When running for mayor in 2013, Bill de Blasio said the city’s elite high schools had to “reflect the city better.” But according to data released by the education department on Wednesday, black and Latino students made up only 10 percent of those offered spots for next fall at the eight high schools that administer the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, a percentage that has been essentially unchanged for years.
Admission to the schools is based solely on the single-day test; Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, another specialized school, admits students by audition and a review of academic records. The schools have long been criticized for not being representative of the overall population of the city’s school system, which is 67 percent black and Latino.
In his first mayoral campaign, Mr. de Blasio pledged to overhaul the schools’ admissions process, moving to a system that took into account multiple criteria. But, since being elected, he has not made any significant effort to do that. (Changing the admissions process for the three original schools, Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, would require state legislation, which he has not pushed for.)
Instead, the city has taken more modest steps, including expanding a free after-school test-preparation program and offering the admissions test during the school day at some middle schools that historically have not sent many students to the specialized schools. In the fall, the city revamped the exam, scrapping a section in which students had to take paragraphs with sentences that had been scrambled and reassemble them. The education department said the changes would make the test more equitable by better reflecting what students actually learn in school.