Great news for New York public school students interested in getting into a Specialized High School -Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and five other excellent educational institutions: a group of City Council members, Justin Brannan, Keith Powers and Oswald Feliz, have submitted legislation that offers educational opportunities such a test prep to more than 90% of NYC middle schools that do not currently have access to publicly funded test prep.
|Ronald S. Lauder|
We also firmly support giving all students access to excellence rather than lowering educational standards to fit everyone. Kids of all ages need challenges and higher-level problems that require creativity and ingenuity.
Let's hope that the City Council passes this legislation quickly so that all those interested can apply in the fall.
But I think we should all stop worshipping the Specialized High Schools and instead seek to raise the level of ALL schools in NYC. Two of my daughters got into Stuyvesant, and it is a terrific place for many reasons, but certainly not the right place for many students who could not, or didn't want to, handle the intense workload and competition.
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How to build educational equity and excellence
As New York City strives to build a more equitable public education system, beginning at our most vaunted educational institutions, one universal truth that educators, parents and students alike all know is that the key to ensuring that every New York student has access to the city’s specialized high schools is preparation.
Now, to our elation, it appears a group of City Council members understand this truth, too. A legislative package introduced in the Council last month marks a major step forward toward making education more accessible and equitable by improving preparation for and access to the SHSAT — the admissions test for Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and five other less famous but also outstanding public schools — for students across the five boroughs.
Councilmen Justin Brannan, Keith Powers and Oswald Feliz, who introduced the legislation, are working to ensure that every New York student receives a first-rate public education. We congratulate them on this critical step, stand with them in their campaign for improved education equity, and encourage the full Council to pass the package and Mayor Adams to sign it into law.
We have long fought to ensure that all students, especially students of color, have access to opportunities that will help them achieve their full potential.
Recent SHSAT data underscore the need for improved equity. In the past school year, Black and Latino students made up 21% and 26% of students who took the SHSAT, respectively, but received only 3% and 6% of offers to enroll in specialized high schools for this fall. In the same cycle, Asian-American students were 31% of test-takers and 53% of offers, while white students were 17% of test-takers and 28% of offers.
We know that test prep is one of the most effective ways to address the disparity. The Education Equity Campaign, which we co-founded, spent more than $1.2 million on free test prep for underserved communities in the academic year that just ended. Of 204 total students from underserved communities who received free tutoring from EEC in this past year, 54 of them, or 26.5%, were offered admission to one of the specialized high schools.
Since 2019, EEC has funded $4 million for free test preparation for the SHSAT, resulting in tutored students being four times more likely to gain admission than their peers.
This legislative package expands on EEC’s success by providing long-awaited resources for test-takers attending the more than 90% of New York City middle schools that do not currently have access to publicly funded test prep. By making tutoring more widely accessible, this package has the potential to revolutionize the education public-school students receive.
But the proposed legislation doesn’t stop at test prep. It will also broaden the pool of SHSAT takers. Black and Latino students currently make up almost 70% of all New York City public school children but only a third of all specialized high school applicants. By moving the test to a school day, we will have immediate and lasting effects on equity in the city’s schools.
In total, this legislative package is a historic step toward ensuring the historically disparate SHSAT outcomes are improved. Moreover, these bills build on the progress already underway in this new administration led by Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks.
Earlier this year, the pair announced a long-overdue expansion of the gifted and talented programs throughout the city, a move essential to addressing the inequalities afflicting the public schools. The disparities between the privileged districts, mainly in Manhattan, and communities of color in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx are blaring, and this expansion addressed just that. We are incredibly thankful that Adams and now the Council continue to answer our call to take action against this injustice, but we must now turn our focus to the future, and where our most gifted students arrive in secondary education.
While some believe that the SHSAT should be eliminated or that the city should move toward a system that includes other admissions criteria, those critics overlook the true problem of education inequity, doing nothing to improve the education system or help prepare students for secondary education. Through the Council’s education package, students who have been neglected by the public school system because of their background or race will be afforded educational opportunities to achieve their true potential.
We know the future of public education in New York is brighter because of this legislation, and we look forward to its speedy enactment. And we hope this effort will serve as a model for continued partnership between city government and civic organizations in our fight toward advancing equity in education. By working together, we can make the New York public education system accessible, equitable, and the best in the country.
Lauder is a philanthropist, business leader and graduate of Bronx Science. Parsons is the former CEO of Time Warner and a graduate of John Adams High in Queens.