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NAACP Legal Defense Fund Supports Legislation That Would Reform the Specialized High School Admissions Process and Replace a Single Test With Multiple Measures of True Merit

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6/10/14

(New York – NY) The NAACP Legal Defense Fund today welcomed the news that legislation proposed by New York state lawmakers would require that factors beyond a single multiple-choice exam be used to determine admissions to New York City’s Specialized High Schools.  

“The legislation proposed yesterday aims to expand the measures of merit in the admissions process which has long been governed by, at worst, access to test prep services, and at best, a student’s ability to excel on a single multiple choice exam,” said Rachel Kleinman, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

In September of 2012, LDF, LatinoJustice, and the Medgar Evers College Center for Law and Social Justice filed a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of a broad coalition of New York education, civil rights, and social justice organizations challenging the admissions process at New York City’s elite public Specialized High Schools which is currently mandated for at least three of the schools by New York State Law.  

The complaint is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Because of the pending complaint and investigation, passing legislation that addresses the current test-only admissions policy might be the only chance that the City and State have of avoiding a finding that the policy violates Federal Civil Rights law.

This year’s admissions offers issued for New York City's Specialized High Schools demonstrate that a trend of unfairness and acute racial disparities in admissions has persisted.

Out of the 952 eighth grade students who received offers to matriculate into Stuyvesant High School this year, 7 are Black and 21 are Hispanic. Of the 968 eighth graders who have been admitted to Bronx High School of Science, 18 are Black and 50 are Hispanic. These figures are worse than last year’s admissions statistics. Last year, Stuyvesant admitted only 9 Black students and 24 Hispanic students, while Bronx Science admitted 25 Black students and 54 Hispanic students.

“We are hopeful that as the specifics of the bill are debated, the voices of education researchers and community groups are used to shape any specific measures of merit that ultimately appear in a new law,” said Monique Lin-Luse, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “Admissions to these high schools must be determined by a process that fully captures a student’s academic merit and potential.”