You are reading

Meng Calls on State Assembly to Protect Specialized High School Exam

Stuyvesant High School, one of the city’s eight specialized high schools. (Wikimedia)

May 10, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan

Congresswoman Grace Meng submitted written testimony earlier today to the the New York State Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education, strongly rebuking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT).

Meng, who represents central Queens, called the exam a “clear, level playing field”—a stark contrast to de Blasio’s claims that the exam is biased against black and latino students who comprise only 10 percent of the SHS population but 70 percent of the public school population citywide.

“The SHSAT was not designed with specific community groups in mind, nor is it biased toward certain students,” Meng said. “Over half the students in these schools are from working families and are eligible for free or reduced lunch on account of their economic background. Ultimately, the SHSAT measures academic readiness without personal opinions, connections, and biases from influencing the admissions process.”

Elimination of the test would require Albany to pass new law.

The SHSAT is currently used to determine admission to the city’s eight specialized high schools. Rather than admitting the top test scorers overall, de Balsio wants the top students from each of the city’s middle schools to be selected. The mayor said it will providing more opportunities to traditionally disadvantaged youth.

Currently, the specialized schools’ population is approximately 29 percent white and 51 percent Asian. Under de Blasio’s new plan 45 percent of SHS offers would go to black and Latino students. Students residing in the Bronx would receive four times more offers than they have in the past.

De Blasio’s plan has spurred outrage in Asian-American communities who feel that the new criteria is discriminatory against Asian students.

Grace Meng (Photo: Meng)

“I was further struck by Chancellor Carranza’s lack of engagement with the Asian American community prior to the proposal’s unveiling and his continuous disparaging statements,” Meng said. “His comments about one ethnic group owning admission to specialized high schools are false and insulting, and the Asian American community should not be treated as if they are gaming the system.”

Rather than eliminate the test, Meng called for more investments to be made in the city’s elementary and middle schools, including strengthening the curriculum, so that students can be better prepared to take the SHSAT.

“The focus should be on how to lift students from all backgrounds to succeed,” Meng said. “Lowering the criteria and broadening the admissions process does not guarantee student success. The goal is not only to diversify admissions into these schools, but to ensure the continued success at all schools in New York City.”

In her testimony, Meng also called for access to free SHSAT tutoring and test prep for all students.

“More resources must be devoted to increasing the number of students from all communities to access the free test-prep programs,” Meng said. “If a greater percentage of SHSAT are currently Asian Americans, we should work collaboratively to increase participation across all demographics and devote money and resources to the communities we want to lift up.”

email the author: [email protected]


Click for Comments 

Curious what Neil deGrasse-Tyson, the famous black astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and Bronx Science alumnus thinks.

But personally, political correctness gone amok is why I no longer identify as a liberal or progressive.


Diversity, is a wonderful thing. But implemented for the sake of diversity against the mission of the schools to educate is not a fair balance. But let’s cut to the chase. There are hardly any blacks in the SHS simply because they never prepared for it in large enough numbers to make an impact like Asians and whites. Asian parents especially tend to think about the SHS exam while their child is in utero. Blacks and Hispanics, perhaps not so early; more like a month before the exam when it’s in the headlines it seems. Asian excellence in that exam is reflective of years of nurture in private tutoring classes, almost always at personal expense. What I think the mayor, if he wants more black representation in NYC’s SHS, needs to provide is the same sort of educational basic training for all races. Here’s an idea that may actually work in the long run. Pay (with tax rebate) the parents of all NYC parents who have their child attending tutoring years before they need to stake a claim in the exam. That is, a tax rebate for ALL students, regardless of race, to attend city certified tutoring programs from K up through junior high schools. In that way, every race would stand an equal footing of being educationally prepared from elementary through JHS and it would be at taxpayer expense. Blacks who claim disadvantage, would be given the same level playing field that Asians had, and any poor parents would be finally relieved of a crushing financial load that they willingly sacrificed towards their children’s future. But if one had to implement diversity in all NYC schools straight away? Ensure that all city high school sports teams have one third Asians roster, regardless if they can play well or not, so that they too, will have a shot at the NBA. That’s ridiculous of course, as much as putting unprepared students in the SHS, regardless of race and color.

Ashy Larry

I find the move to level the proverbial playing field to be condescending and short-sighted. Myself and my brother had to take the test and scored very well to the extent we could pick which high school we wanted to attend–we are black. My family relocated so we did not attend high school in NYC. It does a disservice to the kids–regardless of race–who gained acceptance to those high schools on their own merits. Needless to say, it makes those Black and Latino students who transparently entered those schools conventionally have an asterisk in the eyes of others; ‘they are only here because they are Black (or Latino).’ It’s a well-meaning policy, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Black and Latino students do not need to be patronized by mayor de Blasio and Carranza who assumed and implied Black and Latino cannot excel with SHSAT. What about the SHS alumni coming from the same background? They made it through sheer commitment and hard work. Let’s celebrate hard working students and reward them!


This is an excellent and well-reasoned appproach that will enhance educational quality for all NYC public school students. I’m glad to hear that Rep. Meng, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and other prominent New Yorkers are standing up for educational excellence and fairness. It’s incomprehensible that Carranza hasn’t pulled the plug on his wrongheaded approach when so many convincing and valid arguments have been raised from a broad array of communities.


Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Queens Botanical Garden hosts Lunar New Year celebration with globally beloved Miffy

About 4,200 people joined the world-renowned beloved rabbit Miffy to ring in the Year of the Rabbit at Queens Botanical Garden’s Lunar New Year celebration on Saturday, Jan. 28. 

Queens Botanical Garden’s Lunar New Year celebration included a visit from Councilman Shekar Krishnan, who gave remarks, followed by a program of activities for all ages. Attendees enjoyed a lion dance performance, zodiac crafts, demonstrations, lucky plant sales and more. Miffy was in attendance for photos, story time and to greet children throughout the event.

Mets owner Steve Cohen hosts second community visioning session regarding development of area around Citi Field

Hundreds of community residents and leaders gathered at the Piazza Club inside Citi Field to participate in a visioning session regarding the development of a nearby 50-acre lot. This marked the second visioning session New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has hosted at Citi Field in January as he attempts to collect as much community feedback regarding the development as possible.

Attendees of the visioning session went to a series of interactive stations, sharing what mattered most to them when it came to improving the area around Citi Field, including preferred forms of year-round entertainment, ability to access different forms of transportation and attainable local jobs and training. Information and input was collected from the community in how they would like to see the lot utilized. A common theme among many of those who took part in the visioning session was the desire to see something built there that would bring a lot of economic opportunity to the community and provide year-round entertainment.

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens doctor aims to bring awareness to women’s heart health

With February marking the beginning of American Heart Month, a cardiologist from NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital spoke with QNS about the importance of heart health for women.

According to attending cardiologist Dr. Joanna Troulakis, approximately 400,000 women die as a result of cardiovascular diseases each year in the United States. She noted that women have suffered more cardiovascular disease deaths than men in recent years. When it comes to heart attacks, the mortality rate for women is higher than men.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

‘Where do we go now?’ Michaels set to close its doors in Fresh Meadows next month

The Michaels located at 187-04 Horace Harding Expwy. in Fresh Meadows will be permanently closing its doors on Feb. 23. The announcement that Michaels will be leaving the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center has led to an outpouring of reactions from many community members.

“We know this is disappointing to our customers in Queens, but we hope to continue to serve them at our other locations in New York City or online at,” a spokesperson for Michaels said in a statement to