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Why Getting Rid Of The SHSAT Is NOT The Answer

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

SHSAT: The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is an examination administered to eighth and ninth grade students residing in New York City and used to determine admission to all but one of the city's nine Specialized High Schools.

  • It does not count for race, ethnicity, or wealth. It tests on the students ability to be able to interpret and solve the material.

Background Information: For quite some time now debates have sparked all over New York City discussing whether or not the Specialized High School entrance exam is fair, claiming that this exam excludes a group of minorities specifically Black and Hispanic students. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 where the debate really took its course. In 2019 alone, more than half the students that were accepted into Stuyvesant High School were Asian. To be more specific, 65.6% of the offer went to Asian students, 21.7% to White students, 3.7% to Hispanic students, and less than 1% were Black students. Only 7 Black students were accepted in total, even though they make up 68% of the school system. Looking at these results it is understandable as to why both politicians and parents are fighting for a change in the system. But is getting rid of and changing the process really the answer?

Point 1: When De Blasio and other representatives talk about the changes they want to make to the Specialized High School admission process, one of their main argument is that there is not enough racial diversity within the schools. In fact, they point out that this a new form of segregation, but they all to forget that Asian and Asian-Americans are minorities themselves and bring their own form of racial diversity to the schools. They forget that most Asian parents are immigrants who have sacrificed everything in their possession, moved over to a new country without any knowledge of the language or culture, and have worked excruciating long hours just so their children can get into these elite schools. Yes, most parents are willing to sacrifice everything to give their children a better future, but unlike most, education is basically built into the Asian culture to the point where it comes as close as to being viewed as a religion. From a very young age, Asian parents prepare their children by sending them to test prep courses, after school programs, and hiring private tutors to help their children get into these Specialized High Schools. Even Asian students from low-income households have outperformed both middle and upper-income households on the SHSAT. Instead of investing their money on materialistic things such as the newest game console or expensive shoes, Asian parents invest the money they have earned on their children’s education.

Point 2: There are many different ways the city can go about trying to close the racial gap within the schools and make the admission process “fairer”, but the reality of the truth is that the education system as a whole is failing to prepare students, especially of those in lower economic class for this type of exam. It is no surprise that schools located in a lower economic area are mostly filled with Black and Hispanic students and do not have the resources and funding to help students reach their full potential. They tend to receive the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving updated materials, and as a result most students and parents are not informed about the steps one must take in order to prepare for a rigorous exam like the SHSAT. The test is not the problem, the exam actually reflects on how the education system has failed time and time again to educate students, predominantly those of lower-income and that is why the Mayor is eager to replace it with a new system. Why get rid of the exam and call out Asian students for getting extra help outside of school, when they should be taught everything in school?

Point 3: Aside from the education system being a major factor, it also has to do with the relocation of the population. As time has progressed more and more Asian families have migrated and moved into the city and Brooklyn, while Black families have migrated out and over to other parts of the city. According to Thomas Sowell, before the shift in population began in the 20th century, the proportion of Black students attending Stuyvesant High School reflected the amount of Blacks living in the city at that time. In 1989 more than 50% of Brooklyn Tech High School were Black students. The acceptance rate to these elite schools today are also just a mere result of this migration. Blaming it on privilege or telling Black and Latino students that Asians are over-achievers only helps further support the Mayor’s idea, it does not focus on the root of the issue which is the education system itself needs to be changed. Every student needs to be viewed equally and be offered the same opportunities despite their socioeconomic status. So no, getting rid of the exam and changing the process will not change anything, if anything it’ll cause the main issue to be swept under the rug and nothing in the education system will change to help the next generation for a better future.

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