Every year, eighth graders hoping for a spot at one of New York City’s top public high schools sit down for two and a half hours of reading comprehension, logical reasoning, algebra, geometry and scrambled paragraphs in what is formally called the Specialized High School Admissions Test but informally known simply as “the test.”
Uli Seit for The New York Times
The exam this year was, as usual, to be given to most students in a single weekend, with about 19,000 children scheduled to show up to their testing site this past Saturday and 14,000 more on Sunday. But that simple plan fell victim, like so many others, toHurricane Sandy’s approach. The Education Departmentadministered Saturday’s part as planned but rescheduled Sunday’s for Nov. 18, three weeks later.
Three weeks is a long time in the life of an eighth grader — even more so for eighth graders who had been studying hard all summer. It is also a long time for the private tutors and test preparation centers that help these students.
Cory Zacker put it succinctly Monday morning via Twitter: “SHSAT rescheduled to Nov 18th for thousands of students. Hang in there, you have a few more weeks to prepare.”
Ms. Zacker runs Mosaic Tutoring, which operates out of the Upper West Side but sends $100-an-hour tutors to students’ homes across the city. Among its pupils were four who were scheduled to take the exam on Sunday. “They all got in touch with me,” she said, “and said: You know how we thought we were done? We’d like to continue.”
“Most of them were disappointed. They really felt they were ready to go; then the rug gets pulled out from under you,” she said. “They weren’t thrilled about it. But they’re using the time wisely.”
Kennedy Test Prep, in Flushing, Queens, had about 40 children studying for the test, mostly through a $599 course of 10 three-hour classes. “I’m probably going to get e-mails from parents who missed the Sunday S.H.S.A.T. asking me to do a little extra work,” Daniel Kennedy, the owner, said. “If we’re talking about the S.H.S.A.T., I’ve seen students learn a lot in three weeks.”
Another tutoring service, Kweller Prep, blogged that it was offering a $499 course from Nov. 5 to 16 with “new books, materials and test questions.”
For those students who took the test on Saturday and fear that its contents will leak out, giving their cohort a greater advantage, there is no cause for alarm, the Education Department assures.
“The process for administering the S.H.S.A.T. each year always spans multiple weeks,” said Erin Hughes, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, “whether it be for Sabbath observers, those requiring special accommodations during testing, or the makeup testing period. To account for the multiple days of testing, students who test at different times are provided different versions of the exam. The same will occur this year.”
Elisa Schmidt, 13, is hoping her scores will help her make the jump from Holy Child Jesus School in Richmond Hill, Queens, to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan or the Bronx High School of Science, two of the eight schools that use the test for admission, when she starts ninth grade next year. She took the exam on Saturday and was not pleased to hear that others got a reprieve until mid-November.
“I thought it’s not very fair because they have three more weeks to study, and that can amount to a lot for some of them,” Elisa said. “It makes it a little bit harder for some people because the test is based not really on how good you are but how good everyone else is in comparison. I think it makes a difference in what school some people are going to get into.”
But if she had been offered the chance to postpone her own exam, she is not sure she would have accepted it. “It would have been more time to study,” she said, “but it would have also been more time to worry.”