Don't Abolish the SHSAT
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The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is an examination administered to eighth and ninth grade students residing in New York City and used to determine admission to all but one of the city's nine Specialized High Schools. These specialized high schools have produced several Nobel Prize Winners, Pulitzer Prize Winners and leaders around the globe. Taking Stuyvesant High School for example, every year about 25% of its graduates get into Ivy league colleges.
On June 9th, a bill was introduced that would mandate the use of multiple academic measures rather than the current single multiple-choice test to determine admissions to NYC's specialized high schools. If this bill is passed, the SHSAT will be replaced by a myriad of screening criteria that would include grade point averages, state test scores, and other subjective assessment techniques such as interviews and essays. This bill was first initiated by community groups who felt that that the resources of the city's best high schools were unfairly being used by mostly Asian and white students who make up to total of 70% of the specialized high school student population. They claim the SHSAT is an unfair measure of achievement because it favors those who can afford test preparation, and thus shutting the door of high quality education to those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
However, what these groups fail to realize (or recognize) is that between 34% to 61% of the students at all of these specialized high schools are eligible for free lunch (family of four under $35K/year), and the majority of these students were able to gain admissions not based on their wealth, but on their work ethic and determination. The SHSAT, as a single criteria is definitely the fairest and most objective method available. Everyone takes the same exam, and the score determines who gets in and who doesn’t. The methodology is transparent and equally administered to everyone who tries. It is color blind, need blind, and not biased by individual opinions.
Thus, It is especially important that this criteria, a single exam, is not abolished in order to give admission to those who claim to be at a disadvantage when it comes to test taking. The current specialized high school students are not privileged either; more than three-quarters of Stuyvesant students are either first- or second-generation immigrants. For many, English wasn’t their first language. They don't have the competitive advantage of well educated parents who can discuss current news or literary works with them at the dinner table, or the luxury to travel and learn about the world during summer vacations. What these students do have is a strong desire to achieve beyond what is expected of them.
As long as the goal is kept clear, these students will work very hard to reach it. Having a transparent and fair admissions process is the only way these immigrant low income family kids will have a chance - the only way that their hard work can lead them to a better future.
Please join us in urging Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo - DON'T abolish the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) as the sole criteria.
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