There have been efforts recently to do away with the test, with proponents of the move citing a lack of black and Latino students in the city's elite high schools.
But State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Councilman Peter Koo cite studies that show eliminating the test won't actually increase diversity, and called on the city to to more to prepare city students for the SHSAT.
“Since its inception, the test remains the most objective way in admitting students to specialized high schools, but we must ensure students have greater access to the tools needed to excel at this exam,” Stavisky said at her district office last week.
In fact, she argued, the test is the fairest method of admission because it eliminates the possibility of prejudices entering into the equation.
“The whole point of the test is its blind, it's totally objective,” she said.
Koo and Stavisky are worried that eliminating the test would lower the quality of specialized high schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant, but that doing so wouldn't actually accomplish the goal of increasing diversity.
Stavisky cited a 2015 study by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, which is affiliated with New York University, concluding that “admitting students on more varied measures would do little to address the lack of diversity in these schools, and could make the problem even worse.”
Subsequent studies by the city comptroller and Independent Budget Office came to similar conclusions.
Instead, Koo and Stavisky said the Department of Education (DOE) should do a better job of preparing a more diverse range of students for the test, expanding on programs the agency has already started implementing.
For example, DOE expanded outreach efforts to get more kids in the DREAM program, an after-school test-prep initiative. In 2017, 670 students participated in the program, double the number in 2016.
And DOE announced that it will expand the SHSAT School Day initiative to 50 middle schools, up from just 15 this admissions cycle.
“The best way to make sure specialized high school admissions reflect the diversity of our city is by ensuring every family, no matter race, color or financial status, has the opportunity to prepare their child for an advanced education,” said Koo.
Stavisky said should we also like to see changes to the Gifted and Talented program for students in pre-K through second grade. She said rather than require parents to sign their child up for the test, all students should take the test with parents able to opt out if they so choose.
“This mandate would ensure any child with the potential to excel in advanced classes has access to them,” she said. “It shouldn’t matter if you live in South Jamaica or the Upper West Side, every child has the right to an exceptional education.”