This Website use Cookies OK

Read more Opinion News

How Bill cheat on the test: Mayor de Blasio gave up on overhauling elite school admissions, but did he ever really try?


“Our most prestigious public high schools aren’t just routes to opportunity for deserving students and their families. They are incubators for the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.”

That was Bill de Blasio — remember him? — last June, while explaining the “monumental injustice” of using a single three-hour exam, the SHSAT, to determine admission to eight top public high schools.

De Blasio’s been talking about that since his 2013 campaign, objecting here and there to an elite system where only about 10% of students are black or Latino in a public school system where about 70% of students are black or Latino.

It took him until 2018 to try and do something about it, demanding state lawmakers undo the 1971 law requiring Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech to use the SHSAT to determine admissions while incoming Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza pointed to racism as a motive for that law, and suggested it still motivated its supporters today.

In 1977, the year when I was born, the Office of Civil Rights, part of the U.S. Education Department, called out the disparity in having a system where 60% of high school students were black and Latino compared to just 45% of the students at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech as they charged the city with running a top-to-bottom racially segregated public school system.

The elite schools have become less and less representative since then and while de Blasio and Carranza haven’t accounted for why that’s happened, they’re right that something is wrong when top public schools look radically different than the system they’re drawing from.

Despite cheerleading in The New York Times and elsewhere, the push to scrap the law generated a significant backlash in the city and little support in Albany, even with Democrats now in full control of the state government. Notably, the mayor and chancellor never changed the admissions standards at five of the eight elite schools, added by Mike Bloomberg, that aren’t covered by the state law but still use the test, suggesting there were unspecified potential legal obstacles.

Last week, de Blasio, even as he continued to rail against the test, admitted that “our plan didn’t work.” That admission came about a month after Carranza — who’d introduced himself to New York last year with fiery vows to integrate the schools and dismantle the instruments of segregation — walked that back, telling Times reporter Eliza Shapiro that “If I integrated the system, the next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to walk on water.”

De Blasio — who really hasn’t offered a big new idea since early in his first term, which speaks volumes about how light the political pressures are on an incumbent Democratic mayor in our overwhelmingly Democratic city — admitted his SHSAT defeat Wednesday, hours before rallying City Hall staffers in the aftermath of his presidential bellyflop.

He told them that voters across the country were in “awe” of what New York had accomplished on his watch, comparing it to the New Deal. And, he said, “we have 829 days — hell of a long time.”

I wrote last week about what our political buck-passing and campaign buck-collecting mayor could do over his remaining six de Blasios plus seven Scaramuccis if he only had as much courage in his policy convictions as he does in his own thirst for national appreciation.

Better five years late than never, he could stop ramming his head against the SHSAT wall and start making prestigious schools of his own, no permission needed from Albany, to undo the injustice he’s so far mostly just railed ineffectively against. The only things stopping him would be time, money and will.

The News has suggested high schools with accelerated classes open to top students from each middle school, as measured through grades and state tests.

How about one in each borough? New performing arts schools?

As some guy said last year, “The kind of high schools we have today will determine the kind of New York City we will have tomorrow.”

[email protected]