Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that the city is planning to overhaul admissions at selective schools — not just the eight elite specialized high schools that offer admission based on a single test.
“We have a tangible specialized schools proposal,” de Blasio said during his weekly appearance on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “We’re also in the process of coming up with a series of changes around the screened schools to make sure that they continue to be great schools with a more diverse student body.”
This isn’t the first time top officials have signaled wider admissions changes could be coming. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has said selecting students based on ability — something 28 percent of the city’s schools currently do — is “antithetical” to public education.
But de Blasio’s comments represent a shift from his earlier stance on integrating schools, when he insisted that housing patterns and “400 years of American history” would keep him from putting forward aggressive integration proposals. His statements Friday suggest that Carranza has the mayor’s backing to make changes.
Using test scores, grades, and other factors to admit students to public schools has contributed to extreme academic and racial segregation. And while the de Blasio administration has said it isn’t interested in expanding screened schools, they also have not significantly overhauled selective admissions methods, which proliferated under the Bloomberg administration as a way of keeping middle class (and often white) families in the system.
De Blasio’s suggestion that more changes are coming could relieve some of criticism from advocates and local officials who have argued that the city’s plan to integrate specialized high schools doesn’t address more systemic problems. Last month, for instance, city council education committee chairman Mark Treyger said he doesn’t support the specialized high school diversity plan partly because “I’m still waiting for the bigger vision and the bigger plan.”
The mayor did not offer any details about what specific changes are under consideration and when they could be made. And it’s unclear whether there is political will for more dramatic changes (the city’s current diversity plan set goals that are expected to be met through demographic changes alone).
But de Blasio did suggest that the city will get behind more local integration efforts, including one in Brooklyn’s District 15 that would eliminate selective admissions at all of that district’s middle schools.
“We’re going to build on those rapidly,” he said.
Asked why the city has not yet approved the District 15 plan, despite Carranza saying on Tuesday that it would be approved this week, de Blasio chalked it up to the chancellor’s desire to move more quickly than city government allows. De Blasio said the plan would move forward this month.
“I think in his eagerness for change,” de Blasio noted, “he said a timeline that is a little quicker than what could actually be achieved.”