The chancellor of New York City schools testified for more than two hours at a City Council hearing Wednesday, staunchly defending the view that the admissions test for eight elite high schools must be abolished.
Chancellor Richard Carranza said the 1971 state law that governs admissions was designed to block integration. Now, about 10% of students at the sought after schools are black or Hispanic, despite making up nearly 67% of the city's enrollment.
“Either we believe that black and Latino students are biologically, physiologically, genealogically incapable of being admitted to a specialized school or it is the method and methodology that is shutting out a vast majority of our students,” Mr. Carranza said. “I know it's the methodology.”
Supporters of the specialized-school exam rallied on City Hall steps to argue it is the most objective, fair way to gauge academic skills. The hearing's agenda included debating a bill to start a task force that would issue recommendations on new admissions criteria.
Councilman Peter Koo, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens, backed the test as a way to identify who can achieve academically. “Either we are all born equal, or we are all born with different talents,” he said to Mr. Carranza at the hearing. “Me and you are short. We don't play basketball.”
Mr. Carranza told reporters later during a break: “I'm not the best basketball player, but I can shoot the 3-pointer.” Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked for his overarching plan to address segregation in a meaningful and systematic way.
The chancellor said he is waiting for the second batch of recommendations this summer from the School Diversity Advisory Group, a roughly 40- member panel appointed by the mayor that has spent almost two years coming up with policy advice. Mr. Carranza said he expects to take steps after hearing their views.
Some students told the council they are impatient for change. Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye, a 17-year-old junior at Brooklyn College Academy, questioned the need for more reports and forums. “Student voice is great,” she said. “But you know what I prefer? Adult action.” Several council members argued for more gifted programs, especially in underserved areas, to diversify a pipeline to specialized high schools.
Robert Cornegy Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat, said that in the 1980s, when many city schools had gifted classes in early grades with local admissions criteria, more than half of the students at Brooklyn Technical High School were black or Hispanic.
But when the city centralized the admissions system and used a gifted test for kindergarten, it also shut many gifted programs, hitting black and brown communities particularly hard, he said.
BY LESLIE BRODY