New York City

Mayor Bill De Blasio Wants to Eliminate High-Stakes Admissions Test for Elite NYC High Schools

De Blasio said he would like to eventually replace the test with a new admissions process using measures such as middle school class rankings

What to Know

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will push to diversify the city's elite specialized high schools
  • He wants to eliminate the high-stakes admissions test and instead base admissions on grades and existing statewide testing
  • Critics have long complained that reliance on the tests leads to a lack of diversity at the schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday he wants to eliminate the high-stakes admissions tests for New York City's elite high schools over three years. 

De Blasio said the move will help increase diversity at the eight academically rigorous schools, including Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science. 

Instead of the test, which students take in the eighth grade, de Blasio wants to rate students based on their grades in seventh-grade English, math social studies and science, plus scores on statewide math and English exams. 

Getting rid of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, or SHSAT, would require legislative approval. Right now, the test is the sole criteria for admission to the schools. 

Middle- and upper-income families can spend thousands of dollars on tutoring for the exams. 

Critics have long complained that the reliance on the test leads to a lack of diversity at the schools, which are overwhelmingly Asian and white. Only 10 percent of students at the elite schools are black or Latino, although they make up 70 percent of the city's overall student population, de Blasio said. 

Getting rid of the admissions test is expected to make 44 percent of offers go to black and Latino students, de Blasio said. It would also raise the number of offers to girls to 62 percent, compared with 44 percent now. The number of offers to Bronx residents would quadruple, he said. 

“There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” de Blasio said. “We cannot let this injustice continue. By giving a wider, more diverse pool of our best students an equal shot at admissions, we will make these schools stronger and our city fairer.”

De Blasio said he will also reserve 20 percent of seats at each high school for low-income students, beginning in 2019. The process will take two years, he said. 

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