Bangladeshi families prep for controversial specialized high school exam

About 40 middle school children—all but one from Bangladeshi immigrant families in the Bronx—sat quietly inside a stark classroom at Khan’s Tutorial in Parkchester on a Sunday afternoon in September. Barely audible from the upstairs classroom were the sounds of children playing at a nearby park as the 12 and 13-year-olds reviewed fractions, greatest common factors and least common multiples.

Still, for Rafsan, one wrong answer meant there was room for improvement. Parents said they can spend up to $4,000 for the year-long tutoring program.

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.

How private tutoring makes an unequal education system even less fair

Studies show that almost every student can improve their grades with private tutoring. But when only the rich can afford it — in New York the average cost of private tutoring is $64 an hour, though rates can easily approach and even exceed $100 — it’s no surprise their children are overrepresented in elite high schools and colleges, at the expense of everyone else.


In fact, in New York there is a dedicated tutoring industry just for the Specialized High School Admissions Test, the now-infamous admissions test that is the sole criteria for admission to elite — and wildly racially imbalanced — high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.

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.

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.

Whose Side Are Asian-Americans On?

Hsin, the sociology professor, told me, “If you were to put aside any concerns about goals of diversity at all and you just wanted to come up with mechanism for identifying the most talented individuals to be admitted to specialized high schools, you would never come up with the admissions policy you have now.” Grades, which are repeated measures over time, are considered better indicators of academic acumen. It’s also been shown that they are better than standardized test scores when it comes to predicting success for black and Latinx students.

Assessing the Assessment: SHSAT

Don’t assume that because your student does well in school that they will do well on any other test or in any other setting. Kids who do the best on the test are those who go into confident and prepared. Don’t make assumptions your kid will do well. If you’re thinking of a Specialized High School start looking into the test and preparation in 6th grade. Explore the DREAM – SHSI program run by the DOE or at very least have your child take a practice test to see how they would do on the SHSAT so that you have plenty of time to prepare if you need to.