Blog: Latino Ed Beat

New York City Elite Schools Admit Few Hispanic, Black Students

At Stuyvesant High School in New York City — one of the most highly regarded public high schools in the nation — just 21 Hispanic students were offered admission last September.

The New York Times reports that the number had declined from 24 Hispanic students the year before. So only about 2 percent of the 952 offers went to Hispanic students. 

Only seven black students were offered a spot. The newspaper reported that the demographics at eight of the district’s specialized schools continue to have fewer Hispanic and black students than the overall district demographics. 

The New York City school system’s admissions policy for the schools is based on a single test, that has been accused of discriminating against Hispanic and black students. The test Specialized High School Admissions Test has a multiple-choice math and verbal section that must be completed in two-and-a-half hours. 

The Times reported that about 70 percent of the city’s public school students are Hispanic and black. But only 7 percent of offers went to Hispanics and 5 percent to black students. Asians were offered 53 percent of the seats and white students, 26 percent.

But change to the system could be coming soon. Newly elected New York Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to the city’s diversity and the schools’ demographic challenge, saying that, “Our schools, especially our particularly exceptional schools, need to reflect that diversity.”

Last year, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund released a report, “The Meaning of Merit: Alternatives for Determining Admission to New York City’s Specialized Schools.” The NAACP also filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

The New York Daily News reported that schools Chancellor Carmen Farina also said the system must be examined.

“We must do more to reflect the diversity of our city in our top-tier schools — and we are committed to doing just that. In the coming months we will be looking at ways to address the gap that has left so many of our black and Latino students out of specialized high schools,” she said.

In contrast, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly held firm in insisting on keeping the single-test system.

“You pass the test, you get the highest score, you get into the school — no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is,” Chalkbeat New York reported that he said in 2012. “That’s been the tradition in these schools since they were founded, and it’s going to continue to be.”