Stop relying on just one test: Mayor de Blasio is right to try to want to turn away from the SHSAT high school admissions exam

I was the valedictorian of my eighth-grade class and earned a special honor for never missing a day of school, but that wasn’t enough to help me, or others like me, gain admission into schools like American Studies. Instead, a single specialty test was used to gauge my intelligence, work ethic and worthiness.

The mayor’s proposal to admit students based on a more equitable policy has been met with vehement opposition from people with false presumptions about students like me. Many assume that low-income students of color like me are just “too lazy” to prepare for the exam, and that kids who do better on the SHSAT prove they “deserve” to get in.

Test prep is a rite of passage for many Asian-Americans

Non-SHSAT article that discusses the intersection of culture and single-measure testing.

Related to the Harvard case, test scores for all students should be considered with a grain of salt. Yes, high scores are impressive, but they should be understood in the context of opportunity. It’s also important to note that strong scores are the norm in Harvard’s applicant pool.

Given that test scores are limited in their ability to predict future achievement, and are heavily shaped by race and social class, colleges should consider the value of SAT-optional or even doing away with the test.

Overemphasizing a Test, Oversimplifying Our Children: An APA Perspective on Specialized High School Reform towards Educational Equity

The SHSAT is misperceived as an objective, and “colorblind” tool to measure merit. However, an expansive body of research reveals that school screening policies that do not consider race or socioeconomic status do not reduce, but rather contribute to further “stratification by race and ethnicity across schools and programs.”


In the field of testing, known as psychometrics, a single measure like the SHSAT violates the universally accepted norm and consensus in favor of multiple measures.[19] Having a single-test as the admission policy in no means takes into account the wide range of diverse experiences of all students and their families in New York City.

Highly skilled black, Latino students face admission barriers to exam schools, study finds

Black and Latino students who do as well as their white and Asian peers on the MCAS exam nonetheless have a much lower chance of being admitted to Boston Latin School and the city’s two other exam schools, according to a Harvard report being released Tuesday.

Their path is hindered by a separate test — designed for private institutions — that students applying to the city’s top-flight exam schools must take. Black and Latino students do notably worse on that exam and also take it at lower rates.

Hey DOE: Revamp the SHSAT The current exam doesn’t accurately measure ability

Part of the reason for this disparity is that many kids don’t find out about specialized high schools and the SHSAT early enough, if at all. “In my middle school, my class didn’t know there was an SHSAT. We were considered the dumb class because we didn’t test well in elementary,” says Angie, currently a senior at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists. She is black and Latina. “However, the higher performing class got to take it as well as the prep they needed.”
But then I talked to my classmates and saw other sides to the issue.

Closing gap at specialized high schools

Ultimately, the city has to do more to improve educational opportunities for everyone, not just the admission process to the top schools. More middle schools need to be high-achieving ones, more gifted programs are needed in the younger grades, and the city should add more specialized high schools, too.

There’s no guarantee that the city’s plan will close the gap. But if city officials think boldly, they could transform these schools into places that give all students the opportunity for something special.

Why I Support Multiple Measures of Admission to New York’s Specialized High Schools

First, I support multiple measures of evaluation for colleges, jobs, sports teams and anything else I can think of, why should I support a single test as the sole standard of admission to specialized high schools.
Secondly, at a time when more and more colleges are becoming SAT/ACT Optional, it is in no one’s interest, other than test companies and those involved in data mining, to put so much emphasis on standardized tests. You are not preparing students for higher education by using a single test criteria for top high schools- you are not preparing them for today’s workplace either.

Best schools shouldn’t be determined by a test

Kaplan Inc., is probably one of the most famous companies students turn to when they need help taking a test. Their preparation courses for tests like the SAT and ACT are part of an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars (if not in the billions). In fact, the company offers a prep course starting at just under $1,000, and tutoring for $2,600.

If the SHSAT is simply about testing someone’s knowledge of information they should have already learned, why are test prep organizations such big business?

Brooklyn President Eric Adams states his SHSAT position

I believe Eric Adams wanted to do the right thing with the SHSAT exam.  He understands how detrimental it is, but ultimately didn’t think it was worth the fight.

we have to meet the demand of highly capable candidates who want a specialized high school seat by expanding seats overall. I am expanding on my existing call for new borough-based specialized high schools by recommending five such schools be created, one in each borough, with admissions considerations that include the SHSAT and academic portfolio standards such as class rank and state test scores.

Educators For Excellence: Open Letter to Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza on Desegregating NYC Schools

Opponents of school desegregation argued in 1977 that “either we have to lower the standards for everybody so the special nature of the schools would disappear, or we would have to allow these students to be subjected to failure.”

It is eerie how today’s opponents repeat these same arguments.  This argument assumes that black and Hispanic students are unable to achieve at high levels because they don’t have access to SHSAT test prep. On the contrary, there is no evidence to support the idea that multi-measure admittance will diminish the quality of any of these schools.