Asian-American activists are blasting a plan proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to end admission testing to the city’s top high schools in order to increase black and Hispanic enrollment, a move, they say, that is creating greater divisiveness.
“The mayor is pitting minority against minority and that’s really messed up,” said Kenneth Chiu, president of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club, reports the New York Post.
De Blasio announced Saturday his plan to increase enrollment of blacks and Latinos in the city’s eight elite high schools.
In an op-ed at Chalkbeat, the mayor said he will “fix” the “diversity problem” at the specialized schools by setting aside 20 percent of seats at the school to black and Latino students, many of whom, he said, cannot afford test preparation courses and materials.
The mayor referred to the high-stakes exam students take to gain entrance to the top schools as “a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence.”
“If we want this to be the fairest big city in America, we need to scrap the SHSAT [Specialized High School Admissions Test] and start over,” de Blasio wrote, adding his plan includes new admissions criteria based on middle-school class rank and state test scores.
Right now, we are living with monumental injustice. The prestigious high schools make 5,000 admissions offers to incoming ninth-graders. Yet, this year just 172 black students and 298 Latino students received offers. This happened in a city where two out of every three eighth-graders in our public schools are Latino or black.
The proposal is anticipated to allow about 45 percent of students in the city’s top schools to be black or Latino.
“With these reforms, we expect our premier public high schools to start looking like New York City,” the mayor wrote.
Currently, Asian-American students predominate at the city’s top schools, representing between 61 and 74 percent of enrollment at Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and the Bronx High School of Science, reports the Post. At Queens High School for Science at York College, 82 percent of students are Asian-American.
John Chan, president of the Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights also condemned de Blasio’s plan, calling it “the last straw for us.”
“This policy causes chaos in the Asian-American community and we’re here to reject this policy,” he said at a protest in Brooklyn. “New York City has taken our money for several years and no one has provided help for us. They are taking advantage of us and we must stand together to object toward a better policy.”
De Blasio attacked those who claim his plan would undermine the high standards of academics at the elite schools.
“Anyone who tells you this is somehow going to lower the standard at these schools is buying into a false and damaging narrative,” he wrote. “It’s a narrative that traps students in a grossly unfair environment, asks them to live with the consequences, and actually blames them for it.”
Other critics of de Blasio’s plan said it encouraged the narrative that blacks and Latinos are not capable of succeeding without government giving them a special privilege.
“To assume African-American and Latino students cannot pass the test is insulting to everyone and educationally unsound,” said State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, a Democrat and former Brooklyn Tech teacher. “Many Asian-American students come from families who live in poverty.”
According to the Post, 60 percent of students currently enrolled in three of the elite schools are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
Larry Cary, Brooklyn Tech alumni president also said, “The solution isn’t to kill the test. It’s to improve the quality of education offered in African-American and Latino communities.”