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New York City Plans $15 Million Push to Increase Diversity at Specialized Schools

The New York City Department of Education plans a $15 million push to increase the number of high-performing, low-income students enrolled in its highly-selective specialized high schools.

The efforts, announced Thursday, will impact eight of the city's nine specialized high schools, the department said.

The demographic make-up of New York City's exam schools has long been a source of concern, but public officials have not been able to come up with a remedy to increase their diversity.

The schools are predominantly white and Asian—only 11 percent of the students in those schools this school year were black or Latino, according to the city. Citywide, Latino and African-American students make up 68 percent of the student enrollment.

Fewer black and Latino students also take the Specialized High School Admissions Test to get into those schools, according to the education department. (The test is used in admissions in eight of the nine high schools.)

According to the education department, the six initiatives are expected to increase the number of high-performing, low-income students who take the entrance exam to attend those schools and who eventually choose to attend.

The proposed efforts include:

  • Expanding outreach: The city will hire up to five outreach specialists who will make dedicated efforts to increase the number of high-performing, low-income students who take the admissions test.
  • Piloting test-taking on school days: Five schools will participate in a pilot in which the test will be administered on a school day. The hope is that more students will take the test if its offered on a school day instead of the weekend. 
  • Starting test preparation in middle school after-school programs.
  • Expanding free tutoring for the entrance exam and expanding the DREAM initiative, a 22-month program currently available to 6th and 7th graders with coursework designed to help students prepare for the entrance exam. DREAM will expand to include high-performing 8th graders.
  • Expanding the Discovery Program, which permits low-income students, English- language learners, and children in foster care whose scores fall a shade under the cut-off to attend selective enrollment schools after successfully completing summer courses. The expansion will add 100 students.
  •  Working with area superintendents to develop positive and welcoming school climates at specialized high schools.  For example, schools will be encouraged to appoint student ambassadors and alumni of color to reach out to accepted students. 
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