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A high school does NOT have to be focused on elite college admissions in order to be providing students with a college prep curriculum. A student who graduates from high school and goes on to attend a community college or local 4-year commuter college is not a failure, nor is their high school somehow deficient if many or most of their graduated follow that path.
Isn't a non-competitive high school that "provides students with a college prep curriculum" just... a regular high school?
Likewise, the bottom students at Stuy who are struggling just to keep their grades up are already competing against top students who not only excel in school but at the same time get elected to student council or run a club or two and on the side write a few research papers that win the national science fairs and get published. The difference between the top and bottom students at a school like Stuy is immense, much larger than in a typical high school.
And now some politicians think it is a good idea to add even less qualified students to this mix? The top students will still be there, making the differences between top and bottom even greater. How would these new and less qualified students come out feeling confident about themselves?
SHSAT is a unique test. Compared to other admission tests, it seems to favor students who are skewed in a particular field. For example, to get a SAT score in the range that is typically for highly selective colleges, you need to do very well on both the math and verbal section. However, to get a high score on the SHSAT, you do not need to score very well on both sections. You could have a really high math score and a mediocre verbal score or vice versa.
Taking steps to reduce the chance that kids who are exceptional scorers in math or verbal do not fall through the cracks and have an opportunity to attend an excellent high school can be a useful goal. However, that does not mean that the scores will be largely predictive of success in high school classes, or that one needs to cross a particular high score threshold to have a good chance of academic success at Stuy. Instead one study found SHSAT score only explained 4% of variance in grades at Stuy. Much of the poor predictive ability related to the extremely restricted range. While a student scoring hundreds of points less than the threshold probably would have a high chance of struggling academically at Stuy, they weren't admitted. Among those who were in admitted, there wasn't much difference in grades between students who were on the score threshold vs somewhat above the threshold, which makes up the bulk of Stuy students.
I categorically believe any student of any race can improve his SAT/ACT test scores significantly regardless of his parents’ education level or income level if he is motivated. I was able to obtain 99.9% level SAT score (one in one thousand level) 6 or 7 years after I immigrated to US when my English level was still poor, and both my parents’ education levels were high school or below high school level; and we were poor also. Knowing that I could not get into any “decent” college with 3.0 gpa, I bought a Barron’s SAT book and studied 1 hour every day for 3 months instead of going out to play sports with my friends. I would like to see any student of any race try that before they complain that they are disadvantaged from getting high test scores because of their income level or their race. I see the lack of motivation and effort as the real problem. I know because I was not very motivated in academic settings.
I can agree that there are many more talented students than elite high schools. The solution would be to create more elite high schools rather than create more regular high schools.
When I hear about kids spending hundreds of hours studying for the SAT/ACT it makes me wonder what they could be doing instead that would actually enrich their lives in some way. It's the system, I get it, but it still seems like the time could be better used.