A federal complaint filed Sept. 27 requests that the U.S. Education Department force the city to stop admitting students into its most elite public high schools based solely on an exam because it says the practice discriminates against black and Latino children.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and dozens of other legal and educational advocacy organizations behind the complaint said using only an exam to rank and offer students seats in eight specialized high schools, including The Bronx High School of Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, has denied qualified blacks and Latinos access and contributed to low black and Latino enrollment.
During the 2010-2011 academic year, 3 percent of Science’s student body was black and 8 percent was Latino. That year, 13 percent of American Studies students were black and 21 percent were Latino, according to DOE documents. As a remedy, the document suggests the Department of Education consider middle school grades, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities and the “demographic profile” of applicants’ previous schools to “assess students’ achievements in the context of the opportunities they have received.”
Damon Hewitt, the director of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s educational practice, said the city has clung to the policy for decades without conducting any research to show the Specialized High School Admission Test selects the students most likely to succeed at the prestigious schools.
He cited Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools, which suggests the city’s specialized high schools are the only American high schools that screen applicants with only a test.
“That doesn’t make New York City a leader, that makes New York City an outlier,” he said.
The DOE released a statement lauding the application process.