Specialized High Schools Admissions Test
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. In 2008, about 29,000 students took the test, and 6,108 students were offered admission to one of the high schools based on the results. On average, 30,000 students take this exam annually. The test is given each year in October and November, and students are informed of their results the following March. Those who receive offers decide by the middle of March whether to attend the school the following September. The test is independently produced and graded by American Guidance Service, a subsidiary of Pearson Education, under contract to the New York City Department of Education.
The SHSAT is used for admission to the following schools:
- Bronx High School of Science
- Brooklyn Latin School
- Brooklyn Technical High School
- High School of American Studies at Lehman College
- High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College
- Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
- Staten Island Technical High School
- Stuyvesant High School
According to a New York State law known as the Hecht-Calandra Act, this is the only method that these schools may use to determine admission. Admission to the remaining specialized high school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, is determined by audition or portfolio rather than by exam.
The test is given in late October (8th grade) or early November (9th grade and 8th grade with IEP's, 504 plans, and ELL). The test is administered at testing centers located in each of the city's 5 boroughs. In recent years, students who attend school in Manhattan take it at Stuyvesant High School, in the Bronx at Bronx High School of Science, in Brooklyn at Brooklyn Technical High School, Sunset Park High School, and James Madison High School, in Queens at Long Island City High School, Hillcrest High School, or John Adams High School, and in Staten Island at Staten Island Technical High School.
Students must choose which schools they wish to apply to (up to 8) and indicate them in order of preference on the day of the exam. The test is offered to all eighth and ninth grade students residing within New York City, but the majority of the applicants are eighth graders.
The results of the SHSAT are ordered from the highest score to the lowest score. The list is processed in order by score, with each student being placed in their most-preferred school that still has open seats, and continuing until there are no remaining open seats at any school. The grading of the test is not proportional to the raw score and is formulized by the New York City Department of Education.
The SHSAT tests for grammar and ability in both English and mathematics. It is recommended that not more than 90 minutes be spent on each section, but the time can be divided in any way students wish. There is no break between the sections. Electronic calculators and other calculation aids may not be used during the test.
57 Multiple Choice Questions
- 9-11 revising/editing
- 6-7 non fiction and fiction passages with a total of 46-48 questions
- All questions are multiple choice questions
57 Multiple Choice Questions 5 Grid-in Questions
- Various mathematical topics tested
There is no penalty for wrong answers. The total number of correct answers (the raw score) is converted into a scaled score through a formula that the Department of Education does not release, and which varies from year to year. This scaled score, an integer between 200 and 800, is used to determine a student's standing. The scaled score is not proportional to the raw scores.
The cut-off scores for each school vary yearly, determined simply by the number of open places in each school and how the candidates score. Students are notified of their scores in March. The Department of Education does not publish score results, the numbers below are self-reported by interested parents on public forums. For the fall 2006 exam, the lowest cut-off score was 478. The highest cut-off score was 558 for Stuyvesant High School, historically the most desired of the schools. The second highest cut-off score was 510 for Bronx Science. For the fall 2007 exam, the highest cut-off score was 562 for Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant accepted anyone who scored 562 or higher while Bronx Science had a cut-off score of 509. Brooklyn Tech had a cutoff of 480.
For Fall 2012, as reported in Spring 2013, the cut off score for Stuyvesant was 562, for Bronx Science the score was 513, Staten Island Tech 503, American Studies at Lehman was 501, for Queens 500, for HSMSE 498, Brooklyn Tech 483, Brooklyn Latin 471.
The cutoff score for 2017 are the following (these numbers are informally self-reported by parents, and not official):
2017 (cutoff score / high score) Stuyvesant 555 / 704 Bronx Science 512 / 664 Brooklyn Latin 479 / 600 Brooklyn Technical 486 / 588 HSMSE @ CCNY 504 / 621 HSAS @ Lehman 516 / 545 Queens Science @ York College 507 / 607 Staten Island Tech 515 / 704
In 2018, the cutoff scores were the following: Stuyvesant: 559, Bronx Science: 518, Brooklyn Latin: 483, Brooklyn Technical: 493, HSMSE @ CCNY: 516, HSAS @ Lehman: 516, Staten Island Tech: 519 
The 9th Grade SHSAT cut-off scores tend to be much higher due to limited seats for incoming 10th graders in the schools. Some schools such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science may only have 5-10 seats each year for incoming 10th graders while Brooklyn Technical High School, being the school with the most students, may only have around 20-30 seats. Depending on the year, the number of seats is available in the NYC High School Directory Book given to all students applying for admissions to a high school. Each year, an average 50-60 9th Grade Students get into the Specialized Schools, out of an estimated 6,000 students. Schools such as the Brooklyn Latin School had a cutoff score of 494 in 2018, Brooklyn Tech had a score of 525, Bronx Science had a score of 532, and Stuyvesant had a score of 589. The other schools tend to have a cutoff score of around 520. The 9th Grade SHSAT is considered to be the hardest, due to the test involving harder English questions as well as advanced mathematics, such as Geometry, Integrated Algebra, etc., as well as the competition being much harder as the chances of getting into a school are very low and "slim".
Department of Education programs
The New York Specialized High School Institute (SHSI) is a free program run by the City of New York for middle school students with high test scores on citywide tests and high report card grades. The program's original intent was to expand the population of Black and Hispanic students by offering them test-taking tips and extra lessons, however, anyone can apply. As of 2006, 3,781 students are enrolled at 17 locations. They spend 16 months, starting in the summer after sixth grade, preparing for the test.
Certain applicants who have scored just below the cut-off score and are recommended by their guidance counselor may qualify for the Summer Discovery Program. Successful completion of this program allows the students to gain admission to a specialized high school. The students must:
- 1. have scored close to the admission cut-off score on the SHSAT; and
- 2. be certified as disadvantaged by their middle school according to any one of the following criteria:
- a. attend a Title 1 school and be from a family whose total income is documented as meeting federal income eligibility guidelines established for school food services by the NYS Department of Agriculture; or
- b. be receiving assistance from the Human Resources Administration; or
- c. be a member of a family whose income is documented as being equivalent to or below Department of Social Services standards; or
- d. be a foster child or ward of the state; or
- e. initially, have entered the United States within the last four years and live in a home in which the language customarily spoken is not English; and
- 3. be recommended by their local school as having a high potential for the specialized high school program.
In November 2005, a New York Times article found that students scoring in the 90th percentile on both sections would not gain admittance to their first choice schools; meanwhile, those scoring in the 99th percentile on one section and the 50th percentile on the other, would. This happens because the final grade and percentile represent the total score and the curve within sections.
Admission is based solely on how the student does on the SHSAT. The New York City Department of Education created the New York Specialized High School Institute (SHSI), a free program run by the Department for middle school students with high test scores on citywide tests and solid report card grades. The program's original intent was to expand the population of African American and Hispanic students in the science high schools by offering them test-taking tips and extra lessons; however, students of any racial or ethnic background can apply for admission to the Institute. Just like the schools, however, these test-prep programs have seen attrition among black and Hispanic students. As of 2006, 3,781 students are enrolled at 17 locations. Students spend 16 months, starting in the summer after sixth grade, preparing for the test.
In October 2013, it was reported that the number of African American and Latino students being admitted into SHSAT schools over the past five years had declined. In response, the Community Service Society and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), asserting that New York state law (the Hecht-Calendra Act of 1972) requires only three schools (Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Tech, and Stuyvesant) to use the SHSAT for admissions and that the five other schools that use the SHSAT for admission are not required to do so, and that their doing so violates the civil rights of black and Latino students. The position of the New York Department of Education is that applicants for all eight specialized high schools are legally required to take the SHSAT." The OCR opened an investigation which is still pending as of 2019.
In addition, many disagree with de Blasio's moves to increase the African Americans and Latino amount of students in the Specialized High Schools. As of 2015, there has been widespread dissent among Asian Americans, who account for 2/3 of the population attending the top 3 specialized high schools. Mayor de Blasio's administration began to look at alternatives to the SHSAT score as the sole means of admissions. Factors such as attendance, GPA, ethnicity, personal recommendation, and geographical locations are considered. A coalition of alumni associations, alumni, and parents of the SHS's was formed to combat these changes. An argument that is used is that admission is a zero-sum game, and by bestowing admission to Blacks and Latinos, the city is essentially taking seats from one minority (Asian Americans) and giving it to another. Most students in SHSs eat free or reduced lunch, a status granted to families close to the poverty line.
Use by TJHSST
A modified version of the SHSAT was last used by the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology of Northern Virginia for the Class of 2021. TJHSST's version of the test offers\ed only two hours to complete the test rather than the 150 minutes of the original SHSAT. Additionally, it contained five Logical Reasoning questions and reduced the number of Reading Comprehension questions in each reading passage to five. TJHSST did not use a formula to determine a scaled score, instead requiring that an applicant had a raw score of at least 60 and a GPA of at least 3.0 and using a sliding scale to determine which of the remaining applicants became semifinalists.
- Raw score of 60 or higher for a GPA of 3.50 or higher
- Raw score of 65 or higher for a GPA lower than 3.50 but at least 3.25
- Raw score of 70 or higher for a GPA lower than 3.25 but at least 3.0
Applicants were required to meet the sliding scale in order to proceed to the second round. Additionally, applicants must have had a Mathematics score of at least 30 in order to proceed.
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