Despite these grim odds, young Indians continue arriving in Kota, and the coaching institutes have become a big business, encompassing 300 or so centers that generate $350 million to $450 million in revenue every year, according to one estimate. The largest coaching company, the Allen Career Institute, instructs more than one million students.
“There are two types of students in Kota — rankers and bankers,” Amit Gupta, a coaching-center biology instructor, told me. “One ranker will attract thousands of bankers. This is our modus operandi.
Although the mayor’s proposal is modest, opposition to it has been enormous. Opponents defend wholeheartedly the use of the SHSAT. It’s their belief that this high-stakes exam is objective, merit-based, and fair. This opposition movement is largely backed by lobbyist groups funded by CEOs, and alumni associations with deep pockets. Its ranks also include self-described progressives such as Jumanee Williams, alumnus of the specialized school system and current New York City Public Advocate. Instead of scrapping the SHSAT, they believe the city should instead expand access to the exam, invest in SHSAT preparation services, and open more SHS.
Obrian was devastated when he found out he didn’t score high enough on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) to attend Brooklyn Technical High School, one of New York City’s most selective high schools. Unlike many of the students who gain admission to the city’s specialized high schools, his family didn’t have the resources to spend thousands of dollars on test prep.
His score on the SHSAT put him just below the cutoff mark for Brooklyn Technical High School. But because of the Discovery Program – which allows students from low-income communities who score just below the standardized test cutoff to earn admission to the specialized high schools – Obrian was able to attend a summer program and then start at Brooklyn Tech his freshman year.
65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, segregation in public schools remains a major issue in cities across the country. New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the country, and some see the controversial Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as part of the problem. At a City Council Oversight Hearing on Segregation in the New York City School System, Students, Parents, Council members, and Department of Education talk education reform.
“NY1 takes a look at the controversy surrounding the Specialized High School Admissions Test, the exam that students take to get into the city’s elite public high schools.”
These five bright students have been preparing for much of their lifetime, either through additional test prep programs, tutors or intensive courses. For them, it’s a necessary part of their education, and many spend much of their middle-school years preparing for the test.
“Everyone has doubts [about] me at school. So I really want to go to this school so that I can, you know, show people that I can put all my hard work and dedication into what I’m doing that I can go to this school.”