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Change entrance criteria for elite schools: Kim

State Assemblyman Ron Kim talks about his support for a bill which would expand test criteria for entrance exams at the city's specialized high schools. Photo by Alex Robinson
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A bill which would change test criteria for the city’s specialized high school entrance exams has been smothered by racially charged debate, state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn), would expand criteria set in 1972 to include grade point averages of applicants, school attendance records, school admission test scores and state test scores.

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is given to more than 20,000 eighth- and ninth-graders across the city every year to determine if they will get one of the 5,000 coveted spots in eight of the city’s nine specialized high schools.

Eight of these schools, which include Queens High School for Sciences at York College, use the multiple-choice entrance exam as their sole method of selecting students. The exception is Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, where students’ applications are reviewed based on a competitive audition in addition to academic records.

Kim signed on to the bill last week, saying the single test leaves behind some talented students.

“This bill is to make sure we upgrade the standards that were set in 1972 to make it better [and] to push our families so that students can be more well-rounded,” Kim told reporters in his Flushing office last week.

The method through which specialized high schools test their applicants has been criticized over the years because it does not select a diverse student body.

Although the test is solely based on top scores and does not take race, neighborhood or background into account, a far larger percentage of Asian and white students have successfully gained entrance to the elite schools than minorities.

Even though 70 percent of the city’s students are black and Hispanic, only 5 percent of the students in specialized schools are black and 7 percent are Hispanic, according to the city Department of Education. More than half of the students in specialized high schools are Asian and 26 percent are white.

After the bill was introduced, Kim’s office received a flood of complaints from Asian constituents, worried their children have been targeted by the proposed legislation as it would create a broader competitive field.

Although the discussion surrounding the bill has become racially divisive, Kim said the legislation was never meant to be about race.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the debate,” Kim said. “It’s unfortunate that on both sides of the issue people are so eager to address the race issue.”

Kim said the bill has no chance of passing the state Legislature this year because of the way it has been presented to the public.

“People are so caught up about race and not looking at the problem,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we can’t move forward, that we can’t put politics aside and actually look at the issue.”

State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who heads the Independent Democratic Conference and is one of the upper chamber’s de facto leaders, said in a statement that the bill needs to be debated more before it is voted on.

“It is clear that we need to vastly expand the resources for test preparation in disadvantaged communities — something I am committed to delivering,” Klein said. “If we increase awareness of the admissions test, provide more resources for test preparation in targeted areas and finally start administering this test in more diverse communities, I think we can change the enrollment of our top high schools dramatically.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s (D-Manhattan) office did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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Reader Feedback

Roger Weckworth from QUEENS says:
Ron Kim is nothing but a —— artist. Ron Kim is full of himself.
June 20, 2014, 8:40 am
Roger Weckworth from QUEENS says:
Now this retard Ron Kim's own people are upset with him. Way to go, Ron Kim!
June 20, 2014, 8:40 am
Jim from Flushing says:
I used to like Ron Kim and voted for him - but with this fiasco showing him to be a tool and a coward for selling out his constituents - my friends who voted for him and I will be voting against him in the next elections - irregardless of who the opposition is. That's how politics works now. You keep firing them until one day a courageous one who actually stands by you shows up. That then is a keeper.
June 20, 2014, 11:52 am
Roger Weckworth from Queens says:
Jim has a point. I would not only call Ron Kim a tool, he's really retarded. When you call his staff and demand they do something for the community, the staff calls you out for hurting the feelings of his staff.
June 20, 2014, 1:06 pm
Fuzzy Dunlop from the Corner says:
You guys buddies with Gim, Roger and Jim?
June 20, 2014, 2:58 pm
Mary Ann from Queens says:
Roger and Jim are actually both Gim. HAHAHAHA
June 20, 2014, 3:52 pm
Roger Chen from Flushing says:
Ron Kim was voted to represent Americans in Flushing, and that's exactly what he's doing. Courage is standing up to so-called "activists" who pander to the Chinese with unfounded sound bites. Good for him.
June 20, 2014, 4:04 pm
Anonymous from Queens says:
Yes, there IS a racial disparity amongst these specialized high schools. However, the problem lies not in the admissions process, which by itself is completely objective. The problem lies in our education system. There's a reason why our students don't succeed on the SHSAT without help from a secondary source of learning. The vast majority of Asian students attend some sort of after school. Their parents bring with them the culture of studying extremely hard, and imbue it into their children. Should we penalize people for working hard? Isn't that what capitalism was supposed to be?
June 20, 2014, 8:03 pm
Peter May from Whitestone says:
That is very true. It's just that this Ron Kim asshat is just a real retarded asshat.
June 21, 2014, 6:44 am
A former Stuy student from Queens says:
It's one thing about being admitted into an elite school and another about surviving the next few years. I was once in the "top class" in junior high school with little effort and fell drastically to the bottom when I entered Stuyvesant. I studied until 2AM each night in hopes of rising back up but the lack of sleep proved to be counter-productive. I eventually figured out how to balance the need of sleep and study and survived but was no where near the top of the class. This to me shows that the problem is not with the SHSAT but with the academic programs within the elementary and middle schools themselves. I just happened to make into Stuyvesant by a slight margin and that was how I performed there as well despite the stepped up effort.

I support the SHSAT as you either know the material or not -- but I also believe those academically inclined and motivated will rise to the top despite the school*. If the admissions processed is changed and more "minorities" are admitted, I hope they thrive and do not play the race card to gain easier standards within the schools if they are unable to compete fairly. *For the students who lose their seat to a targeted minority population, I certainly hope they continue to shine through, are accepted by their peers for their achievements, and can still be considered by the top colleges of their choice.
June 21, 2014, 7:24 am
A former Stuy student from Queens says:
For clarification, I did not have the means to participate in a test prep program. I bought a prep book and actually took the practice tests it to prepare for the exam. If I could do it, anyone can.
June 21, 2014, 7:30 am
LuAnne from Flushing says:
Gim - please stop using username Roger Weckworth. It's so evidently embarrassing for you. Just because you fake an Anglican name doesn't make your poor grasp of the English language sound any better.
June 21, 2014, 10:09 pm
Yule Wang from Queens says:
I went to Sty and 100 percent support a rational discussion of merit- based testing founded on multiple criteria, not just on one test. Asians aren't just good test takers, we excel on many other metrics. Uneducated/ white trash comments from roger wacksworth only exemplify the education crisis this country is facing - our education system is coming short of other countries in the 21st century.
June 21, 2014, 10:26 pm
Greg Sumpter from Queens says:
Roger Weckworth is right about this ——tard Ron Kim. He is sitting there doing stupid propositions like changing entrance criteria for specialized high schools away from merit based criteria to more compassionate transit employees. I doubt he thinks they are going to get anywhere and is just doing it for a show. I know people who have called Ron Kim about real community issues and have gotten ignored and lied to by his staff.
June 22, 2014, 3:59 pm
Greg sumpter roger wacksworth Peter may from The bushes says:
Hi we're all personalities of Gim. We're also too dumb to change up our writing style and content of our lies to hide our lack of education through our use of profanity and ghetto speech.
June 22, 2014, 5:18 pm
PETER MAY from WHITESTONE says:
I'm not Phil Gim, these a-holes sitting there accusing me of being Phil Gim are probably Ron Kim's staff whose feelings are hurt because I, and others are showing the true face of Ron Kim.
June 22, 2014, 7:06 pm
Roger Weckworth from Queens says:
Hey Peter, you're right about the ones against us being Ron Kim's staff. Their feelings have got to be real hurt for us being truthful about their lies.
June 23, 2014, 10:05 am
Tom from Queens says:
Ron Kim is such a stooge, so pathetic and sad.
June 27, 2014, 1:02 pm
Chris from Whitestone says:
You are aware that as a freshman sassemblyman Ron Kim only has a staff of two right?
July 3, 2014, 12:07 pm

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