High Stakes, but Low Validity? A Case Study of Standardized Tests and Admissions into New York City Specialized High Schools

This is a study of the admissions process at a select group of New York City public high schools. It offers the first detailed look at the admissions practices of this highly regarded and competitive group of schools, and also provides a window into the broader national debate about the use of standardized tests in school admissions. According to New York State law, admission to these schools must
be based solely on an exam. The exam used is called the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT).

VALIDITY OF HIGH-SCHOOL GRADES IN PREDICTING STUDENT SUCCESS BEYOND THE FRESHMAN YEAR: High-School Record vs. Standardized Tests as Indicators of Four-Year College Outcomes

High-school grades are often viewed as an unreliable criterion for college admissions, owing to differences in grading standards across high schools, while standardized tests are seen as methodologically rigorous, providing a more uniform and valid yardstick for assessing student ability and achievement. The present study challenges that conventional view. The study finds that high-school grade point average (HSGPA) is consistently the best predictor not only of freshman grades in college, the outcome indicator most often employed in predictive-validity studies, but of four-year college outcomes as well.

Why Gifted and Talented Schools are the Wrong Approach: To diversify schools, reimagine G&T: A bill to expand segregated programs moves in exactly the wrong direction

But we’ve already tried this, and it didn’t work. Back in 2009, Mayor Bloomberg tried to expand gifted programs and switched from multiple measures to a single test score for gifted admission. The result was actually more segregation, and reduced access for black and Latino students: The percentage of black and Latino students entering such programs in kindergarten was cut in half, from 46% of program entrants to just 22%, while the percentage of white and Asian students climbed from 53% to over 70%.

Exam High Schools and Academic Achievement: Evidence from New York City

Publicly funded exam schools educate many of the world’s most talented students. These schools typically contain higher achieving peers, more rigorous instruction, and additional resources compared to regular public schools. This paper uses a sharp discontinuity in the admissions process at three prominent exam schools in New York City to provide the first causal estimate of the impact of attending an exam school in the United States on longer term academic outcomes. Attending an exam school increases the rigor of high school courses taken and the probability that a student graduates with an advanced high school degree.

SHSAT Invalid: I’ve spent years studying the link between SHSAT scores and student success. The test doesn’t tell you as much as you might think.

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.


Bronx High School of Science Accused of Bias in Admissions

A Manhattan community school board charged yesterday that an admissions policy based on entrance examinations made the Bronx High School of Science the most segregated school in the city.

Members of the board, of District 3 on the West Side, said they would meet with lawyers on Monday to plan legal action aimed at nullifying the entrance examinations given at the school this week.

The community board and its superintendent, Alfredo Mathew Jr., said the Bronx High School of Science was a privileged educational center for children of the white middle class because “culturally” oriented examinations worked to “screen out” black and Puerto Rican students who could succeed at the school.