Keep SHSAT as the sole specialized high school admissions criterion
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Background: The mayor and several local politicians have advocated for changes to the admissions criteria for eight specialized high schools in New York City. The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) has always been the sole criteria for admission to these elite schools for students of every color. Because of their scores on this test, presently, thousands of underserved minority Asian students have been able to obtain a quality education that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Politicians are proposing to scrap the SHSAT in order to increase diversity in these specialized high schools. The Independent Budget Office estimates at approximately 1450, or nearly half, of Asian students will be displaced.
Despite 10,000 signatures on a petition to preserve the SHSAT, new Bills (Assembly Bill A2173) to change the admission requirements away from the SHSAT have once again been proposed. Proponents of abolishing the objective and unbiased SHSAT claim that the SHSAT is an unfair measure of achievement because it favors only those who can afford test preparation, and thus limits the opportunity for a high-quality education for those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. This claim, however, is unsubstantiated because between 34% to 61% of the current student body in these specialized high schools are eligible for free lunch ($35K annual income for a family of four) and more than three-quarters of the student body at Stuyvesant (one of the specialized schools) are either first- or second-generation immigrants where English isn’t their first language. Several politicians argue even the best college in the nation use multiple criteria for admissions. However, the median household income for Harvard undergrads is $168K and for Brown undergrads is $204K. Is that the kind of socioeconomic diversity we are looking for in New York City’s public high schools? Furthermore the SHSAT has been validated by a formal study sponsored by the DOE but kept secret for 5 years.
The under representation of Black and Latino students in specialized high schools is unacceptable, however, changing the admission requirements away from the SHSAT does not address the crisis in k-8 education in low income Black and Hispanic communities. Changing the SHSAT will only hurt low-income families as a whole and disadvantage the poorest ethnic group in New York city.
Thus, we urge Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie and members of the New York State Assembly Education Committee (chaired by Michael Benedetto) to keep the SHSAT as the sole admission criterion for these politically under-represented who have worked hard for admission into these schools. Taking away education opportunities from one disadvantaged minority group to serve another minority group is not the solution!
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