Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) will be administered this weekend, on October 26 and 27, and families this morning were yet to find out where and at what time thanks to technical glitches and inconsistent communications from the Department of Education (DOE). The exam had previously been scheduled through school guidance counselors, but was moved last year to an online registration system.
“The glitches continue. Folks who had seen a date and time for the test this weekend had those notifications disappear from the website,” said a Bensonhurst parent who wanted to remain anonymous, expressing her frustration on the issue in an interview with Bklyner. “Now we’re told we’ll get testing times and locations on Thursday or Friday.” The DOE posted the schedules this afternoon, Tuesday.
While these technical glitches may be innocent enough, it feeds into the greater issue of accessibility in education.
“This is a huge failure for equal access to the test and to these schools,” said The Brooklyn parent. “How are families who work weekends supposed to hold their entire weekend free to accommodate the Department of Education’s mismanagement of this process? How many kids will miss the test this weekend because they need more time to plan for getting to the testing site?”
Many eighth and ninth-grade students go through rigorous preparation for the exam, some studying for years just for the test. Joyce Szuflita of NYC School Help, who guides many parents through the New York City high school admissions process, confirms what is at stake for students this weekend.
“The SHSAT is the only factor that determines entry to the eight ‘Specialized’ high schools,” Szuflita told Bklyner. “The SHSAT is given in the fall of eighth grade, although students can test in the fall of ninth grade if they would like to try for the small entry available at Sophomore year.”
The eight specialized schools are highly-regarded, academic high schools in the city’s system, and not without controversy for admitting very few Black and Latino students, despite them being the majority in the New York school system.
While the preparation process is filled with stressful circumstances for parents and students alike, Szuflita says that while these specialized programs are excellent options, there are other equally rigorous schools available that do not require the SHSAT for entry.
Szuflita is confident that everyone who signed up for the SHSAT will have the opportunity to test this weekend, however, parents should be diligent in their communication.
“They should contact their middle school’s guidance counselor or admissions point person immediately—or if they can’t identify that person, the DOE—for information,” she said. “They should keep a record of the attempts to access the information or hardships that their students experienced, in case there are accommodations made for hardships.”
After detailing the practical aspects of the situation, Szuflita takes a moment to give some emotional advice as well: “Parents may have to absorb some of the crazy. Even though you may be frustrated, frightened or angry, don’t lose it in front of your student. That doesn’t help them. Stay calm, steady and proactive. This too shall pass.”
DOE Spokesperson Will Mantel said that “This afternoon, 18,500 students’ SHSAT tickets were successfully downloaded, and we released tickets the week of the test – the exact same as in previous years. All students who registered will be able to take the SHSAT this weekend, and families are happy to have a one-stop shop to learn about school options and apply on any computer or mobile device. We always work to address any individual issue a family might have.”
He added that families have” always received their tickets 3 to 5 business days before the SHSAT. That has not changed, and the timing of tickets is not related to the fact that the application is online” and that if families have concerns about their MySchools profile or the MySchools site, they can reach out to their school counselor or HSEnrollment@schools.nyc.gov for support.