De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

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De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

There is an interesting development on a topic that is important to Asian Americans. There is already much evidence that AAs face discrimination in university admissions as well as in the job market after they graduate. Now, one of the traditional paths for AAs in New York--especially 1st and 2nd generation immigrants--to top tier colleges and a high standard of living is being threatened by a lawsuit by the NAACP, with the backing of New York's new mayor Bill de Blasio.

NYC has a system of eight specialized high schools that admit students based purely on the scores they receive on a standardized test. This system was maintained throughout public school integration efforts during the Civil Rights Movement (which leads some to claim that it was used to maintain predominantly white high schools during this period), but has, since roughly 1970 when the Immigration Act took effect, become a way for new Asian immigrants to work their way up the American ladder. Asians now outnumber all other demographic groups, including whites, by a large margin at these schools.

No one is arguing that inner city black and Latino students should not receive an education. NYC has a large system of public schools that serves the needs of the NYC student body at all levels. But the best schools should be reserved for the best students. The NYC specialized school system is one of the rare instances of pure meritocracy in America. Nobody is excluded from these schools because of race. As former mayor Bloomberg once said, the admissions process at these schools is the fairest and most objective in the entire country: you ace the test and you get in.

Image ... or-asians/
To make elite schools ‘fair,’ city will punish poor Asians

By Dennis Saffran July 19, 2014 | 2:57pm

In 2004, 7-year-old Ting Shi arrived in New York from China, speaking almost no English. For two years, he shared a bedroom in a Chinatown apartment with his grandparents — a cook and a factory worker — and a young cousin, while his parents put in 12-hour days at a small laundromat they had purchased on the Upper East Side.

Ting mastered English and eventually set his sights on getting into Stuyvesant High School, the crown jewel of New York City’s eight “specialized high schools.”

When he was in sixth grade, he took the subway downtown from his parents’ small apartment to the bustling high school to pick up prep books for its eighth-grade entrance exam. He prepared for the test over the next two years, working through the prep books and taking classes at one of the city’s free tutoring programs. His acceptance into Stuyvesant prompted a day of celebration at the laundromat — an immigrant family’s dream beginning to come true.

Ting, now a 17-year-old senior starting at NYU in the fall, says of his parents, who never went to college: “They came here for the next generation.”

The plot against merit

New York’s specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant and the equally storied Bronx High School of Science, along with Brooklyn Technical High School and five smaller schools, have produced 14 Nobel laureates — more than most countries.

For more than 70 years, admission to these schools has been based upon a competitive examination of math, verbal and logical reasoning skills. In 1971, the state legislature, heading off city efforts to scrap the merit selection test as culturally biased against minorities, reaffirmed that admission to the schools be based on the competitive exam.

But now, troubled by declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the schools, opponents of the exam have resurfaced. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a civil-rights complaint challenging the admissions process. A bill in Albany to eliminate the test requirement has garnered the support of Sheldon Silver, the powerful Assembly speaker.

And new Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose son, Dante, attends Brooklyn Tech, has called for changing the admissions criteria. The mayor argues that relying solely on the test creates a “rich-get-richer” dynamic that benefits the wealthy, who can afford expensive test preparation.

As Ting’s story illustrates, however, the reality is just the opposite. It’s not affluent whites, but rather the city’s burgeoning population of Asian-American immigrants — a group that, despite its successes, remains disproportionately poor and working-class — whose children have aced the exam in overwhelming numbers.
And, ironically, the more “holistic” and subjective admissions criteria that de Blasio and the NAACP favor would be much more likely to benefit children of the city’s professional elite than African-American and Latino applicants — while penalizing lower-middle-class Asian-American kids like Ting. The result would not be a specialized high school student body that “looks like New York,” but rather one that looks more like Bill de Blasio’s upscale Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Asian-American success

There is no dispute that black and Latino enrollment at the specialized schools, while always low, has steadily declined since the 1970s.

Blacks constituted 13 percent of the student body at Stuyvesant in 1979, 5 percent in 1994 and just 1 percent the last few years, while Hispanics dropped from a high of 4 percent to 2 percent today.

Similarly, at Bronx Science, black enrollment has fallen from 12 percent in 1994 to 3 percent currently and Hispanic enrollment has leveled off, from about 10 percent to 6 percent. The figures are even more striking at the less selective Brooklyn Tech, where blacks made up 37 percent of the student body in 1994 but only 8 percent today, while Hispanic numbers plunged from about 15 percent to 8 percent.

These declining minority numbers have not been matched by a corresponding increase in whites, however. In fact, white enrollment at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech has plummeted as well, dropping from 79 percent, 81 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in 1971 to just 22 percent, 23 percent and 20 percent today.

Rather, it is New York City’s fastest-growing racial minority group, Asian-Americans, who have come to dominate these schools. Asians, while always a presence in New York, didn’t begin arriving in the city in large numbers until immigration restrictions were lifted with passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, championed by Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Since then, their proportion of the city’s population has increased from less than 1 percent to about 13 percent, and their share of the specialized school population has skyrocketed. Asian students constituted 6 percent of the enrollment at Stuyvesant in 1970 and 50 percent in 1994; they make up an incredible 73 percent of the student body this year.

The story is similar at Bronx Science, where the Asian population has exploded from 5 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 1994 to 62 percent today, and at Brooklyn Tech, where their presence increased from 6 percent to 33 percent to 61 percent.

The ‘rich’ fallacy

Asians in New York are overwhelmingly first- and second-generation; some three-quarters of the students at Stuyvesant are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

They’re hardly affluent, notwithstanding de Blasio’s implication that families who get their kids into the specialized schools are “rich.”

True, Asians nationally have the highest median income of any racial group, including whites — and in New York City, their median household income ranks second to that of whites and well ahead of blacks and Hispanics.

But Asians also have the highest poverty rate of any racial group in New York, with 29 percent living below the poverty level, compared with 26 percent of Hispanics, 23 percent of blacks and 14 percent of whites. Poor Asians lag far behind whites and are barely ahead of blacks and Latinos. Thus, the income spectrum among Asians in New York ranges from a surprisingly large number in poverty, through a hardworking lower middle class, and on to a more affluent upper middle class.

It might seem reasonable to assume — as de Blasio and others apparently do — that the Asian kids at the specialized schools come largely from families at the top of this pyramid. But this isn’t the case.
Half the students at the specialized high schools qualify for free or subsidized school lunches, including 47 percent at Stuyvesant and 48 percent at Bronx Science — figures that have increased correspondingly with Asians’ rising numbers at these schools. Based upon these figures, Stuyvesant and Bronx Science (as well as four of the other six specialized schools) are eligible for federal Title I funding, given to schools with large numbers of low-income students.

Think about that: Two public high schools that, along with half their students, are officially classified as poor by the federal government rival the most exclusive prep schools in the world.

The poor students get into such schools through hard work and sacrifice — both their own and that of their parents. The students typically attend local tutoring programs, which proliferate in Asian neighborhoods, starting the summer after sixth grade and for several days a week, including weekends, during the school year prior to the test. The costs are burdensome for poor and working families, but it’s a matter of priorities.

A liberal nightmare

All this once would have been the stuff of liberal dreams: A racial minority group historically victimized by discrimination begins coming to America in greater numbers because of an immigration reform sponsored by Ted Kennedy. Though many in the group remain in poverty, they take advantage of free public schools established by progressive New York City governments. By dint of their own hard work, they earn admission in increasing numbers to merit-based schools that offer smart working-class kids the kind of education once available only at Andover or Choate.

To modern “progressive” elites, though, the story is intolerable, starting with the hard work. These liberal elites seem particularly troubled by the Asian-American work ethic and the difficult questions that it raises about the role of culture in group success.

While the advancement of Asian students has come overwhelmingly at the expense of more affluent whites, it has also had an undeniable impact on black and Latino students, whose foothold at these schools, small to begin with, has all but vanished.

Alarm at this development has triggered a new wave of assaults upon the entrance exam — now known as the Specialized High School Admissions Test (“SHSAT”) — and the law that mandates its use.

In September 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint with the US Department of Education, which dispenses federal educational funding to the city, charging that use of the SHSAT as the sole basis for admission violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination by federal aid recipients.

The complaint does not allege that the exam intentionally discriminates against black and Hispanic students. Instead, citing statistics regarding declining black and Latino enrollment and SHSAT pass rates, the LDF bases its argument entirely on the theory of “disparate impact” — that is, that discrimination should be inferred merely from racial differences in test scores.

In the complaint and in a subsequent report released last fall to coincide with de Blasio’s election, the LDF argues for replacement of the SHSAT with a “holistic” admissions process — one that would consider “multiple measures” of academic potential, “both quantitative and qualitative,” including not only grades but also such subjective indicators as interviews, recommendations, “portfolio assessments,” “proven leadership skills” and “commitment to community service.”

Other factors could include applicants’ “backgrounds and experiences” and the “demographic profile” of their schools and neighborhoods. To the extent that a test would be allowed at all, it would merely “supplement” these other criteria. The LDF also called for guaranteed admission for valedictorians and salutatorians, and perhaps other top students, at each public middle school program — a proposal that sounds modest but would actually require a set-aside of at least 1,000 of the 3,800 seats in each class.

Subjective backfire

Such subjective admissions criteria would be likelier to favor the kids of New York’s professional class than children from less affluent backgrounds.

De Blasio suggested, for example, that a student’s extracurricular activities should be one of the selection factors. But as a past president of the Stuyvesant Parents Association noted, “the kids that have the best résumés in seventh and eighth grades have money.”

A Chinese student like Ting Shi who has to help out in his parents’ laundromat is not going on “service” trips to Nicaragua with the children in de Blasio’s affluent Park Slope neighborhood. The LDF’s suggested admissions criteria — student portfolios, leadership skills and community service — are all subject to privileged parents’ ability to buy their children the indicia of impressiveness.

Ironically, eliminating the SHSAT would magnify the role of what progressives call “unconscious bias” — the idea that we have a preference for those who look like us and share our backgrounds. Subjective evaluation measures like interviews and portfolio reviews are much more susceptible to such bias than is an objective examination.

Sure, the decision makers will do their best to admit a few more black and Latino kids (especially those from the same upper-middle-class backgrounds), but the primary beneficiaries will be affluent white students who didn’t study hard enough to perform really well on the test but seem more “well-rounded” than those who did. As always, the losers in this top-bottom squeeze will be the lower middle and working classes. Among the applicant pool for the specialized high schools, that means Asians.

Comparing the specialized schools with other selective city high schools that don’t use the SHSAT bears this out. These “screened” high schools are, to varying degrees, more selective than regular neighborhood high schools; they choose students using the multiple criteria supported by SHSAT critics.

A comparison of the eight most selective screened schools with the eight specialized schools shows that the screened schools, while more heavily black and Latino, are also considerably whiter and more affluent — and considerably less Asian.

Remember that the specialized schools are 13 percent black and Hispanic, 24 percent white and 60 percent Asian. The top screened schools are 27 percent black and Hispanic, 46 percent white and only 26 percent Asian. And while 50 percent of the students at the specialized schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, only 37 percent of the students at the top screened schools do.

Subjective selection criteria also inevitably favor the affluent and connected — as a comptroller’s audit of the screened-school admissions process revealed. The study found that most of the schools examined did not follow their stated selection criteria and could not explain the criteria that they actually did use.

There is also a big difference between evaluating 17-year-old college applicants and 13-year-old high-school applicants. The younger candidates have had far less opportunity to distinguish themselves on such vague qualities as “character” and “leadership.” A selection process based on these intangibles can easily fall prey to arbitrariness, prejudice and parental gamesmanship.

Critics of the SHSAT will reply that something must be done about declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the specialized high schools. The answer, however, can never be to lower objective standards.

Adopting this cynical approach would do no favors for black and Latino children, while opening the door to discrimination against Asian kids like Ting. It is not the specialized schools’ emphasis on merit, but rather the advocates’ defeatist worldview that is truly — and tragically — wrongheaded.

Dennis Saffran is an appellate attorney and was recently the GOP candidate for the city council seat representing District 19, in Queens. This article is adapted from the Summer 2014 issue of City Journal.

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

Here is another take on this. Advocates some changes to the admissions process at these schools, but not necessarily the ones de Blasio wants: ... hools.html
Who Gets Into NYC's Elite Schools? Wrong Mix of Kids, De Blasio Says, Fighting Test
By Henry Goldman Jun 23, 2014 10:55 AM CT

De Blasio Seeks to Upend Entry to Top NYC Schools

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office Jan. 1 promising to reduce economic inequality, said he wants to end a 43-year policy that restricts admission at the city’s elite high schools to students who score highest on a standardized test.

The rule has been debated since a 1971 state law made the test the only criterion to gain entry to eight specialized public schools that offer college-preparatory curriculum and whose alumni include Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. Bills in the legislature backed by the teachers union and set to be reintroduced next year would allow use of other measures, including grades, attendance and scores on other exams.

“I do not believe a single test should be determinative, particularly for something that is as life-changing for so many young people,” de Blasio, who would need to persuade the state Legislature to amend the law, said last week. “We have to determine what combination of measures will be fair.”

De Blasio, 53, a self-described progressive Democrat who campaigned for more affordable housing and universal pre-kindergarten, won election in November by the largest percentage-point margin of any non-incumbent in New York history. One of his goals is to increase ethnic, economic and academic diversity among students inside the most competitive and rigorous high schools, including Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, without diminishing academic standards.

‘Certain Backgrounds’

“We cannot have a dynamic where some of our greatest educational options are only available to people from certain backgrounds,” de Blasio said at an April news briefing.

A graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts who received his undergraduate degree at New York University and master’s from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, de Blasio is no stranger to the rigors of standardized testing. His son, Dante, attends Brooklyn Technical, one of the specialized high schools that would be affected.

The current discussion is part of a larger one about high-stakes testing after 12 years in which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated the use of such exams, saying they provide the most reliable way to measure student, teacher and school performance. Tests provide training for challenges that students face throughout their lives, Bloomberg said.

Bronx Science

The former mayor, who in 2002 gained control of the largest U.S. school system when the state backed his plan to disband the city Board of Education, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

At the Bronx High School of Science, which requires the test, the alumni board in a June 20 letter asked the legislature to reject any changes to the test requirement.

“We stand for an admissions process that is a pure meritocracy, with one standard that is transparent and incorruptible,” the board wrote. “Preserving the objectivity of the admissions process is necessary to maintain the high educational standards of the specialized schools.”

De Blasio’s criticisms echo questions about high-stakes testing that former Mayor John Lindsay raised more than 40 years ago. His efforts to broaden admission requirements met with opposition from alumni and parents.

Albany Bills

“There are some kids who excel at standardized testing,” de Blasio said. “There are some kids who are incredibly great writers or creative thinkers, or artistic, and we need to represent that whole spectrum.”

Lawmakers in Albany didn’t vote on bills that would change the system in the legislative session that ended last week. The same proposals will be reintroduced next year, said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which wants the state law changed to recognize other measures of achievement.

“This has restarted a discussion we needed to have,” Mulgrew said. “We’ve found Republicans and Democrats who each say it’s unfair to base everything on one test, because a lot of kids can game the system. Ultimately, it’s about changing the definition of academic success.”

Chicago and Boston are among other systems in the U.S. that have broadened admissions to their most competitive schools with criteria other than a single test score.

Chicago, Boston

Chicago, which has 10 selective high schools, requires testing in reading comprehension, vocabulary, math and grammar as an admissions tool while also allowing principals to fill as much as 5 percent of available seats “outside of the regular selection process,” in compliance with district guidelines.

At Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School and the John D. Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, the single-test policy expanded to include class grades several years ago, said Maria Viera, assignment specialist for the city public schools’ office of enrollment planning and support. It’s “part of an effort to be more holistic and level the playing field, because some people do well on tests and some don’t,” she said.

In New York, the question of how to diversify the students admitted to those schools came up during a June 7 gathering of alumni of Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan, whose graduates include four Nobel laureates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, film star James Cagney and former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt.

Mostly Asian

Of the 3,292 students at Stuyvesant in this academic year, 73 percent are Asian; 22 percent white; 2 percent Hispanic; and 1 percent black, according to the city Education Department.

That contrasts with the ethnic make-up of the city’s 1.1 million public-school students, who are 40 percent Hispanic; 28 percent black; 15 percent Asian; and about 15 percent white.

“Stuyvesant was overwhelmingly Jewish in my day; now it’s predominantly Asian,” said M. Felix Freshwater, a 1964 graduate and trustee of the school’s endowment fund who attended the gathering.

Stuyvesant and the other specialized schools have for decades offered opportunities for high-achieving students who couldn’t afford private school, said Freshwater, who’s now a Miami surgeon.

“Having an exam seems fair, but how a student becomes prepared starts with how children are educated starting in pre-kindergarten, not a summer cram course,” he said. “We need to rethink the admissions criteria, but I’d feel more comfortable if educators were making the decisions, not the state legislature.”

The Specialized High School Admissions Test, devised and administered by U.K.-based publisher Pearson Plc (PSON), is a multiple-choice exam of verbal and math skills lasting two hours and 20 minutes.

Students are assigned to a school based on their score, with consideration given to preference. Citywide, 27,817 students took the exam in 2014 and 5,096 were admitted to one of the specialized schools.

‘Indistinguishable’ Scores

The city requires the exam for the eight schools even though the 1971 state law covered only three: Stuyvesant; Bronx Science, which counts eight Nobel laureates and six Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni; and Brooklyn Tech, whose alumni include billionaires Leonard Riggio, founder of Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) and John Catsimatidis, chairman of supermarket operator Red Apple Group.

The city also uses the test for the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College; the High School for American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; Staten Island Technical High School; and the Brooklyn Latin School.

A 2008 study of the test’s effectiveness found that thousands of rejected students achieved scores that were “statistically indistinguishable” from thousands who were admitted. The 37-page report, published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, was written by Joshua Feinman, chief economist for Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management in New York. In 1980, he graduated from Stuyvesant High School.

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

Some new noise about the NYC specialized schools. De Blasio has floated a plan that would first reserve 20% of the places in the specialized schools for students from low-income schools and gradually work toward admitting the top 7% of every middle school class across the board, with a lower cutoff for statewide standardized testing. Somebody named Richard A. Carranza, who is apparently the school "chancellor," appears vocally in favor of de Blasio's plan in the article.

De Blasio hasn't implemented his plan because it requires a change of law at the state level. It does not appear to have strong support outside of liberal activist groups and their supporters in the city administration. De Blasio has been elected twice as mayor, with incredibly low turnout rates (24% in 2013 and 18% in 2017). With NYC's large Asian population, it would not be impossible to vote him out of office, as long as Asians there were willing to form an alliance with the conservative candidate. ... v=top-news
Asian Groups See Bias in Plan to Diversify New York’s Elite Schools

By Elizabeth A. Harris and Winnie Hu
June 5, 2018


A new plan to change the way students are admitted to New York’s elite public high schools is infuriating members of some Asian communities who feel they will be pushed aside in the drive to admit more than a handful of black and Latino students.

But in a series of forceful statements on Tuesday, Richard A. Carranza, the schools chancellor, offered a blunt rebuttal to their claims. “I just don’t buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admission to these schools,” he said on Fox 5 New York.

The battle revealed the charged emotions around who gets access to highly sought-after seats at the prestigious institutions, which include Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Technical High School.

“The test is the most unbiased way to get into a school,” said Peter Koo, a city councilman whose district includes Flushing, Queens, on Tuesday. “It doesn’t require an interview. It doesn’t require a résumé. It doesn’t even require connections. The mayor’s son just graduated from Brooklyn Tech and got into Yale. Now he wants to stop this and build a barrier to Asian-Americans — especially our children.”

The schools, which admit students based on a single test, look starkly different from the school system overall. While black and Hispanic students represent nearly 70 percent of public school students, they make up just 10 percent of students at the specialized high schools, a vast underrepresentation that has long been considered an injustice and a symbol of the city’s extreme school segregation.

Asian students, on the other hand, are overrepresented at the schools. While just 16 percent of public school students are Asian, they make up 62 percent of students at the specialized schools. White students also make up a disproportionate share of the students, though by a much smaller margin. They are 15 percent of the system overall and 24 percent of students at specialized schools.

Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a two-pronged plan on Saturday to address this, first by setting aside 20 percent of the seats at each of the specialized schools for students from high-poverty schools — which tend to have a high share of black and Hispanic students — who score just below the cutoff score.

But his administration’s ultimate goal, he said, is to eliminate the test entirely. In its place, top students would be chosen from every middle school in the city, a determination that would take into account their class rank and scores on statewide standardized tests. This move would require state action, because a state law dictates how specialized schools admit their students. The original law names just three schools, but the city has since created five more.

At a news conference on Monday, more than 100 people gathered in a second-floor dining room at the Golden Imperial Palace in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to declare that the proposal was an attack on Asian-Americans.

“I’m not sure if the mayor is racist, but this policy is certainly discriminatory,” said Kenneth Chiu, chairman of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club. “It’s like the Chinese Exclusion Act, is what I think,” he continued, comparing the plan to a 19th-century immigration law that effectively prohibited Chinese immigration. “Our mayor is pitting minority against minority, which is really, really messed up, to put it nicely.”

On Tuesday, a rally was held outside the gates of City Hall, where protesters held signs that said “End Racism” and “I Have a Dream.”

Soo Kim, president of the Stuyvesant Alumni Association, said that while the schools are often described as elite, the children who attend them exist worlds away from the lives of the 1 percent. Many of the students — and indeed, many of the Asian students — who attend specialized schools are poor. Many of them go to years of test prep in order to earn scores good enough to gain admission.

“I have dozens of emails from my members who say, ‘My dad was a taxi driver,’ or, ‘We ran a green grocer,’” Mr. Kim said. “Stuyvesant is an option for those who have no option. They don’t know how to interview or influence their way into the right public schools or the right private schools.”

Mr. Carranza went out on Tuesday to push the new plan. “The data is very clear,” Mr. Carranza said on television. “We are systematically excluding students in the most diverse city in the world from opportunities, in this particular case in specialized schools.”

He offered a stark figure: Of 900 incoming freshman admitted to Stuyvesant, only 10 are African-American. He also said that while there are more than 600 middle schools in New York City, half of specialized students come from just 21 middle schools. He said that looking at a student’s academic record was a “much more holistic way of looking at student ‘talent’” than a single test.

"As the mayor has very, very eloquently stated, we’re not trying to penalize anybody,” Mr. Carranza said on WNYC. “This should be good news for our poor, our immigrant communities, that you’re not going to have to spend thousands of dollars on test prep for one test to get an opportunity to go to a specialized school.”

Mr. Carranza emphasized that relying on one test was out of step with admissions to other elite institutions. “If you’re applying to Harvard today, you would not be admitted based on a test score,” Mr. Carranza said. “It’s multiple measures.” (He might have chosen a different school to cite as an example: Harvard University is being sued by a group that says the school discriminates against Asian-American applicants.)

The mayor’s plan does have a basis in research. A study by Sean P. Corcoran, an associate professor of economics and education policy at New York University’s Steinhardt School, examined six strategies to diversify the specialized schools and found that taking students from every middle school was the only one that had a large effect on demographics. It also found that plan would lower the academic performance of admitted students, a key argument of those in favor of retaining the test. But a similar study, by Lazar Treschan at the Community Service Society, which included a minimum academic standard applicants must achieve, found no such diminution.

The city’s proposal also includes an academic minimum. Students must be among the top 25 percent of performers citywide. An education department spokesman said the city’s projection found that students admitted under its proposed model would have the same grades as current specialized students, and that their state test scores would be virtually unchanged.

The specialized schools carry enormous symbolic weight in the city, and a seat in one of them is seen as a glittering prize. They are among the most distinguished schools in the city, some on par with elite and expensive private schools, and they offer a real pathway out of the working class for many families.

Nonetheless, their impact is actually quite narrow. Of the more than 300,000 high school students citywide, just 16,000 attend these schools. And there are many other schools that screen students academically, like Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Manhattan, where just 16 percent of students are black or Hispanic. Sixty-four percent of the students there are white, and just 21 percent of its students are poor.

Changing admissions at schools like Eleanor Roosevelt would make more sense, argued some opponents of the plan. “Why go to Albany on three schools,” said Mr. Kim, “when you can fix those schools right now.”

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

Having been thwarted indefinitely at the state level from eliminating the SHSAT, de Blasio and co are now looking for any back door they can find to push more blacks and Latino students into the specialized high schools (other than actually preparing them to qualify, of course). There is a program called "Discovery" that offers admission to kids who barely miss the cutoff on the SHSAT on condition that they attend a summer prep program. Since Discovery is legally within the mayor's control, de Blasio has attempted to both enlarge the number of spots for Discovery admits and redefine it by only offering it to low-income students from poor neighborhoods. It appears to have marginally boosted URM offers and increased Asian offers at the expense of white offers: ... tegration/
A program meant to improve diversity at the city’s specialized high schools is poised to slightly increase black and Hispanic enrollment, according to data released Wednesday, though the program continues to be dominated by Asian students.

The Discovery program offers admission to students from high-need families who just missed the exam cutoff and who agree to attend a summer program. In recent years, the initiative has helped more white and Asian students gain admission to eight city high schools that determine admission based on a single test.

But as part of a broader overhaul of specialized high school admissions, including a push to eliminate the exam, officials changed the eligibility criteria this year so that only needy students from high-poverty schools could qualify. They also expanded the number of seats awarded through Discovery.

Those changes appear to have boosted black and Hispanic offers: 30 percent of the 922 offers issued through Discovery went to those students, up from 22.4 percent the previous year. (Roughly 67 percent of the city’s students are black or Hispanic.)

The changes also appear to have benefited Asian students, who saw the largest gains and already make up the majority of students at specialized schools — despite representing 16 percent of the city’s students. This year, 54 percent of Discovery offers went to Asian students, up 11 percentage points. White student offers fell about 12 percentage points to 14.6 percent.

Still, those changes are unlikely to make much of a dent integrating the specialized high schools, which captured national headlines after just seven black students were accepted to Stuyvesant, the most selective of the city’s elite high schools. For one, Discovery is projected to represent only about 13 percent of seats at specialized schools this year, meaning that even if that pool of students is more racially diverse, it won’t have a large overall effect. It’s also unclear which students will accept offers through the program.

Even under the city’s forecasts, changes to the Discovery program alone will only boost black and Hispanic enrollment to 16 percent, up from 9 percent now, a reality Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza acknowledged in a statement.

“We’re using every tool at our disposal to increase diversity at the specialized high schools, but despite the incremental progress we’re making through the Discovery program, the status quo remains the same,” he said. “We need to eliminate the test now.”

The city’s broader push to eliminate the single exam in favor of admitting top students from every middle school — a proposal that has yet to be approved by state lawmakers and has attracted strong opposition in some quarters — would have a more sizable effect.
Meanwhile one of the reasons the test requirement cannot be changed at the state level is that vocal opponent John Liu, former NYC comptroller, was elected to New York State senate. He recently gave the following interview, describing de Blasio's efforts as "racist": ... -be-lifted
Few state lawmakers have more sway over New York City schools than state Sen. John Liu, who is not shying away from controversy four months after taking over the Senate Committee on New York City Education.

The Queens lawmaker has said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took a “racist” approach to changing the the admissions process for the city’s specialized high schools. A series of community forums are being held to examine the issue, but that is hardly the only issue that is coming before Liu’s committee post-budget. The cap on charter schools and concerns about school safety are two other topics that could heat up in the weeks ahead.
You recently started a series of community forums on the SHSAT. Are people saying anything new about this controversy?

I don't necessarily agree that the specialized high school issue is so controversial. It has just simply been completely mishandled – including a racist element in it. This never needed to be so divisive. It's the way City Hall put it out there that created the divisiveness.

One person made the point that the Specialized High School Admissions Test is very similar in format and content to the 8th grade statewide standardized tests – suggesting that if the SHSAT is eliminated perhaps the statewide standardized tests should also. Many of the people who spoke acknowledged that it is a problem that such a small number of African American and Latinx students gained entry into the specialized high schools. But it became very clear that people attribute the problem to different causes. If you listen to the mayor and the chancellor, they think that this test is invalid.

Other people have very different ideas about why the results are what they are. Many of them attribute the racial disparities to the early years of public school education and that African American and Latinx students have been discriminated against by not gaining a good quality education and the problem starts in kindergarten as opposed to from the eighth grade.

You said the process the mayor used to develop his proposal was “racist.” Do you have any proof of that?

The administration intentionally and deliberately excluded the Asian-American community for the simple reason that they already knew what the input from the Asian community was going to be and it was just more convenient to leave the Asian-American community out of equation.

But is there any actual evidence, say emails or anything else?

Modern-day racism doesn't manifest itself in emails. Has anybody refuted my comments in the last two weeks that they've been out there? There are five elected officials who are Asian-Americans – not counting me, I wasn't an elected official last years – two members of Congress, two members of the Assembly, and two members of the City Council. None of them were consulted. Now at this time last year, I did not call it racist because I didn't have the full picture. In the intervening months, I've come to have a much clearer picture of what happened.

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

African-American Columbia University professor and New Yorker John McWhorter recently chimed into this debate with the insight that part of the reason URM enrollment at the specialized high schools is so low is because liberal activists eliminated "tracking" in K-12 education in the city in the 90s. McWhorter seems to be the only person bringing this point up, which is odd since this is exactly the type of thing anybody concerned about URM enrollment would be investigating--if they were serious. ... st/589045/
Don’t Scrap the Test, Help Black Kids Ace It
Commentary on New York’s elite high schools has focused wrongly on access over preparation.

MAY 9, 2019

John McWhorter
Contributing editor at The Atlantic and professor at Columbia University

I sense a background suspicion among some that black kids are just not up to acing such tests on some ineradicable level. What else explains why commentators on this issue are so focused on “access” over preparation? “We must strive to make sure that every student has access to the quality education they are entitled to,” said Johnson, the council speaker, as if black students’ performance on the test were beside the point and it were impossible to imagine it ever changing. In 2012, the mother of a black Stuyvesant student told The New York Times that a co-worker, also black, said: “The exam is built to exclude blacks because it’s heavy on math, and black people can’t do math.”

However, there are plenty of black people of different mind; Richard Parsons is not alone. Jumaane Williams, New York’s public advocate, is passionately devoted to the poor black community of the city, and he is also against getting rid of the test. Plus, the idea of black kids managing that test is no pie-in-the-sky abstraction: It was a reality back in the day. In 1975, 303 out of 2,536 students at Stuyvesant were black; in 1980, 212. Many New Yorkers (including me) recall it being hardly unusual for black students to attend the elite public schools until well into the 1990s.
Second, rather than assuming that this problem will only be solved by something as elusive and even quixotic as overhauling as vast and troubled a public-school system as New York’s into one where every student gets a top-quality education anytime soon, we can focus on a narrower problem: the lack of gifted-and-talented classrooms for minority students. The “anti-tracking” movement in the early 1990s — born of the philosophy that mixing children of different abilities is more effective and equitable — led to the gradual elimination of these classrooms in heavily black public schools. Today, 10 New York districts where nine in 10 students are black or Latino have either one or no gifted-and-talented program in the public elementary schools.

The decline in gifted programs may well have something to do with the dearth of black students at elite high schools. And if talented black students were once again regularly tracked into these programs, more would likely qualify for schools such as Stuyvesant. In fact, in an interview with the Times, minority students now at Stuyvesant offered that prescription.

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

A very good panel hosted by the Manhattan Institute and including two prominent Asian-American lawyers discuss de Blasio's efforts to change the NY specialized high school system. Video is over 1-hour long, but very informative.


Same video on Manhattan Institute's website: ... 11767.html

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

Another good article on this situation by Dennis Saffran, the attorney-politician who wrote the much cited and shared article in the first post of this thread. Apparently, there is a chance that the New York state legislature will eliminate the SHSAT single requirement for the specialized schools, since Democrats won a majority in the last election. De Blasio and co have prepared a bill that would include the changes he has been advocating--guaranteeing admission to the top 7% of each 8th grade class, with a 75th percentile cut off on a state standardized test. They have also expanded by fiat a program called "discovery" (which is part of the original law mandating the single-test requirement), and altered it to exclude Asian students after their original expansion increased Asian enrollment when "disadvantaged" was defined economically. They have redefined it by neighborhood, effectively arriving at their target of boosting black and Hispanic enrollment and cutting Asian enrollment by about half. ... ed-schools
Diversity Over Quality
Mayor de Blasio is fighting to reduce Asian representation in New York City’s elite schools.

Dennis Saffran
May 28, 2019

At a state senate forum earlier this month on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to end the admissions test for New York City’s top high schools, an African-American woman went on a harangue about how Asian-Americans come from “a culture that has no problem with cheating.” Waving a sheaf of “documentation,” McCarthy-style, she railed against “some of the newer immigrants who have come here . . . with that cultural milieu of cheating.” She was not interrupted or challenged by any of the legislators.

But when a 12-year-old, Asian-American middle school girl spoke in favor of retaining the test—asking “If I work hard, shouldn’t I have a higher advantage than those who . . . are just being lazy”—the senators were alert to potentially racially insensitive language. “Be very careful how you prepare them for this argument,” Senator Velmanette Mont­gomery of Brooklyn admonished Asian parents in the audience after the girl testified—taking the word “lazy” as a reference to blacks, though the girl had said nothing about race. “It is your responsibility and . . . obligation that . . . those children do not internalize those racist atti­tudes.”

These anecdotes tell you a lot about the progressive war on New York’s selective “specialized high schools” (Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and five others), now dominated by Asian-American students from largely poor and working-class immigrant backgrounds. It’s a war being fought on two fronts, and both involve attacks on Asian-Americans that would be unim­aginable against any other minority group.

The main action is in the state legislature, where the Democratic takeover of the senate last fall gives the Left its best chance to get rid of the 48-year-old state law that requires a competitive exam as the sole criterion for admission to the selective high schools. De Blasio and his schools chancellor Richard Carranza are pushing an alternative scheme that would cut Asian enrollment in half.

The other skirmish, in the courts, concerns the one exception to the current test require­ment: a remedial-admissions program for disadvantaged students, which de Blasio and Carranza are vastly expanding by executive fiat, while manipulating the admissions criteria so that many poor Asian kids no longer qualify.

The bill backed by the mayor and liberal lawmakers would repeal the 1971 Hecht-Calandra Act, which provides that admission “shall be solely and exclusively by taking a compet­itive, objective and scholastic achievement examination,” though the test requirement actually dates to the 1920s. The de Blasio proposal would phase out the test over three years, replacing it with guaranteed admission for students in the top 5 percent to 7 percent of their eighth-grade classes (provided they were also in the top quarter of eighth-grade students citywide). This cohort would not be determined by grades, but by “multiple measures of student achieve­ment,” determined by the chancellor. And while these “multiple measures” would include grades, as well as scores on standardized state tests, the chancellor exclusively would determine “the weight of each such measure.”

Even if the class rankings were confined to grades and standardized test scores, the changes would have a dramatic impact on Asian enrollment—and on the academic quality of the student body. A study by the city’s Inde­pendent Budget Office found that while the de Blasio plan would dramatically increase black and Hispanic enrollment in the specialized schools from 10 percent to 46 percent, it would cut Asian enrollment virtually in half, from 61 percent to 31 percent, while white enrollment would only drop from 24 percent to 20 percent. The same study also found that 10 percent of the students at these elite STEM schools—which have produced 14 Nobel Laureates—would not meet basic profi­ciency standards in math.

The smart money seems to be that the mayor’s bill will not pass this session, despite the new Democratic majority in the senate. Grassroots opposition in the Asian community has led even some usually reliable liberals to abandon the measure. But one can’t underestimate the power of “wokeness” on the left these days, and with the racial provocateur Carranza blasting Hecht-Calandra as “racist,” Democrats might be pushed into repealing it in a frenzy of virtuous fervor.

Meantime, de Blasio and Carranza have moved to limit the test requirement administratively by significantly expanding and revamping a remedial-admissions program. Hecht-Calandra permitted the specialized schools to “maintain a discovery program” for “disadvantaged students” who “score[d] below the cut-off” on the exam. The law did not define “disadvantaged,” or specify the size of the program, or just how far “below the cut-off” a student could be. Histori­cally, the program has been restricted to about 4 percent of the seats in the schools, and regulations defined “disadvantaged” in terms of family circumstances. Moreover, each of the schools operated its own program, which was open to those scoring below its individual cut-off score. Thus, Discovery students had typically scored only a few points below their classmates.

Even before de Blasio’s election, the Discovery program had become unworkable due to two actions taken by the administration of former mayor Michael Bloomberg. The city added five new specialized schools, which greatly increased the range of scores between the schools; and it applied the lowest cut-off score among the schools as the benchmark for all of them, for the purposes of the Discovery program. The result is that the program now sets Discovery students up for failure by leapfrogging them several levels above their competency, rather than nurturing them at the next-highest level. So Stuyvesant, with the highest cut-off, is required to accept students whose scores are significantly below the bottom of its class.

The new rules that de Blasio and Carranza are implementing will exacerbate this disparity, perhaps markedly, by expanding the program from roughly 4 percent of the specialized-school population to 13 percent this fall, and a full 20 percent next year. This will raise the cut-off scores for regular admission—due to the smaller number of slots available—and lower the threshold for Discovery admission, due to the larger number of slots.

Even more perniciously, in what appears to be an attempt to exclude poor Asian students, the new rules arbitrarily redefine “disadvantaged” so that poor children who attend schools in middle- or working-class neighborhoods no longer qualify. A new Economic Needs Index gauges Discovery eligibility criteria by community rather than by family poverty. A student living in a homeless shelter in a prosperous area would thus not count as disadvantaged for the purposes of the Discovery program. This new criterion will exclude students from 18 of 23 Asian-majority middle schools.

Asian parents and civic groups have challenged the new Discovery rules in federal court, citing as evidence of discriminatory intent both this racial impact and a statement by Carranza last year that “I just don’t buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admission to these schools.” The district court denied a preliminary injunction, thus allowing the implementation of these changes, but the plaintiffs have appealed the ruling, hoping to block the program’s full expansion, slated for next year.

In denying the injunction, the district judge attempted to explain the “context” of Carranza’s statement. Again, the double standard is jarring. It’s inconceivable that a New York City schools chancellor could make such a remark about any other racial minority group and keep his job, much less avoid a preliminary injunction in a racial discrimination case. Let’s hope that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, with several new Trump appointees, will recognize this.

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

This whole farce may be coming to an end. De Blasio's bill has died a quiet death in the New York State Legislature--not even being brought up for a vote in the newly Democrat-controlled body. De Blasio is term limited, so he cannot run for mayor again in 2021. He also recently declared he is running for president, so we assume he will be fairly busy in 2020, despite the fact that no one thinks he has a chance at being nominated. Just want to remind anyone reading this that de Blasio became mayor in 2013 with a mere 13.4% turnout and was reelected in 2017 with an 18% turnout. There was really no reason for this idiocy. ... lasio.html

Final points before closing out this thread:

It would have been very easy to hold de Blasio and his staffers to a test of their proposal by asking them to commission a bi-partisan study of their core arguments. Such a study could analyze student scores on the SHSAT and four-year outcomes at the specialized schools. There are already students being admitted below the test cutoff via the Discovery program, in-line with the range of students de Blasio wants to send to those schools. Why not issue a comprehensive study of how those students fare during their high-school career compared to their peers before changing the admissions criteria? Since a study like this would essentially be asking if the SHSAT is valid at predicting success at those schools, it could also look at the content of the SHSAT to determine if any of it is culturally biased and make recommendations to improve it and/or to make the test more secure (to stop cheaters). The commission could also investigate John McWhorter's claim that black and Hispanic enrollment at those schools dropped because liberal activists worked to end tracking for gifted students in grades K-8 that actually prepared kids to compete for spots at those schools.

You see very quickly that de Blasio's plan jumps over several steps in both logic and public policy.

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Re: De Blasio Trying to Push Asians out of Elite NY Schools

Post by pianoman »

It looks like Big Bird is back in action. Having been thwarted at socializing the top selective-enrollment high schools in NYC because they were chartered at the state level, he has now taken aim at the city's selective middle schools, which fall under the mayor's jurisdiction. He is eliminating merit-based criteria for admission to these schools, which will essentially turn them into regular schools. Friendly reminder that tests are not racist: no child is denied because of their race, and all of these schools have black and Hispanic students, just not as many as these left-wing activists would like. Of course, this is not surprising given de Blasio recently openly stated and then emphatically restated that his intention is to redistribute wealth. ... story.html
Schools, caught by pandemic and confronting systemic racism, jettison testing for admissions

By Laura Meckler and Hannah Natanson
Dec. 18, 2020 at 6:11 p.m. CST

New York City on Friday announced major changes to how thousands of students are assigned to middle schools, replacing a merit-based system that critics say exacerbated segregation with a lottery that is expected to create more diversity at the most sought-after schools.

The move was driven by the coronavirus pandemic, because tests typically used for admissions were not administered last spring. Selective high schools in D.C., Boston and San Francisco have also jettisoned admissions tests for the coming academic year, citing the crisis. Although these districts could reinstitute old systems after the pandemic abates, advocates have been pressing for these changes for years, and many expect them to outlive the pandemic.

“These changes will improve justice and fairness,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday, casting the announcement as a step toward equity. “This is clearly a beginning.”
. . .

It comes after years of simmering concerns over the lack of Black and Hispanic students at the school and at least eight failed attempts in the past decade to boost diversity. Since the summer, a highly contentious debate has raged, with some arguing that radical change is long overdue and others worried that ­watered-down standards would destroy what made the school exceptional.
. . .

About 200 of the city’s middle schools — 40 percent of the total — use “screens,” or academic and other criteria such as attendance or discipline records, to determine admission. That has allowed for the most advantaged students to group together into the most selective schools, concentrating White students and increasing segregation. [no mention of Asians, but you know what they're thinking. Where are the stats?] But for the coming academic year, those screens will be eliminated, with students ranking their choices, and assignments made by lottery for schools where demand exceeds available spots. The change affects about 80,000 fifth-graders.

. . .
For high school, New York has a citywide choice system in which students can apply to schools anywhere across five boroughs. For years, however, about 250 high schools have been allowed to give preference to students who live nearby, an arrangement that exacerbates segregation by allowing schools in wealthy neighborhoods to fill up with local students.

Under rules announced Friday, those geographic preferences will be eliminated over the next two years — a permanent change.

But high schools may continue using admissions criteria, utilizing pre-pandemic test scores and grades. And New York still will determine admission to eight specialized high schools, some of the most elite in the city, through a test — a process required by state law.
. . .

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