Promising Results for Specialized High School Tutoring Group

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Every Saturday morning for the last year, a team of graduates from some of the city's elite public high schools has spent hours readying teenagers for the specialized high school entrance exam. Now, the results of their labor are in.

Of the 64 students who stuck with the free tutoring program, 28 were offered seats at one of the city's eight selective high schools. All came from households that met the city's poverty definition, and most of them hailed from Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx -- neighborhoods that are underrepresented among the specialized high school student body.

The goal of the program, the Science Schools Initiative, is to help more of the city's black, Latino and poor students qualify for the specialized schools. The program selects some of the city's most promising seventh graders who would not be able to afford tutoring on their own, and works with them to get ready for the notoriously difficult entrance exam.

Of the 28 eighth graders with acceptance letters, six received offers from Stuyvesant High School; seven from the Bronx High School of Science; nine from Brooklyn Technical High School; five from the High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College; and one from the Brooklyn Latin School.

Though the program targets a small number of students, it contributed to an increase this year in the number of black and Hispanic students admitted to Stuyvesant High School. This spring, 51 black and Hispanic students received offers to the school, which is the least diverse of the three large specialized high schools, an increase from 36 in 2009. Four of those students came out of the Science Schools Initiative.

Of the 28 students who received offers from the specialized schools, 15 were black or Hispanic, 10 were Asian and 3 were white.

Another specialized high school boot camp was started this year by the Stuyvesant High School Black Alumni Diversity Initiative, a group of Stuyvesant graduates who wanted to change the schools' diminishing black and Latino acceptance numbers.

Unlike the Science Schools Initiative, it does not screen out students who are unlikely to pass the exam, even with the extra tutoring. Pamela Davis-Clarke, a founding member, said the group would know the results of its efforts within the next several weeks.