NYC School Segregation: Rethinking the SHSAT

65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, segregation in public schools remains a major issue in cities across the country. New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the country, and some see the controversial Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as part of the problem. At a City Council Oversight Hearing on Segregation in the New York City School System, Students, Parents, Council members, and Department of Education talk education reform.

Aired on September 28 & August 7, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> MAY 17th MARKED 65 YEARS SINCE THE SUPREME COURT DECIDED IN BROWN VERSUS BOARD OF EDUCATION THAT IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, SEPARATE BUT EQUAL IS NOT EQUAL.

STILL, SEGREGATION IN SCHOOLS REMAINS A MAJOR ISSUE IN CITIES ACROSS THE NATION.

AND NEW YORK CITY HAS ONE OF THE MOST SELLGREGATED SCHOOL SYSTEM IN THE COUNTRY.

I AM IN FRONT OF YOU.

65 YEARS AFTER THE SUPREME COURT DECIDED SEGREGATION HAS TO GO.

EARLIER THIS MONTH THE CITY COUNCIL HELD THE OVERSIGHT HEARING ON SEGREGATION IN THE NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL SYSTEM.

ON THE DOCKET WERE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT CREATING MORE GIFTED AND TALENTED PROGRAMS, EXPANDING REPORTING ON DEMOGRAPHICS OF STUDENTS AND TEACHERS, AND THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE DAY.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE CONTROVERSIAL SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TEST.

WE ARE CONTINUING OUR EFFORTS TO ELIMINATED THE TEST.

NO OTHER CITY IN THE COUNTRY USES A SINGLE TEST FOR ADMISSIONS.

LET ME REPEAT NO, OTHER CITY OR STATE USES A SINGLE TEST FOR ADMISSION TO SPECIALIZED SCHOOLS.

THE NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL SYSTEM OFFERS NINE SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS OUT OF APPROXIMATELY 500 HIGH SCHOOLS.

EIGHT OF THESE SPECIALIZED SCHOOLS INCLUDING THE PRESTIGIOUS BROOK RIN TEST, BROOKLYN SCIENCE, OFFER ACCEPTANCE BASED SOLELY ON HOW STUDENTS PERFORM ON THIS TEST.

THE NEW YORK SCHOOL SYSTEM DEMOGRAPHICALLY BREAKS DOWN INTO 40.5% HISPANIC, 26% BLACK, 16.1% ASIAN, AND 15% WHITE.

YET THIS UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR, ONLY SEVEN BLACK CHILDREN WERE ACCEPTED INTO THE HIGH SCHOOL'S 895 SPOTS.

WHAT OUTCOME LED TO THIS?

THIS YEAR BLACK STUDENTS RECEIVED ONLY A FEW.

IN A SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT IS NEARLY AS I'VE MENTIONED 70% BLACK OR LATINO.

THE INEQUITY PROBLEM STARTS LONG BEFORE THE STUDENTS SIT DOWN TO THE SHSAT.

KIDS GET THEIR EDUCATION IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND THE CHAIR AND FORMER TEACHER, MARK, EXPLAINS THAT PLACEMENT INTO EARLY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS ALSO BASED ON A SINGLE TEST.

RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK, THEY TEST 4-YEAR-OLDS ON ONE SINGLE MEASURE TO DETERMINE IF THEY'RE GIFTED AND TALENTED.

THAT'S PROBLEMATIC.

AT 4 YEARS OLD, YOU'VE PROBABLY ONLY TESTING PRIVILEGE OR WHETHER THE KID HAD A GOOD OR BAD DAY.

?

FACT, THERE WAS A TUTORING PROGRAM THAT CHARGES UP TO $400 AN HOUR TO PREPARE 4-YEAR-OLDS FOR THE TEST.

GIVING WEALTHIER FAMILIES A DISTINCT ADVANTAGE.

THE OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN GIFTED AND TALENTED PROGRAMS CAN ALSO CREATE CHALLENGES BECAUSE NOT ALL SCHOOLS OFFER THE PROGRAM.

AND AS WITH TOP TIER HIGH SCHOOLS, OPTING FOR A GREAT GIFTED AND TALENTED PROGRAM CAN MEAN A LONGER DAILY COMMUTE FOR STUDENTS IF THEIR LOCAL SCHOOL DOESN'T OFFER IT OR IF THEY DON'T GET A SPOT IN THEIR LOCAL PROGRAM.

AND TRANSPORTATION CAN ALSO BE AN ISSUE.

THE STUDENT POINT OUT IN HER TESTIMONY THAT IT HAD BEEN FIVE YEARS SINCE NEW YORK STATE SCHOOLS WERE NAMED MOST SEGREGATED IN THE NATION BY A UCLA STUDY.

AND FIVE YEARS SINCE THE CITY COUNCIL CALLED FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO INTEGRATE THE SCHOOL SYSTEM.

I'VE HEARD A LOT OF THEM SAY HOW MUCH THEY LOVE HEARING FROM STUDENTS.

HOW MUCH THEY VALUE US.

I AGREE.

STUDENT VOICE IS GREAT.

BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT I PREFER?

ADULT ACTION.

BUT ACTION HAS BEEN SLOW MOVING FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS.

THE TEST REQUIREMENT FOR ADMISSION TO BE THE LEAD SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOL BECAME NEW YORK STATE LAW IN 1971.

THE TRUTH IS THAT THE CURRENT SINGLE TEST ADMISSIONS PROCESS WAS ENSHRINED IN STATE LAW ALMOST 60 YEARS AGO AS A DIRECT RESPONSE TO INTEGRATION EFFORTS TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF BLACK AND BROWN STUDENTS IN SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS.

AND LEGISLATION THAT WAS BASED ON RACISM MUST NOT STAND.

BECAUSE THE SHSHT IS STATE LAW, IT MUST BE UNDONE BY THE STATE.

SO MANY MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNSELLOR HAVE PUSHED FOR THIS.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO THINK THE TEST SHOULD STAY.

SOME A ALUMNI GROUPS OF SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN VOCAL ABOUT KEEPING IT, AS HAVE SOME PARENT GROUPS.

MOSTLY MADE UP OF ASIAN-AMERICAN NEW YORKERS.

THIS YEAR THEY MADE UP ABOUT 51% OF THE OFFERS FOR SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOL SPOTS DESPITE MAKING UP JUST 16.1% OF THE STUDENT POPULATION.

THE COUNCILMEMBER SPOKE AT BOTH THE PROTEST AND THE HEARING ITSELF.

THIS PARENT DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS A FIRST GENERATION THE IMMIGRANT FROM CHINA WITH TWO KIDS IN THE NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL SYSTEM.

HE EXPRESSED HIS CONCERN ABOUT LOSING AT THE HEARING AND SPOKE WITH US THROUGH A TRANSLATOR.

EXAMINATION ITSELF IS NOT BIASED.

WE ACCEPT THE EXAMINATION.

THERE IS NO OTHER LEEWAY OR PATHWAY FOR US TO GO THROUGH TESTING, TO ATTAIN A GOOD EDUCATION.

GROUPS LIKE THE ONE PROTESTING OUTSIDE THE HEARING OF WHICH HE IS A PART ARE I KNOW STEAD CALLING TO FIX GRADES K-8 TO ALLOW ALL STUDENTS A BETTER CHANCE OF DOING WELL ON THE TEST.

THEN THERE IS THE MATTER OF DERRELLING WHAT A REVISED SPECIALIZED PROCESS WOULD LOOK LIKE.

BUT THE CHANCE LOVER INDICATES TAKING INTO ACCOUNTS OTHER FACETS OF EDUCATION COULD REINFORCE STUDENTS DOING THEIR BEST ALL YEAR ROUND.

WE TELL THEM.

DO WELL.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

GET GOOD GRADES.

PLAY A SPORT.

PLAY AN INSTRUMENT.

GET INVOLVED IN THE CLUB.

DON'T GET SUSPENDED.

DON'T GET INTO TROUBLE.

NONE OF THAT MATTERS IF THEY WANT TO GO TO A SPECIALIZED SCHOOL.

ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS TAKE A TEST WHICH IS NOT ALIGNED TO THE STATE STANDARDS WHICH IS WHAT THEY STUDY ALL DAY LONG AND THEY HAVE TO GET A CERTAIN SCORE.

FOR 'METROFOCUS.'

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

The WNET Group | Media Made Possible By All of You

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019

BBB Logo Charity Navigator Logo