Advocates of expanding admissions criteria to the city’s specialized schools say the changes will make the application process more fair and improve diversity at elite institutions like the Bronx High School of Science.
But Bronx Science’s parents’ association says recently proposed legislation is a “smokescreen” to distract from a larger issue centering around lack of access to quality elementary and middle school education prior to entering high school.
State Sen. Simcha Felder’s bill would overturn the Hecht-Colandra act, a law passed in 1971 which set the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) as the single criteria for entrance to eight specialized high schools in New York. Those include Bronx Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College.
Bronx Science PA Co-President Shanti Knock said the real problem lies with the quality of middle school options.
“The conversation outside of the school every morning and every afternoon is, ‘What are you going to do for middle school?’” said Ms. Knock, who lives in Van Cortlandt Village. “There aren’t decent middle schools in the Bronx. We don’t have the options that other people do in other boroughs.”
Ms. Knock and her co-president Adam Stern have called on the Department of Education to redirect its focus from expanding admission criteria to improving the quality of education at failing and near-failing schools.
“I think they need to look at the neighborhoods where kids are not getting into Bronx Science, and look at the schools that are not getting anybody in, to see what’s happening there,” Ms. Knock said.
On June 9, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat joined United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and two members of the assembly to promote the legislation.