Two key questions about how New York City admits students into its elite public schools

Two key questions about the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) have not received enough attention in the current debate.

First, is the SHSAT a good test?

Second, is using a test, even if it’s good, as the sole basis for admission a good idea?

The answer to the second question is easy. No.

No one should use a test score in isolation to determine who should be admitted to a school, which is likely why no one but New York’s specialized schools does it. The American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education all recommend using “multiple sources and types of relevant information” to make educational decisions.

The College Board, which owns the SAT college entrance exam, and ACT Inc., which owns the ACT test, have long insisted that colleges should use test scores as only one valuable piece of information among others. If a holistic approach to admissions is good enough for Stanford, Caltech, Phillips Exeter and Thomas Jefferson, shouldn’t it be for Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech?

Answering that question is hard, too, because the city releases no copies of the exam after they are given. All the major test makers for the college and graduate school admission make retired exams and test questions readily available, but New York City’s Department of Education does not.