Transition at Tweed

Here are all of the schools with axed or edited space plans

Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced earlier this afternoon that the city was nixing three district and three charter schools’ space-sharing plans, out of 49 approved since last October.

She said those decisions were based on four main criteria: their impact on programs serving students with disabilities, whether they would place elementary students in high school buildings, logistical concerns, and whether the proposed school would have fewer than 250 students.

“We set out consistent, objective criteria to protect school communities from unworkable outcomes,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, adding that they rejected “those proposals that do not meet our values.”

Here’s the full list, with our notes on how they do or don’t meet those criteria:

1. Co-location of grades 5-8 of Success Academy – Harlem 4: axed

The building has a program for autistic and for emotionally disturbed students, and many speakers at the public hearing said the co-location could threaten that program. This would have put a middle school inside a building with two K-8 schools and another elementary school.

2. Opening of a new district middle school (04M204): axed

It’s unclear how this co-location meets the criteria. This would have put a new middle school inside a building with an elementary school. There was little public outcry, as only seven people spoke at the joint public hearing.

3. Expansion of Central Park East II from current K-5 to K-8 and co-location: axed

This would have added middle school grades to a building with elementary, middle, and high school students. It would have been a small school and made for a total of six schools in building. Some of the principals already in the building were opposed to the plan.

4. Opening of new district middle school (16K762): axed

It’s unclear how this co-location meets the criteria. It would have put a middle school into a building with elementary and middle school students, and there is no special program for students with disabilities. Only two people spoke at the public hearing.

5. Opening of Success Academy – New York 1 at Murry Bergtraum: axed

This would have put an elementary school into a high school building.

6. Opening of Success Academy – New York 5: axed

This also would have put an elementary school into a high school building. De Blasio submitted written testimony opposing the plan as public advocate.

7. Opening of a new 9-14 CTE high school (01M203): new site to be proposed

This would have added a high school to a building with another high school. Many from University Neighborhood opposed the plan.

8. Opening of new district high school at John Dewey High School: new site proposed

This would have added a high school to a building with another high school. There is a District 75 school for students with disabilities in building. There was a lot of community opposition, with 490 present at the public hearing, where many spoke in support of a comprehensive school—a concept Fariña favors.

9. Enrollment reduction and opening of new district CTE high school at Long Island City High School: enrollment reduction axed, new site proposed for CTE school

This also would have added a high school to a building with another high school with a District 75 school for students with disabilities in building. Long Island City High School is already at 117 percent of target enrollment, and the plan to decrease its enrollment would have been another blow to a comprehensive neighborhood school. De Blasio personally expressed concern about Spanish-language outreach as public advocate.

10. American Dream Charter School: reduced in size

The original plan would have left the school building between 114 and 135 percent capacity in 2016-17.

“We will take this setback as an opportunity to prove our value to the community and this administration,” Principal Melissa Melkonian said in a statement.

No decision yet: Co-location of Explore Exceed grades 6-8, expansion of Clinton Academy from 6-8 to 6-12, co-location extension of M.S. 311, which were all approved to open in fall 2015.

Untouched: These aren’t the only space proposals that will go into effect in 2014-15. More than a dozen were passed before last October, including three Success Academy schools.

One, Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 2 (grades 5-8), will be a middle school in a building with middle and high school grades, though a spokesman for the Department of Education said today that one of the department’s beliefs is that high school campuses should serve high school students. (High school and middle school students in one building is still a much more common arrangement than high school and elementary school students in one building.)

here's the plan

After long wait, de Blasio backs plan to overhaul admissions at New York City’s elite high schools

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Stuyvesant High School will begin participating in the Discovery program this year.

After sustained pressure from advocates, Mayor Bill de Blasio is backing a two-step plan to reform admissions at eight of the city’s elite high schools and endorsing a specific replacement for the single-test admissions system.

The city’s specialized high schools — considered some of the crown jewels of New York City’s education system — accept students based on a single test score. Over the last decade, they have come under fire for offering admissions to few students of color: While two-thirds of city students are black or Hispanic, only about 10 percent of admissions offers to those schools go to black or Hispanic students.

De Blasio’s solution, laid out in an op-ed in Chalkbeat, would set aside 20 percent of the seats at the eight schools for students from low-income families starting next school year. Students who just missed the test score cut-off would be able to earn one of those set-aside seats through the longstanding “Discovery” program. Just 4 percent of seats were offered through that program in 2017.

The mayor also said he plans to push state lawmakers to change a law that requires admission at three of the schools to be decided by a single test score. That’s something de Blasio campaigned for during his run for mayor in 2014 but hasn’t made a priority since.

Most significantly, de Blasio says for the first time that he backs a system of replacing the admissions test with a system that picks students based on their middle school class rank and state test scores. The middle-school rank component is especially notable, as an NYU Steinhardt report found that the only way to really change the makeup of the elite high schools would be to guarantee admission to the top 10 percent of students at every middle school.

If all of these changes were implemented, de Blasio says that 45 percent of the student bodies at the eight high schools would be black or Latino.

Together, the proposals reflect the most specific plan yet to change a system that, year after year, becomes a symbol of New York City’s racially divided schools. But the changes de Blasio is proposing won’t come easily — and might not come at all.

The part of the plan that the city is promising to do on its own, expand the Discovery program, will only modestly improve diversity by the city’s own admission. And the plan’s more ambitious elements would require buy-in from state lawmakers who have repeatedly resisted de Blasio’s agenda and attempts to change admissions rules.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s plan does not include a move that many legal experts consider to be low-hanging fruit: changing the admissions rules at five of the eight schools without state approval.

While the city’s official position has long been that admissions at all eight schools are set by law, only three schools — Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Technical High School — are specifically mentioned, leaving room for the city to reclassify the others. (De Blasio recently said he would ask lawyers about that change, but has not signaled he plans to act.)

The Discovery program has also proved problematic for de Blasio, in part because it is open to all low-income students — something that is not equivalent to black or Hispanic in New York City. The de Blasio administration has already tripled the program’s size since taking office, but its share of black and Latino students has also shrunk.

A lot of questions about the plan remain unanswered. It’s not clear whether the 20 percent of set-aside seats will be spread across the eight schools evenly, for one, or whether some schools like Stuyvesant will have fewer seats earmarked for Discovery. De Blasio doesn’t explain exactly how an admissions system reliant on middle-school grades and standardized test scores would work.

It’s also unclear how the mayor plans to push against opposition from alumni groups and parents who may worry that changing the admissions rules will lower academic standards, though his rhetoric was sharp in the op-ed.

“Anyone who tells you this is somehow going to lower the standard at these schools is buying into a false and damaging narrative,” de Blasio wrote. “It’s a narrative that traps students in a grossly unfair environment, asks them to live with the consequences, and actually blames them for it.”

So far, de Blasio’s incremental steps to boost diversity at specialized high schools have made little change to the overall student body — and therefore garnered little pushback.

It’s unclear whether the lackluster results caused him to switch strategies. More recently, de Blasio has also been under pressure to address school segregation in the city as a whole.

He may also have been pushed by his new schools chancellor, who has been outspoken on the subject since taking the helm of the school system about two months ago. Chancellor Richard Carranza has been talking about the issue since his very first media interview, and has repeatedly hinted that he is interested in changing their admissions process.

“From my perspective it’s not OK to have a public school in a city as diverse… and that you have only 10 African-American students in a high school,” Carranza said in April. “So I’m looking at that, absolutely.”

sorting the students

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Our specialized schools have a diversity problem. Let’s fix it.

PHOTO: Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a town hall in Brooklyn in October.

I visit schools across this city and it never fails to energize me. The talent out there is outstanding. The students overflow with promise. But many of the smart kids I meet aren’t getting in to our city’s most prestigious high schools. In fact, they’re being locked out.

The problem is clear. Eight of our most renowned high schools – including Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School – rely on a single, high-stakes exam. The Specialized High School Admissions Test isn’t just flawed – it’s a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence.

If we want this to be the fairest big city in America, we need to scrap the SHSAT and start over.

Let’s select students for our top public high schools in a manner that best reflects the talent these students have, and the reality of who lives in New York City. Let’s have top-flight public high schools that are fair and represent the highest academic standards.

Right now, we are living with monumental injustice. The prestigious high schools make 5,000 admissions offers to incoming ninth-graders. Yet, this year just 172 black students and 298 Latino students received offers. This happened in a city where two out of every three eighth-graders in our public schools are Latino or black.

There’s also a geographic problem. There are almost 600 middle schools citywide. Yet, half the students admitted to the specialized high schools last year came from just 21 of those schools. For a perfect illustration of disparity: Just 14 percent of students at Bronx Science come from the Bronx.

Can anyone defend this? Can anyone look the parent of a Latino or black child in the eye and tell them their precious daughter or son has an equal chance to get into one of their city’s best high schools? Can anyone say this is the America we signed up for?

Our best colleges don’t select students this way. Our top-level graduate schools don’t. There are important reasons why. Some people are good at taking tests, but earn poor grades. Other people struggle with testing, but achieve top grades. The best educational minds get it. You can’t write a single test that captures the full reality of a person.

A single, high-stakes exam is also unfair to students whose families cannot afford, or may not even know about, the availability of test preparation tutors and courses. Now, I’d like to stop and say, I admire the many families who scrape and save to pay for test prep. They are trying in every way to support their children.

But let’s ask ourselves: Why should families who can ill afford test prep have to spend their money on it? Why should families who can easily afford test prep have an advantage over those that cannot?

My administration has been working to give a wider range of excellent students a fair shot at the specialized high schools. Now we are going to go further. Starting in September 2019, we’ll expand the Discovery Program to offer 20 percent of specialized high school seats to economically disadvantaged students who just missed the test cut-off.

This will immediately bring a wider variety of high-performing students, from a wider number of middle schools, to the specialized high schools. For example, the percentage of black and Latino students receiving offers will almost double, to around 16 percent from around 9 percent. The number of middle schools represented will go from around 310 to around 400.

This will also address a fundamental illogic baked into the high-stakes test. A great score and you might be in, but beware a point too low and you might be out. Now, a disadvantaged student who is just a point or two shy of the cut-off won’t be blocked from a great educational opportunity.

For a deeper solution, we will fight alongside our partners in the Assembly and Senate to replace the SHSAT with a new admissions process, selecting students based on a combination of the student’s rank in their middle school and their results in the statewide tests that all middle school children take.

With these reforms, we expect our premier public high schools to start looking like New York City. Approximately 45 percent of students would be Latino or black. As an example of growing geographical fairness, we will quadruple the number of Bronx students admitted.

I’ve talked a lot about bringing equity and excellence to our schools. This new admissions process will give every student in every middle school a fair shot. That’s equity. The new process will ask students to demonstrate hard work over time, and show brilliance in a variety of subjects. That’s excellence.

Anyone who tells you this is somehow going to lower the standard at these schools is buying into a false and damaging narrative. It’s a narrative that traps students in a grossly unfair environment, asks them to live with the consequences, and actually blames them for it. This perpetuates a dangerous and disgusting myth.

So let me be clear. The new system we’re fighting for will raise the bar at the specialized high schools in every way. The pool of talent is going to expand widely and rapidly. That’s going to up the level of competition. The students who emerge from the new process will make these schools even stronger.

They will also make our society stronger. Our most prestigious public high schools aren’t just routes to opportunity for deserving students and their families. They are incubators for the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. The kind of high schools we have today, will determine the kind of New York City we will have tomorrow.

Bill de Blasio is the mayor of New York City.