A SHSAT research paper published in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.
Jonathan Taylor Hunter College Gender Equity Project
The use of test scores in school admissions has been a contentious issue for decades. In New York City’s elite public high schools, it has been particularly controversial because of disproportionate representation by ethnicity. Underrepresentation of girls has received less attention. This research compared the predictive validity and gender bias of the admissions criterion, the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), with that of seventh grade GPA, a possible additional criterion.
Overall, the correlation was a loose one. Test scores predicted only 20 percent of the variation in students’ GPAs. In other words, students with the same test high scores had wildly different GPAs at school the following year. At first glance, the test doesn’t seem very good at discerning A students from B students. Seventh-grade GPAs were twice as likely to predict ninth-grade achievement than test scores.
“People say the SHSAT is objective and that grades are unreliable,” Taylor said. “Schools and teachers have different subjective grading standards and grades are all over the place.
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.