The current admissions approach almost certainly shuts out many gifted, disadvantaged students. When we rely on parents, teachers, or students to make the decision to apply to a program for gifted students (by, for example, voluntarily signing up for a test), evidence indicates it is disadvantaged students who disproportionately get shut out.
But getting rid of the test is not the answer. Well-educated, high-income parents work the system to get their kids into these programs. The less transparent the approach (e.g.,
Many parents and teachers have long contended that the SHSAT is an assessment of students’ test-taking skills, honed by extensive test preparation, more than their potential to succeed at the specialized schools.
Pian Rockfeld, an English teacher at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in the Bronx, one of the smaller specialized schools, has proctored the SHSAT. She said she could always tell who had taken prep courses. The students would draw diagrams to decipher confusing questions that left others stumped, or if they were good in math, they would start midway through the test on the math section to take advantage of a quirk in the scoring process that rewards students who score extremely high on one part of the exam rather than those with high but more balanced scores across subjects.
“We’re working to raise the bar for all kids,” Carranza said in a statement to Chalkbeat. “We also have to think about access and barriers to entry, and that includes whether we’re creating unnecessary barriers by tracking students at the age of 4 or 5 years old based on a single test.”
Dr. Caceres, the Bronx principal, said that half of his eighth-grade students already take advanced math and science classes, and have the ability and work ethic to thrive in a challenging school like Bronx Science. His students do not do well on the SHSAT, he said, in part because most of their families cannot afford tutoring. When the results came back this spring, some of the students were so disappointed they cried.
“Don’t you think it’s embarrassing that Bronx Science is in the Bronx and only a handful of students are from the Bronx?”
First, that requires defining merit. Only New York City defines it as the score on a single test — other cities’ selective high schools use multiple measures, as do top colleges. There are certainly other potential criteria, such as artistic achievement or citizenship.
However, when merit is defined as achievement in school, the question of whether the test is meritocratic is an empirical question that can be answered with data.
By 2020, 20 percent of the ninth-grade seats in every specialized high school will be set aside for Discovery students, according to city education officials. Currently, only 5 percent of the 4,000 ninth-grade seats are filled through Discovery.
SHSAT 1, NYTimes reporters and editors 0
But the problems I encountered when taking the SHSAT online demonstrate how even one standardized test question might derail a promising student’s future.
In fact, I was thrown off by the very first question on the test
Daniel Koretz, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the author of “Measuring Up” and “The Testing Charade,” and one of the country’s foremost experts on standardized tests, agreed that the question is, at best, ambiguous.
With the city’s focus on improving STEM options for girls, the use of the SHSAT seems a bit hypocritical
Perhaps, but the mayor’s initiative would also give more offers to a particular kind of student — one more likely to earn high GPAs, achieve college readiness on Regents exams, and graduate with top honors.
That type of student is girls.
According to the city’s calculation, girls would receive 62 percent of offers under the new policy — a big leap. Over the past three years, girls received 45 percent of offers; they constitute just 42 percent of the more than 15,000 students enrolled in the eight elite schools, a proportion that has remained essentially unchanged for years.
Many teachers and principals are convinced that there should be ability grouping for the good of the most able and the least able students. But often these same educators are uneasy over the racial isolation that often results. This has put some programs for bright students on shaky ground.
Classes for gifted children are being abolished, for example, at P.S. 152, down the block from Brooklyn College, because even though the school’s enrollment is becoming increasingly black and Puerto Rican, the gifted classes are disproportionately white.