Schools
Brooklyn Technical High School (Wikimedia Commons)

New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to overhaul admissions at some of the city’s most sought-after high schools is already experiencing some pushback from outraged parents.

According to education watch website Chalkbeat, Monday, more than 300 people attended a community education council meeting, where the city’s plan to get rid of the test that middle school students can take to gain admission to eight of the city’s specialized high schools, was formally presented by Deputy Schools Chancellor Josh Wallack.

Black and Hispanic students represent almost 70 percent of New York students citywide, but only make up 10 percent of the enrollment at the city’s specialized high schools. Many say this is because basing admissions on a single test gives a clear advantage to students who can afford test prep.

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In June, De Blasio announced his plan to phase out the test and instead guarantee a spot to the top seven percent of students at every city middle school. The top students would be determined using factors such as their GPAs and performance on state tests. And since the city’s middle schools are often segregated by race, this new approach would significantly increase the percentage of black and Hispanic students being admitted into magnet schools.

For the proposal to go through, it would require a change in state law. But many parents, particularly those from Asian families, have pushed back and lobbied to the current test. This is because Asian students currently represent approximately 62 percent of students at the specialized high schools even though they only make up 16 percent of the citywide student population.

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After Monday’s presentation presentation, about three dozen parents booed Wallack and loudly spoke up against the plan. When the crowd was asked to raise their hands if they supported the new approach that would ensure more minority enrollment, not a single hand went up (though one brave parent did speak in support).

Several parents argued that removing the test would just allow unqualified students who are not equipped for the schools’ rigorous curriculum in their classrooms. Others said the plan will create a “snake pit” among middle school children that may cause people to resort to vicious competition.

You people are proposing a grand experiment on our children,” said parent Alan Siegel, who is also an NYU professor of computer science.

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