Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and New York City's Specialized High School Admissions Test

Modeling a marketplace involves leaving out a lot of things that can actually happen in the market. People who work with models know this, but I'm constantly reminded by events just how rich a world it is that we try to model as simply as we can.  Take the case of New York City's elite exam schools, and Hurricane Sandy.

New York's exam schools, such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Magic (as the august Bronx High School of Science used to be called when I was in junior high) admit students on the basis of scores on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). So the exams are very high stakes for the very young scholars who take them, and many students engage in extensive test preparation (see e.g. this story).

The exams were scheduled for this past weekend: some students would take them on Saturday and some on Sunday. But the approach of Hurricane Sandy caused the Sunday exam to be rescheduled to November 18, three weeks later than originally scheduled, and three weeks later than the students who took the exam as scheduled on Saturday. This caused some distress to at least some parents who (because of recent news stories) emailed me. One was concerned that even some students who were scheduled to take the exam on Saturday may have contrived to get three more weeks of preparation:

"Those who thought to have more prep time for SHSAT opted to be absent today and using doctor's note to gain 3 weeks study time. I guess human nature always try to game the system.
"Inherent problem of NYC DOE system is that a student can take this test only once.  It is so high stake that some family try to game it.  I guess algorithm can not factor in this."

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