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Nolan, Education Committee Chair, Votes In Favor of de Blasio’s Specialized High Schools Plan

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan

June 7, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial plan to eliminate the admissions test currently required for specialized high schools passed the Assembly Education Committee yesterday, with a vote in the affirmative from its chair, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

The proposal moved out of the education committee yesterday into the rules committee with 16 votes, the majority of which were cast in the affirmative by Democrats. All eight Republicans voted against the mayor’s plan.

Nolan reportedly said she voted in favor of the plan so that further discussion could be produced on the issue, according to the New York Post.

The Assemblywoman’s office did not return a request for further comment on her vote by press time.

While the bill passed the committee only yesterday, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said today that the bill would not be voted on this session, according to NY1 News. The announcement means the bill won’t be deliberated on until next year, as the legislative session ends on June 20.

The mayor’s plan, announced along with new schools chancellor Richard Carranza last week, is meant to improve diversity at the city’s eight specialized high schools by increasing enrollment of black and Latino students and other disadvantaged students.

The proposal would get rid of the 180-minute exam taken by eighth and ninth graders interested in enrolling into a specialized high school, and instead reserve seats for top performers at each middle school. The elimination of the specialized high school test, however, requires state legislation.

The city says its plan would see 45 percent of specialized high school offers going to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently. In addition, 62 percent of offers would go to female students compared to the current trend of 44 percent.

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What’s fascinating is that the SHSAT test which use NYC’s uses to judge entrance to the city is actually flooded with students who score nearly perfect, so school entrance then becomes a lottery anyway. On top of that, the test essentially measures simply whether you have practiced the test material enough. My wife and I run a test-preparation agency in NYC ( and we routinely take kids who are scoring in the 50th percentile and 3 months later have them scoring in the 99 percentile. It’s all just about practice and previous education. The great shame is the lack of good schools in the city that forces this on everyone and how students today have to spend so much of their time in rote memorization instead of growing through their natural and authentic interest in the world!

Meri Hanlon

So, these schools have a long tradition of providing excellent educations to high-performing students. And, now, city government wants to move in and mess things up. Yes, let’s lower the standards and enroll students who are not academically qualified to do well in these high-pressure environments. What are you-all thinking? Who among you are education experts? With whom have you consulted? More faulty thinking on the part of the mayor and his partner–isn’t she involved in the decision-making process in all matters–and the city council + an assemblywoman–no “team of rivals” here, unfortunately. Are you really qualified to make these quick educational decisions that will forever harm these schools that are the pride of our city??


Dumblasio trying to “fix” one of the city’s schools that’s actually producing near 100% graduation rates and sending kids to top colleges, instead of attacking the root of the problem with elementary and middle schools. Epic fail.

Astoria Resident

When I graduated from Queens College, at the Commencement they were passing out ribbons to protest the new standard they were implementing at the senior colleges. The standard? The ability to pass the entrance exam. At the time, you had up until your senior year to pass it. As someone who went to college in her mid thirties, and passed the first time I took it, I applauded the changes (and was just about the only one NOT to wear the ribbon). We have lowered the bar long enough for people who can’t make the grade.

stan chaz

The label “elite” high schools is misleading. These schools are not for the “elite” – they are for everyone who wants be the best, do the best and achieve the best in a public school context. This is not an “us versus them” narrative, or a black versus white issue. Everyone wins, all New Yorkers, when we preserve some of the best and most successful schools in our public educational system – for all to compete, instead of watering down their admission standards.

Some people wrongly think that selection by rigorous testing is somehow equivalent to discrimination, prejudice and exclusion by race. It’s not. In fact it’s the opposite.
 For there is no latter-day Bull Connor or racist civil-rights era Southern Governor standing in the doorway of these schools, barring people from entering. Instead, only the hurdles of mathematics, of vocabulary, of logic, and reading & writing skills are “standing” in the doorways of these specialized schools, saying to ALL: “come, compete and try your best to make the cut.” What’s more American than that?

Should skin color be the determining factor instead? I thought that we were trying to get beyond that in our society. The admission test can be improved and expanded, but the test itself is color-blind, as it should be.
 Should it be a matter of percentages in the population perhaps? Not according to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. To paraphrase Dr. King: we should judge a person by their character, their content, their capabilities –not by the color of their skin, nor by their gender nor by their differences. He wisely understood that to do otherwise would itself be a form of discrimination and prejudice.

Should poverty be the key to admission instead? If we throw away academic achievement standards, and let in students who are unprepared and unable to take advantage of the rigorous environment in these schools then their admission will not do them any good, nor the schools themselves. Much better to prepare them properly and bring out the best in them beforehand, instead of having them suffer the humiliation of defeat and dismay if they are admitted under watered-down standards and can’t make the grade afterwards.

As for diversity, the majority of current students are actually of Asian background, far above their percentage in the City population. Should “whites” therefore be also demanding that the entrance doors be broken down to let them in?
This makes no sense. In fact it is destructive of real opportunity and true equality. Why give medals and awards and scholarships to the best and brightest, why even have an Olympics, if others are thereby left out or can’t make the cut? 
Rather than symbolizing closed doors for some, these unique schools offer doors of opportunity for those who will try the hardest and perform the best, within a free public school context open to all.

Of course every parent wants the best for their child. But they should realize that their children will be subjected to all sorts of legitimate testing and selection throughout their lives, and not just in school. They need to prepare them for the real world if they want them to compete and succeed in life.
 Therefore parents should support such schools, their high standards and their rigorous admissions, instead of watering down some of the best parts of our public high school system in the name of a false, misunderstood, and ultimately destructive “diversity.”


I’m a big supporter of everything mediocre and trophy for everyone. Yes, we should dump down our school system.

Rudy Sanfilippo

too bad people aren’t equally outraged about the dumming down of the Firefighter exam. Then I guess that is only a matter of life and death.

John O’Reilly

Baaa, baa, baaa. That sound you hear is sheep like Cathy Nolan following the orders of others. What study(ies) did Nolan and the Ed Committee consider in rendering this vote? Spoiler alert: None. Nolan lost all respect several years ago when she claimed to have the requisite leadership qualities to be Speaker of the Assembly when Shelly Silver had to resign in disgrace even though Nolan kept her mouth shut about rampant, criminal sexual assaults on females in the Legislature because that’s what Cathy was told to do. Cathy just reclaimed her status as Head Lamb Chop of the New York State Assembly.

Time's Up

“We are ALL financially supporting these schools, and they should serve ALL.”

What a dumb comment. It seems no one in support of Deblasio’s plan can actually provide any good reasons for it.

They do serve all. Every single eight grader in the city is eligible to take the test. There is no bar to entry based on any immutable factor, including race, color, creed, ethnicity, and gender. The ONLY way to get in is to score high enough on the test.

Or should the city strive to ensure that every single public school be 12.6% Asian, 25.5% black, 23.6% Hispanic, etc. etc.???? That’s the logical extension of your ridiculous comment. Otherwise they’d fail to “represent the diversity of our city” right?


Thanks Kathy Nolan! The taxpayer funded specialized schools should represent the diversity of our City. We are ALL financially supporting these schools, and they should serve ALL.


Yes, tax payer fund the schools to achieve quality education, not for social engineering. The diversity should not be achieved at the expense of academic quality. The solution is that we should make sure students of all background better prepared academically, especially in middle schools, instead of destroying the crown jewel of NYC Public School System. Unfortunately, some students work harder than others, and they should not be punished. We should strive for equal opportunity, not equal outcome!


The greediness is appalling! Can you just imagine if these schools were 80% caucasian? You and I know ALL HELL WOULD BREAK LOOSE! Every New York City child should be equitably represented in these schools.


Dumbing down the specialized high schools is not the answer.
The politicians should focus on the elementary schools and make sure everybody has an even footing there, but that is probably too hard and won’t make headlines.
Vote her out.

LIC Neighbor

She’s in favor of the dumb down of our specialized high schools. Catherine Nolan also against the Charter Schools. She’s in the pocket of the teacher’s union. Remember NOT TO VOTE FOR HER. Same with JIMMY VAN BRAMER – vote them out office. Improve the educational standards for grades K- through 8th grades. The best and the brightest in our public school system need a space where they can thrive and expand their minds and feed off of other bright and intelligent kids who excel in the sciences, math, arts, humanities. No better place than the specialized high schools. Chancellor Carranza is a stooge of the Mayor. No wonder Miami Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho backed out of working for this Mayor. Mayor is creating quotas. None of this would be necessary if Public School parents were more involved in the education of their kids and not just rely on teachers to educate their children. Success Academy Charter School in Harlem and a host of others Charter Schools have 100% graduation rates many of it’s top students end up in the Ivy league universities, the vast majority minority Black and Hispanic – they are the best and the brightest and their parents chose an alternative than their local public K-8th grade schools. The Mayor has a regressive agenda of destroying this city. You will see a flight out of the city or an uptick in private school admissions applications or a call for more charter schools because of this.

Tommy O

Charter Schools are a proven scam. Just a method to break teachers union and turn America into a low wage society destroying our middle class. Fact!!! Ms.nolan is right on this position. Ms. Nolan is wrong on the specialized school issue. Please let Ms. Nolan know how you feel.

LIC Neighbor

Show us the facts Tommy O that charter’s don’t work. You say scam – prove it! Go to Our World Neighborhood Charter School in LIC – see children reading excelling above and beyond kids attending the public schools in this district – with huge parent involvement. When a teacher stinks they are removed in the charter school system, NYC DOE keeps them in rubber rooms, paying them a salary even when they are predators,


Speaking as a NYC Educator of 45 years, THIS IS THE DUMBEST, STUPIDEST, MOST DISGUSTING IDEA!! THESE ARE SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS! WHAT IS NOLAN, DE BLAZIO, CARANZA, AND THESE OTHER POLITICIANS THINKING? ARE THEY OUT OF THEIR MINDS????? If one cannot pass these tests one does not belong in these SPECIALIZED SCHOOLS! Let just anyone in for “diversity” is discrimination against those who work hard and pass the tests! Let everyone who wants to take the test, take the test. If they pass, let them attend! When I wanted to become a NYC teacher, I had to take and PASS the test for each license, for each area I wanted to teach. I had to PASS tests to become an administrator. I had to take classes and pass TESTS and have to attend professional development to keep my credentials current. I worked jobs throughout high school and college to pay my way. Why don’t these politicians allow anyone who want their summers off become a teacher or principal , etc.? They will get “diversity”. Why did I have to take and pass TESTS? WHY DID I PAY ALL THE MONEY for college, and TESTS, etc.? Gee! I just realized…. I really didn’t want to be a NYC public school teacher, nor an administrator! I really wanted to be a BRAIN SURGEON! I should have blamed my teachers for my goofing off in school and inability to become a brain surgeon! Why should I have to take TESTS to be a brain surgeon?? Boy, was I DUMB I should have screamed discrimination! Does ANYONE think these excuses would have “flown” with my parents, teachers and the politicians of the time?? I THINK NOT!! One must put effort, time and money into their futures. Gee, I now want to be a fire fighter! Pass a test no way! The fire department should allow fat old ladies become firefighters because of diversity! I am going to scream “Discrimination”! We are allowing the future of our city, country and society to be destroyed! I have had the pleasure of seeing homeless children, who moved from shelter to shelter, all odds against them, pass these tests go into these specialized schools and go on to college. Some were written up in major newspapers. I and my fellow teachers have followed and helped them over the years. Many were English as a second language students. What one gets for free is rarely appreciated! I am going to remember this and other issues when I vote! NOW I FEEL BETTER!!! I VENTED!


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