De Blasio proposal to phase out SHSAT fails to resonate with Queens lawmakers

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A plan from the mayor to phase out the use of the Specialized High School Admissions Test was announced to diversify the student population at the nine elite high schools across the city, where minorities make up only 9 percent of the student population.

But the plan, which would require passage in the state Legislature, did not gain traction with many members of the Legislature from Queens who said a better route would be more services that prepare students for the exam, among other reasons.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told NY1 he would not support any legislation to eliminate the SHSAT, which is blind to race and gender as it tracks the highest scores.

“The idea we put forward is, of course, phase one with the Discovery Program to increase right away the number of kids who are disadvantaged who get in even with the current test system. But the real goal, and the thing we need legislation for, would be to change the entire system,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview Tuesday on New York 1. “Junk the test. Get rid of it. Go with a system based on grades and based on performance on something much more universal, which are the state exams that all kids take, every single kid takes, in math and in English. Combine those results to get a real composite of how a child has done,”

Phasing out the test over a three-year period would boost black and Latino acceptance to specialized high schools to 45 percent compared to the current 9 percent, according to de Blasio, and 62 percent of offers would go to female students as opposed to the current 44 percent.

State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) joined others lawmakers in Queens claiming it was too late in the session to “rush through” new proposals and that alternative efforts need to be taken to ensure equal representation in specialized high schools.

The bill, A10427A, is currently in the committee stage of the process.

“While more needs to be done to increase diversity in specialized high schools, that should begin with a more robust effort to provide students in underrepresented communities with the assistance they need to gain admission,” Braunstein said. “The Department of Education must increase efforts to educate families about the admission process to specialized high schools, as well as expand the availability of free or low-cost test prep classes. Additionally, the mayor’s proposal to limit the number of seats available at specialized high schools for private school students is arbitrary and unfair to thousands of taxpaying families in New York City.”

Braunstein’s GOP challenger in the upcoming election, David Bressler also came out in favor of not abolishing the SHSAT.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said the mayor’s proposal was not only offensive, but overlooked better options such as a bill she is co-sponsoring that would provide a sample of the SHSAT to students so they can learn where improvements need to be made before taking the test.

“To assume African-American and Latino students cannot pass the test is insulting to everyone and educationally unsound,” Stavisky said. “To suggest low-income students do not do well on the exam is just not true. Many Asian-American students come from families who live in poverty. The implication of the [Chancellor Richard Carranza’s] comments are that a percentage system is preferable. I disagree. There are better solutions to the lack of diversity in specialized high schools.”

State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said the majority of his constituents, primarily described as Asian-American of low-income status, claimed they do not feel included in the decision to eliminate the SHSAT and he would not be backing the bill to do so.

The city Department of Education released figures in March under the watch of former Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña claiming the number of students taking the SHSAT has risen over years prior due to engagement through DREAM Intensive, a free after-school program.

“As a lifelong educator, a man of color, and a parent of children of color, I’m proud to work with our mayor to foster true equity and excellence at our specialized high schools,” Carranza said Sunday. “With the partnership of the state Legislature, we’re going to live up to what our public schools and what New York City are truly about – opportunity for all. This is what’s right for our kids, our families, and our city.”

About 28,300 eighth graders took the SHSAT this year compared to the 27,900 in 2017, according to the Dept. of Education, and DREAM Intensive saw 670 students join their program, over 300 more than in the year prior.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Posted 12:00 am, June 13, 2018
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Reader feedback

Helton from Flushing says:
The 1st paragraph says "minorities make up only 9 percent of the student population."

So, for the purposes of this Mayor, Asians are NOT considered to be a minority when it comes to education.

However, they ARE considered to be a minority when DeBozo's ethnic bean counters at every other city agency talk about minority representation - like the NYPD and the FDNY.

This dishonest and hypocritical mayor uses Asians when it suits his liberal purposes. No wonder why Asian parents are protesting so loudly. DeBozo wants to discriminate against Asians so that blacks and Hispanics can go to these schools.

No one wants to talk about the ugly truth why there are so few blacks and Hispanics in these elite schools - the breakdown of the 2 parent family.

Everyone knows that kids have the best chance to succeed when they are raised in a 2 parent household. When they are not, these kids start their lives at a huge financial and emotional disadvantage.

Asian kids, many of whom are brought up in low income households, still succeed. Call it the "Tiger Mom" syndrome where the parents push the kids to study hard.

Now look at the racial breakdown of out of wedlock birth rates for American born parents. The data comes from a 2015 study done by the Washington Examiner ((

Here are the racial breakdowns of out of wedlock births for native born Americans:
Blacks - 77.3%
Hispanics - 56.9%
Whites - 30.0%
Asians - 27.2%

There's something called personal responsibility. No one forces anyone to have children out of wedlock. That's a decision made solely by the parents which puts their kids behind the 8 ball from the get go.

These rates are staggering, yet DeBozo hides his head in the sand.

Looking at this data, is anyone REALLY surprised why black and Hispanic kids are lagging behind their Asian and white counterparts.

The breakdown of black and Hispanic families due to their decision to have children without being married is the single most important reason why their kids are lagging behind.

And no amount of money thrown at the problem nor blaming prejudice for their failure will change that.
June 13, 2018, 11:08 am
Mayor disliker from USA says:
If they get in,will they be able to maintain the grades???? Will they come to school on time and daily?
June 13, 2018, 2:44 pm
THINK from Queens says:
While Helton, you are on point with much of what you said, having two parents do not always make a difference, especially if the two parents have issues. But raising a kid as a single mother or single father is not an easy task. It is much easier if there are two adults raising kids, but an extremely responsible single mother or single father who sets rules and boundaries are the KEY to success.

But too many kids in lower-class communities of color and even lower-class white areas have no boundaries or guidelines are free to run wild, stay out late at night on a school night, etc. You see this all the time in SE Queens, especially in Jamaica, where very young children on school nights are out at 9pm, 10pm, riding bikes, running around, when they should be in bed or the very least studying.

But it seems mayor A-hole wants the standards set so low and opposed to having the kids he is talking about try and rise with their peers or above them. Dumbing down everything does not make for a good productive society.

AND if you cannot afford kids, don't have them and certainly don't have a litter of kids, which is what you see in places like Jamaica and Bronx. You should have the finances to raise kids and the maturity as well, which too many so-called parents in this day and age don't. Too many babies having babies.
June 13, 2018, 6:24 pm
MIUR from Jamaica says:
The mayor should start on improving the quality of education first in all middle schools in the city. He has to undo the damage done by 12 years of the Bloomberg administration first and we know it will take a long time to accomplish it.There are free review places that grade 7 students can take advantage of by way of tutoring to help pass the SHSAT.
June 14, 2018, 12:14 pm
Anonymous from Whitestone says:
The fact that a majority of the students in many of these specialized high schools qualify for free or reduced lunch, and that the SHSAT is, in of itself, non-discriminatory, just highlights the logical fallacies its removal. Many of these kids do indeed lack educational resources that are available to others, and many of these kids may be as poor as the blacks or Hispanics. Tell me, if the school already has a majority population of kids who are pretty poor, how is the SHSAT discriminatory at all? I know people who have paid for tutoring that didn't get in. Most of the kids who got in that I know come from poor families, but they have the drive and motivation to study, and that's how they got in.

This drive and motivation exists in many Asian American families and communities, and doesn't in many black and Hispanic communities. This is not a racist thought, it's a product of both the culture and community. Perhaps better K-8 education would fix this, especially in areas where this better education is needed most. But removing the SHSAT or lowering qualifications for blacks/hispanics makes the schools less elite, puts kids in an environment where they may not keep up, AND it prevents Asian Americans in NYC, of which a majority are of the lower-class, from elevating their socioeconomic level.

What DeBlasio is saying is that Asian Americans should have to work so much harder just to achieve what Blacks/Hispanics can get because they deserve a step ladder. My friend is black and he's incredibly intelligent. He qualifies for free/reduced lunch, and his neighborhood isn't great. Why did he get into a specialized HS? He had motivation. His parents pushed him. These are the kids that deserve to be in these highschools.
June 15, 2018, 5:27 pm

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