Teachers, lawmakers propose changes to NYC high school admissions

(AP) - Teachers and some state lawmakers on Monday proposed to change how students compete for admission to New York City's most selective public high schools, saying the current one-test system is unfair and excludes talented minorities.
"The nation's elite colleges - from Harvard and Princeton to Columbia and New York University - use multiple measures to evaluate student applicants as part of their admission process," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. "But New York City continues to rely on a single, outmoded multiple-choice test for admission to its top academic high schools."
Mulgrew said many minority students now excluded from Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School and five other specialized high schools deserve to be there. Only about two dozen African-Americans and Latinos were among the more than 3,000 students admitted to Stuyvesant this year, while they represent about 70 percent of the city's 1.1 million public school students.
State Sen. Simcha Felder is the prime sponsor of proposed bipartisan legislation to change the admission process beyond the single, determining test by considering other factors including grades, extracurricular activities, attendance and state exam scores.
The legislation also calls for expanding the number of applicants and reviving a summer program that offers help to students who fall just short of admission. And the teachers' union suggests that free test preparation materials be offered online to help level the playing field for students who cannot afford private courses some students take before the test.
Mulgrew was joined at the union's Manhattan headquarters by State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and State Assemblymen Karim Camara and Ron Kim.
"What does a single, multiple-choice test prove other than some students knew the testing strategies better than others?" asked Espaillat, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel in the Democratic primary for New York's 13th Congressional District.
The Specialized High School Admissions Test was taken by almost 28,000 students for the 2014-2015 school year. About 5,000 won admission to the eight schools.
In a statement, the city Department of Education called the proposed legislation "a real opportunity to attract excellence and achieve a more diverse student body in our city's specialized high schools," adding that department officials look forward to working on the legislation.
However, Larry Cary, president of Brooklyn Tech's alumni association, says that while the bill is well-intended, it is being rushed through in the last two weeks of the legislative session with no public hearings or discussion and little opportunity to thoroughly examine available options.