The WAVE: School Scope – Those SHSAT Tests, Part 1

This opinion piece dates SHSAT test prep to the 1950s. Of course, the entrance exam was not called “SHSAT” back then, and there was one exam per school.

When I was an 8th grade student in the 1957-58 school year at George Gershwin JHS, a jewel of a school recently opened on Linden Blvd in East NY section of Brooklyn, male students were offered an opportunity to take an after school class in prepping for the test for Brooklyn Tech, at the time the only specialized high school that went from 9th-12th grade.

The History of New York City’s Special High Schools

A 2014 timeline of SHSAT related events.

2014 – New York City Council Introduces Package of Legislation to Promote Diversity in City Schools
On Wednesday, October 22nd, New York City Council members introduced one bill and two resolutions intended to build momentum around tackling diversity issues in New York City schools. According to recent reports, such as one released by the UCLA Civil Rights Project in March, local schools are among the most segregated in the country. The report states that in 2010, for example, of 32 school districts in New York City, 19 had ten percent or less white students.

Segregation Has Been the Story of New York City’s Schools for 50 Years

It’s important to understand the political climate before the NY State legislature decided to pass Hecht-Calandra in 1971. The New York Times does a great job filing in that context.

In 2016, a proposal to send some Upper West Side children — who were zoned for a high-performing, mostly white, wealthy elementary school near their homes — to a lower-performing school, attended mostly by low-income black and Hispanic students, about a ten-minute walk away, was met with vitriol.


A version of the plan — which ultimately impacted a relatively small number of schools — eventually passed after years of negotiations.

Important Technical Features of the SHSAT Exam

Recently @akilbello went over some very important open questions regarding the SHSAT. These remind us of how important it is for the NYC Department of Education to immediately release the SHSAT manual.

Read the lengthy twitter thread here.

NAACP 2012 Case: New York City Specialized High School Complaint

In school districts across the nation, talented African Americans and other students of color are denied a fair opportunity to gain access to the life-changing educational experiences provided by specialized schools for high-achieving students and gifted/talented education programs.  As a result, elite public schools and programs, which provide key pathways to college and then to leadership locally, regionally, and nationally, are among the most segregated.

In too many school districts, these racial disparities result in large part from admissions policies that rely too heavily or even exclusively on standardized tests, even though the three leading organizations in the area of educational test measurement—the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education—have concluded that a high-stakes decision with a major impact on a student’s educational opportunities, such as admission to a specialized or gifted/talented program, should not turn on the results of a single test. 

Social Justice Was Always Essential to NYC’s Public High Schools

But here’s where Blumenstein and other critics get it wrong because, although Bronx Science founder Morris Meister was a firm believer in merit-based admissions, it was in the context of seeing science education as integral to a democratic social and political vision. Criticizing reforms intended to make the city more democratic by fossilizing Meister’s original vision is paradoxical.

https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/272402/social-justice-was-always-essential-to-nycs-public-high-schools

SHSAT History: New York Specialized High School Admission Policies Have Changed Over the Years

new reform movement was launched in 1996 when a report issued by the community-activist organization ACORN branded the high-stake one-shot admissions test a form of educational apartheid. They were supported by Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, but once again the campaign failed because of deeply entrenched political opposition.

In 1995 the city opened a Specialized High Schools Institute (SHSI), city-run preparatory program that was supposed to even out performance on the SHSAT and make admissions to the specialized high schools fairer, however with the plethora of private tutoring agencies it failed to improve ethnic balance at the schools.