Elite or elitist? Lessons for colleges from selective high schools

An in-depth report on the state of specialized high schools across the nation.

NYC specialized high schools are the only “one-exam-only” admissions in the nation

reformers might do better instead to look to Chicago’s use of area-based geographical tiers. One advantage of this system is that it retains the high-stakes entrance examination but takes inequality into account by having students with similar backgrounds compete against each other rather than pooling students from all backgrounds into one group.

The most radical option is for cities to simply abolish their selective high schools.

De Blasio’s Plan for NYC Schools Isn’t Anti-Asian. It’s Anti-Racist.

The mayor’s plan isn’t anti-Asian, it’s anti-racist. It would give working-class parents — including Asian-Americans — who can’t afford and shouldn’t have to find ways to afford expensive test prep programs a fairer chance that their child will be admitted into what’s known as a specialized high school. True, taking a test prep course doesn’t guarantee admission to such a school, but it does offer clear benefits and is widely understood to be essential to test-takers.

Nor is the plan a form of affirmative action.

Pathways to an Elite Education Exploring Strategies to Diversify NYC’s Specialized High Schools (2015)

This brief examines students’ pathways from middle school to matriculation at a specialized high school, and simulates the effects of various admissions criteria that have been proposed as alternatives to the current policy. Analyzing data from 2005 to 2013, we found that while the SHSAT is (by design) the most important factor determining who attends the specialized high schools, it is not the only factor. Many students—including many high-achieving students—do not take the SHSAT at all, and some of those offered admission decide to go to high school elsewhere.