Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou Statement on City’s Plan to Change Specialized High School Admissions

New York, NY – This past weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announced a new plan to phase out and eventually eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). The Mayor and Chancellor Carranza’s two-part plan includes expanding the Discovery program, then eliminating the use of the single-admissions test over the course of three years. Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou stated the following in response:

“Achieving diversity in all of our schools, including our specialized high schools, should always be a priority, as having a diverse student body also enriches one’s education. However, I am against the City’s plan regarding the SHSAT.

“Diversity issues in our education system are systemic, going back as early as pre-school and elementary levels. By the time we face segregation in our high schools, it is a symptom of our system’s failings. In my district alone, there has been ample news coverage about the lack of diversity in elementary and middle schools. It is impossible to heal a tree of a root disease by trimming its leaves.

“Tackling the diversity issue in our education system requires us to address the causes of segregation at every level, starting in our early education programs and pre-k, to our elementary, middle schools, and high schools. We must level the playing field by ensuring that families and students have equal access to resources like funding, administration, and parental involvement. Unfortunately, the Mayor’s current approach has left much to be desired.

“Per reports, the Department of Education (DOE) undertook this project years ago, yet there seems to be a community engagement aspect missing. Based on feedback, I am concerned that the DOE created this plan with minimal community involvement. When it comes to our schools and our students, it is absolutely critical for families to have ample opportunities to have their voices heard. Regrettably, the City’s abrupt announcement and desire to push this bill through the state legislature is unreasonable in terms of reviewing community feedback.

“In addition, I am deeply concerned about the language used around this issue, which has been focusing on how Asian American students are overrepresented in our City’s specialized high schools. Asian Americans are also minorities; there are over 180,000 Asian American students in the New York City education system, and 58.4% of them live close to or below the poverty line. It is unfair and wrong to pit minorities against one another when the goal is to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for all New Yorkers.

“Moving forward, I hope to work together to reform our education system. I look forward to hearing feedback from my constituents, and to reviewing this proposal with my colleagues in Albany.”