Admissions Figures at NYC's Specialized High Schools Show Persistence of Acute Racial Disparities

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During a time when the racial composition of the student composition in the city’s public schools continues to receive public scrutiny, the number of black and Hispanic students being admitted to NYC’s most selective high schools continues to decrease. The admission numbers to NYC’s elite eight specialized high schools announced today by the NYC Department of Education today represent the continuation of the City’s trend of unfairness and acute racial disparities in admissions to NYC’s eight Specialized High Schools that has been going on for many years. The percentage of African-American test-takers offered admission (only 5%) and the percentage for Hispanic students (7%) is worse than most of the past few years.

Of the 5,096 students accepted to the city’s eight specialized high schools this year, 350 were Hispanic, according to data the NYC Department of Education released today, the day that eighth-graders learned their high school placement. Last year, these specialized high schools accepted 375 Hispanic students, continuing a trend of declining admissions in recent years.

The sharpest declines came at the city’s most selective schools. Out of 952 students accepted to ultra-elite Stuyvesant High School, just 7 are black and 21 are Hispanic. Last year, the school accepted 33 total black and Hispanic students. At the Bronx High School of Science, only 18 blacks, and 50 Latinos were accepted out of 968 students. In 2012-13, 25 Blacks and 54 Latinos were offered admission. The continuing decline reflects the impact of the City’s reliance on a standardized admissions test that is the single determinant of whether students can attend these specialized schools. As the civil rights complaint filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Medgar Evers Center for Law and Social Justice with the U.S. Department of Education in September 2012 sets forth, New Yorkers will not see a reversal of this trend until the schools' admissions policy changes once and for all. Meaningful change will not occur under the current system -- the exclusive use of a rank-order score on a single multiple-choice exam. In order to ensure fairness, this system must be replaced with a multiple measures approach, which allows for a broader definition of merit that reflects students hard work, demonstrated knowledge and potential.

“The continued decreasing number of Latino students being admitted to NYC’s elite specialized high schools given the large percentage of Latino students enrolled in our public schools is a fervent reminder that much remains to be done to level the playing field”, said Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “There needs to be a concerted effort by all concerned to increase enrollment of black and Latino students in these schools.”

"Relying on a single test for admission while excluding multiple measures of student knowledge and potential -- middle school grades, class rank, scores on state-mandated exams, and other factors -- is a distortion and subversion of the meaning of merit," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. a separate entity from the NAACP. “Obviously, there needs to be serious changes made to the one shot admission process that negatively impacts the enrollment of Black and Latino students in these schools,” said Esmeralda Simmons, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

Assemblyman Karim Camara, chairman of the state Assembly’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus and State Senator Adriano Espaillat have proposed state legislation that would require specialized schools to base admissions on multiple measurements, the central demand of a civil rights complaint filed in September 2012. The complaint, which the federal Office of Civil Rights is considering, says admission to the schools would be more fair if students’ grades, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and life experiences were considered.

For purposes of comparison, the appendices to the joint complaint contain data for the 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 test results.

Download: Offers to Specialized HS by Ethnicity 2013-14 comparison

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