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Shut Out: A Dozen Facts About NYC's Specialized High Schools

In 1904, the most coveted school in New York City opened its doors, named after Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Netherland. By 1938, Brooklyn Technical High School and the Bronx High School of Science were considered the three elite schools in the city. In 1972, an act passed in the New York State Legislature called for a uniform exam in math and science to be administered for admission to these schools. As the number of specialized high schools has grown this act still stays in effect.

These schools do not follow the small-school formula nor do they have advisory programs or provide support systems for students. However, for decades, graduates from these specialized high schools attend prestigious colleges and universities and oftentimes go on to successful careers.


What makes these schools special?


FACT #1: There are 1.2 million students in NYC public schools. Over 70% of students are of African-American and Hispanic descent

FACT #2: There are 9 specialized high schools in New York City. Over 70% of students in these schools are of white and Asian descent

FACT #3: Though they represent only 15 percent of city students, Asian students, including those from China, Korea, India and Pakistan, already account for upwards of 60 percent of the population at top high schools, such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.

FACT #4: Admissions to eight of the schools is purely based on their scores on the SHSAT (Specialized High Schools Admissions Test)

FACT #5: In total, 5,404 eighth graders earned seats at one of the city’s eight specialized high schools for the 2011-2012 school year

FACT #6: The number of African-Americans and Hispanics taking the exam has risen every year since 2009. For this year, about 45 percent of the students who took the test were black or Hispanic

FACT #7: In 2009, 744 black and Hispanic students earned seats at specialized high schools. This year, 642 made it in

FACT #8: At Stuyvesant, the most selective of the schools, just 12 of the 937 admitted freshman are black students

FACT #9: In June 2010, Justin Hudson, the African-American valedictorian at Hunter College High School used his graduation speech to voice his opinions of the lack of diversity present at his school. “If you truly believe that the demographics of Hunter represent the distribution of intelligence in this city,” he said, “then you must believe that the Upper West Side, Bayside and Flushing are intrinsically more intelligent than the South Bronx, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Washington Heights. And I refuse to accept that.” The speech follows frustration by many faculty members who are unhappy with the school board’s inflexibility to change their admissions methods in hopes of diversifying their population

FACT #10: The ethnicity of nearly one-quarter of admitted students was not known, because they were multiracial, coming from private school or were not identified, the city said

FACT #11: The Department of Education released a statement Friday that says in part, "We are constantly working to improve these efforts, but outreach alone is not the answer.... We also must ensure students taking the exam are receiving a high-quality education in elementary and middle school so more of them can access our specialized high schools."

FACT #12: New York City’s specialized schools are helping thousnds of students receive excellent educations that will propel them towards academic succuss. However, these schools are not helping to narrow the achievement gap. The narrow admissions policy has closed out too many African-American and Hispanic students.


This post is part of the 40/40/40 series.

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