On occasion, CTEq welcomes guest blogs about key issues or engaging ideas that may be of interest to our audience. Lorita D. Watson, a Brooklyn Technical alumnae, is the founder of Empowerment via Education and Technology.
The New York City public high school system is 70% African- Americans and Latinos, yet they represent less than 15% of the population in the city’s competitive specialized high schools. And many students are not immediately ready for the challenge of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), which has been in existence by law since 1972 and is the only objective means of entering these prestigious schools. Each year, more than 25,000 students take the test in hopes of gaining one of the 5,000 open seats.
Yet the tide may be turning, thanks in large part to concerned alumni. After decades of continuous decline, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Technical—known as the Big 3—as well as the five newer schools, noted a 14% rise in 2012 of African-American and Latino students.
As graduates of Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Technical high schools, the Black Brown Big 3 alumni know what is required to succeed in a rigorous program. Most of us came from neighborhood schools around the city that once created a pipeline for the specialized schools by offering Special Programs (SP) for talented and gifted students. In contrast, today only a handful of neighborhood schools are deemed Gifted and Talented, such as Mark Twain Middle School, which continues to be a pipeline for specialized high schools.
Alumni stepped up to the plate in several ways:
In addition to academic support, alumni offer mentoring, as many African American and Latino students don’t feel as though they fit in. Realizing part of the challenge was having qualified students take the test, local alumni did outreach at each NY DOE high school information sessions in all boroughs, speaking to parents and students about the benefits of attending these schools.
Those benefits are enormous. For example, many graduates of Brooklyn Technical, the largest STEM high school in country, go on to prestigious colleges and universities and pursue noteworthy and lucrative STEM careers. These specialized high schools are the gateway to the world.
For more insight on NYC’s specialized high schools, watch the Inside Schools segment.