Only a tiny number of black students were offered admission to the highly selective public high schools in New York City on Monday, raising the pressure on officials to confront the decades-old challenge of integrating New York’s elite public schools.
At Stuyvesant High School, out of 895 slots in the freshman class, only seven were offered to black students. And the number of black students is shrinking: There were 10 black students admitted into Stuyvesant last year, and 13 the year before.
Another highly selective specialized school, the Bronx High School of Science, made 12 offers to black students this year, down from 25 last year.
These numbers come despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vow to diversify the specialized high schools, which have long been seen as a ticket for low-income and immigrant students to enter the nation’s best colleges and embark on successful careers.
But Mr. de Blasio’s proposal to scrap the entrance exam for the schools and overhaul the admissions process has proved so divisive that the state’s most prominent politicians, from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have mostly avoided taking a definitive position — even as black and Hispanic students are grappling with increasingly steep odds of admission into the city’s eight most selective public schools.
Students gain entry into the specialized schools by acing a single high-stakes exam that tests their mastery of math and English. Some students spend months or even years preparing for the exam. Stuyvesant, the most selective of the schools, has the highest cutoff score for admission, and now has the lowest percentage of black and Hispanic students of any of New York City’s roughly 600 public high schools.
Lawmakers considering Mr. de Blasio’s proposal have faced a backlash from the specialized schools’ alumni organizations and from Asian-American groups who believe discarding the test would water down the schools’ rigorous academics and discriminate against the mostly low-income Asian students who make up the majority of the schools’ student bodies. (At Stuyvesant, 74 percent of current students are Asian-American.) The push to get rid of the test, which requires approval from the State Legislature, appears all but dead.
Attempts to diversify the schools without touching the test have failed. Neither the expansion of free test prep for minority students nor a new plan to offer the specialized high school exam during the school day made a dent in the admissions numbers.
The mayor and other supporters of the effort to overhaul the admissions system cited the statistics released Monday as the clearest evidence yet that the system is broken.
“These numbers are even more proof that dramatic reform is necessary to open the doors of opportunity at specialized high schools,” Mr. de Blasio said.
The question of how to racially integrate the city’s elite high schools underscores how hard it is to tackle educational inequality and discrimination. It is a struggle playing out in real time as the future of affirmative action is being challenged at Harvard University and as last week’s college admissions scandal revealed the extreme ways in which wealthy and well-connected families try to game admissions.
Though black and Hispanic students make up nearly 70 percent of New York City’s public school system as a whole, just over 10 percent of students admitted into the city’s eight specialized high schools were black or Hispanic, according to statistics released Monday by the city. That percentage is flat compared to last year.
Of the nearly 4,800 students admitted into the specialized schools, 190 are black — compared to 207 black students admitted last year out of just over 5,000 offers. About 5,500 black students took the admissions exam this year out of a total of about 27,500 applicants. Of the five specialized schools that were added under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, only one, the Brooklyn Latin School, has a larger percentage of black applicants who were offered seats: 57 out of 540.