Nyc Specialized High School

NYC Public School (High School) with high admissions requirements. (Educating Kids In Nyc

Notes from 2010

Stuyvesant High School, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, etc.

HunterCollegeHigh School isn't officially on the list because it isn't run by the NYC Department Of Education.

Quest To Learn probably won't be on the list, either.

La Guardia School Of Performing Arts (Fame!) is included.


  • only for 9th or 10th grade
  • based solely on Standardized Test score: SHSAT
    • given in fall (early October), results in February
  • students provide their ranked preferred schools at time they take the test, and computer does the matching
  • what about moving into city late in spring?
    • the test is given in August, and you have to prove you weren't here during the October test, and you can still jump into a top school if you meet the cut-off. Call the Office of High School Admissions at 212-374-2363.

Heather Mac Donald (in 1999) on periodic attacks on the schools by egalitarians.

  • The first sally came during the 1968 Ocean Hill-Brownsville disturbances, in which black (African American) activists demanded "community control" over schools, sparking the bitterest teachers' strike in the city's history. Among the activists' many demands was the conversion of the three science schools to community schools, open to all.

  • Less than three years later, in January 1971, a direct challenge rocked the exam schools. The superintendent of Community School Board Three on Manhattan's West Side, Alfredo Mathew, charged that the admissions test at the Bronx High School of Science, then the most academically selective school in the country, was "culturally biased"-a dubious allegation-and worked to "screen out" black and Puerto Rican students.

  • Though the principal of Bronx Science, Alexander Taffel, properly defended the entrance tests as both culturally neutral and essential to the school's mission, schools chancellor Harvey B Scribner was far less certain of the school's good faith and freedom from bias. To the horror of Bronx Science supporters everywhere, two days after Mathew's demand, Scribner appointed a commission to study the admissions tests at all the selective schools.

  • When admissions notices for that year were delayed, rumors flew that Scribner was manipulating the process in order to produce a more acceptable racial mix of students. Bronx Science's faculty, parents, alumni, and friends formed a council to save the school from destruction. They got the attention of two Bronx state legislators, Senator John Calandra and Assemblyman Burton Hecht. Hecht and Calandra accused the schools chancellor of "the most insidious attack thus far upon the finest educational school in New York City." Scribner's attempt to "destroy these schools must be stopped immediately," they proclaimed. The two legislators introduced a bill to enshrine in law the admissions test. Lining up against the bill were, predictably, the Board Of Education, the StateRegents, Mayor John Lindsay's administration, and, now, the New York Times, which had recently shed its elitist principles... The Times's scorn had little effect on the state legislators, however. After passionate debate in the Assembly, both legislative houses passed the bill, in May 1971.

  • New York fortunately managed to stay out of the clutches of the courts, but in 1986 its Board of Ed turned against a set of eight mildly selective and very popular high schools. These so-called educational-option schools chose 25 percent of their students from eighth-graders reading above grade level, 50 percent from those of average ability, and 25 percent from children reading below grade level-not exactly an exclusive formula. But to the Board of Ed and other loud levellers in the city, 25 percent of above-average students was far too many. The schools' fatal error? They were succeeding. Explained Margaret Nuzum, head of the Educational Priorities Panel, an influential watchdog group, the option schools have "an aura of being selective. . . . There is a sense that this is a better school to be in." Weighing in on the controversy, then-Manhattan borough president David Dinkins succinctly expressed the levellers' philosophy in a letter to the New York Times. Those who say, "Don't change our schools, make the others better," he wrote, "fail to see that the two systems are inextricably linked; each exists, in part, because of the other." This fatal zero-sum logic has been utterly destructive for cities, including New York... Ultimately, the Board of Education purged the educational-option schools of any possible taint of "elitism" by narrowing the top and bottom bands of students and requiring half of all admittees to be selected at random. Thereafter, it would be nearly impossible for a school, other than the exam schools, to select for academic talent. From now on, students who had never bothered to do their HomeWork would have the greatest chance of admission to some of the city's most popular schools, since far fewer low-achieving than high-achieving students apply to them.

  • Since 1986, the Board has stayed its lowest-common-denominator course. When the federal Education Department's Office of Civil Rights announced an investigation of the city's grade-school gifted and talented programs last year, it got no protest from city education bureaucrats, who have been chipping away at the gifted programs for years. The Board of Ed's head of high schools explained the Board's philosophy to New York magazine last year. If schools are to improve, said Margaret Harrington, "you don't talk about your best and brightest, you talk about your bottom. . . . As you raise your bottom, everyone goes up. . . . We believe that all children should have access to every program and that every school should educate all children." Judith Tarlo, director of high-school support services, is more blunt: "We are about access and sharing the wealth"-not primarily academic excellence.

  • The Board's school-funding formulas reflect its determination to treat excellence and failure alike-at best. The state distributes its education money to city school administrations based on attendance rates, but in turn New York City distributes those dollars to individual schools based on their enrollment-and these two numbers can differ dramatically (Truancy). Schools with high attendance figures-all of the selective schools and some others-bring extra money into the system that they don't get back.

  • Many parents don't wait around long enough to see if their children will get a coveted place. According to Manhattan city councilman Gifford Miller, young parents in his district regularly leave the city, fearful of the mediocrity that awaits their children in high school. These striving families take their tax dollars as well as their children with them, shrinking the city's Middle Class.

  • But the Board of Ed is remarkably blase about losing children to the Suburb-s. "It's not that easy to leave the city by the time your kids are high-school age," asserts DorothyKuritzkes, executive assistant to Margaret Harrington. True-but nothing prevents them from leaving earlier. Kuritzkes agrees that high-achieving students can motivate one another but does not see it as the public schools' mission to make that happen: "The Private School-s can do that," she says breezily.

  • But though the science schools have largely withstood the levelling onslaughts against them, they are succumbing to other pathologies in the school system-above all, to crippling Teachers Union rules. The union's powerful grip on secondary education has only strengthened in recent years. "The union protects bad teachers, not good ones," sighs Steven Shapiro. Exam-school parents almost universally complain about poor teacher quality, about which most have grown fatalistic. "Some of the teachers were so bad, we were amazed that they have any job," says Tory Brand, mother of a Stuyvesant junior. "I thought Stuyvesant would have had the power to weed them out. Once I got over that, it helped a lot." The litany of parents' and students' complaints will be familiar to anyone with even the faintest knowledge of the public schools: teachers who fall asleep during class, teachers who don't show or always come late, teachers who spend the period talking about their family, teachers who never cover the material.

  • Frustration with the union straitjacket recently led Stuyvesant's principal Cozzi-Perullo to announce her resignation, just four years after she took over the most coveted principal's job in the city. "To change the schools in New York," she says bluntly, "you need the power of only two things: the ability to hire and fire at will, and the money to reduce Class Size."

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