Report | Oct. 2013

The Meaning of Merit: Alternatives to Determining Admission to NYC’s Specialized High Schools

Lazar Treschan, Apurva Mehrotra, Damon Hewitt, Rachel Kleinman, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Summary: This joint report between the Community Service Society and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. examines current enrollment practices at New York City's eight elite Specialized High Schools, which rely on a single, unvalidated exam to determine offers of admission. We find that this practice locks out qualified black and Latino students, and propose alternative measures of admissions that account for other factors such as grades, class rank, and performance on state standardized tests. We also examine the policies of comparable top-performing high schools around the nation and find that New York City's Specialized High Schools stand virtually alone in using a single, multiple-choice exam to determine admission.

Issues: Disconnected Youth

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