Is the SHSAT Banned, Changed, or Removed? Is the SHSAT Still there?

By Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center | Updated on January 17, 2020

The dilemma began in June of 2018, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to completely scrap the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT). Mayor de Blasio asserted that “the single standardized test could never capture all the talent, and the test has to go.” The proposal was to completely get rid of the exam and create a system that allows the top seven percent of students in each middle school to gain entrance to a specialized high school. At the same time, de Blasio proposed expanding the Discovery Program and setting aside 20% of seats at each specialized high school for students from high-poverty middle schools who don’t quite make the cutoff scores.

There are a lot of layers to this problem. Lawmakers considered diversity, socioeconomic status, segregation, and other issues for reasoning to cancel the SHSAT. But here at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center, we believe that the examination is a good thing, for reasons listed below.

Equal Opportunity

A test is not inherently discriminatory. A test allows every single person who takes it to make an honest effort to do well. With a strong work ethic, students can take advantage of this equal opportunity to make the best of their situations. Not only do many schools provide after school classes, the city provides the DREAM program and the Discovery program to students (we’ll talk more about free resources below).

At its core, this examination is able to distinguish students who put in the effort to ace it. No one is inherently better or worse at this exam. The only thing that makes some students do well and others fail is that they were not able to or not willing to put in the time and effort. This exam is colorblind, need blind, and completely unbiased.

We have to remember that the population that takes this exam and aces it is also a disadvantaged community. Most of the students who gain admission to these elite high schools fall below the poverty line already. More than 75% of them are first or second generation immigrants. Many will be the first in their family to attend college. The population that enters this school is not one that is privileged. It is one that works hard to achieve results.


Asian students make up about 60 percent of the SHSAT student body. Compared to other elite schools, where most of the student body is white, this already shows promise. There is a dangerous idea that Asians and Asian-Americans are not part of diversity. This is completely unfair to this community, as they are also struggling financially, economically, and socially as compared to other groups. Diversity is the cornerstone of the Mayor’s proposal, but what it really is, is a scapegoat. The Mayor claims that he wants more diversity, but is unwilling to address the problems in New York City schools. Why are middle schools so poorly run? Why does the education system not cover the gaps that create such a disproportionate number of students gaining acceptance to these elite schools? It should be the Mayor’s job to first fix elementary, middle, and other public high schools around the city before attacking the SHSAT.

Work Ethic

Again, this exam is not inherently problematic or discriminatory. Anyone, regardless of color, creed, or religion, can do well on this exam if they put their all into it. Students who study for the exam will be more likely to gain acceptance – this is the bottom line. Perhaps our schools should be more encouraging of their students. Maybe the issue is a lack of resources, which again is a problem that New York City should be handling. The exam is not the issue. Rather, the problem is that Mayor de Blasio is unwilling to admit the mistakes of the New York City education system. With a strong work ethic, any student can get in. All they have to do is push themselves to study for the exam with one of the many resources we will detail below.

Life Changing

For students whose parents are first generation immigrants, whose parents don’t speak English, whose parents have never attended college, this exam is life changing. Attending a specialized high school can literally change the course of these students’ lives. The SHSAT has pushed the children of taxi drivers and cleaners into Ivy League schools. Again – life changing. Children who could have never imagined such success are getting there because of this exam. Children who lived in tiny one-bedroom apartments are moving up in the world because of this exam. There is no doubt that it is life changing, that it is a vehicle of upward mobility.

Free Resources

Luckily, there are many free resources available online and in-person. Firstly, students can take advantage of the DREAM program, a free weekend program that allows students from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain free SHSAT preparatory classes. Secondly, students can be eligible for the Discovery program, which accounts for socioeconomic status by allowing students who are close to the cutoff score a chance to attend a specialized high school. You can also watch our videos online. We have review videos by Mr. Tariq that are available to anyone and everyone and don’t cost a single penny to view.

Better Education

So in the end, not much has changed. Protests and pushback have stalled the process. The SHSAT has not been changed or canceled. The only change is that by this summer, 20% of seats will be reserved for Discovery Program students from high-poverty middle schools, which is definitely a good move. We at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center have continued to serve the community for over ten years and will carry on this legacy. We hope to aid the most dedicated and hardworking students lead the way to a successful future. Learn more about our programs at https://www.bobbytariq.com.
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