As anyone who works with low income, first generation or underrepresented students could tell you, the vast majority of these students lack not only the funds to compete with the 1% but also the “social capital” that greases the wheels of higher education access. Networks of chatty parents sharing new discoveries about demonstrated interest, hooks, gap years, PPY, ED/EDII/EA/EAII/REA, supplemental essays, recommended (not really) tests, super-scoring, super-duper-scoring, test optional/flexible, and a host of other insider secrets help the most informed more easily navigate an increasingly complex system.
After announcing changes in September 2016 and then teasing us with 10 sample questions and an FAQ in January 2017, the DOE finally released two full sample tests in May of 2017. The sample tests were included in the 2017 – 2018 Specialized High School Handbook and I spent the month of June perusing, categorizing, and quantifying the questions contained therein. With that work done (well it was finished in June but I didn’t get motivated to blog until this morning .. thanks Stacey H), I’m here to share all that I know about the changes to the SHSAT for 2017.
Over the past 40 years, the representation of black and Hispanic students in New York City’s top performing high schools has declined sharply and calls for action have become increasingly loud. These calls hit a high note in 2012 when the NAACP filed a legal complaint against the city and reached a crescendo in 2013 when then mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio made bringing change to the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and the specialized high school admissions process the center point of his education platform. As mayor, Mr. de Blasio has continued to point to “expensive test preparation” (or rather the lack of it in certain communities) as a key contributor to the disparity in access to the city’s elite high schools. Unfortunately, when the mayor (and many politicians and educational leaders) discuss test preparation they far too often neglect to actually define what “test preparation” is, who uses it, and what impact it actually has.
As we approach September in NY, I enter that special time of year affectionately know as “fall hell”, when parents of students in every transition grade realize that admission testing is looming and they need to figure it out. Parents of 11th and 12th graders have to think about SAT and FAFSA, parents of 7th and 8th graders are thinking about the ISEE, SSAT, SHSAT, TACHS, COOP, and/or HSPT, parents of 4th and 5th graders are thinking about the SSAT, ISEE and/or Hunter High School exam. This time of year can clearly bring lots of stress and confusion.
In this post, I’ll take on the SHSAT and give a little insight into what makes it what it is. Let’s go…