Nix this admissions test: A recent Stuyvesant grad makes the case against the SHSAT

Student argument against the SHSAT

Defenders of the current system, hailing the test as establishing a level playing field, argue that if more black and Latino students truly wanted to attend specialized high schools, they could just study harder. I have repeatedly heard my classmates champion this mindset, implying that black and Latino students are not as hardworking, and, even more disturbingly, not as smart as their Asian counterparts.

The SHSAT, however, does not measure work ethic or intelligence, but a student’s ability to answer over 100 tedious multiple choice questions in under three hours.

UFT: The Specialized High School Controversy is a Political Sideshow

UFT Michael Mulgrew’s opinion

The United Federation of Teachers has made repeated suggestions for improving the admission process in the “exam” schools, including using multiple measures and prioritizing the highest-level performers from every middle school.

But however that debate turns out, the real focus of the DOE and our local political leaders should be on the academic segregation described in the Parthenon Report, a problem that the education bureaucracy and political leaders have largely ignored.

Specialized High Schools – some comments should not matter

Educator blog post:

The current admissions system is based on a single test, on one day. That’s the way it’s been, for a long, long time. But in 1970 or 1971, someone decided to study the admissions policy for the schools (at that time the Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School, and Stuyvesant High School). The New York State legislature responded by passing the Hecht-Calandra Act, enshrining the existing test in law, and limiting an already limited alternate route (Discovery).

NYT Editorial Board: It’s Time to Integrate New York’s Best Schools

New York’s elementary and middle schools do not prepare children for the test, all but ensuring that students seek out extensive test preparation. Many Asian and white students have done so for thousands of dollars apiece. Black and Latino students are likely to walk in with little or no test preparation.

Of all elite public high schools in the country, only New York’s use a single exam for admission. Researchers and others have said this approach is less predictive of success than grades, particularly for black and Latino students.

‘So there I was, figuring it out myself’: A Brooklyn teen on why the city’s specialized high school prep wasn’t enough

My family wasn’t well off financially. Often times, we struggled and there was constant worry over whether we had food in the fridge or we had school supplies. I wasn’t expecting to enroll in a Kaplan or a Princeton Review course like my fellow affluent classmates. Nevertheless, I persisted. I sought out a free program that’s funded by the Department of Education called DREAM. Upon hearing the name of the program, I knew this was my chance to really meet my goal.

The Big Problem With the New SAT

The SAT will remain a “norm-referenced” exam, designed primarily to rank students rather than measure what they actually know. Such exams compare students to other test takers, rather than measure their performance against a fixed standard. They are designed to produce a “bell curve” distribution among examinees, with most scoring in the middle and with sharply descending numbers at the top and bottom. Test designers accomplish this, among other ways, by using plausible-sounding “distractors” to make multiple-choice items more difficult, requiring students to respond to a large number of items in a short space of time, and by dropping questions that too many students can answer correctly.

Challenge To the Concept of Elite

This was enough to convince many of the schools’ supporters that a lowering of standards was in the making. Such fears were aggravated by the fact that, for several years, some gifted and highly motivated disadvantaged youngsters — most of them black and Puerto Rican who might not have done sufficiently well in the standard tests—had been admitted as part of a “Discovery” program, similar to those long used by many elite colleges. Last fall, the four schools admitted 3,484 regular contestants in the competition plus 352 Discovery students.