Bayside lawmaker pushes for better test prep over elimination of city specialized high school exam

Photo courtesy of the office of state Senator Tony Avella

When it comes to specialized high schools in New York City, it’s not the test that’s the problem — it’s the lack of diversity caused by uneven access to test prep, according to a Queens lawmaker.

State Senator Tony Avella is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to include funding for the DREAM Program, which focuses on test preparation for students that are underrepresented by entrance exams, in next year’s state budget.

“The end goal in including funding for the DREAM Program is to both save the test and increase diversity from lower-performing school districts,” Avella said. “By allocating funds to test preparation, students will be better prepared for their future because they will have received the proper educational support earlier in their life. That is why I am calling on Governor Cuomo to allocate $10 million to the New York City Department of Education’s DREAM Program.”

On June 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intentions to abolish the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT), citing that the current system prevents black and Hispanic students from getting into these schools. Avella, who is a supporter of the SHSAT, believes the city should address the diversity issue by providing more funding to the DREAM Program.

The DREAM Program is comprised of two initiatives: the DREAM-SHSI and the DREAM summer/fall intensive. Students DREAM-SHSI are chosen based on both academic and family income requirements while those in the summer/fall intensive, are recruited based on the school district they attend.

Avella believes that instead of taking away the SHSAT, funding the DREAM Program would increase diversity in the specialized high schools by educating children at the lower grades and providing them with the tools necessary to succeed in the later grades, which in turn will set them up to better succeed on the test.

“Test preparation and enrichment actually foster learning and improve educational outcomes to the benefit of all students engaging in it, including those who ultimately are not successful on the SHSAT,” said Jon Roberts, member of CoalitionEDU. “Test prep essentially is just studying. Instead of being scorned by some, it must be encouraged and facilitated financially where needed.”

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