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NYC school-diversity plan challenged

By China Daily | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-06-08 15:38
Chinese-American parents attend meeting with Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president, on Wednesday. GUOQI CUI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Legislation that would seek greater diversity among students who are selected for New York City's eight elite specialized high schools - where Asians make up about 62 percent of the total number of students - by changing the admission test, has spurred heated debate and push backs from the Asian-American community and their lawmakers.

Proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and passed by the State Assembly's education committee, the legislation would replace the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT) with a system based on grades and standardized test scores.

The de Blasio administration's two-part plan includes eliminating the use of the single-admissions test over three years, which would require approval by the State Assmbly and State Senate.

The mayor wants the admissions test changed to allow more blacks and Latino students to attend the schools. They now make up 70 percent of students in the city's public schools, but less than 10 percent in the specialized high schools. Asian students represent 16 percent of the total number of students in the public-school system.

The test change also has the backing of City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who criticized opponents:

"I just don't buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admission to these schools," he said on Tuesday when asked during a television interview if he was pitting "minority against minority." "Either we believe the kids - black kids and brown kids - can't compete, or there's something wrong with the system that's not casting a wide enough net."

One of the graduates of a specialized school - Stuyvesant High School -- is Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents the borough of Queens.

"Far too many of our City's elementary and middle school students are being left behind. As the mother of two young children who attend New York City public schools, I have witnessed these problems firsthand," Meng said in a statement on Wednesday. "The mayor's decision to distract from the harsh realities of the New York City school system by proposing these changes is not only wrong, it is shortsighted."

State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou said in a statement, "I am deeply concerned about the language used around this issue, which has been focusing on how Asian-American students are overrepresented in our city's specialized high schools. Asian Americans are also minorities; there are over 180,000 Asian American students in the New York City education system, and 58.4 percent of them live close to or below the poverty line. It is unfair and wrong to pit minorities against one another when the goal is to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for all New Yorkers."

Chinese parents and students in the Asian-American community expressed outrage about the proposed changes.

"Our kids work harder than others to get into these schools, the outcome of the test is fair and it is objective," said Sara Liu, a mother of a middle-school student who lives around Sunset Park in Brooklyn. "My daughter is preparing for the exam, and she has been studying really hard since she was in elementary school. To end the exam is not fair to her effort."

"I'm raised by a low-income single mother. On a fateful October morning, I came to Brooklyn Technical High School to take a test that would determine my school for the next four years," Angel Li, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School told China Daily. "The test does not take into account the student's race, income, or any other factor other than the score they get. The SHSAT is a single test, it has been serving generations of underprivileged youth in New York City, abolishing it now would deny the right to a quality education to thousands of kids."

"I'm not sure if the mayor is racist, but this policy is certainly discriminatory," Kenneth Chiu, chairman of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club, told The New York Times on Tuesday. "It's like the Chinese Exclusion Act, is what I think," he continued, comparing the plan to a 19th-century immigration law that effectively prohibited Chinese immigration.

"Our mayor is pitting minority against minority, which is really, really messed up, to put it nicely."

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