Not surprisingly, access to the city’s best public high schools for black and Latino students continues to be thwarted due to the use of the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), a single, unvalidated, extracurricular test. Yesterday we learned that offers of admission for black and Latino students to the city’s eight specialized high schools remained virtually unchanged from last year. The New York City Department of Education announced that 12 percent of the eighth graders offered seats at the best high schools in the city were black and Latino. White students made up 28 percent of admissions offers and Asian students 52 percent.
To be sure, admissions policy based on this specific test is an unequal method of measuring merit. The SHSAT has never been shown to validly predict student performance at these schools or to adequately assess mastery of material taught in the grades K-8.
Three years ago, the Community Service Society joined other organizations to file a petition arguing that the city’s admissions policy violates federal law. But instead of waiting for the federal government to render a decision, the mayor should take action today. Mayor de Blasio can reverse the Bloomberg administration’s extension of the test-only admissions policy at five of the eight specialized high schools with the stroke of a pen. Admissions to our best schools should be based on measures of merit that align with the curriculum being taught in New York City public schools, not an outside exam that gives those who can afford costly test-prep a distinct advantage.
See also: The Meaning of Merit: Alternatives to Determining Admission at New York City's Specialized High Schools