2018-06-06 / Features

Stavisky: Keep SHSAT, And Help More Students Pass It

NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky released a statement on Mayor de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the SHSAT:

“I couldn’t disagree more with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza’s plan on eliminating the entrance test for the specialized high schools. To assume African American and Latino students cannot pass the test is insulting to everyone and educationally unsound.

“To suggest low-income students do not do well on the exam is just not true. Many Asian American students come from families who live in poverty.

“The implication of the chancellor’s comments are that a percentage system is preferable. I disagree. There are better solutions to the lack of diversity in specialized high schools.

“It is the responsibility of the Department of Education to provide access to and familiarize students with the specialized high school admittance process. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, why not offer SHSAT prep courses for free?

“Diversifying our schools is important, but this plan announced by Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza will not achieve this goal. In fact, it may do the opposite. According to a report released in 2015 by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU, it was found that admissions rules based on criteria other than the SHSAT—including state test scores, grades and attendance—would moderately alter the demographic mix of specialized high schools. But the rules would not improve the schools’ diversity, particularly for African American students, whose numbers would decrease under the proposed rules.

“What we need to do is keep parents and children informed of their options and fully realize every student’s potential. We can do that through a number of different avenues.

“Senator Jamaal Bailey has a bill, of which I am the prime co-sponsor, to offer a sample SHSAT prior to the actual exam. This would enable students to see where they need improvement and where they do well, similar to the PSAT.

“Our gifted and talented programs prove to be an efficient way of challenging our brightest students. By recognizing more students at an earlier age, it would prepare them for our specialized high schools. I have introduced legislation that would change the testing procedures for gifted and talented children entering third grade. Instead of parents ‘opting in’ for their children taking the test, my bill would make it automatic, unless the parents ‘opt out.’ This would lead to more and more children, regardless of their socioeconomic or racial background, having their academic potential being fully recognized.

“The solution is not to forgo the test, but to recognize gifted and talented children at an early age, ensure gifted and talented programs in all districts and prepare students for excellence at an early age.

“In 2015, the School Board of Broward County, Florida, issued a report entitled, ‘The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT): Screening for Gifted-ness, Predicting Achievements, and Informing Differentiated Instruction.’ That report showed that 643 second grade students not previously identified as gifted met the CogAT score criteria for consideration for gifted services. It also identified 84% of these students as being from under-represented populations.

“I believe that all students can learn and we do a disservice to them by not providing the resources.”

Senator Stavisky is the ranking Democrat on the NYS Senate’s Higher Education Committee, a former teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School and a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science

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