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.

Scribner to Name Unit to Study Special‐School Entrance Tests

School Chancellor Harvey B. Scribner announced last night that he would soon appoint a broad‐based committee to examine all the admission policies and procedures of the city’s four specialized academic high schools.


The high schools, all of which require a special entrance examination, are Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Technical and the Nigh School of Music and Art.


The tests, especially those for the three more technical schools, have been the subject of recent criticism that they discriminate culturally against blacks and Puerto Ricans.

ASSEMBLY VOTES HIGH SCHOOL CURB

This is one of the original New York Times articles reporting on the passage of the Hecht-Calandra law.

New York City Democrats split into emotionally charged camps to day as the Assembly passed a bill designed to limit the Board of Education’s power to alter the city’s four specialized high schools.


The measure passed, 107 to 35, and was sent to the Senate after minority‐group members led the opposition and accused white colleagues of seeking an exclusionary racial quota at the schools.

Admission Test’s Scoring Quirk Throws Balance Into Question

Mr. Feinman had stumbled on a little-known facet of the test: because of the complex way it is graded, a student scoring extremely high on one part of the exam has a sharp advantage over a student with high but more balanced scores in each subject.

“As taxpayers and parents, we should know how the test is graded — not necessarily with an eye to changing it — but certainly as a matter of public knowledge,” said Mr. Feinman, who lives on the Upper East Side.

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.