Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Bronx Science Alum, Testifies in Support of SHSAT at NYC Council Hearing

Dinowitz defends fair, objective admissions process for Specialized High Schools, calls for expanded tutoring, test-taking opportunities for all NYC students

New York, NY – Yesterday, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) testified at a New York City Council hearing on diversity in New York City schools. In his remarks, Assemblyman Dinowitz expressed his strong support for the current admissions processes of New York City’s Specialized High Schools but called for expanded tutoring and test-taking opportunities. Currently, the city’s eight Specialized High Schools base their admissions decisions solely on students’ scores on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).

Assemblyman Dinowitz began, “I am a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science. Both of my children were accepted to the Specialized High Schools, and like everyone else who was accepted, they had the opportunity to attend not because their father is an elected official, and not because he is an alumnus or was able to donate money to the school, but because they passed this objective test on their merits alone ... What makes the Specialized High Schools special is the fact that political influence, athletic prowess, and family legacies play no role in their decision-making process."

Assemblyman Dinowitz continued, “Those advocating for additional criteria to determine admission to these specialized high schools want to use standards that are prone to manipulation and subjectivity such as grades or attendance … A more complex admissions process would do a disservice to the students it is meant to help, and would undermine the premise of objectivity upon which these specialized schools were founded.”

Stating that the non-representative demographics of these Specialized High Schools are “beyond troubling,” Assemblyman Dinowitz proposed several improvements to the application process that he believes would be steps in the right direction. First, he expressed his belief that every student should have access to free tutoring and preparatory classes prior to taking the SHSAT. And second, he advocated that the SHSAT be given to all eligible students, unless the student’s family chooses to opt out, a change that would greatly increase the number of students taking the test, particularly in Latino and African-American communities. Above all, Assemblyman Dinowitz affirmed that we must work hard to improve public schools at every stage in a student’s education, from Pre-K onward.

Assemblyman Dinowitz concluded, “Adjusting the application process to include factors beyond the SHSAT would simply introduce bias and subjectivity to an objective, and fair, process. Free preparatory classes and an opt-out, rather than opt-in, test format would be big steps forward. Yet these measures are only part of the solution: together, we must continue to work on fixing our educational system so that every child from day one has an equal opportunity for a top-notch education.”

A video of the full hearing can be seen on the New York City Council website. Assemblyman Dinowitz begins his remarks around the 2:21:20 mark.