Why Specialized High Schools are So Important

As the world becomes more globalized and the innovation economy continues to expand, there is a growing need for talent that will help build this new world that is upon us. The sort of talent that will thrive in the 21st century economy will be those who are inherently problem solver and have a knack for the various STEAM fields. When I think of

We need Specialized High Schools

  1. There are students without those amazing grades that show up on exam day and do very well and the Specialized High Schools are an amazing redeeming opportunity for them. We have a few of those examples of students who had 70’s and low 80’s in 7th grade, realized the need to work harder and now had the SHSAT as a last resort option to access an amazing high school. There is room in NYC’s 435 high schools for 8 schools that offer this opportunity.

  2. Jumaane Williams is not for getting rid of the SHSAT altogether. He defends the SHSAT because he himself only got into a Specialized High School thanks to the SHSAT; his middle school grades were not good. He appreciates that there are kids who only do well on testing, especially boys, and if you take away test-only schools, of which there are only 8 in NYC, you are hurting those kids (there are already hundreds of schools in NYC that use grades for kids who don't do well with grades)

Why Only 7 Black Students Got into Stuyvesant High School in 2019

As one of the few companies in the space doing the work to help black and latinx students gain admission into Specialized High Schools and other top NYC high schools, it is only appropriate that we step in to fully educate the community on why these outcomes are to be expected until appropriate measures are taken to solve the problem at it’s core. The problem is not a simple one so the solution is certainly not a simple one either. We need to hit the problem from a number of facets in order to truly impact change.

Here is a thorough break down of the factors causing the number of black students gaining admission into Stuyvesant High School to be so low. I will hold all parties accountable in this article because it is a team effort to help these children gain access to the Specialized High Schools.

Here are the factors contributing to the low numbers:

  1. We have a pipeline problem that is caused by the lack of gifted and talented programs in every school district in elementary schools and middle schools. Under the Bloomberg administration, many gifted and talented programs were taken away with no alternative put in place to challenge advanced learners to move to the next level. Therein lays one of our biggest issues. Without access to accelerate coursework, our best children are virtually excluded from the chance to compete on the SHSAT

  2. All black students DO NOT even sit for the SHSAT. Many parents are uninformed about the Specialized High Schools, the SHSAT and the need to prepare for the content tested on the exam. Additionally, parents are turned off by the lack of diversity and don’t even bother to have their child sit for the exam

  3. Our best students are scooped up by private schools and are groomed for these schools by programs like Prep for Prep, Oliver Scholar and A Better Chance. These programs are extremely rigorous and time intensive, leaving very little to prioritize preparation for the SHSAT. It is a great opportunity for these highly sought after candidates and should be added to the conversation

  4. If a student is in a 6-12 school or a K-12 school that is a Charter School or Public School, parents are not always given information about alternative, more competitive high school options. This leaves parents incapable of making an appropriate, holistic high school admissions decision for their child. School administrators at these schools prefer to retain their best candidates to make their high schools appear stronger. Losing their best and brightest students is not in their best interest so information about more selective high schools are oftentimes withheld from parents in an effort to keep the child at the current school

  5. Information networks are not as abundant in black and brown communities so parents often rely on teachers and guidance counselors to provide them with options for high schools. Unfortunately, guidance counselors and teachers at certain schools DO NOT share information about the city’s most competitive high school programs and oftentimes, make assumptions that the children would not be able to handle the work load. These internal biases cause students and parents to be left in the dark about their true options.

  6. For the black students who took the exam, here is what could have happened:

    1. Some of them do not receive test prep. Their parents may believe that they can show up cold to the exam and do well.

    2. Some students signed up for test prep way too late for it to make a difference

    3. Some students received test prep and did not work exceptionally hard to maximize the opportunity

    4. Some students are just not great test takers

Now, here are the solutions:

Mayor/Chancellor/DOE Responsibility:

  1. Create more Specialized High Schools. There is something special about the schools that should be studied carefully and duplicated. It’s a shame that every year so many talented students have to compete for so few seats. Right now, only 10% of NYC’s high schools do an exceptional job of preparing students for college. Let’s double the number of top high schools!

  2. Improve K-8 educational quality by expanding access to gifted and talented programs to ALL school districts for the elementary schools and middle schools. This way students who are advanced learners can be challenged and moved to the next level. This is how we rebuild the pipeline

  3. Mandate that ALL students take the SHSAT. The students have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Our students have noted exceptional SAT scores as a result of receiving SHSAT preparation with us. We want all students to experience these benefits.

  4. Administer a diagnostic SHSAT in 6th grade to ALL middle schoolers and again in 7th grade to simulate the test environment in advance of the real thing and to help build stamina in the students.

Guidance Counselor/Teacher Responsibility:

  1. Guidance Counselors should get informed about the top high schools in the city and encourage ALL students to get familiar and prepared for admission. Explain to students AND their parents that they will have to APPLY to get into a high school in NYC. A strong application includes 90+ report card grades in 7th grade, 4’s on the 7th grade state exam, excellent attendance and punctuality.

  2. Teachers should identify which students have the potential to be challenged at a higher level and refer them to AdmissionSquad. We would love to work with your students to help move them to the next level. Also, you can give them SHSAT problems to work on in their free time or for homework. We have content we are willing to share for teachers who will partner with us to identify talented students.

Parent Responsibility:

  1. Get informed about the top high schools in NYC and the Specialized High Schools. Learn who they are and what they require for admission. You need to do this while the child is in 6th grade so we stay on top of the game.

  2. All students need to take the SHSAT. Parents, it is up to you to sign your child up for the exam and to get them prepared for the exam. Preparation for the SHSAT should start no later than 6th grade. Keep the child a grade level ahead, get them the SHSAT test prep they need to succeed and then sign up for the exam in September of 8th grade.

  3. Sign up for test prep! I cannot emphasize this enough. Your child’s 7th grade in-school curriculum alone WILL NOT prepare them for the SHSAT. Some of the content tested on the exam is a mixture of 8th and 9th grade material. They also need to be able to work well under pressure, as the SHSAT is a timed exam. Common core state exams are not timed. Children need to receive a simulated test environment and be taught the content needed to succeed on the SHSAT. Additionally, when the child returns to school, the exam is a month and half away. There is not much content covered in the 8th grade curriculum that will do the job to prepare students.

  4. The summer before 8th grade should be devoted to SHSAT test prep. There are no ifs, ands or buts about this. This is the last opportunity we have to truly make a difference in your child’s chances and we don’t want to miss out. A short vacation at the end of August could work but July and the first half of August should be focused on SHSAT test prep, finalizing your high school list, attending high school admissions workshops and visiting schools with your child.

Student Responsibility:

  1. Work hard to be a grade level ahead of your peers. If you have friends that don’t want to push toward excellence you may have to distance yourself from them so you can get focused on preparing for your bright future

  2. Start researching the top high schools, college and leading careers to learn more about what it takes to be successful. Check out my book called Who Am I? An A-Z Career Guide for Teens to start learning about 6-figure generating careers and what you need to do to access them! You need a copy ASAP to start learning the hidden secrets for high-level success!

Community Responsibility:

  1. Support AdmissionSquad! We welcome your funding, talent and resources to help expand our company. We need a bigger space to service more students. We need talented instructors on our team. We need mentors to encourage and motivate our students. The funding will help us to hire the team needed to run a school, which is what this is. We have an achievement school and schools require capital to run efficiently.

  2. If you come across a talented student in middle school start sharing top high schools options with them and encourage them to take the SHSAT. Beyond giving them a pat on the back is giving them the tools needed to move beyond their current level of brilliance

  3. Be a champion for academic excellence AT ALL TIMES

2019 SHSAT Cutoff Scores

Here are the 2019 SHSAT cutoff scores for the most recent class of test takers. You will notice that the minimum admitted score has increased for quite a few of the Specialized High Schools. This point increase is indicative of two potential factors:

  1. A stronger group of testers

  2. The exam was easier than the year prior

Please keep in mind that the SHSAT is an academic competition between the approximate 28,000 8th grade students who sit for the exam in October to November of the child’s 8th grade year. Students with IEP’s and 504’s are given extended time to achieve success on the exam AND the DOE has selected a few middle schools to host the SHSAT on site removing a travel barrier to students.

Advice for Prospective Students

  1. Get 4’s on your common core state exams and learn content a grade level ahead of your current grade at all times. Staying a grade level ahead will help you to beat out your competition.

  2. Instead of focusing on how to exceed the minimum admitted score, a prospective student should focus on how they can be the best amongst the entire group of 8th grade students. Make it a goal to get the highest score possible (800 points) and this is how you can secure a seat in the Specialized High Schools.

  3. Finally, we believe that ALL students should sit for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). There are 80,000 8th graders in NYC every year, yet only 28,000 take the SHSAT. Having ALL students sit for the exam could change the cutoff scores and might tell a different story. You never know what the outcome might be and you literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Give it your best shot and start preparing now so you can shine on exam day.

AdmissionSquad offers rigorous test prep to talented middle schoolers looking to gain a competitive advantage on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and in the high school admissions process.

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SHSAT Results By Race - 2019 vs. 2018

The moment we have all been waiting for happened on Monday, March 18th. New York City received the startling 2019 SHSAT results and for some reason our city was shocked. The unfortunate reality is that these outcomes have been virtually unchanged for the last decade or so. We stand on the fact that the results will remain the same until appropriate action is taken to address the root cause of the issue. We will address this in another post.

Here are the stats you need to know: In 2019, 4.0 percent of offers to attend the city's eight Specialized High Schools went to black students (down from 4.1% last year) and 6.6 percent of the offers went to Hispanic students (up from 6.3% last year). While these percentages don’t equate to significant changes in the number of students placing, it is still important to note the increase. Additionally, the DOE has yet to extend offers to the Discovery program. The Mayor’s proposal has allotted seats in the Discovery program to any student who scores a few points shy of the minimum cut off score to each Specialized High School in an effort to help address the diversity issue. The Mayor set out to ensure that 20% of the seats were given to educationally and economically disadvantaged students, which happen to be black and latinx students. Once these offers are made, we WILL see another INCREASE in the number of students placing into Specialized High Schools. So, sit tight everyone. There is much room for celebration!

For anyone who is asking why this is a big deal, let me explain. Black and latinx students comprise almost 70 percent of students in the NYC public school system yet only 10% of the seats offered at Specialized High Schools. These results are a glaring display of the educational inequities running rampant through our system as well as the need to invest in test prep companies like AdmissionSquad to help rebuild and preserve the talent pipeline.

We believe that this target population has the ability to gain admission into these highly sought after high schools as long as a concerted effort is made to:

  1. Close the information gap causing students from this population to miss out on the opportunity to attend a Specialized High School

  2. Provide high-quality test prep to as many highly motivated, deserving students as possible starting from 3rd grade

By addressing these two critical factors, NYC stands to gain access to a talent pipeline that has been overlooked for the past two decades. Believe it or not, there are many parents, grandparents, guidance counselors, teachers, youth ministry leaders, family members, etc. in black and brown communities that know very little about the city's Specialized High Schools and what it really takes to get in. More importantly, the middle schoolers oftentimes cannot see themselves in these schools because of the lack of diversity. I challenge all of us to come together to train our children to become competitive and create a more inclusive environment in the Specialized High Schools. With increased awareness, academic enrichment, access to rigorous test prep and long-term support, these students can secure a seat on the Education to Wealth Pipeline

Our work continues!

Source: Chalkbeat

Source: Chalkbeat

Sign up for the 2018 SHSAT by October 11th

I know by now you are working very hard to get ready for the SHSAT coming up in a few weeks. The one thing you don’t want to forget is to REGISTER FOR THE TEST! This year, for the first time, parents are solely responsible for registering their child for the 2018 exam. The link above gives you all the details.

In this post, I wanted to share some commonly asked questions so everyone is clear:

Who is eligible to take the SHSAT?

All current 8th graders, and first-time 9th graders (regardless of whether you go to a public, private, or parochial school in one of the five Boroughs) can sign up to take the SHSAT. Long Island residents are not allowed to sign up to take the exam.

How do homeschooled students sign up?

Visit your family welcome center for the account creation code so you can sign up.

What about Students with IEP’s, 504 plans or English Language Learners?

Make sure you will apply. You will take the exam on a different day on November 3rd or November 18th.

What if you moved to NYC after November 1st?

You will take the SHSAT in August right before 9th grade. You can register at your local Family Welcome Center.

2018 Common Core State Test Results are Out

The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. Common Core state exams have been released for 3rd through 8th graders across NYC. It’s time to see how your children performed on their most recent state exam. This is a big deal because it is important that you and your child stay focused on getting 4’s on both the ELA and Math state exams. Even if this is not the case, you can set some tangible goals with your child to get them on track to increase their score for the upcoming year.

As you know, 4th and 7th grade are the most critical years because these state exam scores determine middle school and high school admissions respectively. 5th grade scores are also important if you want your child to have the opportunity to take the admissions test for Hunter College High School. Note: They will need 4’s in 5th grade! Regardless of how you slice the pie, if you want your child to have the best school options, it is very important that they score a 4 on these exam and that they maintain it from 3rd through 8th grade.

Our academic enrichment programs help to strengthen their foundation so they are in a better position to improve their scores year over year. It is unrealistic to expect a child to go from a 1 to a 4. It is much more realistic to see a child move from a 1 in 3rd grade to a 2 in 4th grade. Perhaps they may move up to a low 3 in 5th grade. Then they can aim for a high 3 in 6th grade. By 7th grade, the goal should be to get a 4 and maintain a 4 for 8th grade as well. The best way to accomplish this is to address foundational gaps in learning and once the child is caught up, which does not take an entire year, give them access to accelerated content. This is what AdmissionSquad provides and more. Check out the Early Start Program to learn more!

Visit the link below to get your child’s common core scores. We are in your corner!

My Experiences At Brooklyn Technical High School - Gabby Pile

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AdmissionSquad Intern and Student Leader

Current Junior at Brooklyn Tech shares her HS experience and what it really took to gain admission into one of NYC’s Specialized High Schools.

Photography by Nancy Maria Photography

My name is Gabrielle Pile. I am 16 years old and I attend Brooklyn Technical High School. Brooklyn Tech is one of the the nine Specialized High Schools in New York City. Because this school is ranked as one of the best schools in New York City, I had to work really hard to gain acceptance into the school. In order to get into Tech, I had to take the SHSAT, the entrance exam for eight of the Specialized High Schools. I studied about 8 months in advance for this test. I took a prep class 4 days a week; Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Wednesday and Thursday classes both ended at 9:00pm. For 14 year old me, this kind of rigor was hard to adjust to. There were many times along my journey of studying for the SHSAT that I wanted to give up. I can’t say that every moment during that 8 month period, I was chanting the name “Brooklyn Tech.” However, I pushed myself because of the opportunities that a school like Brooklyn Tech could afford to me. With over 10 AP (Advanced Placement) classes and almost 100 clubs, this school could lead me toward a future that my zoned high school couldn’t. My late-night Netflix binge watching turned into scrambled paragraphs reading sessions. And, my Saturdays and Sundays were spent correcting old practice tests I had taken. I worked really hard to be able to attend this school. On March 8th, 2016 when I received my acceptance letter, I knew my hard work paid off.

As an upcoming Junior at Brooklyn Tech, I have really taken advantage of the clubs and activities that my school provides. During my freshman year, I joined the Girl’s Who Code Club, whose mission is to encourage girls to pursue careers in the STEM fields. I am still a member of this club to this day. During my Sophomore year, I joined the Black Student Union (BSU) at Tech. This club provides me with a space to talk about my experiences as a black student at Tech. I am happy to report that next year, I am going to serve as the leader of the outreach committee on the BSU board. During my Sophomore year, I also became the captain of the Junior Varsity Girls Soccer Team. With this team, we were able to compete in the final match of the PSAL championships. This is the furthest a Brooklyn Tech soccer team has ever gone. And next year, I hope to join the Girl’s Varsity Soccer Team. I was involved in the Beta Club, a service which aimed at improving the lives of people in New York City. I have been able to participate in these clubs and activities while maintaining an above 90 total average.

With the extra-curricular activities and challenging academic classes, I have been able to take at Brooklyn Tech, I know I will be able to pursue my dream of getting a degree in software engineering at the University of Georgia Tech.

To conclude, I believe that Brooklyn Tech is a great school for those who want an academically challenging school that has tons of clubs and extracurricular opportunities. Although the school is challenging, the benefits that I will reap from being in such an environment will last a lifetime.

Gabrielle Pile, Brooklyn Tech - Class of 2020


Register Online for the 2018 SHSAT

Breaking news parents! As of 2018, the DOE is changing the SHSAT registration process to an online process at a website called MySchools.nyc where parents can register their children to sit for the exam. No longer will parents have to go to their child’s middle school guidance counselor or to a family welcome center to sign their child up for the SHSAT and receive an exam ticket and test date. Online registration at MySchools.nyc will provide increased transparency regarding which students are signed up for the exam and will allow parents to fully own the process.

Guidance counselors across the city were notified of this change on September 12th and details will be sent out to parents during the week of September 17th - September 21st. The opportunity to register your child online for the SHSAT opened on September 6th and will close on October 11th. Parents will receive a MySchools account creation code and will also need the child’s student ID number in order to sign onto the system.

This is a new system so everyone is learning how to work with it. Please be patient and be on the lookout for the details from your school. If you do not receive it from your school, contact your family welcome center right away. AdmissionSquad offers parent consultations and workshops to help you navigate the admissions process. If you need support signing up, you may email info@admissionsquad.org to sign up for a consultation.

Important Information

how do i register my child for the shsat?

Step 1: Visit MySchools.nyc

Step 2: Click Get Started and then the parent should enter their first and last name, their email address and establish a password

Step 3: Once you log in, add all of your children to the system. This website will be used for elementary, middle AND high school admissions so you might as well get ahead of the game. You will need each child’s Student ID number (can be found on the child’s report card) and an account creation code (provided by the child’s guidance counselor or at a family welcome center. Visit the link above to find your center)

Step 4: Sign your child up for the 2018 Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). If your child has a 504 or IEP, make sure you select this option to ensure they get the additional accommodations they need. Students with IEP’s or 504’s will take the exam in November.

What is the SHSAT?

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is a free exam for New York City students in grade eight and nine that determines admission into one of New York City’s eight specialized high schools that require the exam. The only criteria that these schools consider is the SHSAT. They do not consider a child’s grades, state exam scores, attendance or punctuality.  Taking the SHSAT is the ONLY way for students to gain admission into New York City’s specialized high schools, which are some of the best schools in the country. Taking the exam is also excellent practice for the PSATs, SATs, and other standardized tests! 

Who are the Specialized High Schools Requiring the SHSAT?

  1. Stuyvesant High School

  2. The Bronx High School of Science

  3. The High School for Math Science and Engineering at City College

  4. American Studies at Lehman College

  5. Staten Island Technical High School

  6. Brooklyn Technical High School

  7. The Brooklyn Latin School

  8. Queens Science at York College

When is the 2018 SHSAT?

The 2018 SHSAT will be administered on October 20nd and 21st. More details, including test locations, are available in the SHSAT handbook. If your child has an IEP or 504 plan or is an english language learner, they will take the exam on November 3rd or November 18th. Go to page 11 for test dates, and page 12 for test locations. 

how do i prepare my child for the shsat?

Step 1: Download the SHSAT Student handbook to have your child start practicing the free exams available that include examples of what will be on the real SHSAT. There are also test-taking tips that your child can start to master

Step 2: Sign up for an AdmissionSquad preparation program

Step 3: Keep motivating and inspiring your child to be disciplined and focused about the preparation process which is a separate commitment outside of school. The 7th grade school curriculum, exclusively, WILL NOT prepare your child to be successful on the SHSAT. The more you are informed as a parent, the better you can advocate for your child. We believe that children should have as many high school options as possible. The only way to ensure this is the case is for parents to get clear on what it takes to get into these schools and to get their children the resources needed to qualify