Photo by Photobucket user maslow25
Despite claims otherwise from Mayor de Blasio, the test for admission into New York City’s elite high schools has been shown to have a strong connection to a student’s success.
On Friday, the Education Department of New York released the results of a study it had commissioned back in 2013 for the first time. The research showed that there is a strong positive relationship between high school academic performance and doing well on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT).
What is the SHSAT?
The SHSAT serves as the only criterion for admissions to eight of the nine Specialized High Schools in New York City. The sole exception is the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts – which requires applicants to submit their own portfolio or audition for admission.
The New York City Department of Education is in charge of administering the SHSAT. This exam is exclusively available to the city’s residents who are in the 8th grade. Students who are already in the 9th grade may opt to take the 9th-grade version of the SHSAT but the number of seats is limited.
Back in 2016, around 28,000 students were able to take the SHSAT. Less than 20% of the examinees that year were accepted to a New York City Specialized High School.
The Research into the SHSAT’s Validity
A research firm known as Metis Associates conducted the SHSAT research in 2013. The study focused on five groups of students in the 8th grade who took the test from 2005 to 2009 through the first two years of high school. The metrics that were used included grade point average, as well as the students’ scores on the Advanced Placement tests and Regents examinations to measure performance.
The study discovered that the mean G.P.A. for students who were not accepted to the specialized schools was 2.387, while those who scored high enough on the exam to be accepted to at least one of the specialized high schools was 3.036 during their first year.
In the same way, students who took the Regents examinations had mean scores that ranged between 82.59 and 93.41 across different subjects. Mean scores for those who were not admitted, however, were around 68.69 to 79.16.
The SHSAT Controversy
Not everyone is in favor of the SHSAT – with politicians even openly expressing their thoughts on the exam. Bill de Blasio was campaigning for mayor in 2013 when he promised to make changes on the admissions process for the specialized schools in New York City. He also pushed for the inclusion of many factors in determining a student’s intelligence other than just one admissions exam.
De Blasio only talked about the issue again in June – following years of inaction – and announced that he plans to scrap the test entirely. According to him, the new method of selecting students would rely on statewide standardized test scores and class rank.
All the eight specialized schools that use the SHSAT are largely made up of Asian and white students. With de Blasio’s proposal to overhaul the admissions process in the city, people expect that it would help diversify the schools.
New York City Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness issued a statement about the research findings on Friday.
“It’s not at all surprising that a kid who did well on the test turns out to be good high school student,” she said. “What the validity study misses is the kid who didn’t do as well on the test, or didn’t take it, but still stands an excellent chance of being successful in these high schools if they had the opportunity.”
However, Larry Cary, who works as the president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation board, had a different opinion. He stressed that the research shows the test is an effective metric for admission, and he strongly opposes the mayor’s plan to abolish the SHSAT.
“I think it’s a scandal that the City of New York sat on a predictive study for four or five years and hid it from the public as part of an effort to insist that the test has no value and should be eliminated,” he explained.
The de Blasio plan has also received backlash from the Asian community, other lawmakers, along with academic advocates who argue that the exams are culture and color blind. Concerned individuals even claim that doing away with the SHSAT may even dumb down the schools.
A lot of “vote them out!” cries over proposed changes to the specialized high school exam from Asian American advocacy groups. pic.twitter.com/CdPFfRdrCL
— Lindsey Christ (@LindseyChrist) June 4, 2018
While there have been various proposals to give equal opportunities to all New York City students, the de Blasio administration is still determined to pursue their plan to eliminate the exam.
“We’re laser-focused on making specialized high school admissions fairer for all New Yorkers, and we’re confident that getting rid of this arbitrary test will strengthen our schools. Through our broader Equity and Excellence for All agenda, we’re investing in high-quality elementary and middle schools, and we’ve added Gifted and Talented classes so that there is an option in every district,” de Blasio spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg said in a statement.