So, I've thought a lot about what my first blog post should be and I decided it should be about the SHSAT and it should be something important. Well, the most important thing I learned from last year was the value of allowing students to opt in to their test prep.
Last year, we had 2 students who at the beginning of their SHSAT prep had scores that put them at the low end of we consider “viable” for candidates starting to prep to get into a specialized high school. We told the parents we would be happy to work with their kids, but that they should have a talk with the students about whether preparing for the SHSAT is something they really wanted to do because success was going to mean a lot of work. The parents had the conversation; the kids said preparing for the SHSAT was something that was important to them and they registered for the class (Both were in the 2014 Fall class. One had extra tutoring).
Both of the students were active in class. Both completed all of their homework without extra prompting (I know that in at least one of these cases timely homework completion was not his normal behavior). And both seemed to take their exit diagnostics particularly seriously.
This shift in attitude paid off. The average score increase for these 2 students who opted in was 115! All our kids did well last year, but not that well. Next year, one of them will go to Brooklyn Tech and the other will go to the High School of Math Science and Engineering.
Maybe these students' scores were statistical anomalies, but I think it's more likely that the fact that they were given a choice about whether or not they wanted to take the class and were allowed to take ownership of their own test preparation made them feel responsible for their work and made the difference in their success.
What YOU as a parent should do:
Talk to your kids about whether going to a specialized high school and preparing for the SHSAT is something they want to do and give them the choice of whether they want to enroll in a test prep program. Ask them what they want to do long term and whether a specialized high school will help them do it. Ask them where their friends are likely to go to high school and whether they want to go with them. Finally, ask them if they want to do the work to prepare for the SHSAT. Even if you’re sure they’re going to say yes, giving them the choice gives them a sense of agency and can make a huge difference in their work habits and on test day.
Another thing you can do is try to find out as much as you can about ALL of your high school choices as early as possible so you and your kids can make an informed choice. Schools like Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech have great college placement statistics and are a great value (click here to find out more), but they are not the only good high schools in New York. Bard, Beacon, Midwood and more are public high school options in New York that have rigorous academics and excellent college placement. PoNYT and Joyce Szuflita's NYCSchoolHelp.com are both excellent resources for finding out more about public schools in New York. Schools like Laguardia and Frank Sinatra require auditions and there are good options for preparing for those as well (a friend of mine, Kurt Domoney at BKA, does excellent work preparing kids for their auditions).
That's about it for my freshman effort at blogging. Talk to your kids and find out as much as you can about your high school options as early as you can.