Keep it or scrap it: Debate rages over specialized high school admissions test

If Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have their way, the specialized high school admissions process may look very different starting in the next school year.
Citing racial disparities in the makeup of the city's specialized high schools, the chancellor's proposal aims to look at alternate admissions procedures that would help more black and Hispanic students be admitted to the city's top public high schools.
Daniel Zaharopol, the executive director of Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics, says there is “excellence that is being left on the table and not being nurtured.”
“One of our students is one of the seven black students accepted to Stuyvesant this year. I hope we can take some of the credit, but it’s her skill that got her here.”
That student is 14-year-old Camia King Cupid. She says the admissions test was tough, but she was able to ace it because she was given an opportunity to study more advanced math outside of school through the city’s Discovery program.
She wants the test to stay, but for the city to provide more prep and resources.
“I think that if they prepare the students more for the test, then more black and Latino students would pass,” says Cupid.
The proposal has its opponents – many of them parents who say the changes would target Asian students.
Yifang Chen, one of the plaintiffs of a lawsuit filed against the mayor and chancellor, says that she doesn’t believe the mayor should have the right to “engineer which ethnic group goes to the schools.”
She and other plaintiffs feel that by expanding the Discovery program, the chancellor is discriminating on the basis of race. That program offers a certain amount of seats to low-income students that score just below the cutoff point, which takes seats from those who may have scored higher.
Many other elected officials and advocates oppose the plan for other reasons. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, says instead of getting rid of the test, the city should develop more opportunities and education for black and Hispanic students.
“I don’t know what school I would have gotten into, much less Brooklyn Tech,” he told News 12. “The only reason I got in was because of the test. I'm concerned there are other people like us who will lose that access point."