Carranza sticks to his guns, fights for change to SHSAT

Stephon Johnson | 5/9/2019, 7:03 p.m.
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t let angry parents get ...
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza Bill Moore photo

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t let angry parents get in the way of their desire to remake specialized high schools in their image.

Carranza recently hosted a town hall in District 20 (which encompasses the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Sunset Park), where parents pushed back against his and the mayor’s desire to eliminate the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the sole criterion for admittance to schools like Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant. The district has served as something of a pipeline to specialized high schools.

According to the education-oriented news site, Chalkbeat, the Christa McAuliffe School in District 20 and Mark Twain I.S. 239 in District 21 (also in Brooklyn) have more students admitted into specialized high schools than the city’s 10 poorest districts combined.

Carranza and De Blasio want to eliminate the SHSAT and replace it with a policy that admits the top students from every public middle school.

Last week, Chair of the Committee on Education Council Member Mark Treyger and Chair of the Committee on Civil and Human Rights Council Member Mathieu Eugene hosted a joint hearing on school segregation in New York City. While he couldn’t attend, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams submitted testimony that a representative read. Williams said that the city needs to focus on segregation outside of the crown jewels of the city’s public education system.

“The conversation about diversity in education has long been focused on the Specialized High School Admissions Test,” read Williams’ testimony. “This presents the false impression, the false narrative that segregation begins and ends in our specialized high schools—nothing could be further from the truth. This segregation is pervasive throughout our entire system, including at the elite multiple-criteria schools, which already exist.

“We need to discuss these schools, yes, but not without the context of the rest of the system—where segregated middle and elementary schools cement a system that impedes advancement and substandard schools citywide drive the cutthroat process of high school admissions which only deepens division,” Williams’ statement continued.

New York State Senator John Liu agreed with Williams that the city should focus more on school segregation around the city and not just the SHSAT. Liu said that while he finds the test gap among races deplorable, he doesn’t think the city’s going about change the right way.

“I don’t fault the chancellor for being new on the scene and trying to fix a problem that has only been exacerbated over the last five years,” said Liu. “The race gap is just woefully intolerable. Now, the chancellor and the mayor think that they can make this all go away by eliminating the SHSAT. They think that’s the quick fix. It’s going to take a lot more than a quick fix to truly fix schools for Black and Brown students.”

When asked if he had a solution for how the city could address the SHSAT issue, Liu said that he’d refrain from answering while the city’s in the middle of conducting community forums on the issue of specialized high school admissions and school diversity. Liu said he didn’t want anything he says to prejudice any opinions that could be raised at these forums (the next one takes place in Brooklyn at the NYU Tandon: Bern Dibner Building—Pfizer Auditorium from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Friday, May 10).