Advocates rally in Bayside, calling for continuation of Specialized High School Admissions Test

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Photo by Dean Moses

Parents, advocates and elected officials gathered outside of Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School in Bayside on Thursday, Nov. 12, to demand students be given the opportunity to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), after the timeline for the exam was thrown into flux by Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza earlier this year.

“In September, we were repeatedly assured that by October they would tell us that the Department of Education would announce what the rules are, what the admission criteria would be for entry admissions in the fall of 2021. Guess what? It’s November and we still don’t know anything,” State Senator John Liu said.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, a notable critic of the SHSAT, delayed the test, as well as the entire process for applying to specialized high schools earlier this year due to COVID-19.

The original deadline to register for specialized high school admission was on Oct. 21 and the original deadline to apply to the city’s eight specialized high schools was Dec. 4. Not only have both deadlines been changed, but neither of the processes have even been opened.

The DOE hasn’t offered a renewed timeline to parents, schools or students.

Photo by Dean Moses

“For the past eight months, hundreds of thousands of parents and kids have been waiting anxiously for the Department of Education to announce the details on the admissions of high schools and specialized high schools and they are also waiting to sign up for the testing for the Gifted and Talented program,” said Phil Wong, president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York. “When parents attempted to register for these information sessions, when they visited the link, they were horrified to see a window informing them that those sessions have been postponed until further notice. Meanwhile there is not a word on any dates on how to sign up for Gifted and Talented testing.”

Liu said he recognizes the pressure and logistical nightmare the DOE faces in trying to implement the test, which approximately 30,000 students take each year.

“We’ve been dealing with 2020, all the parents have been dealing with it trying to make sure their kids get the proper education all the while balancing their workdays,” Liu said. “The Department of Education, I’ll give them a little bit of credit for trying to figure out how to deal with a worldwide pandemic right here in the city.”

The test, which four of the specialized high schools must use to for admissions in accordance with state law, has been the cause of conflict for years now.

Photo by Dean Moses

Opponents of the test, including Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio, argue it widens the education gap between low-income Black and brown students and their peers. Students with access to more resources at a younger age perform better on the test and then gain access to even more resources while attending the specialized high schools, they say.

While no timeline on specialized high school admissions been given, the DOE has created an email list, where parents and students can receive updates.

“We appreciate your patience and will update this page with more detailed information and timelines as soon as we can,” the DOE’s website reads.

Additional reporting by Dean Moses.