What are Bragging Rights Worth?

"I'm really enjoying telling other parents my son is going to Stuyvesant!" 

With so much time and effort spent navigating the High School selection process, it inevitably comes up in conversation. A parent told me last week that when this happens, she's been surprised how much she's enjoyed saying that her son is going to Stuyvesant. "The conversation kind of stops after I say that." She continued, "I mean, I didn't go to Harvard..." At which point I felt compelled to interject, "Yes, but he might!"

Even if your child decides to attend a non specialized high school - to Beacon, Bard or Millennium - it's nice to know, and be able to say, they had the choice to attend Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science or Stuyvesant.



DOE Changes SHSAT: The Good, the Bad and the Unfortunate

On Wednesday evening, the DOE announced changes to the 2017 SHSAT. As expected, the Scrambled Paragraphs section was removed. The rationale for this change was that these questions were not aligned with the Common Core, and consistent with this reasoning the Logic section was also removed. These two sections will be replaced with questions on punctuation and grammar.


What This Means


The Good:

A straightforward test of grammar instead of the arcane Scrambled Paragraphs is almost certainly an improvement. This is especially true in the context of time spent on prep – as getting clear on the elements and rules of grammar should make students better readers and writers.


The Bad:

The test is now longer by 30 minutes and 19 questions - and all of this extra time will be spent on field test questions that are not part of your child’s test score.


The Unfortunate:

The Logic section, an oddball collection of brain teasers, was both interesting and fun for most students. It will be missed.




NYC Specialized High Schools in Newsweek's top 100

Newsweek ranked four NYC Specialized High Schools as among the top 500 in the country - all falling within the top 100.

Stuyvesant High came in at #3 in the country, and perhaps more interestingly, Staten Island Tech ranked #13 nationwide and number 2 in New York state.

At #62 was Brooklyn Tech, and just behind them at #63 was HSMSE (The High School for Math Science and Engineering at City College).

This is great news for Brooklyn parents most interested in Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant, but may come as a disappointment for those in the Bronx - as Bronx Science and The High School for American Studies at Lehman College are notable omissions.

Specialized High School, Queens High School for Science at York College did not make the list, but Queens based Townsend Harris was prominently placed at #19 in the country.…/americas-top-high-schools-2016



SHSAT Summer Study: Time for a Test?!

Has your child used some of the first weeks of summer getting better prepared for the SHSAT?

If so, now may be a good time for a full length practice test!

There are full length tests in most of the commercially available study guides. Or you can use one of the two published by the DOE in the Specialized High Schools Handbook.

But what should you look for in results?

If your child meets or exceeds 60% then he or she is in a good place for admission to Brooklyn Tech or Latin going into the school year and the final weeks of prep. But if he or she falls short of that mark, although there's still August for self study, you may also want to consider a series of summer review sessions.

Starting August 8th I'm offering week long courses - my full course curriculum in an intensive format of daily 3.5 hour classes for new students, or a week of daily 2 hour review sessions for those who prepped in the spring or July.

Please be in touch if any questions or to register.



What Should My Child Do Over the Summer to Prepare for the SHSAT?

Summer Study for the SHSAT

What should my child do over the summer to prepare for the SHSAT?

Almost all parents ask me this question, and for most my answer is the same: have them study a topic each week and take a full practice test at the end of each month.

A Topic a Week and a Test each Month

In math that means a week each for arithmetic, algebra (solving equations), algebra (writing equations) and geometry. In verbal it means a week each for Scrambled Paragraphs, Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.

This suggested schedule is devised as a reasonable alternative to the student default (do nothing) and potentially unrealistic parental expectations. It should be possible to get this done working two days each week for 30-60 minutes each day. And if your child is away for one month of the summer, it can also easily be done in one month - studying two topics per week.

This plan is appropriate for students within 5 or 10 percentage points of the score needed for admission to their first choice school. Whether they are at that point can be determined by results on their latest practice exam, or through diagnostic testing. If more progress than that is needed, you may want to consider a summer course or tutoring.

Material for this practice can be found in the many commercially available SHSAT study books - most of which include one or more full length practice test. For more realistic practice tests, use those in the DOE published Specialized High Schools Handbook. You should have received this book from your school at year end and it is also available on the DOE website.




Can my child get into Brooklyn Latin?!

Can my child get into Brooklyn Latin?!

Understanding an alarming – and misleading - statistic in the High School Directory.


On page two of the New York City High School Directory is a section titled “Navigating High School Admissions”, whose first section is aptly “Understand Admission”. On the next page is introduced the seemingly important issue of “seats” available for 9th graders at each the school.

The section reads in part:


Each program has a certain number of seats available for their incoming ninth grade class. ... You can find the number of available seats, the number of applicants, and the number of applicants per seat for each program the prior year on every school page... 


Over the past few months I have been surprised by parents expressing concern that their child has almost no chance for acceptance at Brooklyn Latin. This is typically stated after I’ve suggested to them that it’s an excellent school, and the most accessible of the Specialized High Schools (those that base admissions solely on the SHSAT exam).

When asked why they believe this they respond, “There are so few seats, and so many applicants!”

And in fact, the numbers in the 2016 directory for Brooklyn Latin are:

Applicants:                          16,723

Seats:                                       150

Applicants/Seat:                     111


It’s not hard to use those numbers to calculate another:

Seats per applicant as a percentage:       < 1%


1%! That’s harder than getting into Harvard!!

It's this final unwarranted interpretation that has convinced the parents I’ve spoken to, and presumably many others, that their bright but not astonishingly exceptional child has no realistic chance for admission.


Fortunately, this is not close to the truth!


The ultimate admission criteria for each school is their “admission method” and “admission’s priority”. For the eight Specialized High Schools the method and priority are essentially equivalent - students take a test (the SHSAT) and priority is firmly set by the score achieved.


This doesn't mean any particular child will get in, but it's relatively straightforward to predict their score on the actual test after they've taken a diagnostic. As a practical matter, they're not competing against the 17,000 who've expressed interest in attending, only those likely to get a score on the SHSAT greater or equal to their own.