2018-06-13 / Front Page

Senator Stavisky and Community Leaders Rally to Save the SHSAT

NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, joined by elected officials and community leaders, rallied in Flushing against Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to eliminate the Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT).NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, joined by elected officials and community leaders, rallied in Flushing against Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to eliminate the Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT).State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), joined by elected officials and community leaders, rallied in Flushing on June 8 against Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to eliminate the Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT).

“This week, without input from the community or elected officials, the mayor announced new requirements for admittance to New York City specialized high schools in an attempt to further diversify them. In addition, Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza has made a number of insulting comments regarding the Asian American student population, insinuating they ‘own the process,’” Stavisky explained.
Stavisky noted that despite the mayor’s claims that eliminating the test will improve diversity at specialized high schools, studies have shown otherwise. According to a report released in 2015 by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU, it was found that admissions rules based on criteria other than the SHSAT—including state test scores, grades and attendance—would moderately alter the demographic mix of specialized high schools. But the rules would not improve the schools’ diversity, particularly for African American students, whose numbers would decrease under the proposed rules.
In response, leaders from government, the Asian American community, the educational sector and more, gathered to call on the mayor to withdraw what Stavisky referred to as a “nonsensical proposal.”
Senator Stavisky said, “I have been speaking out for the specialized high schools for years. I speak as a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, the parent of a Bronx Science graduate, a former teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School, and a member of the NYS Senate Education Committee. We have a chancellor who came to New York City a few months ago and immediately became an expert and called for the elimination of the SHSAT. If I found myself in Houston or San Francisco I would reach out to the stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, administrators and alumni. Instead he attempted to pit one group against another, insulting the Asian American community, claiming that ‘no one ethnic group owns the process.’ That is disgraceful, dangerous and divisive. The best way to improve diversity and preserve academic integrity is to increase gifted and talented programs, improve outreach to all communities, provide practice SHSAT exams and free test preparation and create additional specialized high schools. To the mayor and chancellor, I say, keep the test.”
Congress Member Grace Meng said, “The Assembly Education Committee’s vote that advances the mayor’s plan is disappointing.
“As the graduate of a New York City specialized high school (Stuyvesant High School), I was disappointed by the drastic changes the mayor proposed to specialized high school admissions.
“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. 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.
“As an elected official, I am also disappointed that the mayor and chancellor failed to convene a meeting of all relevant stakeholders, including the city’s AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) elected officials, before they unveiled a proposal that seeks to dismantle how the city’s most successful high schools operate. To exclude impacted communities from such discussions, or to pit them against one another, is not leadership.
“I also take issue with reported comments made by the chancellor about one ethnic group owning admission to specialized high schools. I am insulted, and these comments are false. Asian Americans aren’t trying to own admission to these schools.
“I agree with the mayor that diversity at the city’s specialized high schools needs to improve. But community leaders and elected officials from ALL backgrounds must have their voices heard. I call on the mayor and the chancellor to engage the AAPI community in any future effort to overhaul specialized high school admissions processes, and I call on the Assembly to do what is right and block A.10427a from passage. Keeping the AAPI community completely left out of the discussion is disrespectful and wrong.
“The mayor could have chosen to pursue the creation of additional specialized high schools to meet demand, he could have requested more resources from Albany for every single New York City elementary, middle, and high school, or he could have chosen to address the broader systemic segregation in our city. Instead of focusing on comprehensive reform in one effort, the mayor’s legislative push concerning how eight well-performing schools operate isn’t a serious policy proposal; it’s a headline.”
Assembly Member Ron Kim said, “As a member of the Education Committee, I voted ‘no’ on the passage of A.10427A, and will continue to oppose this measure.  Unless all communities, including Asian American families whose children represent a significant portion of test-takers as well as the student bodies in our specialized high schools, are part of the decision-making process, I cannot support this bill or any similar efforts to change the admissions process.  Yesterday, I and the other members of the Assembly’s Asian Pacific American Legislative Task Force, which I co-founded, spoke to Speaker Carl Heastie about our concerns, and he agreed to not consider the proposal until next session. Moving forward, in order to truly increase diversity at our best high schools, we need to invest more in all of our classrooms, after-school programs, summer employment, and quality early education. We need to give every child an equal shot at success. Instead of changing the goal post for success overnight, we must advocate for more equitable allocation of funding to all communities. It is now up to the mayor to take steps to substantively and transparently address this issue by speaking and meeting with all relevant stakeholders, and with his Department of Education to solve the severe flaws that already exist in our school system from kindergarten through 8th grade.”
Council Member Peter Koo stated, “All children deserve the best education regardless of race, color or creed, but there are better solutions to diversify our city’s top schools than the mayor’s proposal. Replacing the SHSAT and weakening the admission criteria for schools that are selectively designed for academically gifted students works against the original intent of specialized high schools. The students accepted to these schools have put in hard work and dedication to earn their seats at the table. If this administration were truly concerned with a fair approach to diversity, it would start by making sure underrepresented schools are preparing their students for higher education. Put the resources into expanding services and opportunity, but don’t penalize those who made the grade.”
Assembly Member Nily Rozic said, “While I am strongly in favor of increasing diversity in all schools and I support our city’s existing initiatives to get more underrepresented and low-income youth into specialized high schools, I am not convinced that the recently proposed legislation is the best way to bring us closer to that reality. Additionally, any measure to drastically reshape our specialized high school admissions process should include more comprehensive community engagement than has happened in this case. I look forward to continuing this much-needed dialogue with key leaders and stakeholders in these efforts to achieve educational equity.”
Assembly Member Edward Braunstein said, “I strongly disagree with the mayor’s proposal to change the admissions standards for specialized high schools, including eliminating the SHSAT. A change of this magnitude to our education system should not be rushed through at the end of Session without a public hearing and input from the stakeholders who would be greatly affected by this proposal. While more needs to be done to increase diversity in specialized high schools, that should begin with a more robust effort to provide students in underrepresented communities with the assistance they need to gain admission. The Department of Education must increase efforts to educate families about the admissions process to specialized high schools, as well as expand the availability of free or low-cost test prep classes. Additionally, the mayor’s proposal to limit the number of seats available at specialized high schools for private school students is arbitrary and unfair to thousands of taxpaying families in New York City.
Senator Stavisky was also joined by many community leaders and education advocates at the rally.
District Leader and Executive Director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association Peter Tu said, “As immigrants, we educate the next generation to work hard, observe the American education system and prove we are good citizens. Now, why do some want to change this process?”
President of the Korean American Association of Queens, Thomas Kim said, “The Specialized High School Admissions Test has been the sole criteria for admission to these specialized high schools and this is a fair opportunity, open to all the students. The way to increase diversity in America is not by eliminating or taking away someone’s opportunity. This is an opportunity for a lot of students who are taking this test to go to top specialized high schools. The way to improve opportunity and achieve the American dream is to go to a good school. You are penalizing one group to benefit another and I don’t think that is right.”
Education leader and Bronx Science alumnus, Dr. Ivan Khan said, “For many families in the NYC South Asian community, entrance to the specialized high schools has been the only way of getting their families out of poverty and the issues faced by new immigrants in our beloved city. Bangladeshi New Yorkers are the fastest growing group in NYC today, and the second-largest minority group at the specialized high schools. Mayor de Blasio’s plan ignores the NYC Department of Education’s systemic failures in under-funded districts and does not address how the proposed changes will affect our community. The plan avoided any valuable dialogue with South Asian New Yorkers as a whole.”
Former president of School Board 25, Pauline Chu said, “The specialized high school test cannot be abolished. It’s a wonderful opportunity for minority students who can’t afford to go to private schools.  Every 8th grade student in NYC can choose to take the test. More funding should go to afterschool and summer programs for those students who are unable to reach the academic standard at an earlier stage.”
Executive Director of CUNY’s Asian American/Asian Research Institute, Joyce Moy said, “Asian Americans are not privileged; nor do we believe we ‘own the classrooms.’ We support diversity and quality education. Our community has been historically excluded, marginalized, and scapegoated. We have had to fight for every seat, at every table. We cannot allow seats to be arbitrarily taken from us when we have earned them. We challenge the mayor and the chancellor to grow the pie, not penalize a community which is otherwise under-represented and under-resourced in New York City. Do your jobs, and equitably resource every single school in NYC so that every child receives the quality of education that we and all parents want for our children. Do NOT try to score quick political points, or balance the failure of the education system caused by centuries of racial injustice on the backs of Asian American children and families.”
President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Eric Ng said, “On behalf of the CCBA and our member organizations, we are strongly against the elimination of the SHSAT. In order to increase and balance enrollments for all races in these specialized schools, the city should increase resources to bring up the standard of our students in ALL communities citywide. It is wrong to lower and change the admission standards of the specialized high schools just because the percentage of Asian American students is too high. Many Asian American parents and organizations have been very successful in providing an excellent education for our children. We should not be targeted and blamed for the failure of the system. In order to increase the standards and knowledge of students in New York City, we strongly urge the mayor and officials to discuss and consult with our community before they make changes to our education system.”
Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights Chair John Chan said, “We call on Bill de Blasio to respect students who achieve, no matter their ethnicity, to stop pitting one disadvantaged minority against another, and to do something constructive instead: improve education for all communities, starting from the lowest grades.”

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