This year, Asian freshmen displaced the black students in a strength-in-numbers coup in which whispers of indignation were the sole expression of resistance. There was no point arguing, said Rudi-Ann Miller, a 17-year-old senior who came to New York from Jamaica and likes to style her hair in a bun, slick and straight, like the ballerina she once dreamed of becoming.
“The Asian kids, they’re just everywhere,” she said.
When the bell rings and the school’s 3,295 students spill out of classrooms into the maze of hallways, escalators and stairs like ants in a farm, blacks stand out because they are so rare. Rudi was one of 64 black students four years ago when she entered Stuyvesant, long considered New York City’s flagship public school. She is now one of 40.
Asians, on the other hand, make up 72.5 percent of Stuyvesant’s student body (they are 13.7 percent of the city’s overall public school population), a staggering increase from 1970, when they were 6 percent of Stuyvesant students, according to state enrollment statistics. Back then, white students made up 79 percent of Stuyvesant’s enrollment; this year, they are 24 percent, and 14.9 percent systemwide.
Hispanic students are 40.3 percent of the system. Currently, they make up 2.4 percent of Stuyvesant’s enrollment, while blacks, who make up 32 percent of the city’s public school students, are 1.2 percent.
New York City has eight specialized high schools whose admission is based entirely on the results of an entrance exam, a meritocratic system that does not consider race or ethnicity. The top score on the exam is 800. In recent years, the cutoff for Stuyvesant has been around 560; Rudi scored 594.
Many Stuyvesant students start preparing for the exam months, even years, in advance. There are after-school, weekend and summer classes run by large companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review, as well as by neighborhood outfits like Aim Academy, in the predominantly Chinese enclave of Flushing, Queens, and the Khan’s Tutorial branch in nearby Jackson Heights, home to thousands of families from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.