Black and Hispanic Families Voice Concerns Over Canceled SHSAT

La Guardia High School Student Voices Concern Over Cancelled SHSAT

Nearly 300 families from diverse backgrounds attended a Town Hall moderated by longtime Queens resident and advocate Frances Kweller. The meeting, held via zoom, lasted for 90 minutes and included guest speakers such as New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, District 29 New York City Council Candidate David Aronov, and District 19 New York City Council Candidate Adriana Aviles.

African American and Hispanic families spoke in mass about their concerns over the canceled SHSAT exam, which was scheduled for November 7 and 8, 2020. There has been no future date set or considered by the New York City Department of Education. Under the Hecht-Callandra Act, a New York State law, a student’s SHSAT score is the sole admission criteria for specialized schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio has tried to repeal the state law for years. Parents at the Town Hall voiced frustration over this past week’s exam cancellation and contested de Blasio and NYC School’s Chancellor Richard Carranza’s plans to eliminate screened and specialized high schools.

“This is a crime against our children,” voiced Tai Abrams, Founder of the Admissions Squad. Her nonprofit sponsored 500 students of color to attend her rigorous SHSAT program for free. “They studied 4-5 hours each day, all summer, and all weekend this fall. No one got to test… I don’t know what to tell the kids or their parents.”

“[Unscreening schools] doesn’t even make any sense,” said the stunned father of two and Brooklyn Tech alumni Cortnie Walker. His son, Malik, is a graduate of Bronx High School of Science and Princeton University. Malik, now a Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University studying astrophysics, also spoke in support of the SHSAT at the Town Hall. Cortnie Walker’s 9-year-old daughter has already started tutoring lessons in preparation for the SHSAT.

LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts student Leonard Glasgow exclaimed, “The issue is not the test. We cannot disband screened schools. If the de Blasio administration really wanted to do something, then they should go to underprivileged communities and put money into programs and educate kids.”

“I want a chance at taking the SHSAT to show how minorities such as mine, Hispanics, can achieve higher education,” voiced Robert F. Kennedy Community Middle Schooler Jonathan Alvarenga. “I want to go to Stuyvesant in Manhattan and then to Princeton University. I have been preparing [for the SHSAT] since the fifth grade.”

“We are not professional politicians, and this isn’t what we typically do, but this meeting shows the power of what we can do for our children,” said the parent of 6th and 8th grader Sean Meullers. ” Our daughter comes from a Puerto Rican American background and has been studying for 11 months…. having local politicians get in the way of an existing state law is criminal… we are trying to give our kids the best chance we can through education.”

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said it’s in the “community’s interest” to unscreen city schools in a press conference earlier in the week. He delayed all middle and high school admissions announcements until “at least” October and canceled the scheduled SHSAT exam date in November, affecting 30,000 8th and 9th-grade students, tens of thousands who prepared. Most recently, a series of high school information sessions, organized by the Department of Education, were scheduled then cancelled the next day. On November 11, The department said they cancelled all virtual sessions because they’ve yet to settle on high school admissions policies. “This is sadistic,” said Deborah Alexander, president of Community Education Council 30 in Queens. “We have been waiting for eight months at this point.”

Immigrant parent of two public school students in the 5th and 8th grade, Haim Cohen, launched a Go Fund Me, called “All The Things They Can Be” to raise money in anticipation of litigation to compel the mayor to follow state law and administer the test. The grassroots fundraiser has exceeded $5,000 in donations during its first week. A petition to keep the SHSAT as the sole specialized high school admissions criteria has exceeded 32,000 signatures. A local petition has also reached over 8,000 signatures.

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