CEC District 2 SHSAT Resolution Response

Update:  Happy to report that District 2 CEC decided against passing this resolution.  Personally, I believe that was very brave of them as they had to stare down a large group of very angry people in doing so.

3 CEC District 2 members recently released a resolution proposal titled:

Resolution: In Support of Comprehensive Community Input to any and all Proposed Changes to Specialized High School Admissions and In Support of Public Access to Department of Education Data Concerning Proposed Admissions Rubric Metrics

Below is a list of comments relating to the statements and questions raised in this resolution.  Quotes from the CEC resolution proposal are also included and highlighted.

It’s important to note that this resolution ultimately failed to pass.

3a. CEC District 2 Resolution suggests the Mayor’s office cannot be trusted. Offering the following evidence…

The Mayor’s administration and the DOE have a track record of obfuscating data that do not support its agendas, misrepresenting the results of studies to support its goals and failing to apprise parents of current, relevant data.

But this “evidence” does not establish a track record. This resolution also does not attempt to differentiate between DoE errors, differing analysis, and outright attempts to mislead.

3b. The Metis study is problematic, to say the least. I’d recommend a more neutral discussion of the Metis study. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/08/03/new-york-city-released-its-study-of-the-shsat-heres-why-it-wont-end-the-admissions-debate/.

for over five years, the Metis study, which it commissioned, and which indicated that the SHSAT exam is a good predictor of how well students would do in Specialized High Schools.

“It tells us something we already knew: Kids who do well on the SHSAT do well in high school,” said Aaron Pallas, a researcher at Columbia who reviewed the study at Chalkbeat’s request. “But it doesn’t tell us what is the best combination of factors that predict who might do well in an exam school.” -Chalkbeat article.

The Metis study establishes simply a correlation between higher scores in the SHSAT and GPA. That correlation was never in dispute. I.e. the question isn’t that there is no correlation between the SHSAT and education outcome, but rather do we have more accurate measures?

And secondly, are we using the SHSAT exam at a precision that it cannot scientifically perform?

The Metis study does not discuss the comparative accuracy of the SHSAT exam to various multiple-measure approaches to measuring student merit. We have many studies showing that multiple-measures and GPA are indeed more accurate.

Also, here’s a list of articles discussing in part multiple-measures: https://shsatsunset.org/tag/multiple-measures/

With the current use of the SHSAT, students who are 1 to 2 points from each other are attending different schools or not receiving offers at all. These students are less than 1 multiple-choice question different from each other academically. There is no measurable academic merit difference between these students.

1 in 64 students who guess 3 questions will get them all correct. But in the SHSAT exam that student would have gained roughly ~20 scaled points over their otherwise equal peer. Assuming all questions are scaled equally. We have to assume this because no one outside the DoE knows how the questions are scaled precisely.

3c. Again this is unfounded. A job advertisement does not make a conspiracy…

The Mayor’s administration continues to seek biased interpretation of education 3 data

4. The final criteria for measuring student academic merit absolutely should be fair. But it is well within the rights of the DoE Chancellor to make those rules…

This criteria is arbitrary, inconsistent, not designed to identify academically accelerated students, vulnerable to varied implicit biases, and easily manipulated to serve interests outside of identifying academically accelerated students;

The idea that the DoE cannot be fair is again unfounded. And if that were the case we would have bigger issues than the SHSAT.

If the DoE implements unfair rules, then we should absolutely challenge those, when this happens. With the replacement of Hecht-Calandra we will be able to handle any bias at the city level.

5. This CEC resolution is assuming that the criteria are arbitrary. But the resolution hasn’t presented evidence that it is…

This criteria is arbitrary, inconsistent, not designed to identify academically accelerated students, vulnerable to varied implicit biases, and easily manipulated to serve interests outside of identifying academically accelerated students;

Secondly, the SHSAT does not identify academically accelerated students. Nor is that its intent, from my understanding.

Supposedly, the SHSAT exam measures and ordered academic merit. The SHSAT argues that a student who scores higher than another is more worthy. A more “accelerated” student could easily be bested if they didn’t study to the SHSAT specifically.

The resolution has not established how the proposal is “vulnerable to varied implicit biases”.

The measure of merit should be unbiased. Any attempts to use a biased measure of merit can and should be challenged. With the mayor’s proposal, we will have the ability to challenge a biased implementation at the city level.

6. GPA accuracy…

No data have been publicly identified or provided by the DOE to show that grading is comparable across middle schools in the district and the city,

E.g. GPA accuracy VALIDITY OF HIGH-SCHOOL GRADES IN PREDICTING STUDENT SUCCESS BEYOND THE FRESHMAN YEAR (PDF). “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.

The majority of the student’s merit will be accessed by the student’s state scores. These grades are unbiased since all students are graded the same. Student school grades are more stable than many immediately believe. But these can be used to a lesser degree in the final implementation.

I do believe that no student deemed not proficient at the state level should be given an offer. But I’m confident that’s an implementation detail that can be implemented after the removal of Hecht-Calandra.

7. This is a very disappointedly inaccurate statement to find in a CEC resolution.

The lack of proportional representation from Black and Latino students at Specialized High Schools, which the SHSAT Bill aims to redress, is a symptom of the lack of adequate support from the DOE to the effective education of Black and Latino students

First, this CEC resolution has not provided any evidence to this conclusion. And then there is evidence against this. Even after adjusting for proficiency via state scores, Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in SHSAT offers.

Secondly, girls who attend the same schools as boys. And also take the SHSAT more than boys, actually receive fewer offers. https://www.the74million.org/article/nyc-specialized-schools-girls-boys/. The SHSAT offer bias does not simply fall across race, but by gender as well.

In addition, Black and Latino students do not take the test in proportionate numbers as other ethnicities, and 27% of Black and Latino students — far more than any other ethnicity — decline offers from the Specialized High Schools in favor of private and boarding schools;

CEC resolution has not presented a reference for the private and boarding school statistic.

Secondly, the under-utilization of the SHSAT is also an issue with the exam itself. The mayor’s proposal will automatically assess all students for merit. Many students do not know of the exam or understand the benefit. Others falsely believe that they would not make it or fit in. A universal assessment allows us to consider every 8th grader in the city, not just the ones who have been encouraged in the SHSAT’s direction.

We’re not asking that students who are not proficient be given offers. But instead, merit be measured more accurately and universally.

8. This CEC Resolution continues making unsubstantiated assumptions of the root cause of “the” issue…

The SHSAT Bill proposes to reallocate seats as a remedy to this diversity issue without addressing the root cause of the problem

G&T programs increase segregation, not decrease. A bill to expand segregated programs moves in exactly the wrong direction. As again, more motivated parents secure seats for their children. We then see further segregation.

Expanding gifted programs citywide instead, they say, would help low-income, black and Latino students compete for seats at selective middle and high schools.

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%.

The SHSAT bill does not have to solve every issue that plagues the DoE. That’s not the bills stated purpose. It only has to fix the use of the SHSAT exam as the sole measure of merit.

9. Could the resolution please proven a citation for the following?

Asian students…minority group with the highest poverty rate in NYC.

The Mayor’s proposal will make Specialized High Schools less diverse in terms of languages spoken

It’s unfortunate the Mayor made inclusion his justification. But I believe we should focus on accurately assessing student merit as the SHSAT focus. Earlier in this very resolution, the CEC resolution argued against considering non-academically related criteria.

11. This CEC resolution has presented no evidence for the following opinion…

and creates an academic environment that can not be replicated if replaced by the proposed Bill;

NYC is the only city in the entire country that uses a single-measure entrance exam. All other great school districts around the country do fine without an SHSAT exam.

12. It’s disappointing we argue what our children would get out of this deal, instead of focusing what’s fair for all NYC children…

While some District 2 schools could potentially see a modest increase in Specialized High School acceptances those increases would be in the single digits.

I am not concerned how many students from by districts get offers, but instead how many students accurately receive offers.

13. How was that “likeliness” measured? Isn’t it also likely that these students would go to unscreened schools?

The “ripple effect” of an influx of students who would otherwise attend Specialized Schools, but are barred from admissions due to the 7% quota, into the screened schools to which they would likely seek admission,

Did the resolution sponsors also consider that the DoE is moving away from screened schools in general?

Shouldn’t the CEC encourage district students to attend unscreened district schools? And if not, why?

14. Shouldn’t (14) be an argument against the use of the SHSAT? Which is a 50% English exam?

The composite score, which includes ELA exam results and English and Social Studies class grades, will favor native English speakers reducing the number of English Language Learner (ELL) students admitted to Specialized High Schools;

At any rate, the minor implementation details are specifically left as flexible in the current proposal. The CEC can support the proposal but demand a composite score algorithm it considers fairer.

The current SHSAT proposal leaves room for revision by the DoE with input from CECs.

15. The composite score is left to the DoE in the current proposal.

Reliance on the Composite Score under the SHSAT Bill will result in the main differentiating factors being State Math and ELA Exam scores.

There’s room to support the replacement of Hecht-Calandra, and also asking the DoE to revisit the specific composite score algorithm before final implementation.

16. Appeal to the worse fallacy.

The Mayor’s plan would change the demographic makeup of Specialized High Schools but wholly fails to address any of the fundamental educational failures of elementary or middle schools which serve primarily Black and Latino students.

The SHSAT proposal does not fix all DoE issues. That’s obviously not possible. But that does not mean we should not fix the SHSAT exam.

Making your argument, there would be a whole list of issues we would not tackle as a community because worse issues exist. The SHSAT proposal requires no new funding. It actually saves a lot of money we as a city spend on testing. Let’s fix this but continue to look at other ways we can make academic life better for all New York students.