Today, Ben Chapman of the NY Daily News wrote about the disproportionate number of girls rejected from the highly-selective Specialized high schools compared to the boys. As I was quoted in the article, "You would think that the city would be taking every step they could, to ensure that girls are accepted to these high schools at, at least the same rate as boys...Girls should have the same opportunities as boys and the data suggests that this entrance exam has a gender bias that needs to be addressed.”
I have been writing about the gender imbalance at the specialized high schools since 2010. There has been much written about the low numbers of black and Latino students admitted through the SHSAT exam, with only 10 Black students and 27 Latino students accepted into Stuyvesant high school this year. Indeed, in 2012, a complaint was filed with the Civil Rights office of the US Department of Education about the exam's discriminatory impact.
Meanwhile, the Mayor has continued to blame the state for the problem, which passed a law years ago requiring that the exam results be the deciding factor in three high schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech; yet in the case of the other five high schools that use the exam, their method of admissions is completely under his control. It is also important to note that NYC is the only district in the country with selective high schools in which a single high stakes exam is the sole criterion for admissions.
Yet today's Daily News article is the first time to my knowledge that the mainstream media has reported on the sharp gender differential between the admission rates of boys vs. girls. Here is a chart showing a large gender gap of ten percent, with only 15.4% of girls who took the exams admitted to the specialized schools compared to 20.4% of boys:
You can see from the above that according to the state exams, girls obtain higher scale scores, achieve higher proficiency rates and more of them score at the highest level (level 4) in both ELA and math.
I also checked for the gender differential on the 7th grade state 2017 math tests, since many 8th graders take the Regents exams in math instead. Girls get higher scores on these exams as well:
In past years as well, according to this paper by Sean Corcoran and Christine Baker-Smith, if state test scores, grades and attendance from 2005-2013 were used as criteria instead of the SHSAT, girls would be 9 to 13 more points more likely to be admitted to the specialized high schools: "In fact, the gender gap would shift dramatically in favor of girls with the use of grades and State tests."
That's a far greater disparity than they found for Black or Latino students (who tend to score lower on the State exams). Yet among similar applicants with the same performance on the State exams, girls, Blacks, Latinos and low-income students were all significantly less likely to score high enough to be admitted to these schools, and Whites and Asians significantly more likely to be accepted.
Corcoran and Baker-Smith also said, however, that over that period, girls were less likely to apply to the specialized high schools, which is no longer seems to be the case, with more girls now taking the SHSAT than boys.
In 2016, after much criticism of the exam and its racially disparate results, Pearson was awarded a six-year, $13.4 million contract to improve the previous SHSAT, which was also written by the company. This is despite the fact that Pearson is not noted for its high-quality exams, to say the least.
They did eliminate the scrambled paragraph section of the exam, and the logical reasoning section, but appear to have made few other changes, other than making the exam even longer -- to 180 minutes from 150 minutes. They also included only non-fiction passages in the ELA section (perhaps a nod to the Common Core/David Coleman personal preference for informational texts.)
One of the most frequent criticisms in the past has been the highly unusual way in which the SHSAT was scored, to give extra weight to students who scored exceptionally high on the math or the ELA sections, rather than those who received an overall high average score. Apparently this remained the scoring method as late as 2016. Has the methodology changed? Is this one of the reasons for the extreme gender disparity in the results?
Below are the offer of admissions by gender and by school; you can see that the more selective the school the more unbalanced the numbers; with Stuyvesant 58% male and 41% female.