A group backed by business titan Ronald Lauder is ramping up its fight to preserve the controversial specialized high school admissions exam.
Along with former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, the Bronx Science graduate is putting up an additional $500,000 to renew and expand a test prep tutoring program for African-American and Hispanic city kids.
The two men launched Education Equity last year to counter calls to scrap the single test admissions structure at the eight schools in favor of multiple metrics.
Education Equity, which also counts civil rights activist Kirsten John Foy as a backer, has asserted that black and Hispanic kids are capable of conquering the exam if given the resources to do so.
The group said that 31 of the 197 kids enrolled in their first tutoring program scored high enough on the test to land specialized high school spots for the upcoming school year.
That 15-percent admissions rate was four times higher than the overall admissions rate for black and Hispanic test takers, according to the group.
With the new donation, the program will now serve roughly 400 kids next year, the group said.
Education Equity is also promoting legislation that would provide free citywide tutoring for the exam.
“While we continue to work with the City Council on passing universal test prep, we’re building on last year’s success by enrolling twice as many Black and Latino students in proven test prep courses this summer,” Lauder said. “Graduating from the Bronx High School of Science was one of the greatest days of my life, and I want to give every student in our city the chance to experience the power of a world-class education.”
Last year, the specialized campuses were 62 percent Asian, 24 percent white, and 9 percent black and Hispanic.
This year, Asian kids were admitted at a rate of 54 percent, followed by whites at 25.1 percent, Hispanics at 6.6 percent and African-Americans at 4.5 percent.
At the system’s crown jewel, Stuyvesant HS in Manhattan, Asians filled 524 of 766 slots — or 68 percent.
A total of 20 Hispanics and 10 African-Americans won spots at Stuyvesant, according to the DOE.
Critics assert that hinging admissions on a single exam is a narrow measure of ability that elbows out black and Latino students.
They stress that the system benefits families with the time and resources to properly prepare their kids for the test.
Rather than scrap the single-test system, Education Equity has pushed for universal tutoring, an expansion of specialized high school seats, more Gifted and Talented programs in low-income areas, letting kids take the test during school, and the creation of a task force to probe the state of city middle schools where more than half of students fail basic English and math.
“This year’s test prep funding will be a lifeline to hundreds of capable students from our community who feared that the pandemic was going to stand in the way of their dreams,” said Foy, a graduate of Brooklyn Tech. “Well, I’ve got news for you: it won’t.”
John Chandler, of Harlem, enrolled in last year’s Education Equity tutoring program and will enter Stuyvesant next year as one of its few black entrants.
“After months of hard work, I completed 31 practice tests and countless hours of studying to make my dreams a reality and I am so happy more students will have the opportunity I had thanks to this great program,” he said.
The DOE has called the single test system “inherently flawed” and argued that its own expansion of exam prep opportunities has not adequately boosted diversity.
“The inequities we see as a result of using a single test as an admissions measure will not be solved by outside groups spending more money on test prep,” said DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon. “We continue to push for a multiple measures approach that will more accurately capture the diverse talents of every student.”