New York City Council Header
File #: Res 0868-2019    Version: * Name: DOE to ensure the methodology for developing and scoring the Specialized High School Admissions Test, and the methodology for any future process implemented for Specialized High School admissions, be transparent and accessible to the general public.
Type: Resolution Status: Committee
Committee: Committee on Education
On agenda: 5/8/2019
Enactment date: Law number:
Title: Resolution calling on the New York City Department of Education to ensure the methodology for developing and scoring the Specialized High School Admissions Test, and the methodology for any future process implemented for Specialized High School admissions, be transparent and accessible to the general public.
Sponsors: Keith Powers , Brad S. Lander
Council Member Sponsors: 2
Attachments: 1. Res. No. 868, 2. Committee Report 5/1/19, 3. Hearing Testimony 5/1/19, 4. Hearing Testimony 5/1/19 (Con't), 5. Hearing Transcript 5/1/19, 6. Hearing Transcript - Stated Meeting 5-8-19, 7. Minutes of the Stated Meeting - May 8, 2019

Res. No. 868

 

Resolution calling on the New York City Department of Education to ensure the methodology for developing and scoring the Specialized High School Admissions Test, and the methodology for any future process implemented for Specialized High School admissions, be transparent and accessible to the general public.

 

By Council Members Powers and Lander

 

                     Whereas, The New York City (NYC) Department of Education (DOE) manages NYC’s public school system, which includes more than 1,800 schools, with over 400 high schools; and

                     Whereas, Included within the DOE’s 400 high schools, are nine Specialized High Schools (SHS), which serve students who excel academically and/or artistically; and 

                     Whereas, In NYC, SHS are regarded as the most prestigious public schools, with students scoring at the 99th percentile of the state SAT distribution and accounting for the majority of NYC students who attend Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, according to a 2018 Brookings’ report; and

                     Whereas, For eight of the nine SHS, admission is based solely on the score attained on a single test, the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), while for one of these schools, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (LaGuardia), acceptance is based on an audition and a review of a student’s academic records; and 

                     Whereas, Notably, the enactment of a State law in 1971, known as the Hecht-Calandra Act, codified into law the SHS’ use of a single test for admission, with the exception of LaGuardia, requiring that admission into a SHS “be solely and exclusively” gained by taking a specialized, voluntary admissions test, the SHSAT; and

                     Whereas, Due to the high educational standards of these schools, they are highly sought after and competitive; and

                     Whereas, For example, the DOE reports that approximately 27,500 NYC 8th graders took the SHSAT for admittance into one of the eight test-based SHS for the 2019-20 school year; however, only 4,798 of these students received an offer to one of the SHS as a result of their SHSAT score; and

                     Whereas, Despite the high demand for students to be admitted into SHS, there has been widespread discussion of the eight test-based SHS’ use of a single test for admission, as many contend that considering other factors, such as student grades, will help create a fairer admissions system; and

                     Whereas, To support this assertion, a 2008 Arizona State University and University at Colorado at Boulder study by Dr. Joshua Feinman revealed striking flaws in the SHSAT’s methodology, finding that: the SHSAT has an unusual, not widely known scoring feature that can favor those who have access to extensive test-prep tutors; thousands of students who are not accepted have scores that are statistically indistinguishable from thousands who are granted admission due to the use of less precise methods; certain versions of the SHSAT may increase the chances students have to gain admission; and no studies have ever been done to see if the SHSAT is subject to prediction bias across gender and ethnic groups; and 

                     Whereas, Notably, the student population at these test-based SHS does not adequately represent the broader NYC high school population, which is apparent in these SHS’ lack of black or Latino students (less than 10% in 2018) despite the DOE system being approximately two-thirds black or Latino over all, according to The New Yorker; and 

                     Whereas, Thus, it is vital to ensure that the methods behind developing and scoring the SHSAT, or any future SHS admissions’ methodology, be transparent and accessible, and subject to critical analysis and improvement, to help ensure that NYC’s SHS are diverse and representative of the whole City; now, therefore be it

                     Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls on the New York City Department of Education to ensure the methodology for developing and scoring the Specialized High School Admissions Test, and the methodology for any future process implemented for Specialized High School admissions, be transparent and accessible to the general public.

KK
LS 7339

4/29/19