Two key questions about how New York City admits students into its elite public schools

Two key questions about the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) have not received enough attention in the current debate.

First, is the SHSAT a good test?

Second, is using a test, even if it’s good, as the sole basis for admission a good idea?


The answer to the second question is easy. No.


No one should use a test score in isolation to determine who should be admitted to a school, which is likely why no one but New York’s specialized schools does it.

NYC Bar: Eliminate Competitive Admissions to NYC Public Elementary & Middle Schools

Equal access to educational opportunity and racially and economically integrated public schools are central goals of the SDAG and the larger civil-rights community. These goals cannot be achieved unless the New York City Department of Education eliminates competitive admissions to its elementary- and middle-school programs and schools.


In the elementary-school context, New York City provides separate Gifted & Talented (“G&T”) schools and in-school programs for young children who score above a certain level on what is known as the “G&T test.”[3] The decision to have a child take the G&T test is made by the parents – rather than by educators – often before a child has entered the public school system.

Important Technical Features of the SHSAT Exam

Recently @akilbello went over some very important open questions regarding the SHSAT. These remind us of how important it is for the NYC Department of Education to immediately release the SHSAT manual.

Read the lengthy twitter thread here.

NYC selective high school admissions uproar a symptom of a much bigger problem

Multiple studies have found no difference in college enrollment, college quality or graduation rates of kids who just barely met the test score cutoff for selective public schools like Stuyvesant and those who just barely missed the mark and then attended more ordinary public high schools, Valant said.


Valant would like to see selective schools drop their test-in requirements and instead award admission to a set number of top-performing students from every district or system middle school. The resulting classes would be more diverse and formed with anobjective, open access measure of long-term performance.

New York City High Schools’ Endless Segregation Problem

The public schools in New York State are the most segregated in the country, according to a 2014 study from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. That’s largely driven by New York City.

The selective high schools are by no means the only places where inequality exists in the system, but they are the most visible, the easiest apple to pick. The black enrollment at Stuyvesant peaked in 1975, according to state records highlighted in a 2012 profile in the Times, when there were 303 black students out of 2,536 total.

Stuyvesant Alumni President: Calling NYC Schools ‘Segregated’ Makes Me ‘Feel Like I’m a Bad Person’

“How is this possible, that people are saying we’re segregated, we’re Jim Crow,” Kim told the Times. “These words are too harsh. It makes me feel like I’m a bad person.”

This is a striking and revelatory assessment of what’s happening. New York City officials admitted long ago to having a segregated public school system, and committed to integration. A 1955 study — conducted the year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education — found that 42 city elementary schools were more than 90 percent black and Puerto Rican, and nine middle schools were more than 85 percent.

Asian Test-Prep Centers Offer Parents Exactly What They Want: ‘Results’

At GPS, as with its competitors, one of the most popular courses focuses on New York City’s Specialized High School Admissions Test, an entrance requirement for eight of the city’s nine specialized high schools. (LaGuardia High, a performing-arts school, has an audition system.) Less than 20 percent of eighth graders who take the exam clear the minimum score needed to get into a specialized school, including — at the most competitive end — Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School.

Pro-SHSAT Activists have Spent over Quarter Million Dollars Lobbying NY Democrats

Some advocates for keeping the test have decided to invest in lobbyists. The alumni foundation for Bronx High School of Science, one of the elite high schools, signed a $96,000 contract with lobbying firm Bolton-St. John, according to public filings. Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, which renewed a $120,000 contract with firm Yoswein, has lobbied for the test since at least September 2017, filings show.


Another group called the Scholastic Merit Fund, comprised of more advocates who want to preserve the test, hired Parkside Group LLC for $60,000 to lobby in support of the test.