Test for Elite NYC Schools Could Prevent Racial Diversity, Data Shows

It turns out a test might be the reason one of the most selective schools in New York City only admitted seven Black students for the upcoming academic year, recent data on the city’s largest school district shows.

In a city famously known as a mixing pot of culture and dissimilarity resides the prestigious specialized high school lacking the diversity of the community that surrounds it, according to recently released data. The numbers show that only seven out of 895 Black students were admitted into Stuyvesant High School for the fall 2019 semester, as reported by The New York Times. The year prior, Stuyvesant admitted 10 Black students.

Stuyvesant, known as the most elite of eight specialized schools in the city, is the most difficult of the selective institutions to gain admittance to, according to the New York Times report. For fall 2019, Stuyvesant offered admissions to 587 Asian students, 194 White students, 45 of unknown race or ethnicity, 33 Latinx students, 20 multiracial students and nine Native Americans, according to the school district’s data.

Disconcerting information surrounding school admission ethics surfaced after the recent college admissions scandal, which involved the indictment of 50 individuals across six states and the revoking of at least one Yale student’s admission.

The disparity at Stuyvesant arose from two factors: test preparation and awareness, says New York Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro. In order to get into one of NYC’s specialized schools, students must take an ACT-like test, which they are eligible for in seventh and eighth grade. The test covers skills in math and English, but there has been little to no formal independent evaluation of the exam’s value as an admissions tool, the Washington Post reported.

In an interview with NPR, Shapiro said a huge test preparation industry in New York prepares students who can afford it to master the exam. The second leading factor to the diversity shortage is the lack of awareness about the specialized schools and the required entry exams, Shapiro told NPR.

“Some kids learn about these schools from the minute they’re in kindergarten. Some kids learn about the existence of the specialized high school system and the tests to get into them a few months before they sit to take the test,” Shapiro told NPR.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has acknowledged the underwhelming diversity at the specialized schools in the past by proposing the elimination of the test. That suggestion was met with a backlash from alumni, groups that represent Asian students who fear their admittance numbers would drop, among other organizations, the Washington Post reported.

Of the students who took the test for the specialized schools for fall 2019, 30.7 percent were Asian, 19.9 percent were Black, 24.1 percent were Latinx, 18.2 percent were white, nearly 5 percent had unknown ethnicity or race, 1.3 percent were multiracial, and 1 percent were Native American, based on the data.

The breakdown of who these eight schools made offers to for fall 2019 is as follows: 51.1 percent Asian, 28.5 percent White, 7 percent unknown, 6.6 percent Latinx, 4 percent Black, 2.3 percent multiracial, and less than 1 percent Native American.

Mariah Stewart is a staff writer for DiversityIS.