About 10 percent of offers to New York City’s most elite public high schools went to Black and Latino students this year, education officials announced on Thursday, in a school system where they make up more than two-thirds of the student population overall.
The numbers — which have remained stubbornly low for years — placed a fresh spotlight on racial and ethnic disparities in the nation’s largest school system.
At Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, the most selective of the city’s so-called specialized schools, seven of the 762 offers made went to Black students, down from 11 last year and eight in 2021.
Gaps at many of the other schools were also stark: Out of 287 offers made at Staten Island Technical High School, for example, two Black students were accepted — up from zero last year — along with seven Latino students.
The annual numbers traditionally fan a debate over the admissions process at the eight schools, to which acceptance is determined by a single entrance exam. About 26,000 eighth graders took the test last fall, and just under 4,000 were offered seats.
Stuyvesant High School used to admit more Black and Latino students, but now they make up a tiny share of each freshman class.Credit…Kevin Hagen for The New York Times
Why It Matters: Elite high schools are a symbol, and a springboard.
The city’s specialized high schools are considered crown jewels of the system and attract outsize attention.
Students may receive few measurable benefits from attending them, some studies suggest. But the schools offer access to powerful alumni networks, and hold immense significance for many families, who view them as a ticket into a top college and successful career.
The schools also represent perhaps the highest-profile symbol of segregation across the system, where over the last decade, Black and Latino students have never received more than 12 percent of offers.
This year, 17 percent of eighth-graders who took the exam were white and 26 percent were Latino. But white students received more than four times as many offers.
At the city’s other selective high schools — where factors like grades are weighed and admissions were loosened during the pandemic — tougher criteria were restored this fall, worrying integration advocates.
But the share of Black, Latino and low-income students offered spots remained higher than before 2021, Education Department data showed.
Background: Disparities persist, despite years trying to shrink them.
Decades ago, the specialized schools tended to serve much larger proportions of Black and Latino students. And a handful of elite schools, like the Brooklyn Latin School — where 73 Black and Latino teenagers were accepted in a class of 388 this year — are somewhat more reflective of the city’s demographics.
The current gaps at the city’s flagship schools have fueled political battles over how, and whether, New York City mayors should attempt to broaden access.
Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed replacing the entrance exam with a system that would have raised the share of Black and Latino students accepted to more than 40 percent.
But his 2018 proposal attracted widespread criticism from Asian lawmakers and many parents, who saw the schools as a ladder to the middle class for low-income and immigrant children and felt disregarded by the city’s approach.
Asian students typically receive more than half of all offers — this year they received 53 percent — and those numbers would have plunged after the changes.
The plan to end the tests ultimately died in Albany. Other efforts, like free test prep, have not helped the numbers budge significantly.
What’s next: Years of intense debate have quieted, for now.
The Adams administration has not made school integration a top priority, quieting the public and political attention on the issue after years of intense fights.
The system’s chancellor, David C. Banks, has argued that many Black and Latino families care more about school quality than who their children’s classmates are.
He has aimed to overhaul how students are taught to read, and supported increasing seats in the city’s selective gifted and talented program for elementary students, reversing Mr. de Blasio’s plan to eliminate it.
Still, depending on how those efforts play out, school desegregation — which research shows can lead to school improvement — could resurface as a major citywide debate.