New York City Council Members Justin Brannan, Keith Powers and Oswald Feliz introduced a package of legislation aimed at improving and expanding Specialized High School Admission Tests (SHSAT) preparation access across all five NYC boroughs.
The three bills were introduced on June 16, and were very similar to legislation proposed in the last Council by Ben Kallos, which also received support before the pandemic shifted the Council’s focus to public health.
“For years, antiquated practices around the SHSAT have shut too many students out from success and opportunity,” said Council Member Keith Powers on Thursday. “While there’s still so much more that must happen to increase diversity, expand accessibility, and tackle larger concerns surrounding the SHSAT, we can take pragmatic steps forward that will help thousands across all five boroughs. I’m proud to sponsor this important legislation, and will continue doing everything in my power to make our city’s public school system more equitable for all.”
The new legislative packet includes a local law requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to create a plan to administer specialized high schools admission tests on a school day, led by Council Member Powers and Education Committee Chair Rita Joseph; a local law requiring the department of education to create a plan for a pilot after school SHSAT preparation program, led by Council Member Brannan; and a local law requiring the DOE to create a plan to provide specialized high schools exam preparation to all middle school students, led by Council Member Feliz.
Currently, more than 90% of NYC middle schools do not have access to publicly funded test prep and 15 middle schools currently account for half the students admitted to elite public specialized high schools.
There is also racial disparity in test accessibility. While Black and Latinx students make up nearly 70% of NYC public school children, they make up only about a third of all SHSAT applicants.
“We know SHSAT prep has the ability to level the playing field for every student in NYC, which is why I’m proud to introduce this legislation to expand our current after school test prep pilot to schools most in need,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “We have a responsibility to ensure that every student, regardless of race or class, can thrive within our school system.”
Council Member Feliz expressed his excitement over the legislation’s introduction, saying that “creating a plan to ensure every middle school student receives SHSAT test prep will put us on a path to ensuring no child misses out on getting the best education NYC has to offer. We’re going to provide the tools so they can be prepared for every step of their educational journey.”