Borough President Diaz Calls on DOE to
Reform Specialized High School Admissions
Report Shows That the DOE has Failed to Provide Adequate Opportunities to Bronx Students;
Calls for Increased Opportunities for Bronx and City Students on SHS, G&T
Today, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. released a new report, titled “An Action Plan for Fixing the Specialized High School Admissions Process,” highlighting Bronx students’ severe underrepresentation in Specialized High Schools as a consequence of inadequate test preparation and other factors. The City’s Department of Education (DOE), the report found, has failed to provide adequate opportunities for Bronx middle-school students to prepare for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), the sole metric in determining acceptance into eight of the City’s nine Specialized High Schools.
The DOE created the Specialized High School Institute (SHSI), to address this issue. Unfortunately, inadequate funding and implementation has caused it to fail to produce any meaningful results. It is a 22-month extracurricular program designed to assist eligible City public and private school students in preparing for the SHSAT, and is currently offered at only four Bronx sites out of 18 citywide locations.
“The SHSI is a great program, and one that we want to see expanded in the Bronx. It is unfortunate that the Department of Education has failed to articulate a plan that considers the unique challenges faced by children living in the Bronx. At a time when fewer Bronx students are receiving offers to our two most prestigious public high schools—the Bronx High School of Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College—the DOE should be doing everything it can to bring more Bronx students into this program, not placing artificial limits on enrollment,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
The report concludes that the SHSI’s eligibility requirements place Bronx students at a severe disadvantage. Among them is a 90 percent attendance requirement that prevents Bronx students, who would otherwise have the potential to enroll in and succeed at a specialized high school, from gaining entrance into the prep program.
“The Department of Education has to create firm pathways for our neediest children to be successful. Without firm and defined standards and strategies that guarantee fair access, the policies of the DOE are meaningless," said Dr. Betty A. Rosa, member, New York State Board of Regents.
Dr. Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University, emphasized that the DOE “should create multiple measures to identify children in the Bronx who would benefit by enrolling in a gifted program. Indeed, the Department should make greater efforts to recognize the gifts of every child in the Bronx.”
The report offers several recommendations for the DOE to improve both the SHSI’s stringent eligibility criteria and the lack of proportional representation of Bronx students in Specialized High Schools.
Among them are that the DOE guarantee the top 5% of each borough eighth grade class a seat in a specialized high school, that the top 15% of each Bronx middle school’s 5th and 6th grades be given automatic offers into a SHSI program, that the number of specialized high school seats be increased across the City, either by expanding the existing schools or creating more Specialized High Schools; that the number of first graders accepted into gifted and talented programs be doubled, and that any student that qualifies for a gifted and talented program be guaranteed a seat.
“To grow the leaders of tomorrow, we must start today. We have some of the brightest middle school students in the City, if not the nation, right here in the Bronx. It is time for the Department of Education to provide the Bronx with the proper resources to make sure that their minds can thrive,” said Borough President Diaz.