A group of lawmakers wants all city eighth-graders to be automatically registered for the entrance exam for specialized high schools and get free after-school test prep in order to boost the enrollment of black and Latino students at the prestigious schools, the Daily News has learned.
A bill co-authored by City Council Members Ben Kallos (D—Manhattan) and Justin Brannan (D—Brooklyn), and supported by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, urges the Education Department to make the test opt-out rather than opt-in, and extend after-school test preparation to every eighth-grader planning to take the exam.
The proposal comes as city officials announced that only 11% of students admitted to specialized schools this year were black or Latino, compared to 70% of all city students — a figure virtually unchanged from years past.
“For more students to have the opportunity I did at a specialized high school, the city should explore ways to make test prep accessible to all students,” said Williams, a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School.
The proposal, backed by the well-funded Education Equity Campaign fighting Mayor de Blasio’s effort to scrap the specialized school exam, asks the city to expand initiatives like the DREAM project, a test prep program for low-income students with high grades. Lawmakers want a similar program for every student registered for the exam.
The DREAM program is already on the rise, growing from 2,300 students last year to 4,200 this year. But the overall share of black and Latino students admitted to the specialized schools barely budged this year, even with the increase.
Nearly 28,000 eighth-graders took the exam this year, out of close to 80,000 total who applied to city high schools. The group of lawmakers, which also includes City Council Members Robert Cornegy (D—Brooklyn), Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D—Brooklyn), and Carlina Rivera (D—Manhattan), believes that if more students take the exam, a higher share of black and Latino students will be admitted.
“There have been a lot of ideas” about how to mend the racial gap, Kallos said. “This is a way to start with a data-driven approach I think will improve things.”