Several civil rights organizations filed a complaint on Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights arguing that the exam determining admissions to the most elite New York City public high schools effectively discriminates against black and Latino students.
The complaint filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund focuses on eight competitive admissions high schools. The most prominent and nationally known schools among the group are Stuyvesant High School and Bronx Science.
Reuters reports that even though blacks and Latinos make up more than half of New York City residents, at Stuyvesant High, Latinos represent only about 2.4 percent of the enrollment and black students, 1.2 percent. Asians make up more than two-thirds of the students at Stuyvesant.
The complaint places the blame on the multiple-choice Specialized High School Admissions test, which is alone what admissions are based on. Reuters reports that the group wants the schools to base admissions on more than just a test–expanding considerations to grades, attendance, recommendations, interviews and writing samples.
The NAACP press release says that of 967 eighth-graders offered admission to Stuyvesant this year, 19 (2 percent) were black and 32 (3.3 percent) were Latino.
“Without a predictive validity study, there is no way that the NYCDOE can know whether the test provides useful information,” said Damon Hewitt, director of the education practice group at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc, in the NAACP press release. “And education experts agree that using a test as the only factor to make a high stakes decision is bad educational policy. It also defies common sense. Even elite institutions like Harvard do not misuse tests in this way.”
This is not the first time that disparities in the city’s elite schools have been in the spotlight.