excepted

Fewer black and Hispanic students admitted to top high schools

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Students who took the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test and were offered seats in a specialized high school this school year, by race

During a year when the racial composition of the student bodies at the city’s most selective high schools came under harsh new scrutiny, the number of black and Hispanic students admitted to the schools fell sharply.

Of the 5,229 students accepted to the city’s eight specialized high schools this year, 618 were black or Hispanic, according to data the Department of Education released today, the day that eighth-graders learned their high school placement. Last year, the schools accepted 733 black and Hispanic students, more than in the recent past.

The sharpest declines came at the city’s most selective schools. Out of 963 students accepted to ultra-elite Stuyvesant High School, just nine are black and 24 are Hispanic. Last year, the school accepted 51 black and Hispanic students. At Brooklyn Technical High School, the largest of the specialized schools, the number of black and Hispanic students accepted fell by 22 percent.

The declines outpaced another sharp drop-off, in the number of black and Hispanic students who even took the admissions test that is the single determinant of whether students can attend the specialized schools. The number of white and Asian students who sat for the exam increased slightly, but 550 fewer black students and 384 fewer Hispanic students took the test.

Overall, black and Hispanic students received 12 percent of specialized high school offers, down from 14 percent last year but up slightly from 11 percent in 2011. They made up 45 percent of test-takers and make up about 71 percent of students citywide.

“It’s disappointing that the amount of students in Stuyvesant are not reflective of New York City public schools,” said Karim Camara, chairman of the state Assembly’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus. “Obviously, there needs to be serious efforts to increase enrollment of black and Latino students in these schools.”

Camara has proposed legislation that would require specialized schools to base admissions on multiple measurements, the central demand of a civil rights complaint filed last year by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 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.

“This year’s admission numbers represent the continuation of a trend of unfairness and acute racial disparities in admissions to New York’s eight specialized high schools that has been going on for years,” Damon Hewitt, LDF’s legal director, said today. “We will not see a reversal of this trend until the schools’ admissions policy changes once and for all.”

City officials have consistently defended the admissions process — which would require legislative approval to change — and did so again today.

“We take efforts to ensure our system of great schools is diverse, but ultimately for the specialized high schools, we believe the SHSAT is the fairest measure for admission,” said Devon Puglia, a department spokesman.

The specialized high school admissions data came out at the same time as overall numbers about this year’s high school admissions process. According to the Department of Education, 90 percent of the 75,690 eighth-graders who applied to high school this year were matched with a school during the first round of the city’s admission process, 47 percent to their first-choice schools.

But for the third year in a row, one in 10 did not get into any school. The 7,225 students who weren’t matched to any school now have several weeks to apply to schools that still have space or to two dozen new schools and programs opening this fall. Many of the schools with open spots are struggling, and some of the new programs are housed in schools that the city tried unsuccessfully to close last year. For example, John Adams High School is adding selective art history and engineering programs, according to a guide to the new schools and programs that the city released today.

The admissions decisions, which schools distributed to students today, come two weeks later than the city originally intended. That’s because the city extended the deadline after Hurricane Sandy hobbled the city a the month before applications were due in December.

Students who were matched to a school this week can also apply in the second round for schools with open spots. But if they are matched to a school in that round, they’ll give up their first-round spot. Insideschools has published a guide to schools that still have seats, and the city will hold a fair for students still looking for schools in April at Manhattan’s Martin Luther King Campus.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.