Complaint Filed Against Admissions Process at Public Specialized High Schools in NYC
Photo: Stuyvesant High School
Today, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), LatinoJustice PRLDEF and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College 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.”
Admission to these eight schools is based solely on students’ rank-ordered scores on a 2.5 hour multiple choice test called the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). No other indicators of academic merit are considered in admissions decisions. Students who have stellar grades and other academic achievements may often be denied admission, including several thousand African-American and Latino students.
The impact is particularly severe at Stuyvesant and Bronx Science—two of the Specialized High Schools that serve the largest numbers of students, have the longest track records of educational excellence, and are the among the most popular among test-takers. For example, of the 967 eighth-grade students offered admission to Stuyvesant for the 2012-13 school year, just 19 (2%) of the students are African American and 32 (3.3%) are Latino.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights—the agency’s civil rights enforcement arm—alleges that the New York City Department of Education and New York State Department of Education have never conducted a study to determine whether the test is a valid tool; in other words, it cannot ensure that there is any relationship between students’ test results and learning standards in the Specialized High Schools.
In addition to the impact on African-American and Latino students, the current policy harms many Asian students, as well.
Although state law requires a test-only admissions policy for three of the high schools, the current NYCDOE administration decided to designate an additional five schools as test-only schools. The text of the complaint, appendices and statements of support from other organizations, experts and notable individuals are available on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website.