Is the SHSAT a Valid Test?

Last week, a short editorial I wrote, Two key questions about how New York City admits students into its elite public schools, appeared in the Washington  Post. Since there are limits on how much can be said in a paper I figured I say the rest of what I have to say here. So here we go…

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GRE: The One Test To Rule All Grad Schools

Since the 1980s, Educational Testing Service (ETS), which dominated educational admission testing from 1940 – 1980, has been hemorrhaging product lines. In its heyday (SAT word) ETS was the Sauron to US education’s Middle Earth, providing admissions tests for the vast majority of professional certification programs and higher ed admissions.  Their services ranged from teacher certification exams to the SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and LSAT. In the last decade or so, ETS business strategy has changed and the organization has begun to aggressively market their most popular remaining assessment product, the Graduate Record Exam (commonly known by its initialism – GRE), as “the One Test to Assess Them All.” This strategic market grab, while an interesting business strategy, raises significant questions about all admission tests. Specifically, the expansion of the GRE into fields beyond its design should force responsible test users to reevaluate long-held assumptions about what information is being gained by requiring the GRE (and all its brethren) and at what cost.

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SHSAT 2017 – A Deeper Dive

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.

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Choosing a Test Prep Program

01rfd-image-custom1Often I’m asked for help selecting a test prep program, course, or tutor (usually in an email that provides almost no details of the situation of the asker…but that’s another story) and of course, if you ask me a question this leads to a 500+ word screed as a response. Since ranting in private spaces only helps a few, I’ve decided to share my thoughts with a wider audience (all 6 of you who read my blog posts).

 

The criteria and considerations below are some of the things you should look for when you are deciding how to prepare for an admission test. You may find other things have to be included in your decision-making but I highly recommend that you at a minimum consider these factors. I’ll outline my rationale for each factor as I go. 

 

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What is SHSAT test preparation?

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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.

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Assessing the Assessment: SHSAT

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 4.06.28 PMAs 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…

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