered on a school day, rather than on a weekend, in an effort to increase the number of students who take the test.  Test preparation will be offered to eighth-graders through after-school programs.

The Discovery Program, available to students who receive scores within a range underneath the qualifying score on the SHSAT, will also be worked on in order to increase its scope.

“Our specialized high schools need to better reflect the diversity of our neighborhoods and our city while maintaining their high standards, and this strong package of reforms is an important step forward,” Mayor de Blasio said.

Target schools will be required to create a plan in order to promote a school climate that is welcoming to all students.

“This is about equity and excellence for all of our high performing middle school students regardless of their ZIP code and background,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said.  “We’re going to increase diversity without lowering any standards; to the contrary, greater diversity will help all our students succeed,” she added.

The program is expected to be funded through $2 million in state grants.  The initiatives are set to be in place before students take the SHSAT in October at a cost of $15 million through fiscal year 2020.