Re: Proposed Legislation to Change Admissions to NYC's Specialized High Schools 

Legislation was introduced in Albany to change the admissions criterion for New York City’s specialized high schools.  We recognize that the issue of using the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) as the sole criterion for admission to a specialized high school is a complex and challenging topic and we have always maintained that any public policy discussion about admissions criteria must be thoughtful, inclusive of a wide range of stakeholders and based on a full and accurate analysis of the facts.  

Unfortunately, while we recognize the good intentions behind this new legislation (S7738/ A9979) the bill as written is seriously flawed and it is clear that neither the important public dialogue nor the considered analysis required by such a serious issue has yet taken place.  Therefore, we – along with many other educational stakeholders, alumni and parents – have called on the Legislature to give this issue the thoughtful consideration it deserves and not rush it through at the eleventh hour with no public hearings or discourse.  

The Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation remains ready and willing to work with members of the NYS Assembly and NYS Senate on this and other challenges facing our New York City public schools, and to that end we have just completed a detailed white paper on the very complex range of issues that surround the discussion over specialized high schools admissions.  The conclusions/ recommendations include: 

  • We believe that simply scrapping the test – without addressing bigger picture, longer term issues related to ensuring ALL New York City students are prepared to achieve at the highest levels – would hurt students at the specialized schools without the likelihood of achieving the desired effect (i.e., making schools more diverse)
  • The DOE absolutely must ensure that all students – especially those in underrepresented communities – have adequate time and resources to prepare for the test.  This includes both informing families about the test early on, as well as providing tutoring and test prep.
  • The Discovery program should be evaluated and strengthened.
  • There is a serious need to cultivate more – and more diverse – feeder middle schools for the specialized high schools.

Once again, while we applaud the concern for addressing this issue, what we learned as students at Brooklyn Tech is that the first step in solving any problem is defining it.  The second is gathering data about it.  And the third step is using the empirical evidence to come up with solutions for the problem.  Bridges don’t fall down if properly built.  Admissions systems have impacts that must be assessed before implementation, not afterwards.  More work needs to be done before we change a system that has produced what present and past mayors have called “the jewels in the crown” of NYC’s educational system. 

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