I just read the news on your site about lower NYC ELA and Math standardized test scores. My son is a soon-to-be 8th grader and this news is devastating. I haven't yet seen his score but I know that many screened/selective high school programs require a minimum of 3 on state standardized tests. Will admissions policies change in these schools in recognition that kids were tested on new standards they never learned? What advice do you have in navigating the high school admissions process for those who will begin the process this fall?
Concerned Parent in Brooklyn
Dear Concerned Parent in Brooklyn,
As you know, as of this week parents can access their child's test scores on ARIS. In fact, DOE officials are at city libraries to help parents access the scores and to explain them. If you have questions about your child's test and want to review it, you can ask the principal to set up an appointment for this purpose. You have to fill out a request and a professional will show it to you. This year, only some of the exam questions and answers will be shown. For general information, some of the questions are available online.
Many parents have complained that the percentile range shown on ARIS is too wide to be of use to determine if their kids are eligible for some of the highly selective schools. So far there is no word as to when more specific percentile information will be available.
As of yet,there has been only a little discussion of how the schools will handle these very low scores. We do know that in the spring, just after kids took the state tests, a group of principals distanced themselves, vowing to ignore results of what they saw as faulty and unfair tests.
Some enlightenment, along with some confusion, was reported via DNAInfo: "According to the mayor's office, students will not be held back based on the new test results. High-scoring students will continue to have access to screened middle and high schools, even if their scores decreased from past years. According to the city's chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, schools will admit students based on their rank on the new tests, allowing students whose scores slipped to still be admitted to the city's top schools."
Does this apply to those who managed to score 3’s and 4’s despite the higher bar? Or will 2 be the new 3? We don't know yet.
A Brooklyn middle school principal told us she thought selective schools would rely more on other measures, such as course grades, when evaluating students. “Principals are smart. They'll know to look at other measures to bring students into their schools," said Stacey Walsh of Brownsville Collaborative. "[Parents should] know that this is just one measure and what it measures is up for debate.”
Of course the eight specialized exam high schools admit kids solely on their performance on the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT). ELA and math scores are not considered.
My random survey of a few schools this week turned up no further information. Most schools did not have relevant staff on hand. The person answering the phone at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, a selective school on the Upper East SIde, said that nothing had yet been discussed. It’s late summer, but early days for schools to confront this or other policy issues. You won’t even know how your own child fared until the last week of August.
Here's what I suggest: Jumpstart the discussion about scores and admissions at your school, as soon as the doors open on September 9, and at guidance counselor sessions. Be sure to raise the issue at the high school fairs in September and October and the middle school fairs, in October and November.
And, when you are looking for high school (or middle school, for that matter) in the wake of these infamous scores, my usual advice still holds: thoroughly research your options in the Directory of NYC Public High Schools, or directories of middle schools. Read our Insideschools reviews and look at the school slideshows, attend open houses or tours at as many schools as you have time for, make sure your child meets the criteria for each school he applies to-- you may want to ask schools if what was published in the directories still holds true -- and, lastly, don’t list any school on your application that you would not accept.
In the meantime, once you get the scores from this year's exams, if they are much lower than expected, make sure to reassure your son that the results are not an accurate reflection of his intelligence or knowledge! After all, many experts think these tests were too hard, and even flawed.
(updated Aug. 29)