Asian Americans should embrace reform of specialized high school admissions

Not all communities view testing in the same light, and aversion to change is natural. Still, SHSAT supporters have yet to persuasively explain away decades of social-science research. Contrary to the belief that scrapping the SHSAT would lower the quality of students, education experts such as Amy Hsin, associate professor of sociology at CUNY, have argued that grades are considered the best predictor of academic performance. “At best, the SHSAT [results] are unproven assessmentsof skills,” she says.

Moreover, unlike the SHSAT, annual statewide exams probe mastery of material actually taught in schools. Using Hsin’s measures of academic potential, modeling by the city’s Department of Education indicates that the new student body would continue to be comprised of high-performing students. Grades would average 94%, while state test scores would average 3.9 on a 4.5 scaleFourteen percent of black and Latinx students with 4’s on state math exams get offers now. According to the Department of Education, this could rise to 32%.

Sean P. Corcoran, an associate professor of economics and education policy at New York University, and NYU research fellow E. Christine Baker-Smith ran simulations of a plan similar to de Blasio’s proposal. While critics have claimed that eliminating the SHSAT is anti-Asian, the study suggests that white and Asian American students would be affected proportionately. With only trivial changes in state exam scores, offers would increase to free-lunch-eligible students, girls, and black and Latinx students, all of whom are currently underrepresented in the specialized high schools.