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A more level playing field in NYC schools

How can NYC provide all students with the opportunity for something special?

NYC officials must provide a more level playing

NYC officials must provide a more level playing field and give all students the education and tools to reach the best city high schools. Photo Credit: NYC officials must provide a more level playing field and give all students the education and tools to reach the best city high schools.

How can NYC provide all students with the opportunity for something special?

More than 28,000 eighth-grade students took the Specialized High School Achievement Test — the only way to get into the city’s eight most selective high schools. More than 12,000 of those who sat for the test were black or Latino, more than 40 percent of the total pool.

In total, the eight schools made 5,067 offers. And 527 went to black and Latino students — about 10 percent.

Of the 902 students who got offers from Stuyvesant High School, 10 are black and 27 are Latino. Staten Island Technical High School offered 326 spots. Two students are black, five are Latino.

For years, these statistics unfortunately have not improved. The answer isn’t to do away with the test, or to change high standards. Instead, NYC officials must provide a more level playing field and give all students the education and tools to reach the best city high schools.

To start, the Department of Education has to improve prep opportunities and testing conditions. This year, 15 schools offered the three-hour test during the school day, in the students’ home schools. The number of testers and offers at those schools increased. Next year, 50 schools will pilot the program. Expand it further.

And the DOE’s DREAM program should receive more attention. Geared to low-income students, it provides free, intensive preparation for the test. Eight percent of black and Latino test takers this year were part of the program, but they made up 29 percent of offers to black and Latino students. That’s a program worth spreading citywide.

Education officials also have to do more to involve and inform parents, teachers and guidance counselors. That support is key.

There are more intractable problems at work, too, from segregation in schools to the gap between great and underperforming middle schools. Those are far less simple to solve. But city officials must not stop trying.

Only then will the city be able to pass the test.

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