New Group Wants to Keep SHSAT

Advocates rallied ahead of a public forum earlier this month at Queens Borough Hall to discuss segregation at the city’s elite specialized high schools. (photo by Christina Veiga via Chalkbeat)

A new group has stepped into the fray over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the SHSAT exam for entry into the city’s specialized high schools, arguing that what’s needed is broader access to test preparation and gifted programs, the additional of more specialized high schools, and other measures to make the playing field level for all students, report Reema Amin and Christina Veiga in Chalkbeat.

The initiative, called Education Equity Campaign, consists of a coalition led by minister and Brooklyn Tech alumnus Kirsten John Foy and backed by multiple community groups, according to its website. Among the supporters, reports Chalkbeat, are Robert Lauder, chairman of the Clinique Laboratories and a Bronx Science alumnus, and former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons.

Foy described the mayor’s plan as a “politically expedient shortcut” that is “morally questionable” because he believed it pitted the Asian, black and Hispanic communities against each other.

“Quite frankly, we have all been in agreement that the test is an indicator of the problem — it is an indicator of what is wrong with the elementary and middle school educational systems,” Foy told Chalkbeat. “And that is not a reflection on the professionals; it is a reflection on the bureaucracy.”

From town halls and rallies to lobbying, Foy said the new coalition will arrange a “very robust and sophisticated” advocacy effort to build support for a wish list of policies: adding two new specialized high schools in each city borough; guaranteeing free Specialized High School Admissions Test prep for every city student; ensuring all students have access to gifted and talented programs from a young age; asking every eighth grader to take the SHSAT (with the option to opt-out); and “dedicating the resources necessary to improve our city’s struggling middle schools” — which a spokesman said was related to curriculum.

Chalkbeat notes that “the group’s asks echo many of the counter-proposals that are consistently floated by supporters of the single-test admissions standard.”  Amin and Veiga write that some of the changes, such as broadening access to after-school test prep programs, have already been tried by the city – with little apparent impact on the diversity of the students accepted into the specialized schools. Foy, they write, says that such efforts by the city have been “anemic.”

Read more about the new campaign’s proposals at Chalkbeat – and about lobbying efforts to date to retain the SHSAT.

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