Asians in New York protest proposed changes to school admissions to increase diversity

Global Business

New York’s mayor wants to make changes to a controversial admissions process for the city’s elite public high schools where a disproportionate number of Asian-Americans are getting placed and very few African-Americans and Hispanics get offered spots. The Asian-American community is pushing back.

CGTN’s Karina Huber reports.

A group of protesters gather in front of New York’s City Hall. They are there to voice opposition to the mayor’s plan to get rid of the controversial entrance exam at the city’s elite public high schools.

“We think it’s a superficial fix to a deep problem. It’s sort of like putting a ‘Band-Aid,’ because you’ve got cancer. It doesn’t fix anything,” said Chris Kwok, National Representative of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York

In New York, there are nine highly coveted public high schools. Entrance to eight of them relies entirely on results from the Specialized High School Admissions Test—a test the mayor thinks leads to inequality.

African-Americans and Hispanics represent two-thirds of the city’s student body yet get only roughly ten percent of the spots. Asian-Americans, who represent 16 percent of New York’s students hold more than 60 percent of the places.

The mayor said under-represented communities are losing out, because they have less money to pay for tutoring and test prep.

Supporters of the test disagree.

“Their parents decided to put their money towards that test. It’s not rich people that are taking these courses. These are poor, working class immigrants that are directing their resources towards enrichment,” said Kwok.

The mayor thinks there’s a more equitable approach.

He would like admissions to be based on school performance and state-wide exam scores as well as allocating a percentage of seats to the top performing students at all of the city’s middle schools.

The Department of Education said getting rid of the tests is expected to make 44 percent of the offers go to blacks and Latinos.

Critics of the plan worry it will lower standards as many of New York’s middle schools have students lacking fundamental math and reading skills.

“Dumbing down the standards is not going to help our kids. We need to reward our kids that work hard and help more kids have access to the test and we’re just not doing that,” said Julie Killian, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of NY state.

“When you have students with high enough grades to pass the state test, only then will the students be able to do well in these specialized high schools,” said Phil Wong, Supporter of SHSAT.

“When we say keep the test, we’re not saying we don’t care about black and Latino kids. We do. That’s a real issue. The racial inequality that’s there in the school is there. You cannot deny that. That’s a fact,” said Kwok.

Many studies indicate that students benefit from having a racially diverse student body. There is just lots of disagreement on how to best get there.

Yukong Zhao talks about discrimination against Asian-American students in applying to top American universities

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to Yukong Zhao, president of Asian-American Coalition for Eduction which has backed a federal lawsuit against Harvard University, claiming unfair admissions practices towards Asian American students.