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Stuy High and beyond

New York Teacher

Seven. That’s how many African-American students are among the 895 students who have been offered admission next fall to Stuyvesant HS, one of the city’s most prestigious specialized high schools.

It’s an astonishing number, given that black students make up 26 percent of the 1.1 million students in New York City public schools. Among students who identify as Hispanic, 33 were invited to join Stuyvesant’s class of 2023, even though Hispanic students make up 40 percent of public school enrollment.

Complicit in those figures is another number: One. One multiple-choice test called the SHSAT determines who is admitted to Stuyvesant and the city’s seven other specialized high schools.

In the five years since the UFT’s Specialized High School Task Force recommended overhauling the admission policy, these schools have become even less diverse.

Sensible proposals have been made to remedy the inequity. We support Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to expand the Discovery program, setting aside 20 percent of seats in the specialized high schools for students from high-needs areas. The UFT task force also advocated revising the admissions test to align with the curriculum and giving priority to the top performers at every middle school.

Only the state Legislature can change the entrance requirements for these schools, so it was good to hear Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announce (perhaps prompted by the abysmal Stuyvesant numbers) that he would hold hearings on the admissions process in May.

It will take political will, since these schools have impassioned constituencies who wish to maintain the status quo.

The specialized high schools enroll only a few thousand new students each year, but they are symptomatic of a larger issue: New York City has the most segregated high schools in the country, not just by race but by academic achievement.

The eight schools are in the spotlight, but the entire high school admission process needs to be re-examined if we are going to tackle head-on this inequity.