Is the SHSAT Gone for Good?

By Michelle Lam and Judy Li

With Bill de Blasio as our new mayor, 2013 may be the last time high school applicants will have to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) in order to be admitted into any of the specialized high schools.

Mayor de Blasio labels the test as a risky measurement of a student’s performance in challenging academic environments. He believes admission to a specialized high school should not be dependent on a score on the SHSAT.

Mayor de Blasio instead wants to include things such as interviews, extra-curricular activities, and an assessment of volunteer hours in determining admittance to a specialized high school.

In doing so, he believes he is not only increasing the chances of getting into a specialized high school, but also exposing as many New York students as he can to one of the best educational opportunities possible.

Getting rid of an exam that dominates secondary education in New York, however, does not have a clear-cut effect on the futures of future test takers and the schools admitting them.

Kelly Nottingham, the AP of Parent and Student Engagement says, “We need some type of bar set that allows children who ‘think differently’ to attend a school where their needs can be met.”

A benefit of getting rid of the SHSAT is that it would increase chances for students of different academic strengths to attend specialized high schools, since many great students have weaknesses in test-taking, but strengths in other areas, such as art, music, and sports.

“It’s great,” Emma Peterson ‘17 says, “because that means students will be not only intelligent, but well rounded.”

Although these changes increase the chances of getting into a specialized high school and are better judgments of a student’s capabilities, the SHSAT is an objective and practical way of measuring a student’s readiness.

“Specialized schools are,” says Natalia Mitchell ’16, “for people who do well in studies. They don’t heavily emphasize special sports teams or anything like that…”

Nottingham adds, “So far, however, the students at Tech have been fabulous. If all they had to do was take a test, then something is going well regarding testing.”

It’s still hard to tell whether or not de Blasio’s decisions will be fully or partially implemented, but any changes made to the SHSAT test will revolutionize high school education in New York.

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