State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) says she supports keeping the specialized high school admissions test as the sole factor for admission to the city’s specialized high schools.
During a testimony before the City Council Education Committee last Friday, Stavisky – a graduate of Bronx High School of Science — said she supports calls for the city Department of Education to make school diversity a priority but that the test known as the SHSAT cannot be blamed for the lack of diversity in schools.
She instead suggested more middle-school enrichment programs, including gifted and talented programs, and free test preparation classes in minority communities.
“It’s not the test that’s the problem, it’s the poor performance and poor results by the students in grades really starting from kindergarten,” said Stavisky, who is also the mother of a Bronx Science graduate and a former teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School. “There’s no evidence that adding additional criteria such as an interview or an essay exam is going to improve diversity.”
Using more criteria to determine a student’s eligibility for a specialized high school will make achieving diversity harder, Stavisky continued.
“If they use the multiple criteria, you will have more students who are white and wealthy and interestingly the percentage of white students at the specialized high schools has been declining,” she said. “It’s the Asian-American students who have been increasing.”
The City Council Education Committee, chaired by Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), introduced two bills last Friday.
The first, Resolution 442, calls for changing the admissions criteria for the city’s specialized high schools. The second, Resolution 453, calls on the city Department of Education to formally recognize and prioritize school diversity when it makes various decisions such as admission policies, creation of new schools and school rezoning.
Other Council members agreed with Stavisky. City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said the focus should be on the underlying conditions that affect children’s readiness for the test.
“We must refocus our efforts on providing all of our middle schools with the necessary resources to educate our children, and we must provide every student with the tools necessary to prepare for this test,” Koo said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), who graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1993, said an insufficient number of students are aware of the exam.
“More students across the city need to know about this exam and need to have better preparation from a young age so that they would be able to perform well on an exam like this,” Meng said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour
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