Sitting For the SHSAT in 2020


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“NYC – Battery Park City: Stuyvesant High School” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Aleeyah Slater

The SHSAT. That big, looming date on every NYC 8th grader’s horizon. We prep, and we practice, and we buy huge study books, all in anticipation of that test. But this year, no one knows if it’s even happening.


Many students have been prepping since mid-7th grade year, starting in January. This means long classes once a week after school, huge amounts of homework on top of all of your mandatory school work, and three hour practice tests on your weekend time. For just over nine whole months! To add to that, over the summer, test prep usually gets ramped up in intensity, with longer classes and more frequent tests. All of this time is being dedicated to taking one test that determines your acceptance into eight major high schools: Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College; High School for American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for Sciences at York College; Staten Island Technical High School; and Stuyvesant High School. Many 8th graders have been longing to attend one of these since before they even started middle school! 


Now, imagine you have been putting this work in for months and months, and you know you can get in to that dream school…and than the pandemic hits. You keep studying and taking tests and learning all you can in the hopes that things will improve by early November, but things are looking dire. You scour the DOE websites, looking for any information you can find about the test, but there is nothing. At all. Not even a simple, “We are not sure what will happen with the SHSAT this year, but we will keep you updated.” Nada. Zip. Zero. 


Unfortunately, this is what is happening all around the city for hundreds of 8th grade students. There is no available information about if the test is happening, when the test is happening, where the test is happening, or how the test is happening. Now, we understand that the DOE has been under a lot of stress recently with Zoom school and hybrid learning, but is it really possible to forget about the biggest middle school test of the year? Many 8th graders are wondering this exact thing. Amidala Barta-Zilles, a WESS eighth grader, says, “(I have been prepping over the summer) Four days a week..for eight weeks or so…(but) I think it is likely that the test will not happen.” So many kids have been doing work like this for months, and now they are realizing that it was most likely all for nothing! It’s a huge letdown for many kids with great practice test scores, who would be shoo-ins for these schools. Kai Kathawala, a 8th grader at Booker T., says “It’s quite annoying… and since I have been prepping since February, I’d like know when the test is happening, or if it is happening, because no one knows.” Many kids are also feeling this way, impatient to know something, anything, good news or bad.


As the previously scheduled test date, November 7th, comes creeping around the corner without even a way to register, kids around the city are wondering if all their hard work will be put to good use, or if they have just been wasting their time prepping for a test that will never happen.