New York State legislators have a new solution to ending an embarrassing education problem downstate.
The New York Daily News reports that “a powerful group” of lawmakers in Albany have earmarked $2 million in new funding to enable Black and Hispanic students to enter New York City’s most elite high schools.
State Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), who spearheaded the effort, commented to the Daily News about the plan: “I think this money is going to go a long way in making sure more young people from African-American and Latino communities have test prep for specialized high schools.”
According to the New York Times, the only way to gain admission to the specialized high schools is through testing. Black and Hispanic students represent 70 percent of eighth graders, but only 10 percent of the students who scored high enough to get admitted to the eight schools.
Attempts to modify the test-only criteria, or the test itself, are not easily accomplished.
In 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department alleging that the test-only system is discriminatory.
According to WNBC-TV, Damon Hewitt, the organization’s director of education practice, said elite institutions like Harvard use multiple factors when making admission decisions. He added:
“The policy is unfair to children of all races because it doesn’t reward them for the hard work they’ve done in K-8. It actually tells them, your grades are irrelevant, your work is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is your test score and that’s simply wrong.”
But as the Times explained, the system became “enshrined” in state law in 1971 when mainly White parents objected to lawmakers attempting to include factors other than the test score into admission consideration.
Instead of attempting to change the test-only admission criteria, lawmakers today plan to spend the funds on test preparation programs for students from under-represented communities and outreach at the schools, according to the Daily News.