Students, Mayor De Blasio And Schools Chancellor Carranza Want Middle School Rank And State Test Scores To Matter More

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are renewed calls to scrap the single high-stakes admissions test for the city’s eight elite high schools after only a small number of black and Hispanic students made the cut.

Briana Marquez attends the New Heights Academy, a Washington Heights charter school, because even though she spent most of eighth grade studying to take the test to get into one of the city’s elite high schools, she didn’t score high enough.

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“It’s a lot of pressure because you only have this one chance. You don’t get to, like, redo it. Just this one time and they base it on that,” Marquez told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer on Tuesday, adding she doesn’t think the system is fair.

The Bronx High School of Science. (Credit: CBS2)

She said that instead of one test to get into Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and five others, “The specialized high schools should look at a student’s four years of middle school.”

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And she’s not alone. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are among those renewing calling to eliminate the test and base admissions on middle school rank and state test scores.

This after the 2019 results came in and just over 10 percent of black and Hispanic students got in, even though they make up 70 percent of the city’s school population. At Stuyvesant High School, for example, black students got seven of the 895 slots, while Hispanic students got 33.

“It’s not a small percentage; it’s a minuscule percentage,” said Noah Gotbaum of the Citywide Council on Special Education. “That’s not right. It’s not fair and it has to be changed.”

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Gotbaum said it’s time to get rid of the test, but not everyone agrees.

Newly elected Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Tech grad, said keep the test.

“I vehemently oppose scrapping the whole test because we can add access points without taking access points away,” Williams said.

So does David Lee, who is part of a group that has sued the city because it feels changing admission standards will decrease the number of Asian-American students.

“There’s nothing wrong with the test. It’s objective. It’s unbiased,” Lee said.

But while they may disagree about whether to keep the admissions test, Lee, Williams and Gotbaum agree the overall solution is to fix the rest of the high schools to take pressure off getting into one of the specialized ones.

“It’s unacceptable that we don’t have sports teams and after-school programs and even materials for these schools and its unacceptable that we have 30 and 35 and 40 in classes,” Gotbaum said.

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Mayor de Blasio’s plan to scrap the test requires state legislation, but it has proved so controversial and generated so much backlash that lawmakers seem to have little appetite to deal with it.