Pols: save SHSAT, save elite high schools
by Shane Miller
Mar 13, 2018 | 1839 views | 1 1 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State Senator Toby Ann Sstavisky and Councilman Peter Koo discuss the SHSAT.
State Senator Toby Ann Sstavisky and Councilman Peter Koo discuss the SHSAT.
Two Flushing elected officials are calling on the city to expand programs that prepare students for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).

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.”
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stan chaz
March 17, 2018
As a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, many years ago, I want to thank State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Councilman Peter Koo for their efforts to save our NYC specalized schools.

I found Tech to be much tougher and disciplines than my college years - a very demanding environment which, in turn, gave me much. I don't want to see something so valuable and unique lost to future generations of New Yorkers.

This is not a "us versus them" narrative. We're all in this together as New Yorkers. New Yorkers who should be trying to preserve some of the best and most successful schools in our public educational system - for all.

Some people wrongly think that selection by rigorous testing is somehow equivalent to discrimination, prejudice and exclusion by race. It's not. In fact it's the opposite.

For there is no latter-day, racist Bull Connor standing in the doorway of these schools, barring people. Instead, only the hurdles of mathematics & science, of vocabulary, of logic, and reading & writing skills are "standing" in the doorways of these specialized schools, saying to ALL: come, compete and try your best to make the cut. What's more American than that?

Should skin color be the determining factor instead? I thought that we were trying to get beyond that in our society.The admission test can be improved and expanded, but the test itself is color-blind, as it must be.

Should it be a matter of percentages in the population perhaps? Not according to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. To paraphrase Dr. King: we should judge a person by their character, their content, their capabilities --not by the color of their skin, nor by their gender nor by their differences. He wisely understood that to do otherwise would itself be a form of discrimination and prejudice.

As for diversity, the majority of current students are actually of Asian background in the top specialized schiils, far above their percentage in the City population. Should caucasians therefore be also demanding that the entrance doors be broken down to let them in?

This makes no sense. In fact it is destructive of real opportunity and true equality. Why give medals and awards and scholarships to the best and brightest, why even have an Olympics, if others are thereby left out or can't make the cut?
Rather than symbolizing closed doors for some, these unique schools offer doors of opportunity for those who will try the hardest and perform the best, within a free public school context open to all.

Of course every parent wants the best for their child. But they should realize that their children will be subjected to all sorts of legitimate testing and selection throughout their lives, and not just in school. They need to prepare them for the real world if they want them to compete and succeed in life.

Therefore all parents should support such schools, their high standards and their rigorous admissions, instead of watering down some of the best parts of our public high school system in the name of a false, misunderstood, and ultimately destructive “diversity”.