SHSAT (Specialized High School Admission Test) results came out on the evening of Monday, April 11. We at CAS Prep are very happy with our results as we once again helped students get into Specialized High Schools (SHS). Unfortunately, the needle has not moved when it comes to the numbers of students of color who will be offered seats to the SHS this year and unfortunately, again, it probably won’t move again next year. This stagnation is due to many reasons, most having to do with the fact that most students do not have the foundation that allows them to even be ready for the rigor of SHSAT test prep, much less the actual exam.
Most schools do not have the SHS and the SHSAT on their radar, and in all honesty, it’s not their mission. Their mission has more to do with the state assessments and trying to move the needle there; just visit your child’s school from February to April to witness it yourself. That’s what their school ratings depend on, that’s how they are judged as either a failing or successful school, and that’s where the majority of educational services and funds go (primarily to lift level ones and twos into level threes). The two tracks are not the same and it’s time that parents become aware of that. For instance, your child’s 98 math average in school does not necessarily translate to an above grade level performance on state and other normed exams. Grades are earned on a teacher generated matrix of homework, quizzes, assessments, extra credit, etc. It surely doesn’t translate to the notion that they can wait till the summer of 8th grade, study for a few weeks and then expect to successfully take on the challenges of the SHSAT. The state assessment track is akin to that of a tamed stable horse, the SHSAT track is akin to that of a young belligerent stallion that has never been ridden. So, year after year, children who are doing well in their schools take the skills acquired from the stable horse outside to the domain of the young stallion and get knocked off over and over and over again and we wonder why.
So, what do we as parents and families do?
1) We trust that the standards provided to schools by the state will provide our children with all they need to be successful. Stop trusting, verify and validate! It’s time to move from just having a conversation to looking at data. Does the data show that they have been exposed to advanced skills and strategies? Does it show they are being taught problem-solving skills in math? Does your child know how to “map” words and phrases into the appropriate operation accurately and consistently? What reading comprehension strategies are being employed that will allow students to access vocabulary dense readings, sometimes written in “old English” or poetry? Outside of data, are there pathways for tutoring or support outside of the classroom environment? What if your child actually gets all that is being taught and is ahead, what are the opportunities for acceleration?
2) If you want your child to go to a SHS, for most, waiting until the summer of 8th grade and taking your child to a prep center the summer of 8th grade is almost too late even if your child attends a Gifted and Talented middle school, or a top-rated private school. Ideally that process needs be started the summer of 6th grade.
3) If we want to collectively move the needle, we need to create cohorts of students and families who are dedicated to that mission and help fund that process for them. Starting the summer of 6th grade or earlier is key. To be clear, I am not advocating test prep in the 6th grade, I’m advocating putting students on an educational track that will allow them to tame that stallion in two years, ride that stable horse at their leisure, and move into whatever high school they end up in with the skills to successfully navigate that process.
I’ve worked with enough students to understand the brilliance contained in our community. Our children are enough. We just need to put them on the proper track based on our goals for them.
Samuel Adewumi is the founder of CAS Prep which has been responsible for sending students to the SHS each year of its existence. Even more importantly, CAS Prep has helped change the trajectory of the educational progress of hundreds of students in a positive way. Adewumi believes in the multiple genius of all of our children and believes in the responsibility of parents, schools, and support organizations like his to help unlock that brilliance.